Donut Dolly

Red Cross Workers

Donut Dollies at Cu Chi
1967, Monsoon Season

Photo by Sharon Cummings

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There were three categories of Red Cross Workers in Viet Nam

SMH "Service to Military Hospitals"

These women and men worked in the hospitals directly with the patients, doing a combination of social work and recreation therapy.

SMI "Service to Military Installations"

These women and men were the Red Cross social workers who arranged compassionate emergency leaves and received and passed on communications from the families back home regarding births, deaths, and emergencies.

SRAO "Supplemental Recreational Activities Overseas"

These women were the Donut Dollies.  Their job was to provide "a touch of home in a combat zone."  They brought games and kool-aid and a respite from thinking about the war to men in the field.

Donut Dolly Logo\
The Donut Dollies' Own Website



A Donut Dollies Voice -
Emily, Donut Dolly & Poet
  "when someone asks me what I did in Nam, my usual response is: 'I flew around in helicopters and played games with the guys.' "
Playing Games -
Nancy Smoyer,
Donut Dolly
  "Red Cross Recreation Workers, a.k.a., Donut Dollies, played games. It was our mission, our job, what we were sent to Vietnam to do. We played games in mess halls, on flight lines, in recreation centers, on LZ's, firebases, along the road--wherever there were GIs."
Year in Nam -
Sharon (Vander Ven) Cummings,
SRAO April 1966-67
  "The question asked most often of us was, "Why are you here?" My usual reply was, "Because you are." No matter how tired we might get, there was always another smile and a wave for the guys."
Emily - An American Red Cross Donut Dollie with the 9th Infantry Division and Mobile Riverine Force in VIETNAM   "In Dong Tam, mortar attacks occurred more nights than not. I learned quickly to distinguish incoming from outgoing, to listen for the 3 marker rounds (even in my sleep), and to immediately determine if the rounds were walking toward me or away. I could decide in a few seconds if the attack required my going to the bunker. Whether or not a mortar attack was memorable was determined by it's proximity to each person's location."
Return to Vietnam -
Nancy Smoyer,
Donut Dolly
  Return to Vietnam: A Red Cross Donut Dolly's Trip Back - "My primary reason for going back was to get over the feelings of anger and animosity I've carried for the Vietnamese for 25 years. Although I was well aware intellectually that my feelings were for the most part irrational, I also knew that I wouldn't get over them until I went back."
FAQ's -
Sharon Cummings
  Students, this is what you are looking for!
Holley Watts - A Donut Dolly Reflects on Her Time in Vietnam   " . . . this was an experience she would gladly do over again but would never encourage her daughter to do. When asked why, she simply said: 'I left Vietnam, but truth be told Vietnam hasn't left me.'"

Memoir "The Seas of War" - Barbara Williamson Pomarolli

Service to Military Hospitals SMH

  "I spent most of the day writing letters for patients in the ICU. The wounds were almost too much to bear. I helped a patient write who couldn't talk because he had been shot in the jaw and head. One patient lost both legs and one arm, was shot in the face and stomach, and did not live long. My admiration for the nurses and corpsmen on that Ward grows with each visit."
A Final Mission: Facing the Wounds - Judith Hansen, Donut Dolly   "Silently, except for the scrape of chairs, the men instinctively rose and, standing at attention, sang "The Marines' Hymn" for her at the top of their lungs. The spontaneous, disciplined eruption of feeling was the highest tribute they could pay, their most heartfelt salute."
Susan Bradshaw McLean: The Long and Painful Road to Healing - George F. Slook
  Susan served with Ginny Kirsch, a Red Cross Donut Dolly who was murdered by a soldier in Vietnam.
Genie - A Donut Dolly at Cam Ranh Bay   "Then, a real miracle happened. Genie had placed a photo of herself and her unit wading on the beach at Cam Ranh at the base of the Vietnam Women's Memorial and many people started looking at it. After a few moments, a man picked up the picture and looked at it very intently."
Archival Information - Newspaper Articles from the Time of the Vietnam War
Front line troops, deep in her heart: Dixie Ferguson - Pat Christion   "Asked about what she misses most being in Vietnam, she answered, 'paved roads and springs in cars.' "
Dollies Boost Morale - Sharon McCullough, Betty Jolley, & Diane, Nov. 68, 173d Airborne Brigade   "When the Donut Dollies visit the hospitals, they bring special Red Cross 'comfort packets', of reading materials, puzzles and word games."
A Soldier Writes his Mother about Donut Dollies - Paul Kopsick
  " . . . we had a visit from a pair of girls from the red cross. They are supposed to come every week to spend some time with us playing some little games that they dream up."
Tomahawks Play Host As Donut Dollies Visit - good description of a complete field program   The third and final part of the program saw eight "Tomahawk" actors take the stage and participate in a Western Melodrama. Their acting skills were also a little rusty, but everyone seemed to enjoy it, including the "rookie" actors. Specialist 4 Rich Geniesse from Menominee, Mich. said, "The program seemed to be a real moral booster. It helped relax everyone by taking their minds off of the problems in the field."
Jeannie Christie - Letter from Vietnam
  "…Several times a week we visit the hospital. We see fellows with their arms and legs blown off, their heads smashed in and pieced together, eyes lost and hearts completely broken."


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