Special Services

USO USAID Civilian Nurses

Civilians Employed by the Military

Military Dependents Correspondents Entertainers
Humanitarian Workers Orphanages Operation Babylift  

". . . significant numbers of women served admirably in all branches of service as professional nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, air traffic controllers, aerial reconnaissance photographers, intelligence and language specialists, legal officers, and in security and administrative positions.

Civilian women also served in Vietnam in the Red Cross, USO, the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as in other government agencies.

Other women worked there as journalists, flight attendants, and in various church and humanitarian organizations.

Where are these women today? Could they possibly be your wife, your nurse, co-worker, your supervisor, your physician or your next door neighbor? Could you find them if you looked?

These women have camouflaged themselves, an easy task in our society. All they have to do is keep quiet.

Not All Women Wore Love Beads

Women served alongside men in that sink-pit of war. For the country to heal, these women need to reveal the full depth of their experiences, first to themselves and then to the rest of us. It's time for women's experiences and contributions to be recognized and acknowledged as an important part of the history of the Vietnam conflict."

~Joan Arrington Craigwell and Ellen Hoffman Young

Special Services logo Services (DOD)

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 had 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 & Recreation program.

For a free e-mail newsletter for all Special Services personnel (male and female, any era), contact

  • New Book written by Sandra Lockney Davis of Special Services -

    So What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? Seoul to Saigon: Personal Essays

  • "Written with humor and candor, So, What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? describes the experiences of a young girl working for U. S. Army Special Services in Korea in 1964, eleven years after a war and VietNam in 1967 during the war.

    Dr. Davis witnessed the best and worst of human nature. She was the belle of the ball in Korea, but barely escaped a stalker, faced a soldier who broke into her hootch in VietNam, survived routine mortar attacks, chopper flights, and getting kicked out of the 1st Infantry Division.

    She met generals, political dignitaries, and a future president of the Philippines, but her best memories are of the young, brave, polite, fun-loving, and appreciative soldiers to whom she pays tribute. For them she would do it all again."

  • Interview with Ann Kelsey, served as a Special Services librarian, Cam Ranh Bay

    "The soldiers used the library to read magazines and newspapers from the States, to get books to help them with 
    correspondence courses they might be taking, and for general recreational reading."
  • A Trip Back to Vietnam, 1992 - Ann Kelsey

"There were, however, a few fleeting signs of past enmities. An old gentleman who spoke perfect French, asked me if this was my first trip to Vietnam. I replied in French that no, it was my second. My first was in the south in 1969. His eyes flickered, and he changed the subject. "

"I thought about the war that had been fought up and down this peaceful, beautiful coastline, in these rice fields and villages -- Chu Lai, My Lai, the Que Son Valley, Da Nang, A Shau, Hue, Phu Bai -- and hundreds of fire bases and landing zones now gone, still existing only in the memories of those who fought there. It seemed unreal, as if two different worlds, the one that was and the one that is, were converging and occupying the same space."

Rumors of War - Cathleen Cordova FIND ON GRUN

"Please don't misunderstand, there's nothing wrong with being called a Donut Dollie if you were one. But just as all women in Vietnam were not Army nurses, all civilian women in-country were not Red Cross Donut Dollies. "

"How do I explain this? Where to start? How far back do I go (to Vietnam?) to pick up the loose threads of this story, and begin to unravel the emotions I want to express and explore."

Service Clubs

An Khe Jet Set
--Long Binh
--Di An
Copter Corner
--Soc Trang
Log Complex
--Pleiku West
--Long Binh
--Phuoc Vinh
Nha Trang Tiki Hut
--Can Tho
--Vung Tao
--Long Binh
Trai Bac
--Phu Bai
Dragon Mountain
--Tan Son Nhut
Free World
--Tay Ninh
San Bay
--Vinh Long
--Phu Loi
Happy Valley
--Qui Nhon
Sand Pebble
--Tuy Hoa
--Quang Tri
Ilikai East
--Cu Chi
--Chu Lai
This is from a report dated 15 April 1970 of clubs in operation as of that date. The report was in one of the General Historical File folders in the Entertainment Branch records in the National Archives. Specific box and folder citation available on request.




In Memoriam

War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Reporters who Covered Vietnam (edited by Jurate Kazickas)

Inspired by a conference which reunited many of these pioneering women.  Nine women reporters recount what their war in Vietnam was like: Tad Bartimus, Denby Fawcett, Ann Mariane, Jurate Kazickas, Kate Webb, Laura Palmer, Edith Lederer, Anne Merick and Tracy Wood 

From the Back Cover:  “This book is about our experiences as women reporters covering the Vietnam War from 1966 until the fall of Saigon, in 1975. Each of us has written a chapter about what we saw and felt in Indochina—our adventures, fears, excitement, and the difficulties and loneliness."

United States United Kingdom
[Kindle] [Kindle]

Women Covering the War - By Cristina Rouvalis and Bill Schackner, Post-Gazette staff writers

"Kazickas, a researcher for Look magazine, had been told by her boss that there was no way she would be sent to cover the war in Vietnam. After all, she was 24, totally green and had never published a word. The magazine's male war correspondent had just been killed in Vietnam. It wasn't about to send a woman."

Fini Bye Bye - Tad Bartimus

"But for those of us who went to Vietnam there was no end, only departure. In middle age we now have other friends, loving relatives, meaningful work. But behind the façade we share the same demons and angels and when we are together we are code talkers who share an emotional shorthand."

On Their Own: Female Correspondents in Vietnam

"Many of the women correspondents — those whom Michael Herr in his book Dispatches dismissively refers to as “girl reporters” — were esteemed among the troops with whom they saw action, and the stories they told enriched the public understanding of the war and its enigmas."

Ann Caddell Crawford

"If you poke around any book shop in Vietnam that sells foreign language books, one of the first titles you are likely to encounter is Customs and Culture of Vietnam. Authored by Ann Caddell Crawford, this book was one of the first—perhaps the first—guides to Vietnam penned for American readers. "

Women on the Frontline

For many of the women journalists who covered it, the Vietnam War was a pivotal experience that profoundly shaped and influenced their personal and professional lives.


Civilians Employed by the Military

In Memoriam

Interview with an Air Force employee - Shirley Ann McCormick Youngblood

"Living in a war zone was emotionally dangerous also. "You had to put a shield around your feelings," she said." (The Air Force would not send women in the Air Force to Vietnam, but sent civilians.)


Civilian Nurses & Humanitarian Workers & USAID
(U.S. Agency for International Development)

In Memoriam


"Even our years as nurses hadn't prepared us for what we found at the FCVN Center. Every inch of every floor of the stately French mansion was covered with blankets or mats--each of which was covered with babies--hundreds of crying, cooing infants, each orphaned or abandoned. "

Civilian Nurses - Australian Surgical Teams Vietnam (CN-ASTV)

Australian teams of civilian nurses and doctors served in Vietnam for 16 years commencing 1964.  As a result the health of many of them has been permanently affected, both physically and mentally. A group of them calling itself Civilian Nurses - Australian Surgical Teams Vietnam (CN-ASTV) is campaigning for recognition as war casualties. At the moment the victims are getting no help from the Australian government or the military, they received no post trauma counselling or any other form of support on their return.

Secretary - Barbara Parsons Rozell

"When I was living in a hotel downtown I was thrown from bed when a rocket hit the back of the building. And once at the office a rocket landed in our parking lot creating a hell of a crater but I don't remember it injuring anyone."

A Mystical Moment in the Rain on the Streets of Da Nang, 1970 - Janice Hermerding

"She had been an ASCP (American Society of Clinical Pathologists) Medical Technologist there; and she was a specialist in blood banking. While residing in Minneapolis, Minnesota, she had volunteered to go directly to Vietnam after her training, to participate in the AMA (American Medical Association) Education Project. The AMA adopted the Saigon Medical School; and various Universities throughout the U.S. participated. The University of Missouri, of which she was an alumni, sponsored Pathology - so that is what she was doing while in Vietnam. She told me that she was an instructor in Medical Laboratory Procedures in Saigon,"

"The enrollment at our school was 120 students, most of who were in their late teens. They dressed very neatly in white pants, white shirts and wore white caps that reminded me of those our American nurses wore. They were punctual with no absenteeism."

Bobbie the Weather Girl - AFVN TV Saigon

"Officially, Bobbie was a secretary for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) who worked at the Mondial Hotel USAID Annex in Cholon and lived on Nguyen Hue Street in Saigon (1967-68-69). "

Pain and Pride - Marion Mullin, RN, Danang; Pat Walsh, RN; Susan Leigh, ANC, Anne Payne, ANC

"Our guys would shoot them and we would patch them up," she said. "The perfect example was this old man with cataract-covered eyes. He was clutching a dirty rag to his abdomen while he smoked his pipe. He spoke of the attack on his village and the helicopters he saw. He had never been in a building with four walls before this one. He refused to get on a stretcher and it wasn't until the end of the day that he finally allowed me to touch him. When he moved the rag, his bowels fell out on the floor. While I helped rush him to surgery, he asked me why would white men make this hole and then a white woman try to patch it up? It was such wisdom."

Lady Borton on meeting a female Viet Cong

While my western medical colleagues fit war-wounded Vietnamese with artificial limbs, I made runs to the American base to pick up mail, fetched supplies, and transported patients, stopping along dusty village paths to chat, listen, and watch.

"My last chance, I thought. "I have no connection with the military," I said. "I work for a peace organization. We help war-wounded on all sides." I described Quaker Service work in Quang Ngai, our assistance to North Viet Nam, and to areas of South Viet Nam controlled by the Viet Cong, or Provisional Revolutionary Government, as it was officially known."


Military Dependents

Ann Caddell Crawford

"Ann Caddell Crawford arrived at Saigon’s Tan Son Nhut Airport with her three pre-school children."



In Memoriam

The Hilltop Singers - Entertainers for the USO

"The girls explain why they are touring overseas: 'If the troops can't go to the coffee house, let's take the coffee house to the troops.'"


Entertainer Chris 'Miss Christmas' Noel Earned the Right to Call Herself a Vietnam Veteran

    "Noel trooped out to rifle companies, where she chatted with the boys in bunkers, danced on mess hall tables and played rock 'n' roll on her portable phonograph. She even visited motor pools, maintenance shops, graves registration and the morgue."

Martha Raye "Colonel Maggie" – Nurse, Entertainer, and Honorary Green Beret

"She had been traveling to Vietnam (I am told that she paid her own way) and spent weeks, and sometimes up to six months at a time in country. She kept this pace up for over nine years during the Vietnam War. She was not there just to entertain the troops, but also engaged in nursing work where ever it was needed. She spent most of her time out in the field, or in the hospitals. She went to some of the most dangerous and remote locations in Nam."

Vietnam Diary - Aviva Sheb'a

"I'm seeking contact with other Vietnam Veteran Entertainers, especially those who like me, were not high-profile."

Mamie Van Doren

". . . there is nothing more comforting to the troops in harm's way far from home than seeing those dancing girls and hearing those musicians, and yes, hearing Bob Hope's god-awful jokes, even though the son of a bitch flew into Vietnam during the day to do his shows and spent his nights in safety in Thailand and made millions off of the shows by selling them to television when he returned."

"Entertaining Vietnam" - the Documentary 

The DVD is now available!

Photos of Vietnam Entertainers



United Service Organization,  ran recreation centers and many of the entertainers and celebrities who toured Vietnam were there under USO auspices. USO personnel were more likely to live on the local economy, rather than in military housing, and unlike the Red Cross and Special Services, they did not have uniforms. They wore civvies.

USO Show Time with Diana Dell AFVN Saigon May 1970

Audio broadcast

"This fresh, Vietnam War romantic comedy-drama, filled with colorful characters, snappy dialogue, and biting political commentary, centers around three twenty-something American women, who learn about life and love while working at the USO in 1971-72 Saigon."

For These Women, The Battle Continues

"Maureen Nerli, who is a former USO worker, says, "Ever since I came home from Vietnam I have had one illness after another.  Maureen is also distressed that although she served 18 months in Vietnam as a volunteer, her service isn't officially recognized by the government, which excludes her from VA health benefits.."

Connie Stevens discusses her return to Vietnam in this audio file

USO Centers

An Khe Can Tho Nha Trang
Binh Thuy Di An Qui Nhon
Cam Ranh Bay
Coffee Bar
Da Nang
China Beach
Freedom Hill
Golden Gate
Liberty Center
Tan Son Nhut
Chu Lai Vung Tau


FOUND Photos

Surfing--Captain Rodney Bothelo, 1st Shore Party Battalion, and Miss Elli Vade Bon Cowur, Associate Director USO, judges for the OSO sponsored surfing contest held September 25, 1966, are shown with Private First Class Robert D. Binkley, FLSG-B, who took first place in the event; Corporal Tim A. Crowder, Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, second place winner, and Lance Corporal Steven C. Richardson, 1st medical Battalion, third place winner.


Weather Girls

Bobbie the Weather Girl - AFVN TV Saigon

"Unofficially, and other-wise, Bobbie traveled to the field as a morale booster. She escaped gun fire, slept in bunkers, flew in helicopters, rode ACVs, mules, rome plows, and was catapulted on and off ships such as the USS Enterprise -- all to show she cared and to spread cheer to remote places."  


Operation Babylift & Orphanages

In Memoriam 

Babylift Website

ComeUnity Babylift Website

Articles and photographs on the Viet Nam Babylift from professionals, parents and adoptees.

LeAnn Thieman's Account

We put two or three babies to a box. There were nine of us to care for 100 babies. We took our seats for takeoff and the true terror began: Would we be shot down? Would we even get off the ground?

Dana Sachs is Interviewed about her Babylift book, "The Life We Were Given."

Fresh Air (NPR) April 27, 2000

Audio interview with Sister Mary Nelle Gage and two orphans, including one who survived the Babylift crash.

Agnes Feak, Age in Vietnam: 17

We flew into Saigon. You just did your job, which was to pull kids into the plane. They were just loading them as fast as we could so we could get the hell out of there.


"Even our years as nurses hadn't prepared us for what we found at the FCVN Center. Every inch of every floor of the stately French mansion was covered with blankets or mats--each of which was covered with babies--hundreds of crying, cooing infants, each orphaned or abandoned. "

Orphans she helped rescue from to honor `Angel of Saigon'  -Betty Tisdale

"In the weeks before Saigon fell in 1975, Tisdale arranged for 219 children from the An Lac orphanage, where she had worked two months a year since 1961, to fly to the United States for adoption."

"It is always very-very hot in December. The temperatures were over 100 humid degrees and we were in the middle of the war."

List of Orphanages



Thanks to Ann Kelsey for fact checking, spell checking, and providing explanations of USO, Special Services, and Red Cross functions.



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Page last updated October 2, 2011