Women Vietnam Veterans: Our Untold Stories, by Donna Lowery, a Vietnam veteran, chronicles the participation of American military women during the Vietnam War. This little-known group of an estimated 1,000 women from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force left its mark in Vietnam from 1962 to 1973. They served in a myriad of duties from intelligence analysts, flight controllers, clerk-typists, translators, physical therapists, dietitians and communications specialists among many others.
Our Untold Stories allows the women to speak for themselves about their experiences, and, for the first time ever, brings names, facts and figures together in one literary work. The purpose of the book is to be historically significant to future researchers.
The history of the military women in Vietnam began in 1962 with Army Major Anne Marie Doering. She was born in what became North Vietnam. Her father was a French officer, her mother a German citizen. When her father died, her mother married an American businessman. Her service in Vietnam as a Combat Intelligence Officer is a compelling story of the US military women in a war zone.
It was not until 1965 that the US Women’s Army Corps (WAC) sent two women as advisors to assist the newly formed Vietnam Women’s Armed Forces Corps. The following year, the Army authorized the establishment of a WAC Detachment in Vietnam. Soon, thereafter, the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy also sent women to serve in various capacities.
In March 1973, under the Paris Peace Accords, the last women left Vietnam along with the remaining men. The impact they had in Vietnam set the stage for the expansion and integration of women into additional roles in the military. Today, women serve in areas of active combat, demonstrating their abilities and dedication to the mission.
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Women Vietnam Veterans
Our Untold Stories
By Donna A. Lowery
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2015 Donna A. Lowery
All rights reserved.
The Stories We Want to Tell
For those women who served in Vietnam who we were not able to locate, we think of you and hope your stories are being told.
Buried in an archive somewhere is the paperwork that would tell us exactly how many military women, not including nurses, served in Vietnam. But, we are still guessing because the best number that the Pentagon could give us was about 1,000 women on orders.
In 1964, shortly after General William Westmoreland approved two positions for WAC Advisors to the Vietnam Women's Armed Forces Corps, he decided that he wanted to have WAC stenographers as well. Eleven women arrived in 1965, including stenographers, advisors, and others; 27 arrived in 1966, and then the gates opened. Five of the 1966 arrivals served as cadre to establish the first WAC Detachment in a combat zone since World War II. The Army women were billeted at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, in a location named Tent City B, consisting of Quonset huts. The Air Force, Marine and Navy women who came later were billeted in hotels in Saigon. In 1967, the Army women moved to Long Binh into wooden two-story barracks located near Headquarters US Army Republic of Vietnam (USARV). In that year, 153 women (that we know of) arrived in country, officer and enlisted, from every branch except the Coast Guard. Many of them volunteered, but some, like the author of this book, were surprised to find themselves selected to serve.
Decades after the end of the conflict, the women who served in Vietnam are dying. They ranged in age from 62 to 93 as this book was being written. There are people who believe that no military women, other than nurses, served in Vietnam. They will tell you so outright. We are determined that these military women will have their place in history and have this opportunity to tell their stories.
Listed by year are all the women we could locate who served – the clerk-typists, the stenographers, the intelligence analysts, the translators, the communications technicians, the supply specialists, the doctors, the medical records clerks, the lab technicians, the dietitians and physical therapists, and all the other military women who deserve this recognition. Listed by their arrival date, each year contains first the women who do not have exact dates, then the women about whom we could find more information. If they submitted a story, it is included. Some gave us one line, some gave us five pages.
We have included a biographical chapter on the women who served as Advisors to the Vietnam Women's Armed Forces Corps.
We also have a collection of stories titled, "The Consequences of War?" Many of the women wanted to talk about their health issues, their children's health issues, and the problems they have with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Some speak of problems encountered in Vietnam.
A collection of "Tales to Tell" is entertaining and sad, interesting and horrifying – the women were honest about many of their thoughts and experiences.
It took extraordinary effort to locate the women veterans for the first formal Homecoming Conference in November 1999. Eventually a database with 791 names was compiled – but only 124 of them could attend the conference. Out of that conference came the Vietnam Memory Book 2000. We were allowed to use all the pictures and stories from that effort and are grateful to Claire Brisebois Starnes and Precilla Landry Wilkewitz for that permission.
There were 81 women's names read for the Memorial Service at the first Homecoming Conference. Our Virtual Cemetery (http://goo.gl/yTjo9t) has 245 names as we prepare to submit this book for publication. That number will only increase. Additionally, we have a Sister Search List that contains many names of women who we believe served in Vietnam. We would like to locate them or at least find more information, especially the dates they were in country. They are listed in a second Virtual Cemetery –Sister Search at http://goo.gl/wCVcDk.
Providing a complete list of those we know about, and their services, and the history of each service's commitment to the effort seemed a fitting addition to our book. It is our hope that those who are looking for a specific veteran will find this section helpful.
And last, it should surprise no one that the author had a few things to say.CHAPTER 2
Explaining the Virtual Cemetery and Listings
When asked to help Donna Lowery on this book project, I knew what my part would be before she said a word. I have been doing family research for nearly 10 years and www.findagrave. com has helped me so much. When I retired in 2010 and came back home, I found that the local cemeteries where the parents and grandparents of all my childhood friends are buried had not been recorded. The first two years of my retirement, I was always in the cemeteries taking pictures of headstones or on the computer recording burials out of the Cemetery books for the three counties around where I grew up. Now I am looking at every site I can for references to any deceased veteran and checking to make sure their lives are recorded on "Find a Grave" so their service to their country will not be forgotten. I created the Vietnam Women Veterans Virtual Cemetery where memorials created to honor our deceased sisters can be easily accessed. I am especially proud to do this for all the women who served their country. May their sacrifice for their country and place in history never be forgotten!! ~ Marsha D. "Cricket" Holder ~
There is no way to adequately express gratitude to someone who routinely stays up until midnight, searching through files and internet pages, trying to locate women who served in Vietnam. The original list used for this book had 570 names. As the book gets ready to go to press, it has more than 1,000 women listed. It is a work-in-progress.
Chronological listings of the women based on their arrival dates in Vietnam are in the following chapters, 1962 – 1972. Each woman is identified with four or more lines of information that detail her name(s), dates in country, highest rank in country, service and duty assignment(s) while there. The infographic shows the structure of the information. We hope future researchers and genealogists will find this useful. A few of the women were married when they arrived in Vietnam, but the majority of them were not.
An Image Index lists credits and sources for the images used throughout the book. Many women sent pictures, but we are especially indebted to Vietnam Women Veterans, Inc.; the Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation Register; and the US Army Women's Museum for their contributions.
Throughout the chronological chapters listing the women, there are some Memory Lane and Songs entries. Sometimes a reference to music or what was happening in the States will evoke stronger memories of the time than simply seeing the year listed.
All information related to a specific field has its own language, and this is especially true of the military. Where possible, terms and labels have been spelled out, but there are a few acronyms used throughout the book and they are listed here.
Army Medical Specialist Corps
Biomedical Sciences Corps
BOQ/BEQ Bachelor Quarters, both Officer and Enlisted
Charge of Quarters
Military Assistance Command, Vietnam
NAVFORV Naval Forces, Vietnam
Rest and Recuperation
Southeast Asia Treaty Organization
USAHAC US Army Headquarters Area Command
United States Army, Vietnam
United Service Organizations
Veterans of Foreign Wars
Women's Armed Forces Corps
Women in Military Service for America
Welcome to Vietnam
Compiled by Joanne Murphy Second WAC Detachment Commander
All work and no play makes Private "I 'borrowed' a jeep" Jones and Specialist "I clung for dear life to a McGuire lift" Smith very dull girls. The women worked 12-14 hour days, oftentimes seven days a week. Most of them were young, full of energy, and, even though tired from their long hours at the office, they wanted to drink in all that this unique assignment offered them. The following pages are a glimpse into their off-duty hours, their happy, fun-loving times, their love and respect for each other, the lifelong friendships made, their compassion for the orphans, and their deep concern for our fighting men. There are first-hand accounts of key events in the Vietnam conflict. The activation of the first WAC Detachment in a combat zone since World War II is discussed. Tet Offensive experiences are shared.
Calendar of Events
MAJ Anne Marie Doering arrives, first WAC officer to serve in Vietnam
First WAC Officer and NCO Advisors to the WAFC arrive; first seven stenographers arrive
Additional women arrive and begin serving in staff officer jobs; first Navy Medical Service Corps women begin serving on USS Repose and USS Sanctuary
March – Capt L. Jane Struthers, first Air Force line officer, arrives; first Army physical therapist, MAJ Barbara Gray, arrives
May – First Army dietitian consultant, LTC Patricia Accountius, arrives
October –1SG Marion C. Crawford, hand-picked to activate the first WAC Detachment in Vietnam and the first in a combat zone since WWII, and her Field First/Admin NCO, SFC Betty J. Benson, arrive
October 31 – CPT Peggy E. Ready, handpicked to be the first Commanding Officer of the WAC Detachment, arrives
November 1 – Groundbreaking Ceremony for the new WAC compound at Tan Son Nhut
November – SSG Edith "Effie" Efferson, first WAC Detachment Supply Sergeant, arrives
December 17 – Hank Snow Show – Mortar fire rages all around; the air is filled with the sound of B-52s bombing. Those in the audience stay pretty calm, but Hank can hardly sing! Can't help but notice that Hank's wife has her running shoes on! Nancy Sinatra, who accompanied Hank, changes the words of her big hit to "These boots were made for running!" Once the show is over, all the entertainers make a rapid exit.
December 24 – Bob Hope Show – Accompanying Bob is his wife Delores, Phyllis Diller, Anita Bryant, Vic Damone and Joey Heatherton. What a great show! Sitting in the sun for three hours meant blisters. Oooh! Pain! But, more than worth it.
December 24 – Francis Joseph Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York, celebrates an outdoor Mass. Cardinal Spellman supports US involvement in Vietnam
December 27 – A Protestant Chaplain brings a small, standard size French poodle to the WAC Detachment. 1SG Marion Crawford becomes her owner and names her Ko-Ko. Unit mascot position filled!
First Air Force Biomedical Sciences Corps dietitian, Capt Joan Kyllo, arrives in Vietnam
January 12-17 – The first group of Army enlisted women arrive, 35 E4s. Two have just come off their honeymoons. Two women have spouses already in country.
January 21 – Grand Opening, USARV WAC Detachment.
March 12-15 – RED ALERT – The Viet Cong (VC) broke through the perimeter of Tan Son Nhut Air Base. The women are hurried into their bunkers – three nights without sleep!
March 18 – MSgt Barbara Dulinsky, US Marine Corps, first woman marine to serve in a combat theater, arrives
April 8 – 1SG Crawford organizes and trains a drill team; 27 women are eager participants
May 14 – Women's Army Corps 25th Anniversary. The WAC Drill Team gives its first performance at the party. The USARV Combo provides live music for the party/dance, which lasts into the evening.
June – LT Elizabeth G. Wylie, first Navy woman, arrives
June 9 – Capt Vera Mae Jones, USMC, first woman marine officer, arrives
June 17 – First five enlisted Women in the Air Force (WAF) arrive
July 4 – Capt Grace Scruggs, first Air Force physical therapist, arrives
July 13 – WAC Detachment relocates to Long Binh for greater safety
October 18 – CPT Joanne Murphy arrives to replace CPT Peggy Ready as WAC Detachment Commander
October 27 – Change of Command – CPT Ready turns the unit over to CPT Murphy
December 12 – 1SG Marion C. Crawford is med-evac'd to Camp Zama, Japan; misses Christmas with her troops
December 25 – Bob Hope Christmas Show with Barbara McNair
January 14 – 21 enlisted women of the first group, USARV WAC Detachment, rotate to the States; eight new women arrive; 29 en route
January 30 – Tet Offensive begins
January 31 – Ammunition dump at Long Binh is hit
February 18 – Ammunition dump at Long Binh is hit again; rocket attack on Bien Hoa Air Base
May 14 – Women's Army Corps 26th Anniversary. The mess hall provides a lavish feast; the women invite many guests for the dinner/ dance. Music provided by the Special Troops Band.
August – Maj Norma A. Archer is first WAF to give daily briefings of key air strikes to the 7th Air Force HQ staff
October 16 – Change of Command ceremony. CPT Murphy hands the unit guidon to her replacement, CPT Nancy Jurgevich
January – Grand Opening of the new WAC Detachment, Long Binh
Navy LCDR Barbara Bole is the first Navy woman awarded the Bronze Star with Combat "V" in the Vietnam conflict
April – MSG Betty Grace Claus (Teager) arrives; upon promotion, only WAC Sergeant Major in country
November – Army LTC Barbara Wirth (Colon), MD, arrives as physician in Saigon
November 12 – CPT Shirley Ohta arrives to replace CPT Nancy Jurgevich as WAC Detachment commander
February – Army LTC Janice Mendelson, MD, arrives for duty as Chief Surgeon and Surgical Rehabilitation Advisor
July 6 – Army COL Clotilde Dent Bowen, MD, the only black physician in the Army, arrives to be chief psychiatrist in Vietnam
September – Army SP5 Joy J. Smith is first WAC assigned to Maxillo-Facial Team (Dental), 24th Evacuation Hospital
November – Maj Barbara J. Thompson, USAF, is first female ever assigned to the Red Horse Squadron
CPT Marjorie Johnson arrives to replace CPT Shirley Ohta as WAC Detachment commander
August 1 – Air Force Maj Virginia Schooler, Chief Dietitian, closes hospital at Cam Ranh Bay
November 7 – Change of Command ceremony – CPT Marjorie Johnson to CPT Constance Seidemann, last commander of the WAC Detachment
December 22 – Navy CDR Elizabeth Barrett, the first senior female Naval line officer to serve in Vietnam, arrives
February – Navy CAPT Mary Anderson (Shupack) assists in the closing of the Naval Air Facility in Cam Ranh Bay and is the last Navy woman to serve in Vietnam
September 21 – USARV Special Troops WAC Detachment deactivates; remaining women move to MACV Saigon
February – Army Medical Specialist Corps 1LT Rebecca Shumate (Richardson) is the last physical therapist to leave Vietnam
Army MAJ Frances Iacoboni (Krilich) is the last dietetic consultant to leave Vietnam
March – Army MAJ Georgia Wise is the last WAC officer to leave Vietnam
March – CWO4 Ernestine Koch is the last USMC woman to leave Vietnam
March 29 – last WACs leave Vietnam
March 29 – 7th Air Force command moves to Thailand; all remaining Air Force women move with it out of Vietnam
Our Lighter Moments
Donna Loring: The photo with my story in 1967 is the only photo I had when I came back to the States because I lost my camera in Vung Tau. Betty Gant and I snuck away to this resort town to celebrate her birthday. Swimming in the South China Sea with our fatigues on and getting a ride on a McGuire Lift underneath a helicopter – now that was fun! All of a sudden, though, we had to make a quick exit from our day at the beach. Charlie was spotted heading our way. We got back to the detachment undetected, but not without having to bribe the security guard with a case of Bud! I'll never forget that day.
Doris Denton: Fran Gonzales and I were roommates at the Medford Hotel. We were both reading on our bunks, when, all of a sudden, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked over to the wall next to Fran's bed and saw the biggest lizard I have ever seen. I told Fran to look. When she saw it, she jumped up and screamed. With that, the lizard jumped toward me. I jumped on Fran's bed. Next, the lizard jumped on our dirty clothes pile and turned the same color as our uniforms. The Army girls next door heard the commotion, came in with a broom, and chased the lizard out the door onto the balcony.
Excerpted from Women Vietnam Veterans by Donna A. Lowery. Copyright © 2015 Donna A. Lowery. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Stories We Want to Tell, 1,
Chapter 2 Explaining the Virtual Cemetery and Listings, 3,
Chapter 3 Welcome to Vietnam, 6,
Yes, We Were There!,
Chapter 4 1962, 65,
Chapter 5 1965, 68,
Chapter 6 1966, 74,
Chapter 7 1967, 99,
Chapter 8 1968, 194,
Chapter 9 1969, 290,
Chapter 10 1970, 390,
Chapter 11 1971, 465,
Chapter 12 1972, 511,
Chapter 13 Army and Air Force Advisors, 538,
Chapter 14 The Quilt, 557,
Chapter 15 Tales to Tell, 564,
Chapter 16 Songs and Poems, 581,
Chapter 17 Vietnam Women Veterans Conferences, 597,
Chapter 18 All-Service Listing of Women Vietnam Veterans, 607,
Chapter 19 Consequences of War?, 658,
Chapter 20 Still Searching, 669,
Chapter 21 What the Author has to say, 687,
Image Index, 695,
Name Index, 713,