Würzburg SY 65-66-Classroom Catastrophe

Classrooms in chapel basements? That was my situation in Würzburg in SY 65-66. The principal had a slot for me but no classroom because school was overcrowded. He looked all over the post & came up with the chapel basement, but chaplain absolutely refused.

Maybe you can persuade him, principal said, otherwise no job.

I tried to make appointment with chaplain about the space, but he refused to see me, so I dropped in unannounced. He was irritated & then suddenly asked, “Are you Catholic?” I answered yes. OK, he said, smiling. I’m short a Sunday School teacher. If you take Sunday CCD classes, you can use the basement.

What? That’s unfair bribery & religious discrimination. I explained that I’d never gone to Sunday School in my entire life & felt completely unqualified. Plus, I wanted to ski & travel on weekends, not teach religion classes. Take it or leave it, he replied.

Of course, I took it & then cast around for a substitute. I knew no one in Würzburg except for a young Jesuit priest studying there whom I’d met in war & peace discussion sessions at the uni. I contacted him immediately & after some negotiations, he agreed … in exchange for a few simple items from PX, Class 6, & commissary (incl peanut butter, impossible to find on economy at the time).

The chaplain was delighted, the principal was relieved, the Jesuit was happy, & I was thrilled. We were all good to go!

Würzburg Week 1 got off to a great start. The chaplain had 3 wonderful young assistants assigned to him, musicians in the army band, with very little to do, so he assigned them to me. They arrived early the first morning, unloaded a big truck full of desks, tables, books, & supplies, & set up my chapel basement classroom. Meanwhile, I was at school getting my class list, meeting my students, & walking with them to the chapel with a few moms tagging along to check things out. My “assistants”  brought me coffee every morning, took playground duty in chapel parking lot, made wonderful music with the kids, read stories to them, & did individual tutoring. It was all coming together beautifully, but then …

When I arrived at school on Friday morning of that first week, the guys were loading everything back on the truck again.

What’s going on? I asked.

Friday morning Communion breakfast, they answered. Gotta vacate.Taking it all back to school.  Sorry, didn’t the chaplain tell you?

No, never mentioned it, I said. What about the principal? Has anyone told him?

Whoops! Don’t think so. Better call him right now so he can decide where to put all this stuff? We’ll drive ahead with the truck, & you can stay here to meet the kids & walk with them to school. See you there!

Joan Maas


by Allen Dale Olson

It was one of those hot, muggy spring Sundays in Washington when I decided on the spur of the moment to take my wife and daughter for a drive through Rock Creek Park and follow the scenic street around the National Zoo to Connecticut Avenue to a little pizzeria for an early dinner. Traffic on Connecticut Avenue that evening seemed far more congested than ever, so on a hunch I turned onto a side street gambling that we would find a way to sneak into that little strip mall and find our pizza.

“Hey,” I shouted out, “that looks like Sue – and Doc.” Indeed it was Sue and Doc, and it had been at least three years since we had seen either of them. They were trying to push a car along the little street.

Dr. (Doc) Joseph A. Mason had been Director of the U.S. Air Force Dependents Schools System in Europe from 1956 through 1961 when he and his wife, Sue, had gone off to Uganda to head the A.I.D. mission there. During his years in Europe, I had been a teacher and principal in schools on U.S. Air Bases in Turkey, Germany, England, and France and had seen him several times but never on any sort of continuing basis. Coincidentally, when he left for Africa, I left Europe for a senior position on the staff of the National Education Association just up 16th Street from the White House.

Doc and Sue were glad to see us. They had borrowed a car from a friend in whose apartment they were staying, and it had run out of gas. They had seen a gas station at the end of the little street and had been hoping to shove the car to a pump. There were hugs and exclamations of surprise at the chance meeting and words of astonishment at how much our four-year-old had grown.

Together we eased the car to the curb, and I drove Doc to the gas station where we got a two-gallon can, filled it, and made sure the car would start. They, too, were ready for pizza, and our place was just past the gas station.

They had come to Washington because his tour with A.I.D. was over, and he wanted to claim his job rights to the Directorship of the Air Force schools as he had been promised when he took the Africa job. But there were complications.

The Congress had since mandated the Secretary of Defense to merge the Dependents Schools Systems of the Air Force, Army, and Navy in Europe into a single Directorate under the supervision of the Army. In effect, Doc would be competing with former Directors of the Army and Navy systems for the new Directorate.

I suggested he might consider applying for the Superintendency  of the Montgomery County Public Schools. He shook his head; his heart – and Sue’s – was set on getting back overseas, which caused him to ask me about how I felt about returning to Europe.

My wife and I both told him we missed overseas life and working with the military. He said  that he therefore assumed that if he got the appointment, I would consider joining his staff.

“It all depends,” he said on the U.S. Commander-in-Chief, Europe. “The Directorate would be in the same buildings used by the former Army school headquarters in Karlsruhe, Germany, and the Commander would make the appointment.” He explained that when it was decided to make the merger, the Army had hired a civilian superintendent who had had no military experience. It now seemed that both the superintendent and the three military service commanders were unhappy about the appointment. If he would leave, the position would be open for the Army commander to make a new appointment.

Doc was leaving for Germany the next week to be interviewed by the general and felt that  because of his previous experience with the Air Force school system and the A.I. D. appointment, he would be extremely competitive for the job.  Some six weeks later, he sent me a telegram that he was getting the job and would want to see me when he came “soon” to Washington.

“Soon” was right after New Year’s 1967. My wife and I met him at the Watergate Inn for dinner. (Yes, THE Watergate office/apartment complex of Nixon notoriety not too many years later. ) Over some good German wine, we talked as if I had already hired on. Since his appointment, he had been working to assure that the Directorate would properly serve Air Force and Navy installations as well as those on Army installations throughout the “European Area,” now described as Sub-Saharan Africa to the Arctic Circle, all of Western Europe and the Middle East, some 200 schools to operate, another couple hundred of international and host nation schools to whom we pay tuition for  military kids.

“Charlie Ross will stay as my deputy,” he said, “and I don’t think you know him, but I’ve made Tom Wilber my Chief of Staff; now I need an executive officer who can travel to military communities and interact with commanders and parent groups and the press.  Your recent exposure to national education issues and past work with the military makes you a natural for this.”

A month later, another telegram summoned me to an Army recruitment office in the Old Post Office Building on Pennsylvania Avenue (YES, the future Trump Hotel), where I met Doc’s personal chief recruiter, Helen Johanns, who walked me through all the Civilian Personnel offices necessary to sign me on.

Memorial Day in May 1967, my wife, daughter, and I flew to Frankfurt where we were met by a German driver in an Army sedan and driven to Karlsruhe and a new career I learned to love and which ended more than 20 years later as a senior staff member on the Heidelberg staff of the U.S. Army Europe Commander-in-Chief.

Oh, fate!  and a pizza pie and an empty gas tank.


An interview with Dr. Allen Dale Olson about the early years of the overseas schools


This story first posted in 2018 in a Karlsruhe Alum Facebook Group. We have reposted with permission…

Morning KAHS! I’ve been in the (FB) group for a number of years now but never truly had an opportunity of telling my KAHS story.

I only spent my 7th grade there before moving back to the States. I was in the Looking Forward to Looking Back Yearbook edition. I with many students were being bussed from Germesheim to KAHS. My memories were that it seemed like a tight community and the High Schoolers were like giants to me. My parents always made sure that we had the yearbooks for our memories. You know as well as I do that departures are expected being a military brat but you eventually get over it. I’d always wonder what happened to my 7th grade classmates and High School Students that I secretly admired. I never thought there’d ever be a connection until Facebook. My yearbook there was a cherished memory that I still hold to my heart. The rest of my story.

We moved back to my hometown of Alexandria,La where I completed my 8th grade and then on to Bolton High School. I had a distinct advantage over my peers due to the fact that High School wasn’t a shock factor to me. I had already experienced it two years prior. I was able to find a love, desire, and passion for running. I remember I had a few 7th grade classmates on the Cross Country Team at KAHS. I also remember some people I admired from High School on the team. I ended up being a  Louisiana State Champion in Cross Country and Track on many occasions I followed the career of Nina Gage and was inspired. I ran Track and Cross Country at Southern University where I had two Olympic Gold Medalist I was chasing. I eventually ended up with a few conference records as well as existing School records. I’d later compete for New Balance and win a few National titles on the Club and Masters level. I was recently inducted into the Southern University Hall of Fame and just wanted to share where my journey began. KAHS helped me with a key adjustment period in my life! It inspired me to be great and be a Knight!

1989 would’ve been my graduation year! So grateful!


Liaison Work

by Allen Dale Olson

In May 1967 I checked into the Directorate of the United States Dependents Schools, European Area (USDESEA) in Karlsruhe, Germany, beginning a twenty-plus year career of working with remarkable educators and military officers. USDESEA had been established by the Defense Department to operate under the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) some 200-plus elementary, middle, and high schools for the sons and daughters of military personnel assigned to the European Area.

For school purposes, in 1967 the European Area extended from sub-Saharan Africa to the Arctic Circle, from Rota, Spain, to Ankara, Turkey, and enrolled more than 100,000 students in schools on Army, Navy, and Air Force installations. USDESEA also had responsibility for paying tuition to international and State Department schools in locations where too few military dependents precluded operating a school. These “tuition-fee”  schools were all over Africa, the Middle East, and in European cities where there were no U.S. military installations. USDESEA was responsible for ascertaining that these schools were providing an acceptable American-style education.

The USDESEA Directorate was organized much like the superintendencies of civilian school systems in the United States – a Director with heads of Curriculum, Logistics, Finances, Facilities, Personnel, and Elementary and Secondary Specialists. Subordinate District Superintendents were based in parts of Germany, along the Mediterranean Coast, and in England. School facilities and transportation services were the responsibility of local host installation commanders, reimbursed by USDESEA.

(It should be noted that while schools in the European Area were supported by the Army, the schools in the Pacific Area – Japan, Korea, etc. – were under the Department of Air Force, and the schools in the Atlantic Theater – Azores, Bermuda, Iceland, etc. – were under the Department of Navy, all with their own civilian school Directorate.)

I arrived to fill a new position for which a job description evolved, ending up with a vague Executive Officer title responsible primarily for public affairs and school-community relations. I loved those duties!

Not only did they necessitate my working with all the Directorate staff but they also meant I had to circulate among the district offices and the schools to meet with local commanders and school staffs. In short, I was not only immersed in the education profession and in communication with strategic military missions and stationing plans, I was also really seeing the world!

My position led to becoming the school system representative to the Transatlantic Boy Scout Council, the North Atlantic Girl Scout Council, the European PTA, and management spokesman for negotiations with the Overseas Education Association and the Overseas Federation of Teachers. It required me to be acquainted with all aspects of school system policies, military populations (to include nature of missions), curriculum decisions, and involved in the development of new and unique programs such as Project Bold, D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse and Resistance Education), African-American Studies. I met with Education Ministers throughout Germany, in England, Holland, and Belgium in search of host nation resource teachers to help our students with language and cultural studies. I was part of numerous meetings working out support details for the establishment of international schools at AFCENT Headquarters in the Netherlands and at NATO-SHAPE Headquarters near Brussels. I met almost weekly with reporters for STARS and STRIPES and the American Forces Radio Network for discussions about school programs, personalities, and current education issues. (Because of the number of letters I answered for STARS and STRIPES, one of the editors referred to me as “The Ann Landers of USDESEA.”)

Other duties included scheduling, planning for, and hosting visiting dignitaries from the Congress, the Defense Department, and Stateside universities and attending national education conferences in the United States. Another very big project in the late 1970s reached my desk: develop a plan to establish a local  advisory council at each school; a regional advisory council for each Directorate, a European level school advisory council, and a similar council at the DoD level!

In short, these duties added up to more than 100,000 traveling miles a year!

Twelve years later, in 1979, Congressional Committees and Defense Department officials determined that the central authority for the schools should be in the Pentagon and that the overseas areas should be broken into smaller “regions,” each with its own regional director and staff. It took a while, because interests within and without the school system and the military departments were not convinced this was a good plan. At the same time, an initiative that reached the White House level would have the Defense Department schools transfer into the new Department of Education and be assigned to an Under Secretary. (Full disclosure: my name was a finalist on the White House list for that secretarial position.)

The services and many long-time veterans of the school system were opposed to the transfer to the Department of Education. When it became obvious that many international Status-of-Forces Agreements and federal employment benefits would have to be revised, the transfer proposal failed, and the DoD centralization happened instead.  USDESEA was dissolved; DoDDS Germany Region North and DoDDS Germany Region South as well as  DoDDS Atlantic and DoDDS Mediterranean Regions were created to replace it.

The USAREUR staff requested a DoD liaison to work with them on their school responsibilities. DoD and one Regional Director resisted the idea; other Directors and the Navy and Air Force both pushed for a liaison. When DoDDS Washington concurred, the USAREUR Commander-in-Chief name-requested me but the DoDDS Director insisted that I also maintain a desk in the DoDDS Germany South office in Karlsruhe. USAREUR accepted that for a while but soon realized that to be credible to their school-hosting installation commanders, the liaison would have to be a full-time USAREUR employee, not a DoDDS employee, so they created such a position to which I was appointed.

My USAREUR duties were not terribly different from my former duties with USDESEA, though I no longer handled press relations. I became a voting member of the European School Advisory Council which met quarterly at one of the command headquarters – Navy in London, USEUCOM in Stuttgart; Air Force in Wiesbaden, later Ramstein; and Army in Heidelberg; and  I became a voting member of the Dependent Education Council which met quarterly in the Pentagon. Agendas included issues obtained from school level and subordinate command officials, such as V Corps (Frankfurt), VII Corps (Stuttgart), 21st Support Command (Kaiserslautern), SETAF (Vicenza), and 7th ATC (Grafenwoehr). I continued to  meet regularly with the Regional Directors (Wiesbaden, Karlsruhe, London, and Madrid) and with designated school officers at subordinate commands, with Air Force and Navy counterparts, and to attend all the regional conferences of school administrators.

The effectiveness of a liaison officer is almost impossible to quantify. If the number of meetings attended and miles traveled or hotel beds slept in were the chief criteria, the evaluations would go through the roof!  But when a school principal needs clarification for his or her installation commander that it’s really the host’s responsibility for school lunch programs, bus transportation and discipline, and for facility maintenance, it’s helpful to have an Army headquarters staffer at his side. Or when a commander or parent committee has concerns about a school issue or employee, it’s useful to bring in opinions from one who has been on the school side to help bring the parties together.

As one who performed liaison duties for twenty years, I can only say the experiences were richly rewarding: because of the caliber of people I met and worked with. The principals and teachers were some of the most imaginative, creative, and dedicated as any I could ever meet; and the military personnel with whom I was surrounded proved over and over how much they honor country, citizen, and duty; and because of being involved with the missions on Freedom’s Frontier with those who served NATO and protected America and Americans.

Not only that, I learned where I could find the best meals near train stations, motor pools, in airports, and along the Autobahns!