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Vietnam Nurses

 

 

When Diane Carlson Evans, a former army nurse in Vietnam, first saw the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, she felt something was missing. Her efforts to highlight the service of women in Vietnam were rewarded on November 11, 1993, when the Vietnam Women's Memorial was dedicated.

Vietnam Women's Memorial.The sculpture, designed by Texas native Glenna Goodacre, depicts three uniformed women with a wounded soldier. While one nurse comforts the soldier, another kneels in thought or prayer. The third looks to the skies - for help from a medevac helicopter, or perhaps from a higher power. Goodacre left the interpretation open so that people could read into it whatever they wished.

Support for the memorial came from all over. Letters poured into the Vietnam Women's Memorial Project, coming from both male and female veterans. Nurses spoke of the horror of war and the difficulty of talking to their friends about what they had seen. One said that in only a year, she had left behind her youth and her innocence. Soldiers remembered the nurses with love and affection - the kind smile, the gentle touch, the soft words that eased their pain. Parents spoke with gratitude of the nurses who had sent their sons home to them. Evans felt that without those nurses, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall would stretch for fifty miles.

The women's war was different from the men's - instead of exploding in the jungle, it blew up in the mind. Surrounded by death, the nurses had to shut down emotionally. They could not show their feelings to the soldiers they were trying to heal. Like the Vietnam Wall, the Vietnam Women's Memorial has brought healing.

 

 

 

 

 

Approximately 11,000 American military women were stationed in Vietnam during the war. Close to ninety percent were nurses in the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Others served as physicians, physical therapists, personnel in the Medical Service Corps, air traffic controllers, communications specialists, intelligence officers, clerks and in other capacities in different branches of the armed services. Nearly all of them volunteered.

By 1967, most all military nurses who volunteered to go to Vietnam did so shortly after graduation. These women were the youngest group of medical personnel ever to serve in war time.

Because of the guerilla tactics of Vietnam, many women were in the midst of the conflict. There was no front, no such thing as "safe behind our lines." Many were wounded; most spent time in bunkers during attacks. The names of the
eight military women who died in Vietnam are listed on the "Wall."

Medical personnel dealt with extraordinary injuries inflicted by enemy weapons specifically designed to mutilate and maim. During massive casualty situations, nurses often worked around the clock, conducted triage, assisted with emergency tracheotomies and amputations, debrided wounds and inserted chest tubes so surgeons could get to the next critical patient. Over 58,000 soldiers died in Vietnam; 350,000 were wounded.

It is estimated that approximately 265,000 military women served their country during the Vietnam war all over the world in a variety of occupations. Thousands of women served in Japan, Guam, the Philippines, Hawaii, and other stateside hospitals caring for the wounded and dying who had been stabilized and flown out of the war zone. Many Navy women were stationed aboard the USS Repose and the USS Sanctuary, hospital ships stationed off the coast of South Vietnam. Air Force nurses served both "in country" and on air evacuation missions.

An unknown number of civilian women also served in Vietnam as news correspondents and workers for the Red Cross, the USO, the American Friends Service Committee, Catholic Relief Services and other humanitarian organizations. Like their military counterparts, many of these women were wounded in the crossfire. More than 50 civilian American women died in Vietnam.

Many Vietnam women veterans have never told their friends, colleagues or even loved ones about their tour of duty in Vietnam. The majority of them were only in their early 20s when they returned to a country that did not understand what they had just experienced. Although most were there to save lives, they received the same hostile treatment as the returning combat soldiers.

When the Vietnam Women's Memorial Project was started in 1984, Project leaders (all volunteers) were struck by the lack of information about the women who served during the Vietnam era. Veterans groups and the government had few records of them there were no networks established and no easy way to find out where these women were. Although the Foundation is making steady progress in researching available documentation there is still no official, accurate record of the number of women who served during the Vietnam era.

According to a recent Veterans Administration report, 48% of the women who served during the Vietnam conflict will suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during their lives. Yet, few have sought documented help for it. Many women also have suffered health problems associated with Agent Orange exposure. Some have committed suicide.

The Foundation's
Sister Search program is dedicated to locating all American women both military and civilian who served during the Vietnam era. The purpose of the Search is to facilitate healing among these veterans, allow them to network with each other, share their stories with the public, and complete essential research on this virtually undocumented veterans group. So far about 12,000 Vietnam women veterans have been located by the Foundation.

Source: Vietnam Women's Memorial Foundation

 

 

American and Australian Civilian and Military Women
Who Died in the Viet Nam War (1959-1975)


Military

U.S. Army --

  • 2nd Lt. Carol Ann Elizabeth Drazba
     
  • 2nd Lt. Elizabeth Ann Jones

Lt. Drazba and Lt. Jones were assigned to the 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon. They died in a helicopter crash near Saigon, February 18, 1966. Drazba was from Dunmore, PA, Jones from Allendale, SC. Both were 22 years old.

  • Capt. Eleanor Grace Alexander
     
  • 1st Lt. Hedwig Diane Orlowski

Capt. Alexander of Westwood, NJ, and Lt. Orlowski of Detroit, MI, died November 30, 1967. Alexander, stationed at the 85th Evac., and Orlowski, stationed at the 67th Evac. in Qui Nhon, had been sent to a hospital in Pleiku to help out during a push. With them when their plane crashed on the return trip to Qui Nhon were two other nurses, Jerome E. Olmstead of Clintonville, WI, and Kenneth R. Shoemaker, Jr. of Owensboro, KY. Alexander was 27, Orlowski 23. Both were posthumously awarded Bronze Stars.

  • 2nd Lt. Pamela Dorothy Donovan

Lt. Donovan, from Allston, MA, became seriously ill and died on July 8, 1968, in Gia Dinh Province, South Vietnam, at the age of 26. She was assigned to the 85th Evac. in Qui Nhon.

Lt. Donovan was born in Wirral, Merseyside (in England), UK, March 25, 1942, to Irish parents. The family returned to Dublin, Ireland; and Pam was raised and educated there before the family came to Brighton, Massachusetts.

  • 1st Lt. Sharon Ann Lane

Lt. Lane died from shrapnel wounds when the 312th Evac. at Chu Lai was hit by rockets on June 8, 1969. From Canton, OH, she was a month short of her 26th birthday. She was posthumously awarded the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm and the Bronze Star for Heroism. In 1970, the recovery room at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver, where Lt. Lane had been assigned before going to Viet Nam, was dedicated in her honor. In 1973, Aultman Hospital in Canton, OH, where Lane had attended nursing school, erected a bronze statue of Lane. The names of 110 local servicemen killed in Vietnam are on the base of the statue.

  • Lt. Col. Annie Ruth Graham, Chief Nurse at 91st Evac. Hospital, Tuy Hoa

Lt. Col. Graham, Chief Nurse, 91st Evacuation Hospital, 43rd Medical Group, 44th Medical Brigade, Tuy Hoa, from Efland, NC, suffered a stroke and was evacuated to Japan where she died four days later on August 14, 1968. A veteran of both World War II and Korea, she was 52.


U.S. Air Force --

  • Capt. Mary Therese Klinker

Capt. Klinker, a flight nurse with the 10th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, temporarily assigned to Clark Air Base in the Philippines, was on the C-5A Galaxy which crashed on April 4, 1975, outside Saigon while evacuating Vietnamese orphans. This is known as the Operation Babylift crash. From Lafayette, IN, she was 27. She was posthumously awarded the Airman's Medal for Heroism and the Meritorious Service Medal.


Australian Nurse Corps --

  • Barbara Black

Barbara died at Vung Tau, Vietnam in 1971.


Civilian

American Red Cross --

  • Hannah E. Crews

Died in a jeep accident, Bien Hoa, October 2, 1969.

  • Virginia E. Kirsch

Murdered by U.S. soldier in Cu Chi, August 16, 1970.

  • Lucinda J. Richter

Died of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Cam Ranh Bay, February 9, 1971.


Army Special Services --

  • Rosalyn Muskat

Died in a jeep accident, Long Binh, October 26, 1968.

  • Dorothy Phillips

Died in a plane crash, Qui Nhon, 1967.


U.S. Department of the Navy OICC (Officer in Charge of Construction) --

  • Regina "Reggie" Williams

Died of a heart attack in Saigon, 1964.


Catholic Relief Services --

  • Gloria Redlin

Shot to death in Pleiku, 1969.


Central Intelligence Agency --

  • Barbara Robbins

Died when a car bomb exploded outside the American Embassy, Saigon, March 30, 1965.

  • Betty Gebhardt
Died in Saigon, 1971.

United States Agency for International Development --

  • Marilyn L. Allan

Murdered by a U.S. soldier in Nha Trang, August 16, 1967.

  • Dr. Breen Ratterman (American Medical Association)

Died from injuries suffered in a fall from her apartment balcony in Saigon, October 2, 1969


Journalists --

  • Georgette "Dickey" Chapelle

Killed by a mine on patrol with Marines outside Chu Lai, 1965.

  • Philippa Schuyler

Killed in a helicopter crash into the ocean near Da Nang, May 9, 1967.


Missionaries --

  • Carolyn Griswald

Killed in raid on leprosarium in Ban Me Thuot during Tet 1968.

  • Janie A. Makil

Shot to death in an ambush, Dalat, March 4, 1963. Janie was five months old.

  • Ruth Thompson

Killed in raid on leprosarium in Ban Me Thuot during Tet, February 1, 1968.

  • Ruth Wilting

Killed in raid on leprosarium in Ban Me Thuot during Tet, February 1, 1968.


POW/MIA --

  • Evelyn Anderson

Captured and burned to death in Kengkok, Laos, 1972.
Remains recovered and returned to U.S.

  • Beatrice Kosin

Captured and burned to death in Kengkok, Laos, 1972.
Remains recovered and returned to U.S.

  • Betty Ann Olsen

Captured during raid on leprosarium in Ban Me Thuot during Tet 1968. Died in 1968 and was buried somewhere along Ho Chi Minh Trail by fellow POW, Michael Benge. Remains not recovered.

  • Eleanor Ardel Vietti

Captured at leprosarium in Ban Me Thuot, May 30, 1962.
Still listed as POW.


Operation Babylift --

The following women were killed in the crash, outside Saigon, of the C5-A Galaxy transporting Vietnamese children out of the country on April 4, 1975. All of the women were working for various U.S. government agencies in Saigon at the time of their deaths with the exception of Theresa Drye (a child) and Laurie Stark (a teacher). Sharon Wesley had previously worked for both the American Red Cross and Army Special Services. She chose to stay on in Vietnam after the pullout of U.S. military forces in 1973.

  • Barbara Adams
     
  • Clara Bayot
     
  • Nova Bell
     
  • Arleta Bertwell
     
  • Helen Blackburn
     
  • Ann Bottorff
     
  • Celeste Brown
     
  • Vivienne Clark
     
  • Juanita Creel
     
  • Mary Ann Crouch
     
  • Dorothy Curtiss
     
  • Twila Donelson
     
  • Helen Drye
     
  • Theresa Drye
     
  • Mary Lyn Eichen
     
  • Elizabeth Fugino
     
  • Ruthanne Gasper
     
  • Beverly Herbert
     
  • Penelope Hindman
     
  • Vera Hollibaugh
     
  • Dorothy Howard
     
  • Barbara Kauvulia
     
  • Barbara Maier
     
  • Rebecca Martin
     
  • Sara Martini
     
  • Martha Middlebrook
     
  • Katherine Moore
     
  • Marta Moschkin
     
  • Marion Polgrean
     
  • June Poulton
     
  • Joan Pray
     
  • Sayonna Randall
     
  • Anne Reynolds
     
  • Marjorie Snow
     
  • Laurie Stark
     
  • Barbara Stout
     
  • Doris Jean Watkins
     
  • Sharon Wesley

59 civilians
9 military
--
68 total

Sources --

Vietnam Women's Memorial Project (Military) and
A Circle of Sisters/A Circle of Friends (Civilian):

Vietnam Women's Memorial Project

2001 S Street NW, Suite 302

Washington, D.C. 20009

Phone: 202-328-7253

A Circle of Sisters/A Circle of Friends

1015 South Gaylord, Suite 190

Denver, CO 80209

Phone: 303-575-1311

 

The data on this Page was compiled by --

Ann Kelsey,
Army Special Services,
Library Branch,
Cam Ranh Bay, 1969-1970

You can E-mail questions and comments regarding this Page to Ann at: [email protected]