Like every area where women served in the Vietnam War locating numbers and details for the US Army Special Services Program has been a difficult slog. Outside of first-person
remembrances or vague unemotional "factoids", there is little available material. However, there is enough to put together a profile, of sorts, of those who devoted their days to the morale, welfare, and recreation of our troops serving in combat.
Although the program did not kick off in Vietnam until 1966 it began its mission after being transferred from the US Navy. The service has morphed many times since it began, basically, as the military Exchange System which was created by Congress in 1903. The original congressional authorization charged the Army to build, operate, and maintain PXs (Post Exchanges), libraries, schools, recreation centers, and gyms for the troops. The Army Morale Division was established in 1918, The Army Motion Picture Service in 1920, and the Library Service in 1923. The establishment of these organizations led to the creation in 1941 of Special Services.
By 1970 Special Services was reorganized and centralized as the USARV Special Services Agency (Provisional). Approximately 99 civilians managed and supervised 31 craft and photography laboratories, 6 entertainment offices, 23 service clubs, and 30 libraries in Vietnam. Between 1966 and 1972 and estimated 300-600 civilians, about 75% of them women, served in Vietnam as employees of the Special Services. a
"Special Services was directly under the Army, that is, the military attached to it were Army and the civilians were direct Department of Defense employees. It has several divisions related to morale and recreation and operated world-wide, including on Army bases in the States. The divisions were service clubs, libraries, arts and crafts, entertainment, sports, and movies. In Vietnam, Special Services also administered the Rest and Recreation program." -from Many Women Served
The memoirs of Dr. Sandra Lockney Davis
who served in Special Services in Korea in 1964 and the Republic of South Vietnam in 1967.
US Army Services Recruitment Film- Where The Action Is
Although the available information would indicate that the women (and men) who served in
Special Services had a safe, carefree time of it- nothing could be further from the truth.
Thank You Women of the US Army Special Services Vietnam
a Used by permission from; "Civilian Women in Vietnam: Army Special Services"- Ann Kelsey, DAC, USARV Special Services Library Branch, 1969-1970