The DoD (Department of Defense) reported there were approximately 7,500 women on active duty in Vietnam between 1962 - 1973 but the VA (Veteran's Administration) places that figure much higher, at around 11,000.
The US Air Force Nurse Corps emerged from the Army Nurse Corps after World War II in July 1949. Its mission remains: "to provide medical support necessary to maintain the highest degree of combat readiness and effectiveness of the USAF."
It was in 1966 that the first contingent of female USAF Nurses was assigned to duty in Vietnam; they were drawn from the nurse corps at Clark Air Force Base in the Phillipines following significant casualties after a ferocious battle in Pleiku. Sixteen nurses were first deployed to the USAF Base at Cam Ranh Bay in the new 12th USAF Hospital and the casualty staging unit. By 1967, female flight nurses were assigned to in-country aerovac operations. Concurrently, USAF Nurses were being trained back in the US in aerospace R and D.
"Wounded men in an alien world thousands of miles from home were astonished and reassured at the sight of an American woman so close to the battlefield sharing this grotesque experience." *
Captain Mary Therese Klinker
Captain Klinker, a flight nurse with the 10th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Travis AFB, temporarily assigned to Clark Air Base in the Phillipines, was on the C-5A Galaxy which crashed on April 4, 1975, outside Saigon while evacuating Vietnamese orphans. This flight is known as the Operation Babylift crash. From Lafayette, IN, she was a month short of her 26th birthday. Captain Klinker was posthumously awarded the Airman's Medal of Heroism and the Meritorious Service Medal. She was the last military nurse to die in Vietnam. Along with Klinker there was a total of 152 fatalities. Post-crash investigations led to the conclusion that the aircraft had not been properly maintained.
Thank You Women of the US Air Force Nurse Corps Vietnam
*Jeanne M Holm, Maj.Gen. USAF (Ret.) and Sarah P. Wells, Gen. USAF NC (Ret.)