A.A. Around the World
Southern Hemisphere and Asia
Alcoholics Anonymous had a difficult time putting down roots in Mexico—it took nearly 20 years to become firmly planted—but it then enjoyed “one of the largest demographic explosions of A.A. in the world.” More recently, due perhaps to a combination of Latin temperament and serious growing pains, a wide and tragic schism has developed which was unresolved as of 1985.
The first requests to G.S.O. for help from Mexico came immediately following the Jack Alexander article, from Jorge E. and Arthur H. During the ’40’s, groups formed sporadically and disappeared. Among these was an effort in Monterey by Gilbert M., who had come to A.A. in Houston. He and his wife, Francisca, even translated some A.A. pamphlets into Spanish. Another was Joe A., who started a short-lived group in Culiacan. A third attempt was in Mexico City, in ’46, by a Lester F., but neither he nor his Mexican prospects could stay sober.
An English-speaking group was initiated in Mexico City in ’46. In 1958, the Hidalgo group (later renamed Grupo Distrito Federal) began meeting on the same premises. The Bolivar group came about the same time. And an institutional group was started at the military hospital in ’59. In 1967, the Matt Talbot group was begun by Roberto N. and two others. The Tacubaya followed soon after.
In 1953 a group was formed by Joaquin B. He and his wife, Irma, with the help of Carlos C., translated the Big Book into Spanish. Later the Merida group was begun by Joaquin C. and Leocardia P. It met in a mausoleum, which Bill W., on a visit, found appropriate “so we can realize our problem is one of life and death.”
A.A. in Mexico was strengthened in the ’60’s by an article in the Spanish edition of the Reader’s Digest that brought many requests for help to G.S.O. in New York. These were referred to existing contacts in Mexico. By ’64, there were 38 groups; by ’69, the number had grown to 260. Over 3,000 showed up for the First National Convention which took place in 1976; 20,000 for the Third, in 1984. 1969 marked the beginning of a national service structure, with the creation of a General Service Board and a General Service Office. The latter is housed today on two full floors of a beautiful historic building in Old Mexico City. They publish virtually all English-language A.A. literature in Spanish and perform a full range of other services.
(NEED MUCH MORE DETAIL ON GROWTH, AND ON CURRENT SCHISM AND CONTROVERSY. SEE VICENTE, ETC.)
Mexico was the host country to the Seventh World Service Meeting in 1982. In 1985, there were 7,500 groups with at least 250,000 members.
Eddie F., an A.A. member from the U.S., is hailed as the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous in El Salvador, from whence it spread to the other Central American countries: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala, Honduras. Eddie got sober in Boston and had been involved in service work there for some time before moving to San Francisco, where, in 1947, he married a Salvadoran woman. Seven years later, while accompanying his wife on a visit to her native land, “Mr. Eddie” (as he is known throughout Central America) decided to try to carry the A.A. message.
At the start, there was cause for little but discouragement. Over and over he was told, “In Latin America, everyone drinks,” or “Maybe A.A. works for gringos, but folks here are different…” But Eddie kept at it. Finally, and ironically, it was Eddie’s wife who told a woman friend about Eddie’s recovery and a little about the A.A. program. The friend asked if Eddie could help an uncle of hers, and Eddie made his Twelfth Step call. Fortunately, the uncle, whose name was Don Atilio A., spoke English and sobered up. And so “Don A.A.” became the first link in a chain of sobriety for tens of thousands of alcoholics in El Salvador.
As in Mexico, a combination of demographic and social circumstances seemed to cause the Fellowship to grow at a phenomenal rate throughout Central America. In the first place, alcoholism was rampant. The common people drank pulgue, a powerful home brew made from a cactus-like plant that grew everywhere in vast profusion. So this alcoholic beverage was universally available and cost almost nothing. Distilled spirits such as tequila and ruin were also plentiful and cheap. The masses lived in poverty, without much diversion or hope of improvement, and alcohol was used almost universally as an escape. Secondly, as A.A. groups began, they filled a deep social need. In Latin society, drinking was a macho occupation; the family was excluded. But from A.A.’s beginning, the whole family came to the meeting, which became a social gathering place. When a new group was formed in a town, it was not unusual for whole busloads of men, women and children to come from A.A. in surrounding towns, staying sometimes for several days, socializing as they helped the new group get started. So Alcoholics Anonymous literally exploded in that part of the world. But it did so without precise knowledge of the principles and procedures delineated in basic A.A. literature. Only a handful of fortunate members possessed a copy of the Big Book and illiteracy was common.
The death of Mr. Eddie on November 7, 1963, naturally aroused concern about the progress of the A.A. movement in El Salvador and the rest of Central America. The very night of his wake, several members who were present discussed the necessity of creating a service organization which could assume responsibility for coordinating the groups and especially for distributing A.A. literature in the Spanish language. The next year, Allan B., a trustee and a director of A.A. World Services in New York, visited El Salvador and Columbia for the express purpose of helping set up literature distribution centers in both places. The Center for Central America had as its trustees: Dr. Julio Z. and Alejandro H. for El Salvador; Gilberto M., for Honduras; Fermin B., for Guatamala; and Uruz, for Nicaragua. AAWS in New York authorized a credit of $2,000 (U.S.) for a supply of literature. But nationalistic feelings among Central American countries were strong, A.A. service structures were not well established, and temperaments were volatile. Between personality clashes and financial difficulties, the Center was closed before long and the inventory was transferred to the Intergroup Office of El Salvador.
Nevertheless, it remained impractical as well as inefficient and expensive for individual Central American countries to publish their own literature and the need for a Central American Literature Committee was still there. This was a subject of discussion at the 1974 World Service Meeting in London; and at the 1976 WSM in New York, the Central American delegates proudly reported the formation of such a Committee. As covered in Chap. 17 on the WSM’s, the six countries banded together to pool their needs and establish a common inventory printed in Costa Rica and financed by AAWS in New York. The G.S.0.’s of the member countries ordered their needs from New York, remitting payment there also. New York then wired authorization to the printer in Costa Rica to ship the order.
This was a significant step forward, not only in making all A.A. pamphlets available at the lowest possible cost to alcoholics in all the countries, but also in demonstrating that “the common welfare should come first”, transcending nationalism. However, in the decade that followed the establishment of the Central American Literature Committee (CALC), revolution swept two of the countries and political unrest created instability in others. Restrictions on the export of currency (particularly to the U.S.) made it impossible for some countries to order literature according to the procedure that had been set up. Finally, the CALC decided they, too, had “come of age” and arranged with AAWS to purchase the existing inventory of pamphlets on credit and assume responsibility for reselling it and reordering as necessary.
A.A. literature from El Salvador was introduced into Costa Rica in 1958 by the nonalcoholic director of a small state agency, the Commission on Alcoholism, where alcoholics came for detoxing and assistance. Excited over what they learned about Alcoholics Anonymous, five of the alcoholics decided to hold a meeting off the premises of the agency for the first time. This took place on July 30, 1958 at the home of Luis H. They continued meeting regularly in homes and at the Commission, where, in November, they received a visit from Francisco R., an A.A. member from Mexico, who talked to them about the Traditions and urged them to obtain a regular meeting place of their own. At about the same time, Hector, an American A.A. living in Costa Rica, also gave them help and advice. The group began meeting in a building next to Hector’s restaurant and took the name, Grupo San Jose. From this small beginning, A.A. grew rapidly. In 1985, the service structure consisted of 28 zones in the seven political provinces, with strong intergroups. And in that year, the country had 700 A.A. groups with 23,000 members.
In Nicaragua, the first organized group dates from 1964, in the capital city of Managua. In 1985 there were 375 groups and 5,625 members.
Three Honduran alcoholics, from Tegucigalpa, found sobriety in El Salvador. Back home, they decided to form a group which met for the first time July 15, 1960, with four other newcomers. The first Honduras National A.A. Congress met in 1972. By 1978, 350 groups were registered at the G.S.O. and an estimated 75 more not registered. These included two hospital groups, one prison groups and one armed services group. In 1985, Honduras had a total of 650 groups with 13,000 members.
War-torn El Salvador in 1985 had 1,592 groups with a total membership of 43,000.
The first A.A. in Panama was among Americans stationed there, with two groups listed in 1946. There were 68 members by 1962. In January 1969, Mary Ellen U., Spanish-speaking staff member from G.S.O./New York, visited Panama and reported a group of 25 native Panamanians which met in room that was a hairdressing salon (owned by one of the members) by day. The group had been founded three years previously by a Colombian A.A., only to fold for a time when he left. It was reactivated due to a visit by a busload of A.A.’s from El Salvador in the manner described earlier. By 1975, there were 15 groups, and an Intergroup had been started in Panama City. There were 21 groups in 1985, with 550 members.
In Guatamala, the first man to receive the A.A. message was Miguel Angel R. Miguel was given his last shot of whiskey on the way to Quezaltenango by a Mexican, Reinaldo C., who then told him he had several years of not drinking thanks to a society in Mexico called A.A. Contacts between Guatamalan alcoholics and Mexico continued on an individual basis, but organized activity did not begin until 1960, when an A.A. member from San Francisco arrived and began to spread the word about Steps and Traditions. At his suggestion, the first messages about A.A. went out over radio and A.A. literature was obtained from G.S.O./New York. Contacts were also made with other Central American countries.
A Father Ricket arrived at this time in Guatamala City from the town of Huehuetenango near the Mexican border. There, he had worked with a small group of A.A.’s. Moved by the efforts under way in the capital city, Father Ricket presented the group with a copy of the Big Book. This first group was called Grupo Mar.
In March 1962, A.A. in Guatamala got its first big boost from a busload of members from El Salvador intent on carrying the message to a new territory. They appeared on the radio program “Nuevo Mundo” to announce their presence and to invite A. A.’s in Guatamala to contact them. In the resulting “international” meetings, the Salvadorans shared how A.A. worked in their country, and a lot of experience, strength and hope was passed on—along with advice on how the Steps and Traditions should be applied. New groups immediately sprang up. The indefatigable Salvadorans returned for an even more memorable meeting on September 15. At this meeting the visitors told their A.A. stories at the public level, and the A.A. message spread vigorously. Visits began to hospitals and prisons and messages began to be carried in the Guatamalan press. Still more groups were begun.
Guatamalan A.A. came of age during the decade that followed. The first Central Service Committee was formed in ’63, and the following year the first Intergroup Conference was held. Two years later, Guatamala had its first National A.A. Convention. At the fifth Convention in 1969, approval was given to the formation of a General Service Office and a Board of Trustees was elected. A Service Structure was under way, and the first General Service Conference was held in the next year. They also began to publish their own A.A. magazine, Compentamiento.
By 1985, Guatamala was planning to host the Ninth World Service Meeting, with delegates from A.A. around the world due the following year. And in 1985, Guatamala had 725 groups with a membership of 30,000.
In September 1952, Hector C. was admitted to a clinic in Buenos Aires for a serious alcohol problem. There he was treated by Dr. Roberto Pochat, an Argentinean physician who had just returned from the U.S., where he had taken a course on alcoholism at Yale University. Furthermore, he had been in contact with many A.A. members there, who had explained the A.A. program to him in great detail and had enabled him to attend many A.A. meetings.
During Hector’s confinement, Dr. Pochat encouraged him to read the Big Book and a number of A.A. pamphlets in English. Also at the doctor’s suggestion, Hector wrote G.S.O. in New York on December 18, asking for help. His letter immediately initiated a lively and sustained correspondence, principally with staff member Ann M., whom Hector came to consider his sponsor. (Today, at the C.S.O. in Buenos Aires, Ann M.’s first letter is framed and displayed to mark the birth of A.A. in Argentina.)
Between January and September 1953, Hector tried unsuccessfully to start an A.A. group. He visited alcoholics in jails and hospitals, all the while keeping in contact with the U.S. Through G.S.O. in New York, he met with A.A. members traveling in Buenos Aires and managed to obtain unofficial A.A. publications from other countries, as well as writing many people. Thus, little by little, Hector trained himself in Alcoholics Anonymous and strengthened his own sobriety. He also kept up his friendly relationship with Dr. Pochat. Although Dr. Pochat avoided intervening directly in the formation of an A.A. group, the A.A. ‘s of Argentina today are grateful to him as the precursor of the Fellowship there.
In September 1953 another alcoholic, Arthur M., a British national but a lifelong resident of Argentina, got in touch with Hector. Arthur had traveled to the U.S. to visit family, and ended up being treated for alcoholism while there. Afterward, he joined A.A. in Dallas, Texas. Before returning to Buenos Aires, he obtained Hector’s name from the New York office. Together the two men worked with new vigor, aided now by Arthur’s knowledge of A.A. in the U.S. Lamentably, Arthur, co-founder of A.A. in Argentina, died suddenly in October 1954. But by then, a small group of eight members existed in Buenos Aires. Despite setbacks and difficulties, the group continued to grow in strength and numbers, serving as the foundation of A.A. in Argentina.
By 1985, Argentina had 950 groups listed, with 11,000 members. It has an established service structure with 12 Area Service Assemblies and Intergroups, and a General Service Office.
Alexander S., from Colombia, got the A.A. message in New York in 1949. Returning home, he met an alcoholic, Arthur E., and together they founded a small and shaky group in the seaport town of Barranquilla. No significant developments took place for a decade. Arthur moved to Medellin in 1958 and in January 1959 he and three others formed a group in that city which proved to be the foundation for A.A. in Colombia. The press got wind of the group and ran articles which brought many inquiries. In June a group started in Bucaramanga, followed the next year with groups in Cali and Bogota, the capital. The Medellin A. A. ‘s leaned heavily on help and advice from the G.S.O. in New York. Countless letters went back and forth, plus quantities of literature, to help the Latin’s comprehend the A.A. program.
Five years after the formation of the Medellin group, A.A. had spread to all major cities and all through the country. There were more than 100 Colombian groups with more than 3,000 members! And the media, the church and the medical community had all begun to recommend A.A. to alcoholics. The Intergroup began publication of an information and service bulletin, and National A.A. Conferences were being held annually. Allan B., general service trustee from New York, attended the Seventh Conference and helped lay the basis for a service structure in Columbia. He also suggested that Columbia serve as a literature distribution point for other South American countries. Almost immediately, his suggestions were implemented. By December, the new G.S.O. had translated and published the Big Book. Professional recognition of A.A. reached a new high in Columbia in May 1965, when the Medical Academy of Medellin invited A.A. to take part in a symposium on alcoholism. In December, the General Service Conference met for the first time.
Mary Ellen U., a Colombian-American staff member at C.S.O. in New York, visited her native country in 1968 and wrote a comprehensive report on A.A. at that point. They were experiencing problems with groups printing their own literature, which led the Colombian G.S.O. in Medellin to consider going into the publishing business—which Mary Ellen questioned, as the people in the office had little or no business experience or aptitude. (They went ahead anyway, with some of the predicted problems.) She observed that the social level in A.A. was changing to include more members from the middle and upper classes. There was even a government minister. However, there were very few women in the program due to the male-dominated society. Although a high rate of alcoholism existed among women at the highest social level, a great stigma also existed. A.A. was beginning to enjoy more cooperation from doctors, hospitals and jails. Finally, Mary Ellen noted a lack of communication between A.A. in Medellin and in Bogota, two very different cities with very different cultures.
Despite the problems noted by Mary Ellen, however, Columbia in 1969 had 130 A.A. groups in 63 towns and cities, and a membership of 3,500. Some work was going on in hospitals and prisons, and they were enjoying considerable acceptance from doctors and priests. By 1978, the number of groups had grown to 278, with 7,000 members. A General Service Conference was meeting annually, and an A.A. magazine, “El Mensaje,” was being published with some regularity. Articles favorable to A.A. had been carried in the nation’s largest newspaper in Bogota, and programs had been broadcast on the national TV network. In 1985, the Fellowship in Columbia had increased to 430 groups with a membership of 11,000.
A.A. was carried to Brazil by Herb and Elizabeth D., an American A.A. couple transferred to Rio de Janeiro on business in 1946. Herb had difficulty in carrying the message to Brazilian prospects, but the next year he and his wife were joined by another American transplant, Doug C., and Herb had got front-page publicity for A.A. in the newspaper 0 Globo. From the resulting inquiries, the first group in Brazil was formed and by 1948 had six members. Also, a few basic A.A. pamphlets were being translated into Portuguese and printed locally. There were 81 members in several groups by 1951.
Growth in the early years was held back by lack of finances to publish sufficient literature in Portuguese, and by the high level of illiteracy in the poorer classes. The A.A. message was passed on from person to person by word of mouth, and even this was difficult because of a misunderstanding regarding anonymity. Some groups even refused to divulge their meeting places. But the Fellowship grew in spite of all obstacles, and in 1976, with 600 known groups, Brazil organized a service structure. Their first General Service Conference was held that year. They also had a General Service Board and a Literature Distribution Center (“CLAAB”). Sparked by Don L., a bi-lingual member, within two or three years nearly all basic A.A. literature was published in Portuguese. A national monthly journal was also published. By 1978, A.A. meetings were being taken into about 50 hospitals and psychiatric clinics and work was beginning in the prisons. Public information talks were being given in universities, churches and service clubs. Much of this activity was the responsibility of intergroups which were becoming active.
Brazil had its own celebration of A.A.’s 50th anniversary in 1985, at which time the country had 2,241 groups with a membership of 77,650!
New Zealand proved to be fertile ground for the A.A. seed. Ian McE. was the drunken black sheep of a well-to-do Wellington family. He had drunk socially for perhaps ten years before crossing the line into active alcoholism. Eventually, like most alcoholics, he tried many ways to stop drinking – even going to doctors in England to seek a cure. Later he was committed to an island drying-out establishment for inebriates. On his release, he took a form of geographic cure by buying a farm, thinking that farmers, being close to the land, had fewer tensions and pressures. He was to find, to his surprise, that they were sometimes also alcoholics.
In late 1945, Ian McE. had made the rounds of the local bars. On his way home, he passed the psychiatric hospital and on a sudden impulse he asked the Superintendent, whom he knew, to admit him. Since a person could commit himself at his own request only if he was in a rational state of mind, the doctor was reluctant. So he called Ian’s wife. She told him, “If you can get him, grab him.”
While in the hospital, Ian picked up a copy of the Reader’s Digest and read an article entitled “Maybe You Can Do It Too,” by Edward McGoldrick. Ian was able to identify all the way through. On January 3, 1946, he wrote the Alcoholics Anonymous service office in New York for help. Bobbie B. responded and a ten-year correspondence began. Bobbie sent some A.A. pamphlets and a copy of the Big Book, and in her letter she said, in effect, “We don’t know whether this thing will work by mail or not, but we see no reason why it shouldn’t. On one of the walls here we have a map of the world with flags pinned on it wherever A.A. is found. We have just pinned a flag on New Zealand, and you are it. Goodbye and God bless you.”
Ian McE. read the Big Book over and over, and got sober. The book gave him a blueprint for recovery and he spent almost two years reading, working the program and reaching out to other alcoholics before his efforts bore fruit. (This particular copy of the Big Book was Ian’s constant companion. Over the years it fell apart, but rather than discard it, he took it to a bookbinder and had it put back together and rebound.) He contacted the health department in Wellington and told them of his recovery. Learning that a March of Time film featuring A.A., entitled “Problem Drinkers”, was scheduled to be shown in New Zealand, he wrote the distributors. Armed with the showing dates for the film, he wrote the local newspapers and the theaters, telling them of his own experience. The effort produced a few inquiries, but no solid recruits. In July 1947, the first A.A. visitors from overseas arrived: actress Lillian Roth and her husband/manager, who were to play a major role in establishing A.A. in Australia, on the same tour. They were the first recovered alcoholics Ian had ever met. Even with all this activity, it was not until February 1948 that there were five members “all on solid ground” and plans were made to form the first A.A. group in New Zealand.
Meanwhile, A.A. #2 had come about in Auckland. A medical doctor in that city was worried about his brother-in-law, Alf, a dental surgeon who could not stop drinking and was about to lose everything. The doctor wrote the health department in Wellington asking for information about treatment for alcoholism. They contacted Ian, who sent his copy of the Big Book, with some pamphlets and a letter, to the doctor. The doctor took Alf to a cabin 20 miles out in the country, “laid the book and the pamphlets on the kitchen table and said, ‘See what you can make of these. I Then he drove away and left Alf on his own.” A few days later, Alf was sober and never had another drink! He went on to start the first group in Auckland province.
A man wrote from Dunedin, on toilet paper, that he had lost all and might have a problem with booze. Ian picked up his Big Book and went the 600 miles to Dunedin. In this way, the message was carried to several cities and groups began to form. When there were problems or arguments – of which there were many – they were solved by the Big Book. By ’49, there were six groups with 26 members, including one woman, Lil T.; by the following year, the figures had doubled. Ian, with the consent of the groups, became the General Service Center. In October 1950, he wrote to New York about establishing an Alcoholic Foundation. Bill W. responded with his own experience and counseled Ian to take it easy and not try to get too big too quickly. Actually, many members in New Zealand resisted any form of organization in A.A. for a number of years.
By November 1955, there were 22 groups; by March ’56, 44 groups with 440 members. Mainstay, the A.A. magazine for New Zealand, began publication in ’55. The first South Island Convention was held in May ’56, and the first New Zealand Conference in June ’58, which included a public meeting in Wellington attended by 400 people. The Wellington Intergroup was formed in March ’58 and began functioning as a General Service Off ice for New Zealand A.A.
Norah B., one of the original Christchurch members now living in Wellington, had carried on a healthy correspondence with women A.A. members in New York and was aware of women’s groups there. She and some other women members in New Zealand felt the need for a women’s group in their country. Alcoholism carried an especially strong stigma among women, and Norah said, “It was sad because I saw so many women die because their families did not want the shame of A.A., which they refused to believe in.” So Norah and her friends formed the first women’s group in N.Z. in 1960, despite vocal opposition from many of the men.
In February 1964, the New Zealand Convention approved the formation of a General Service structure and General Service Conference, which held its first meeting in August. The N.Z. service structure differs from that of the U.S./Canada in that the General Service Board and the General Service Conference are combined. The relatively large number of A.A. trustees represent groups in all parts of the country and are elected by the groups. Along with a small number of nonalcoholic trustees, they meet quarterly to perform the various functions—Public Information, Cooperation with the Professional Community, Institutional work, etc. – that are performed by the Board and the Conference in the U.S./Canada.
In 1973, a milestone was reached in carrying the A.A. message to native peoples in Pacific Oceania with the publication by N.Z. A.A. of the Steps, Traditions, Serenity Prayer and other material from the pamphlets “Is A.A. for You?” and “This is A.A.” in six native languages: Maori, Tongan, Minean , Samoan, Raratongan and Fijian. Jim M. from Pacheka spent six years doing the translating and was honored by the General Service Board in New York for this unique and dedicated act of service.
In A.A.’s 50th year – and New Zealand’s 39th – N. Z. had 249 groups with an estimated membership of over 3,000.
Surprisingly perhaps, the first country in the world outside of North America to have Alcoholics Anonymous was Australia – on the farthest spot on the opposite side of the globe.
The first seeds of A.A. in Australia were planted by an article by Dr. Harry Tiebout in 1942 in the American Journal of Psychiatry in which he described the Fellowship and quoted a 75% recovery rate. Two nonalcoholic Australians wrote to New York independently requesting information and a Big Book. They were: Archie McKinnon, a psychiatric nurse at Darlinghurst Reception House; and Dr. S.J. Minogue, Medical Superintendent of the Rydalmere Mental Hospital. These two men, plus another nonalcoholic, Fr. T.V. Dunlea, founder of Boys’ Town in Australia, were the moving forces in getting Alcoholics Anonymous started there.
The first man to join the A.A. program was Ben B., an alcoholic found by Dr. Minogue and taken to Rydalmere as a voluntary patient. There he was introduced to the Big Book in December 1944 and stayed sober until May 1945, when he slipped and disappeared. Meanwhile, Fr. Dunlea had held an A.A. meeting, with several active alcoholics in attendance, in a shack in the bush at Loftus, near Sutherland, New South Wales (NSW), on October 16, 1944. The priest had gathered the alcoholics from skid row and set them up in tents, after the pattern of his Boys’ Town. This rag – tag group survived, the first in Australia.
The founding member of A.A., if one is to be singled out, was Rex. Well-educated, from a prominent banking family in Sydney, Rex finished a bender on February 22, 1945, and had himself admitted to Darlinghurst. There he met Archie McKinnon, who gave him a copy of the Big Book. “I read it,” Rex remembers, “and knew I had in my hands not only the solution to my own alcoholic problem, but that of many thousand more Australians.” On his discharge, Rex met Ben B. – and later, Fr. Dunlea, whom he describes as “no ordinary priest.” Still later, when he was taken to meet Dr. Minogue, Rex went reluctantly because, “in the past decade, I had ‘had it’ with both asylums and psychiatrists…I was agreeably surprised. Here was a quietly dressed man in early middle age, of humble mein, who, far from wanting to instruct us, seemed eager to learn from us.”
Rex began to attend Thursday evening meetings which were held at Dr. Minogue’s residence at Rydalmere. Also present were Norman M., Wally L. and Jack R. They apparently latched onto the idea that “sobriety is to be enjoyed, not endured,” for Rex relates, “Some of us being musical, we often varied the A.A. talk with piano, violin and vocal entertainment.” After the group got its start at Dr. Minogue’s, Rex found a large apartment in an old colonial mansion called Bligh House, and the group met there. As there were no referrals from hospitals at that point, the group started a publicity campaign. As a result the meetings grew to 30 or more—but they also “became cluttered with philanthropists, social workers, journalists looking for ‘copy’, hard-core drunks looking to exploit A.A., and some actual psychotics.” The philanthropists were finally told their money wasn’t needed, the social workers were told A.A. did its own social work, but the journalists were a problem. In desperation, Rex sat down and wrote a lengthy, well thought-out, authentic account of A.A. and submitted it to the Sydney Morning Herald. To everyone’s surprise, the paper printed it and even paid Rex five guineas. Like Bill W. before him, Rex also took drunks into his apartment to work on them, with the result they were asked to leave. On August 28, 1945, the group moved its meetings into rooms in a building on Walker Street in North Sydney. These quarters were dingy, damp smelling and badly ventilated. The struggling group diminished to 12 members, and then, after the Christmas holidays, to only five survivors. About this time, A.A. in Australia was registered as a charitable organization, and one of the members, Jack R. campaigned vigorously for funds until wiser counsel prevailed.
In 1947, the group moved to the Vianney House in Sydney itself, and things really got rolling. Attendance picked up, the press and radio lent welcome support, and two other nonalcoholics became interested and gave their help. Frank Harty, a radio personality who had become familiar with American A.A. visited frequently and sometimes spoke. And Fr. Richard Murphy, a Jesuit priest, was a loyal friend. Fr. Dunlea received a gift of money from a friend and used it to hire Jack R. as a full-time secretary for A.A. Eventually the money ran out, and Jack had to go back to regular work, which caused a resentment and eventually a slip. He got off the booze fairly quickly but his thinking remained alcoholic and he formed his own group. As he had always had trouble accepting the spiritual side of the program, he now deleted the spiritual content and called his spin-off “The Commonsense Group.” Being a persuasive talker, he persuaded other members of the original group to join him. Although the new version lasted only a month and then folded, with all the members except Jack returning, the rift was of concern to the group and drove home the importance of unity in maintaining recovery.
Lillian Roth, the American actress, and her husband, Bert, played a key role in establishing Alcoholics Anonymous in Melbourne. Both of them were members of A.A. and while appearing at Melbourne’s Tivoli Theater on tour, in September 1947, Lillian told her A. A. story at the Wesley Church. Harold J., an alcoholic, heard her and was so impressed that he made an appointment to see her next day. Typically alcoholic, he missed the appointment because he was too drunk to stand up at the time. However, he made it that day to ask the help of a clergyman, Rev. Gordon Powell, of the Collins St. Independent Church, and to tell him Lillian’s story. The next day, the two of them met with Lillian in her dressing room. The following Sunday, she told her story from the pulpit of the Independent Church.
As a result of the ensuing publicity, several Melbourne alcoholics gathered in a hall at the rear of the Independent Church on October 13, 1947, for the first A.A. meeting in that city. There was little knowledge at the time of how A.A. worked at the group level. There were only two copies of the Big Book, both privately owned. Anonymity at all costs was the rule, and at first all meetings were closed. The group later started holding public meetings once a month, and favorable press coverage helped A.A. grow. Another group formed in Brighton in 1949, and in 1951, a journal, “The Reviver,” patterned after the Grapevine, began publication and continued to the present.
By 1947, there were also A.A. groups in the states of South Australia, West Australia and Queensland. Two years later it reached Tasmania. The Northern Territory finally got A.A. in 1955 with a group in Darwin. The first National Convention was held in 1959 in Melbourne, and they have continued to be held ever since. At the first Convention it was decided to form a national service structure with a Board of Trustees and an Australian Service Conference. This was followed later, in 1972, with a General Service Office in Sydney and still later, with a publishing arm.
The development of a national structure for Alcoholics Anonymous was hampered by the nature of the country itself. Australia is a vast continent broken down into a few very large states which are stronger and more independent entities in relation to the Federal government than are the United States of America in relation to Washington. And A.A. in Australia reflects this same pattern. The larger states developed Service Councils which were very powerful—in effect, mini-G.S.O.’s. And the first and most powerful of these was the New South Wales Service Council located in Croyden, a suburb of Sydney. The Croyden office was well funded and was performing a full range of services for the N.S.W. groups long before a national G.S.O. was even considered. As the senior entity it also published A.A. pamphlets for groups in the entire country, with copyright permission from A.A. World Services in New York. Books were purchased from either the U.S. or the U.K.
When the National Service Office was formed, also located in Sydney, N.S.W., it was small, weak and didn’t have enough income to function. The groups, which were supporting the state Service Councils, did not generally contribute to the national Service Office. The state Councils contributed a token pittance, but otherwise ignored the national office. So the latter had to rely for income on the sale of literature. The Australian Service Board asked the A.A. World Services Board in the U.S. for permission to reprint copyrighted literature. AAWS granted the request automatically, assuming that the N.S.W. state Council would yield its right in favor of the national G.S.O. But such was not the case, so controversy, conflict and bitter disunity ensued. Two Australian publishing entities existed side by side, in competition with each other, each having copyright permission from AAWS! The national G.S.O. priced its literature relatively high in order to generate enough income to keep its doors open. Croyden, on the other hand, had its pamphlets printed in the Long Bay prison by convict labor, so was able to offer literature at unrealistically low prices. The situation produced desperate calls for help from the national office, heated arguments in the Australian Service Conference and personality clashes and estrangements between A.A. friends.
In the midst of this disunity, the AAWS Board sent Bob P. to Australia in the spring of 1978 to try to mediate between the two factions, and to investigate the problem at first hand and bring back his recommendation to the Board. Bob visited both service offices, met with the Boards of both entities, attended the Australian Conference and talked with other interested parties. On his return, he recommended that AAWS withdraw its copyright permission from the N.S.W. Service council, which was done. In the heat of the uproar, the Council had passed a resolution declaring that the national G.S.O. simply did not exist! (“A very alcoholic solution!” one bemused trustee called it.) So now the Council could not logically buy its literature from the (“nonexistent!”) G.S.O. However, it was able to buy literature from sources in the U.S.—e.g., the Cleveland and Los Angeles Central Offices—and resell it to Australian groups. This at least made the competition more equal.
Painfully slowly, as younger members moved into service at both the state and national levels, old resentments softened, the heat of controversy cooled, and the national G.S.O. not only survived but began to gain a small measure of financial stability. The national service structure was more widely accepted and the need for unity was recognized. By the middle 1980’s some overtures were made for peace and cooperation between Croyden and the national G.S.O. After 1985, the N.S.W. Council voted to buy its literature from the G.S.O. and to attend the General Service Conference. In the words of Ron C., a former member of both the N.S.W. Council and the General Service Board, “The atmosphere between the two service arms is now much better…We can work together to carry the message in our own way…and can again be ‘partners in service.'”
As A.A. in Australia developed with no experience of how meetings were conducted in the U.S., and since very few Big Books were available, recovery depended more on fellowship and less on program. The meetings were all “participation” format, in which a chairman appointed for the evening called on various members who shared a brief drunkalog and ended by expressing their gratitude for sobriety. One member said in 1978, “It is literally possible to be sober in A.A. in Australia for ten years and never to have seen a copy of the Big Book or heard the steps mentioned in a meeting.” Gradually, however, as Aussie A. A. ‘s traveled to the U.S., where they attended A. A. meetings and conventions, they returned with suggestions for different kinds of formats. The Big Book came into much broader distribution. And younger members brought winds of change. Charismatic, personal influence came from Wesley P. of Pompano Beach, Florida, who made several tours of Australia speaking to groups who had never had a speaker meeting and spreading the word everywhere of the Big Book and the A.A. program. By 1985, A.A. Down Under had a variety of meetings including Step meetings, speaker meetings and discussion meetings as well as their traditional participation type. The country had 952 groups with 17,000 members.
The American outpost of Guam in the far Pacific has had an indigenous alcohol problem and a viable A.A. group from 1947 until the present. A.A. has enjoyed the support of officials on the military base. Bill F., the first secretary in ’47, reported the group grew from four to 24 in four weeks! However, the rotation of personnel has always caused to membership of the group to fluctuate. Over the years, separate groups have existed at a civilian construction company on the island, at Anderson Air Force Base and at the Navy Base. Guam A.A. groups have been represented at the last several International Conventions.
In 1985, Guam reported 15 groups and 60 members.
AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST
The Reader’s Digest’s international edition struck the spark and the Big Book lit the flame that started A.A. in South Africa. In a single year, 1946, A.A. began in four separate places in that country, independently and without any one being aware of the existence of the others.
In Johannesburg, Arthur S., a successful stockbroker drying but once more in a posh hospital, read the article about A.A. in the Digest. Impressed, he determined to find out more about it and wrote G.S.O in New York. In return, he received a pamphlet containing excerpts from the Big Book, and on the basis of this he got sober. Armed with the pamphlet, he set to work to find other alcoholics. In the upper-class circles in which he moved, no one would admit to having a problem.
So Arthur sought out six persons who would know alcoholics:
1. Rev. J.B.Webb, an outstanding churchman who eventually lent respect and integrity to the movement.
2. Rev. A.A. Kidwell, a well-known member of the Temperance Union and fiery teetotaler who soon clashed with the ideas of A.A.
3. A psychiatrist who was helpful but soon left for the U.S.
4. Mr. Murray, head of Johannesburg’s Social Services.
5. Miss Donovan at Johannesburg General Hospital who suggested:
6. Sister Maxwell, whose contribution was by far the greatest.
With the help of these six, Arthur S. rounded up enough prospects to start the first group in South Africa in October 1946. With only the pamphlet to go on and no knowledge of the Traditions (which had not yet been adopted anyway), the nonalcoholic friends felt that the early members, who were mostly down and out, needed material help such as hospitalization, clothing and jobs. Arthur somehow felt instinctively that his spiritual message should be kept separate from the material help, so the team formed the Spes Bona Club to provide the latter. Predictably, those being helped saw no difference between the two, so A.A. immediately became known as a soft touch. Hundreds of drunks came for the handouts, attended an A.A. meeting or two as a gesture, and then disappeared. Some who did receive the spiritual message and stayed were Ronnie, Ray and Charles.
Arthur then unfortunately died of pneumonia. The financial aid came to a halt and A.A. assumed its rightful role of helping only those who had a sincere desire to stop drinking. Membership quickly dropped to practically nothing. Sister Maxwell continued to attend the almost deserted meetings, and it was almost entirely due to this nonalcoholic friend that the group survived its first year.
Even before Arthur, a black alcoholic named Soloman was wandering the neglected streets of the black Township of Alexandra, north of Johannesburg, reflecting the wreckage of his life. His last bender had brought him and his family to the brink of starvation. From a rubbish bin, he salvaged a copy of the same Reader’s Digest and read the article. He, too, wrote G.S.O. in New York. In return, he received a pamphlet and was registered as a lone member. Not long afterward, G.S.O. put him in touch with Arthur S.., and the two men met regularly until Arthur’s death. Thus, Soloman was the first sober A.A. member in South Africa, but he did not found a group.
In Cape Town, Pat O’G. reached his own rock bottom and, on the advice of a friend, wrote New York for help. He also received a pamphlet, and when he finally sobered up enough to read it, he stopped drinking. After months of setbacks and adversity, he established a Cape Town group.
However, the recognized founder of A.A. in South Africa was the fourth of these pioneers, Val D., from Springs, a town about 30 miles from Johannesburg. After trying repeatedly to stop drinking on his own, Val sought help from a priest. After talking with him a while, the priest said he could do nothing. As Val was about to leave, the priest reached up to a shelf behind him and handed him a book which he had ordered from an American organization he had heard about. It was, of course, the Big Book—probably the only copy in all of Africa! One reading of the Big Book struck Val sober. He soon heard of the group in Johannesburg and went to attend a meeting there. It was a disaster. Sister Maxwell was away and everyone was drunk. Val fell back on what he had read in the book and soon thereafter founded a group in Springs. He also helped the Johannesburg group get on the right track and in general furnished the stability which South Africa A.A. sorely needed.
In 1948, a group was formed in Durban through the American Consul, Bob McG., who had been sober a year in the U.S., and Robbie, who had gotten sober in Johannesburg. By 1951, there were 10 groups in South Africa with 340 members, and they had their first national convention in Durban in September. By ’53, there were 21 groups with over 700 members. From the very beginning, Alcoholics Anonymous bridged the gap that separated black from white in racially-segregated South Africa. In the early 1950’s the message was being carried to the Zulu’s and other native tribes, and despite the laws of apartheid, white A.A. members met with blacks in meetings. Dr. Jack Norris, in his 1974 visit, remarked with some amazement at the free intermingling of the races at an A.A. gathering in Durban.
A General Service Office was established in Johannesburg in 1957, with the responsibility for distributing literature to groups in South Africa. (This task had previously been done by G.S.O./New York.) Six years later they reported that they produced and stocked A.A. material in five languages: English, Afrikaans, Sesutu, Isixhosa and Zulu and were considering German because there were many calls for it. By 1969, they carried 78 literature items, 29 of which they printed locally. During these 12 years, the Johannesburg G.S.O. was structured much like a U.S. intergroup, but in March of that year it became responsible to the newly formed General Service Board, and through it, the functioning General Service Conference. A Public Information Committee was also set up in 1969.
(ADD PARAGRAPH OF DEVELOPMENT OF SERVICE STRUCTURE, CONFERENCE, “REGMAKER”, LITERATURE, ETC.)
As South Africa is a bilingual nation, the Big Book was translated into Afrikans in 1959 by Andries K. and published in March 1961—the first time the Big Book had been published in another language.
Perhaps the best known black A.A. member from South Africa is Shadrach K., a Zulu who grew up in Soweto, the black ghetto outside of Johannesburg. An extremely bright young man, he was University-educated and became a journalist, a political revolutionary, and an alcoholic. He found A.A., but was constantly in trouble with the authorities and ended up in prison. Upon his release he escaped to the United States in 1977. He became a teacher, a writer and a lecturer in the anti-apartheid cause. He also became very active in U.S. A.A., and succeeded in keeping his “two hats” entirely separate. Shadrach was a speaker at the big opening meeting on Friday night at the 45th Anniversary International Convention of A.A. in New Orleans in 1980.
South Africa in 1985 reported 4,500 members in 230 groups.
When political unrest in South Africa heated up in 1983-85 and American television news constantly showed black rioting and clashes with police, John H., then Chairman of the General Service Board in South Africa, called Bob P., general manager of G.S.O. New York, with a message for the U.S./Canada trustees. “In spite of what you read and hear, we want you to know that it is ‘business as usual’ in Alcoholics Anonymous here. The A.A. message is still being carried into the black communities. And black and white members attend A.A. gatherings on either side of the color barrier. ‘Love and tolerance is our code,’ as the Big Book tells us.”
As alcoholism is prevalent in Kenya, persistent efforts have been made over the years to make the A.A. program available. The first known meeting was composed of Europeans who gathered on Tuesday evenings at a Nairobi coffee bar in 1965. They arranged to have published in the East African Standard an article about A.A. which drew nine inquiries from Africans. The first Nairobi group listed themselves with G.S.O. New York on June 6, 1966.
(MORE INFORMATION HERE ON GROWTH, SERVICE OFFICE IF ANY, AND TRANSLATION OF BIG BOOK INTO SWAHILI)
As early as 1956 an A.A. group of eight members existed in Israel. It stemmed from a female loner who had sobered up through correspondence with G.S.O. New York and reading the Big Book and other literature. Nothing further is known until the mid-’70’s when three groups were formed: Shalom group in Jerusalem in ’75, Tel-Aviv in ’76, and North Israel group in ’78. The Tel-Aviv group was particularly active, with participation from Canadian A.A.’s serving with the U.N. forces. The Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem groups each met twice a week in both English and Hebrew. Among the growth problems for A.A. in Israel was the lack of literature in Hebrew and the practice of Customs officials’ opening mail containing A.A. literature, thus threatening the recipient’s anonymity.
At an Anniversary Round-Up in ’79, there were 40 participants, but this included individuals from Al-Anon, O.A., professionals and visitors. In 1985, Israel A.A. reported over 60 members in four groups.
Alcoholics Anonymous in India has had to overcome the obstacles of vast distances and of incredible diversity in languages, dialects and cultures. It has been aided, however, by an intensity of commitment – almost a fervor – that is almost unequalled elsewhere. Although Bombay has nearly a hundred groups and an active Intergroup, and A.A. has spread to most other major cities and even into the far reaches of the land, the state is so huge and the population so enormous that it is evident that the Fellowship has barely scratched the surface. For despite the proscriptions against alcohol in the Hindu faith, alcoholism is common.
Credit for starting A.A. in India is given to Sylvia M. in New Delhi, an Anglo – Indian madam of a high-class call girl operation. She was being treated by a psychiatrist for her excessive nervousness and severe drinking problem. He suggested that Sylvia write to G.S.O. in New York, which she did in April 1956. At the same time, Subatti M. of New Delhi wrote G.S.O. to register as a loner. Both of them were told of the imminent arrival of Charley M., a Canadian businessman and a sober A.A. member, being assigned to India for two years. As a result of their meeting, the first group began in New Delhi February 24, 1957 It gradually began to spread, reaching Bombay in 1957, where the pioneering work was done by Harold M. By 1958, the Bombay group had 30 regular members. Publicity was given to A.A. in the leading English-language newspapers, the Pioneer and the Statesman.
Soon Calcutta had a group. The program spread then to Lucknow, Kainpur, Poona, Hyderbad and other locales—but not without great effort. Because of distances, at times the early members had to travel 100 or 200 miles to do Twelfth Step work. Trevor K., a loner, is especially remembered for bringing A.A. to far-flung areas. The message reached Madras in 1967 through the efforts of Ken B., another Canadian. It then reached Bangalore, Mangalore, Nagpur, Jamshedpur and many other towns large and small. With time, increasing recognition and support has come from the professional community, especially in centers of A.A. activity such as Bombay and Madras. From the beginning, the availability of A.A. literature has been one of the biggest problems in India. Says Trevor K., “We had no A.A. literature, and it was a very great handicap to carrying the message. I had an obsession to get A.A. literature printed in India.” He carried on correspondence with A.A. World Services in New York in which he proposed having the printing done in India by a firm which could be paid in New York. However, the A.A.W.S. Board did not approve this proposal, citing the lack of any service structure in India which could be responsible for storing and distributing the literature. They were also reluctant to have A.A. literature printed in the English language elsewhere when it was available from existing sources. The problem in India was a government restriction on any funds leaving the country. For twenty years, A.A.’s in India pleaded, cajoled and begged for literature from other A.A. offices and individuals around the world. General managers of G.S.O.’s in the U.S./Canada, Great Britain and Australia have testified to quantities of Big Books and pamphlets being shipped to India, but so vast was the state and so great the need that “it was like dropping the literature into a bottomless hole.” At one time in the ’70’s, a letter of appeal from India reached Alberta, Canada. There the groups contributed to a special fund to purchase 500 Big Books which G.S.O. made available at cost and shipped to India.
Another handicap in providing A.A. literature in India is the profusion of languages and dialects. Only they have the ability to translate and to produce literature in the language of greatest need. Today it is reported that A.A. literature in India is amply supplied in many local languages. The Bombay Intergroup also publishes a regular English language magazine, “The Twelfth Step,” and the Madras Intergroup publishes both an English language magazine, “The Message,” and a magazine in Tamil, “MalarumTalvu.”
In 1985, India had 114 groups with an estimated membership of more than 3,000. They have had national conventions annually since 1976, as well as local gatherings.
Writing to G.S.O. New York in 1961, Clarence B., an A.A. from Ft.Wayne, Indiana, stationed Kobe, Japan, observed, “I have had many conversations with A.A. ‘s and others interested in alcoholism as to why there is no A.A. in Japan and I’ve always received the same answer—that the culture, customs, religions and attitudes in Japan prevent the alcoholic here from accepting A.A.” But he went on to report that actually a Japanese A.A. group had been going for more than four years at a hospital near Kobe. The director of the hospital, Dr. Shegeki Morimura, on a visit to the U.S., had studied A.A. principles and program, and on his return had carried the message to alcoholic patients at his hospital. AS a result, regular meetings were being held Sunday afternoon for former patients and some active patients. One Japanese man had four years’ sobriety, and 10 members had two years or more. The only literature was in English which the doctor read in translation. The doctor also understood A.A. Tradition to the extent that he kept the group separate from the institution. Clarence B. concluded, “After seeing this group, I would say that the Japanese are like alcoholics everywhere.”
The first A.A. group in Japan was in the U.S. occupation forces, where alcoholism was a serious problem. Harry C. was its founder. He wrote C.S.O. from Tokyo in December 1947 that he hoped to start a group. The next month, an article on A.A. appeared in the Pacific Stars & Stripes, which produced a number in inquiries which were passed along to Harry, who also spoke to a meeting of enlisted men at a U.S. airfield, with the blessing of the officials. He registered the first group with G.S.O. in January 1948. Harry returned from Japan in July, passing the secretary position to Collins M., who reported a membership of seven.
There have continued to be English-speaking A.A. groups in Japan in growing numbers. In 1985, there were seven groups at U.S. service camps and bases, and 16 other groups located in most larger towns and cities – plus loners and contacts elsewhere. In Tokyo, the groups maintain an English-speaking Intergroup. Among the Japanese, drinking was customarily encouraged as a part of the macho image of the male. Drunkenness was a large enough national problem to spawn a very large temperance society, the Danshu-Kai, whose existence probably slowed the development of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The most significant pioneer in Japanese A.A. was a nonalcoholic priest of the Maryknoll order, Fr. Peter Tanaka, whose compassion for alcoholics and determination to help them, led to his getting A.A. started. In January 1978, Fr. Tanaka wrote G.S.O. New York about translating the Big Book into Japanese and inquiring how to obtain financial assistance to get it printed, which was given March 15, 1979. In June 1980, he wrote to express with gratitude that the Japanese Big Book had been accepted with great interest and enthusiasm, and reported they had also published Living Sober in Japanese. At that time there were eight Japanese-speaking groups in. Tokyo with 50 meetings a week. In addition, there were two meetings a week in Nagoy, one in Kyoto and one in Osaka.
Fr. Peter Tanaka visited G.S.O. in 1976 and again several years later. He died August 13, 1984, at the age of 54.
Although A.A. in Japan owes a debt of gratitude to Fr. Tanaka, the early association of A.A. with the Maryknoll order also caused some confusion and other problems. The Fathers tended sometimes to run things without consulting the group conscience. They translated and published Conference-approved literature as well as Hazelden books without copyright permission and then mingled the two indiscriminately. In spite of these growing pains, however, a sound service structure emerged. It began in 1981 with an ad hoc, self-appointed “Board” with nine members, five alcoholics and four nonalcoholics, seven men and two women. In 1983, work was started on getting every A.A. group to elect a G.S.R. to receive communications and to vote on decisions when called upon. A District Committee was set up in the Kanto district (around Tokyo), which shortly became an Area Committee, with Districts within it, meeting monthly. Then a General Service Committee was formed in Tokyo consisting of all these service people plus the World Service Meeting delegate and the G.S.O. staff members. This is expected to become the new Service Board in time and assume responsibility for A.A. as a whole in Japan. The General Service Committee already has seven operating committees for public information, finance, literature, institutions, etc.
A General Service Office was set up in Tokyo in 1981 with one full-time paid employee and five volunteers. It performs all functions of other G. S. 0. ‘s including publishing a monthly magazine entitled “7956”, a meeting list which is constantly updated, and A.A. literature, both books and pamphlets.
Only two years after the first printing of 2,000 copies of the Big Book in Japanese had been made, less than 100 remained! And the funds advanced by A.A.W.S. had been repaid! Again financial assistance was requested and given for a second printing of the Big Book and a first printing of The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions in Japanese.
In 1985, there were 130 groups in Japan – 60% in the Kanto area in and around Tokyo, 20% in the Osaka/Nagoya area, and 20% in the rest of the country – with each group holding between two and 14 meetings a week. Estimated membership was about 2,000.
A.A. was carried to Okinawa with the American military occupation following World War II. In July 1947, Tommy C., who had found A.A. in Los Angeles and was now with a construction company, wrote G.S.O. that he had started a meeting in Okinawa with 13 other attending, with the support of his superiors. That group unfortunately fell apart when Tommy went on a bender. But it was revived by two of its members, Svigard K. and Elwood W., with the same construction company. They named it the Pioneer group and began to get recruits from the military. By March ’48 the group was going well with 50 members and had its own clubrooms. Soon afterward, the company, having completed its contracts, cut back severely on its work force—beginning with the practicing alcoholics who had not yet reached A.A.! So the group declined quickly to nine. When the company pulled out completely two years later, it was reduced to three.
(UPDATE WITH NATIVE OKINAWAN A.A. DEVELOPMENT FROM FILES)
Okinawa in 1985 had three English-speaking groups besides the native Okinawan groups.
A short-lived American A.A. group met in Korea in 1948, but the first viable group began in November 1952, called the Yong Dong Po group. It consisted of three members at the start but was put in touch with 12 other loners in the American military by G.S.0. New York.
(UPDATE WITH NATIVE KOREAN INFO FROM FILES)
Korea had 20 groups in 1985, and 175 members.