Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder in the Peace Corps

Fleeing America

Tonga from the water
Tonga from the water

More than 180,000 Americans have volunteered for the Peace Corps since 1961. They have come from all corners of the country.

In the mid-1970s, when most volunteers were fresh from college, the typical recruit no doubt reflected the prevailing attitudes of that era.

Our "national malaise" was taking root. Cynicism borne of Watergate and Vietnam was in full bloom. The energy panic lay just ahead. Inflation was ascendant, and the job market looked bleak.

It was a good time to get away.

Priven with Hons and others
Priven with Hons and others

Some young college graduates used the Peace Corps, which paid a nominal salary, as a way to tread water financially and professionally for a couple of years before finding a real job.

Then as now, volunteers were drawn from a pool of intelligent, curious and restless people, with a dose of do-gooder instincts.

They wanted to see the world, experience another place and lend a helping hand. Their motivations lay somewhere between a Mormon missionary and a Rough Guide-style traveler.

They were more likely to travel with a knapsack and duffel bag than a set of American Tourister luggage.

Some were fleeing their families, unemployment or a bad relationship. Some were fleeing themselves.


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