Monday, November 04, 2013

To All The American Women Who Served in Vietnam: Part VI Final


We always hear about the American women who served in Vietnam in the context of military nurses or Red Cross volunteers- the fact is, there were many other women who served. To them, we will now offer our heartiest thanks and a tribute to each group.

US Marines/Vietnam
In 1967 plans were set in motion to send one officer and nine enlisted women to fill desk billets with the MACV (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam), based in Saigon. The section
provided administrative support to Marines assigned as far north as the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone). Later, two more officers were added and served as historians with the Military History Branch, Secretary Joint Staff, MACV.

There were about 28 enlisted women marines and 8 officers between 1967 - 1973.

US Army Medical Specialist Corps/Vietnam
With the number of military personnel increasing from 23,000 to 550,000 between 1964 - 1969 medical facilities were enlarged and established including 23 additional fixed installations. "There were surgical, evacuation units along with field hospitals, and a 3,000 bed convalescent center, supported by a centralized blood bank, medical logistical support installations, six medical laboratories, and multiple air ambulance ("Dust Off") units".a   Between 1966  and 1973  43 Army physical therapists, 33 of whom were women, served in Vietnam. In 1966  two Army dietitians were added to the medical mission. Eventually, a 20 women would serve in all four combat tactical zones. Seven of these women, served as dietetic consultants to the MACV (Medical Assistance Command Vietnam) Surgeon. While the majority of occupational therapy support for Vietnam casualties was provided by therapists in military hospitals in Japan, Hawaii and the States, one occupational therapist was assigned in Vietnam in 1971. Many of these Medical Specialists treated members of the SEATO (Southeast Asian Treaty Organization)- Australia, Korea, New Zealand, Thailand, the Philippines, South Vietnam and, of course, the US. Some patients were also civilians and prisoners of war. Within this group were many consultants. The majority of Army dietitian and physical therapists who served in Vietnam were lieutenant 
colonels and majors. b

US Air Force Women in Vietnam
The US Air Force Command refused to send women into a war zone until the war itself escalated and casualties increased beyond the capacity of male nurses and medics. Consequently, sixteen female nurses arrived at Cam Ranh Bay air base in 1966. Still,
because of the requirement for WAF squadrons and separate dormitories, only a limited number of enlisted women  were stationed in Vietnam at any one time. Most enlisted women served in Thailand assigned to units of the 13th Air Force at Korat, Udorn, Nakhon Phanom, Takhli, and Don Muang. They also served out of Bangkok and at U-Tapao. WAF officers served in many different capacities including supply, aircraft
maintenance, public affairs, personnel, intelligence, photo-interpretation,meteorology, and administration. 
* We have not seen a figure for how many Air Force women (even nurses) served in Vietnam. We are not sure if that is a function of Air Force policy or some other reason. As always, we are open to any information or suggestions readers may have. Just post your remarks in the comments section below.

US Women's Army Corps
Women have served in the  US Army since World War II when, by 1944 the Women's Army Corps reached peak strength at 100,000 enlisted and officers. Shortly after the war, Congress folded the corps into the Regular Army of the United States.

Most of the women who were in the US Army Corps in Vietnam were volunteers. Although not permitted to fill combat roles, they filled positions (beyond the Army Nurse Corps) in communications, supply, and administration. In 1964, General William Westmoreland, requested that the Pentagon send a WAC (Women's Army Corps) officer and a non-
commissioned officer to help in organizing and training a Womens' Armed Force for the Army of South Vietnam (ARVN) and assist where needed with the men's forces. Later, in 1965, a request was sent for 15 stenographers to be assigned to MACV headquarters. By 1970, over 20 women were on duty. Eventually there would be WAC personnel stationed at Qui Nhon and Cam Ranh Bay- all officers and NCOs. Shortly thereafter, 80 enlisted women reported for duty at Tan Son Nhut Air Base (just outside of Saigon). All of these women were under the same threat of attack as their male counterparts with the exception of not being armed for self-protection, even though they had been trained with sidearms and rifles. A total of nearly 700 women, officers and enlisted, served in Vietnam between 1962 - 1973.

US Navy Women in Vietnam
Many women served in the US Navy during the war in Vietnam, although the majority served stateside, in the Pacific, Europe and on hospital ships. Only a handful, other than nurses, actually served in theatre. Their roles, like their sisters in the other branches, were primarily to take over those duties normally held by their male counterparts who were serving on board ships and other areas directly involved with the war. There were numerous ships stationed offshore of Vietnam. Nine US Navy women (all officers) served in Vietnam in logistical and
support administrative capacities at Cam Ranh Bay. No enlisted Navy women served in Vietnam. Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt did facilitate some policy changes in 1972 whereby a limited number of women officers and enlisted were assigned to the crew of the hospital ship USS Sanctuary. The first group included 32 enlisted and 2 officers. These women served on the ship's deck, in supply and operations as well as administration. This group would represent the very first sea-going women sailors who were expected to perform the same duties and tasks as their male shipmates. 


THE USO- The USO (United Services Organization) was made up of 6 other agencies-the YMCA, the YWCA, the Jewish Welfare Board, the Salvation Army, Traveler's Aid, and National Catholic Community Services. This body was created in 1941 by then President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Since the request for USO volunteers was granted by the Department of Defense, each
volunteer was given the rank of GS-10 or Captain. At the peak of the war, the USO had 22 clubs in Vietnam.

Each club had 3 staffers at all times. They provided snack bars, barber shops, gift shops, overseas telephone lines, photo labs, and hot showers. Many of the clubs were on the beach as in the Da Nang and Vung Tau areas. The main clubs were the Saigon USO, four in the Da Nang area: China Beach USO, Freedom Hill USO, Golden Gate USO, and the Liberty Center. There were 3 clubs at Cam Ranh Bay: Cam Ranh Bay #1 USO, Aloha USO, and Coffee Bar USO.
*It is important to note that USO Shows and USO Clubs were totally separate functions of the national USO.

So many others...there were American women journalists, American women volunteers with humanitarian, aid, and religious groups. Considerable numbers of these women ran or assisted in operating orphanages, clinics, food banks and other facilities for Vietnamese civilians. We will dig down to uncover more about the women who served as we move forward with our blog.

At this point, we would like say THANK YOU and WELCOME HOME to all the American women who served and sacrificed. Politics aside, these great citizens did what they could to make a very miserable situation a little better while setting aside their comfort zone, psyche and personal safety. There is just not enough gratitude and certainly not enough words.

As we wrap up our month of tributes to women, Vietnam: My War Too would like to send out a very huge THANKS to 
Ann Kelsey, DAC, USARV Special Services, Library Branch, 1969 - 1970 
who took the time to offer us leads, answer our questions and engage in a "hands-on, been-there, done-that" style of informative, professional guidance. Without her balance and steadfastness (not to mention sense of purpose), much of the information we have shared would not have been uncovered. Having said this, a huge thanks goes out to all the women who took the time to write down and share their memories and experiences via the

Vietnam Womens' Memorial Foundation 

Please visit them. They have links to most of the information found here and we humbly thank them for providing a wonderful repository where Americans can forever visit  this historical archive.

(click here)

Vietnam Women's Memorial
Washington, DC
1993 - 2013
Twenty Years of  Honor

a "Army Medical Specialist Corps in Vietnam", Colonel Ann M. Ritchie Hartwick; Vietnam Women's Memorial Foundation website 
b Ibid

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