In our 38th edition of the Donut Dollie Detail, Cathy tells her experience during an incoming fire event for the first time, how visiting soldiers in hospitals were some of the most challenging experiences and how she enjoyed chopper rides over the rice paddies.

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Please meet Red Cross Donut Dollie Cathy Knutson Brown…

What prompted you to join the SRAO (Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas) program and want to go to Vietnam?

One of my sorority sisters from FSU had gone and her reports sounded so interesting.  I had one other job offer, but I was just more intrigued with the idea of serving my country… and so I went!

When and where were you stationed in Vietnam?  Did you go by a nickname?

I was stationed with the 4th Infantry Division in Pleiku from April – November, 1968, then with the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing in Phan Rang from Novemeber, 1968 – April, 1969.  One nickname was Pleiku Cathy; another was Knuts (Ca-noots).



What was a routine day like in Vietnam?

First off, there was NO routine day in Vietnam!!!  In the Central Highlands of Pleiku we were in an active war zone.  Our general, Major General Charles P. Stone was very supportive of our work and made sure that we were able to get out to the fire bases every day.  Morale was very important to him and he understood our role and responsibilities.  Generally we would rise and shine and go down to the chopper pad and wait for a ride.  We would visit 3-4 fire support bases then back home around dusk.  Then hit a round of events in the evening… BBQ’s or other gatherings, visiting with the men, being cheerful, encouraging, listening.

In Phan Rang we operated a recreation center, which had different requirements for programming and such.  We also had a radio program and would visit troops in the field.  Phan Rang was on the coast and there was a different vibe — less war-like than in the Central Highlands.

Did you ever have any “close calls” either on base or in any vehicles?

Just once, though I’ve never spoken of it.  A colonel wanted us to visit a motor platoon that had been in the boonies for months.  It was not approved, but my partner and I were game.  We touched down and started visiting with the guys, when we started experiencing incoming fire… in the middle of the afternoon!  One of the guys picked me up and threw me down in a bunker and jumped on top of me.  Our guys started returning fire… then gun ships zoomed in and the enemy shooting ended.  Yikes!!!  I have palpitations just remembering this!!!!

Were you ever injured while in Vietnam?

No.

What was it like to visit the soldiers in the hospitals?

This was the hardest for me, especially in the quadriplegic wards.  Our job was to be endlessly cheerful as we visited those with devastating injuries.

How was the transition returning home to the United States?

I returned home to San Francisco and war protests!!!  In the year away so much had changed in America… it was disorienting.  1968 has been referred to as a year of seismic change in our country: the murders of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the tumultuous Democratic convention in Chicago… and we were in the midst of it all.

What would you like people to remember and understand most about the women who served?

For the most part these young women were earnest and devoted patriots… putting service above self.  Fresh faced, earnest and full of pizzazz.  I would imagine that most went on to lead extraordinary lives… I know I did!!!

How do you feel Veterans think of your time having served with them?  Have any Veterans expressed their feelings to you directly?

In all the years I have only experienced gratitude from those who served. In the 70’s I traveled often by plane for business and would connect with fellow passengers (male) and when they learned I had been in Vietnam they would open up and pour out their stories… because I could somewhat understand their experiences.

What are your fondest or most interesting memories of your time serving in Vietnam?

Chopper rides on crisp mornings riding over rice paddies; sailing on the South China Sea with the 2nd Squadron RAAF; playing my ukulele and singing with the children at the leprosarium in Kontum run by the French nuns; scrounging supplies for the recreation center; and serving holiday dinners to thousands of troops.



PLEASE NOTE: THERE ARE 37 PREVIOUS EDITIONS OF THE DONUT DOLLIE DETAIL THAT CAN BE SEEN HERE, JUST SCROLL DOWN TO READ EACH (AT THE BOTTOM, YOU’LL SEE A LINK TO GO TO THE NEXT PAGE OF DONUT DOLLIE DETAIL FEATURES)

The Donut Dollie Detail

In our 37th edition of the Donut Dollie Detail, Jackie tells how her mother’s service as a Donut Dollie in WWII prompted her to go to Vietnam, how during the Tet Offensive a mortar round landed right behind her trailer, and how she appreciates the opportunity to have experienced the most significant experience of her generation.

Please share the Donut Dollie Detail with family, friends and veterans you may know, and make sure to like/follow us on Facebook to learn when the next edition is posted.

Please meet Red Cross Donut Dollie Jackie Lively Norris…

What prompted you to join the SRAO (Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas) program and want to go to Vietnam?

My mother was a Donut Dollie in WWII and that’s how she met my father! It was part of my family story growing up, so when the opportunity came along for Vietnam, I couldn’t resist. My mother was actually the person who told me Red Cross was looking for young women to go to Vietnam.

When and where were you stationed in Vietnam? Did you go by a nickname?

I was stationed at Lai Khe from July – November 1967, at Chu Lai from November – March 1968, and Danang from March – July 1968. I was always known as Jackie, but in Lai Khe some of the other girls called me “Dud”, making it the opposite of my last name (Lively).

What was a routine day like in Vietnam?

As other women have probably said, there really wasn’t a routine day, but we either worked in the office creating programs, rode by jeep or truck or flew by helicopter out to the field to do a program, or worked in the recreation center, if there was one. We had a center in Lai Khe and Danang, but just an office in Chu Lai.

Did you ever have any “close calls” either on base or in any vehicles?

I had the same experience Linnie Stone described in Lai Khe, which never felt like a serious threat – but of course, I had just gotten to Vietnam, and was a naïve 21-year old, so I probably didn’t realize the danger. A closer call happened in Chu Lai, where we lived in a trailer on the same street as the generals. One night I was writing a letter home to my parents, and it was during the infamous Tet Offensive of 1968. I had just written, “You’ll probably hear about things happening over here that might worry you because of the Tet Offensive, but don’t worry about me… I’m very well protected”. Right after I wrote those words, a mortar round landed right behind our trailer. I quickly crawled under my bed (they had told us that was an option), and then some soldiers came and took us into the bunker across the street for safety. We spent a number of nights in that bunker during the Tet Offensive!

Were you ever injured while in Vietnam?

No.

What was it like to visit the soldiers in the hospitals?

It was always both sobering and heartwarming. Sobering, obviously, because of the shape some of the GI’s were in, but heartwarming because they always seemed so happy to have us there.

How was the transition returning home to the United States?

For me, it was probably easier than for most of the Donut Dollies. I was asked to do a 4-month recruitment tour around the US after I returned, so I got to spend those months talking about my experience. I have realized since then that being able to do that gave me an opportunity to get a lot of my feelings out and I have not suffered from any long term stress reactions like some of the women did. I also learned to put the year behind me, grow from the experience, and move on. I know some women had a much harder time doing that than I did. I also worked for the Red Cross in a military hospital for a year, and then several years later, went to work for the Red Cross chapter in Denver, where, as a retiree, I’m still heavily involved as a volunteer today. I have always felt I owe the Red Cross a lot for the investment they made in me as a young staff member.

What would you like people to remember and understand most about the women who served?

We were all young women looking for a life-expanding experience. In most cases we were just out of college, and this was an adventure and a way to start our adult work life. For me, it was life changing, and set me on a path of nonprofit work for the rest of my career. It developed my self confidence in ways that no other post-college experience could probably have done for me. I will always be grateful for that year and will never forget it. I think we each had our own experiences, some better than others, but I would be willing to bet that it was life-changing for all of us. We were there because the guys were there, and we took that very seriously.

How do you feel Veterans think of your time having served with them? Have any Veterans expressed their feelings to you directly?

Every veteran I have ever met has expressed his appreciation for my service… it’s the first thing they say! They were so appreciative of us while we were there, and have always expressed their feelings to us when we meet. I just wish all the Vietnam Veterans had received the kind of of appreciation from people in the the US that they have always shown to us Donut Dollies.

What are your fondest or most interesting memories of your time serving in Vietnam?

The opportunity to experience the most significant experience of my generation, and the people – both the women I served with and the soldiers we served. Having amazingly fun experiences as well as sobering, emotional experiences in the same place.

PLEASE NOTE: THERE ARE 36 PREVIOUS EDITIONS OF THE DONUT DOLLIE DETAIL THAT CAN BE SEEN HERE, JUST SCROLL DOWN TO READ EACH (AT THE BOTTOM, YOU’LL SEE A LINK TO GO TO THE NEXT PAGE OF DONUT DOLLIE DETAIL FEATURES)

The Donut Dollie Detail

In our thirty sixth edition of the Donut Dollie Detail, Jenny tells how even though she wasn’t eligible for the draft, she wanted to support her male peers who were drafted, that 20-years after the fact she learned that a Chinook helicopter she was flying in had come under fire, and that she had a concerning encounter with a unit’s pet.

Please share the Donut Dollie Detail with family, friends and veterans you may know, and make sure to like/follow us on Facebook to learn when the next edition is posted.

Please meet Red Cross Donut Dollie Jenny Young…

What prompted you to join the SRAO and want to go to Vietnam?        

As a female I wasn’t subject to the draft, and I felt kind of bad about that.  I wanted to try, in some way to help with the awful situation that my male peers were subject to.  I also wanted adventure. 

Where were you stationed in Vietnam? Did you go by a nickname?

I was first stationed at Dong Ba Thin and the unit was closed in February, 1969 when the Recreation Center’s materials were sent to Tuy Hoa with two of the Dong Ba Thin Donut Dollies.  These two (including myself) became two of the four ARC Girls who opened the Tuy Hoa Red Cross unit, becoming the first women to live there on base.  I was then transferred to Cam Ranh Air Base and then onto the Fourth Infantry Division in the Central Highlands (Camp Enari). I went by the nickname “Jenny” except for the first month, when my issued name tag said “Jen.”  I asked for the change to Jenny, too many people thought “Jen” was “Jan” or “Jean”.

What was a routine day like in Vietnam?   

For mobile runs, either by road (jeep or truck) or air (chopper) we got up very early and came home at the end of the day, unless having to R.O.N. (remain overnight) due to unexpected weather somewhere.  We visited as many units as possible.  In the Highlands, these would be artillery units on a firebase, plus the infantry units who were “in” from patrol.  These were guys living underground or in sandbag bunkers.  We often flew in with the hot chow, so we would serve the food.

We’d then offer our “game of the week” (home-made, audience participation games).  Our “field bags” contained gifts of stationery, card decks, candles, candy, pens, paperbacks, packets of Kool Aid, and small palm-sized mirrors.  Back on the bases where we lived, curfew was 12:00 midnight, except at Camp Enari where the military changed it to 11:00 p.m.    For the units with Recreation Center activities, one worked the assigned shift for being there at the Center, interacting with the men who came in — playing ping pong, cards, talking.  The Centers also staged programs like funny fashion shows or jello eating contests, etc.  Often we would work on our “programs” for the road, getting ideas and experimenting (rehearsing) with those who came to the Center.

Did you ever have any “close calls” either on base or in any vehicles?  

No.  I found out 20 years later that a chinook I was on took small arms fire, but I didn’t know at the time.  We were headed home after dark but the pilots were called in to extract some troops from a hot area.   It turned out the troops were ARVN (South Vietnamese) troops.  My Donut Dollie partner was on a headset with the pilots, so she heard about the fire.  

Were you ever injured while in Vietnam? 

Not a major injury, but I was bitten by a unit’s pet monkey on a firebase.  I asked if it had been inoculated and was told yes.  I called everyday on the field phone to ask about the monkey’s behavior (wanting to know if it went rabid), dreading that I might have to take rabies shots.  Luckily, nothing dire happened.

What was it like to visit the soldiers in the hospitals?      

Not easy.  One soldier in a psych ward (strapped down) at Cam Ranh Air pleaded with me to get him out of there.  Another time — while assigned to the 4th Infantry, we had a “regular” run to an LZ called St. George.  One day, at the end of my tour (November, 1969), we were informed NOT to go to St. George — it had nearly been overrun the night before.  We went to see “our” guys who were in the hospital in Pleiku.  It was tough, because we had known them as able-bodied and “okay” all those weeks prior to the attack.  One guy had had a tracheotomy, but wanted to speak to me.  He had to press on his throat.  I had to dig my nails into my palm to keep from getting light-headed.

How was the transition returning home to the United States?   

I saw that those back home were very busy with their lives, paying little attention to the plight of the American soldiers in Vietnam.  Their “concerns” seemed so trivial, for example, “Will we have enough beer for tonight’s pool party?”.  Otherwise, a fairly smooth transition — no real problems.

What would you like people to remember and understand most about the women who served?    

That the U.S. military requested this program of the American Red Cross.  That we did NOT go to Vietnam to be Call Girls for the officers.  That we went because we cared and wanted to help out in some way, with the Red Cross SRAO program offering that opportunity.

How do you think the Veterans think of your time serving with them now?  Have any Veterans expressed their feelings to you directly? 

Nowadays they are quite grateful.  Many have thanked me individually and we’ve been thanked as a group.

What are your fondest or most interesting memories of your time serving in Vietnam?      

Incredible camaraderie within our Red Cross “units” and with the military around us.  Chopper rides over beautiful countryside.  American boys who really tried to “clean up their act” when we visited, and were very chivalrous.  Visiting “CA” (Civilian Affairs) teams assigned to Montagnard villages in the Highlands, receiving great hospitality from the villagers.  With my being 6 feet tall and blonde, I think I was quite the novelty to them.  Playing volleyball almost every afternoon with the Commanding General of the 4th Division.

PLEASE NOTE: THERE ARE 35 PREVIOUS EDITIONS OF THE DONUT DOLLIE DETAIL THAT CAN BE SEEN HERE, JUST SCROLL DOWN TO READ EACH (AT THE BOTTOM, YOU’LL SEE A LINK TO GO TO THE NEXT PAGE OF DONUT DOLLIE DETAIL FEATURES)


The Donut Dollie Detail

In honor of Women’s History month, we are providing the full list of our Donut Dollie Detail features.  We are very proud of this feature, as it tells the story of the women who served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars in their own words.  Please share these stories with a veteran… Did they serve on the same base as one of these Donut Dollies and are they in any of their photos?  These stories will resonate with people of all ages, men, women, family and friends, so please share this post to help us honor the Donut Dollies.

Meet the Donut Dollies…

Meet Donut Dollie Dorset Hoogland Anderson – I was stationed at Nha Trang, Cu Chi and Tuy Hoa from 1968-69.

Meet Donut Dollie Penni Evans – I was stationed at Cam Rahn Air Base from March – August ’70, Long Binh (II Field Force) from August– October ’70, Cu Chi from October – November ’70, and Quang Tri ifrom December ’70 – March ’71.

Meet Donut Dollie Mary Blanchard Bowe – I was stationed at Dong Ba Thien with the 18th Engineers, Pleiku with the 4th Infantry Division, Tuy Hoa with the Air Force, and Quy Nhon with the Army and Navy ships from 1968-69.

Meet Donut Dollie Linnie Stone – I was stationed at Pleiku from October 1966 – February 1967, Long Binh from February 1967 – June 1967 and Lai Khe from July 1967 – November 1967.

Meet Donut Dollie Susan Heinzelman Ladnier – I was stationed at Da Nang and Qui Nhon. Did TDY to Lai Khe and Pleiku. Arrived at Camp Humphries in Korea in 1967. Left in the middle of the Pueblo crisis and arrived in Vietnam in the Tet Offensive of 1968

Meet Donut Dollie Cecelia Burgess Grandison – I was stationed at Phu Loi with the 1st Infantry Division and the Big Red One in 1968.

Meet Donut Dollie Mary de la Forest-Evans – I was stationed in Vietnam from June 1968 – February 1969 at Cam Ranh Bay in a support zone.

Meet Donut Dollie Diane Schmidt Curley – I was stationed at Cam Ranh Bay from 9/68-1/69.  From there I went to Chu Lai until the end of my tour (10/69).  I also spent a week TDY at Pleiku.

Meet Donut Dollie Ellen Cadden Nagy – I was stationed in Vietnam in 1970-1971 at Bien Hoa (1970), Da Nang (1970-71) and Long Binh (1971).

Meet Donut Dollie Bobbie Lischak Trotter – I was stationed in Qui Nhon, Bien Hoa and DaNang.  I served for one year from July 1970 – July 1971.

Meet Donut Dollie Maggie Connor Dutilly – I was stationed in Danang from Aug. 1, 1971 until January 6, 1972 (with trips to Quang Tri and TDY to Bien Hoa) and Cam Ranh Army from Jan. 1972 until evacuation during the Easter Offensive in April 1972.

Meet Donut Dollie Sharon (Vander Ven) Cummings – The first six months were at Cam Ranh Bay, Army.  Then with Long Binh II Field Forces (but we lived in Bien Hoa), and finally with the 25th Division in Cu Chi.  

Meet Donut Dollie Lou Breen Rundle – I served in Qui Nhon from Aug-Oct ’71 and at Cam Ranh Air Base (CRAB) from Oct ’71-Apr ’72,

Meet Donut Dollie Susan Baiamonte Conklin – In 1968, I was in Cam Ranh Bay, Lai Khe and Da Nang. 

Meet Donut Dollie Marilyn Schmokel Dent – I served in Xuan Loc with the 11th Armored Calvary from September 1967 – February 1968, in An Khe with the 1st Air Calvary from February 1968 – June 1968, and in Dong Tam with the 9th Infantry Division from June 1968 – October 1968

Meet Donut Dollie Terre Deegan-Young – I was in Vietnam from Fall of 1970 until summer of 1971.  I was first stationed in Chu Lai with Americal Division.  Stayed there till after the holidays in December of ’70 until I was sent down south to Bien Hoa with the 1st Cav.  I believe I was there from about January until March or April of 1971.  I then went back north to Camp Eagle with the 101st.

Meet Donut Dollie Linda Meinders Webb – I went to Washington, DC for training the day Nixon was inaugurated in January, 1969 and then to Danang, Cam Ranh Air (TTY), Cam Ranh Army, and then Pleiku at the headquarters of the 45th Infantry and left in January, 1970.

Meet Donut Dollie Marrilee Shannon – I was stationed as an SRAO programmer and director at three stations – Cu Chi 25th Infantry, Cam Rahn AFB, Phan Rang AFB from late 1969 – late 1970.  

Meet Donut Dollie Agnes Fortune – I was stationed at Blackhorse in Long Kahn Province (11th Armored Cavalry under Col. Patton, the General’s son) from November, 1968 to the end of January, 1969 and I served with Donut Dollie’s Lola and Kay. I then served in Cu Chi (25th Infantry Division) from January, 1969 to July, 1969, and my last base was Long Binh (II Field Force with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade)

Meet Donut Dollie Eileen O’Neill – I was in the January, 1971 class, but by the time we got to Saigon after our training it was early February.  I was stationed at Danang from early February, 1971 I to the first of July. My second base was Phan Rang Air Base until the first part of September.  I spent two months at Phan Rang and had two one-week TDYs at Bien Hoa and Binh Thuy.  Early in September I moved to Binh Thuy until I left in January, 1972.

Meet Donut Dollie Barbara McDaniel Stephens – I arrived in Saigon on January 21, 1969 for 1 week of training.  My first unit was Bien Hoa from January, 1969 – June,1969; my second unit was Danang from July, 1969 – mid-October,1969; and my last unit was Cam Ranh Army from mid-October, 1969 – February, 1970.  

Meet Donut Dollie Nancy Olsen Hewitt – I was first stationed at Phan Rang Air Force Base from August 1970 – January, 1971, then I was transferred to Bien Hoa Army.  I left Bien Hoa to return to the U.S. in the middle of February, 1971 when my fiancé was killed at Phan Rang.  Fortunately I was able to return to Vietnam in April, 1971 and was stationed at Cam Ranh Army.  I left CRA for Cam Ranh Air Force Base in October, 1971 and stayed there until January, 1972 when I returned to the states.

Meet Donut Dollie René Johnson – I was stationed at Chu Lai with Americal Division from April – October 1969, then at Cu Chi with the 25th and the last brigade of the 9th Infantry Division from Oct ’69 – April ’70.  

Meet Donut Dollie Diane Johnson Tucker – I was stationed in Qui Nhon from March – June, 1970, at Camp Eagle (near Hue or Phu Bai) from July – October, 1970 and at Cam Ranh Bay from November, 1970 until my departure in February, 1971. 

Meet Donut Dollie Jeanne “Sam” Bokina Christie – I was stationed at Nha Trang from January to late April 1967, then at Danang from late April to September 1967, and then Phan Rang from September 1967 until the start of Tet in 1968.

Meet Donut Dollie Judy Harper – I was stationed in Qui Nhon from September – October 1970; I was in Cu Chi from October – December 1970, where I re-opened the unit that was closed down after a Donut Dollie, Ginny Kirsch was murdered (learn more here), which was open for the six weeks until the 25th stood down; I was in Danang from December 1970 – May 1971 – with a TDY (temporary duty ) to Quang Tri over Christmas; and at Binh Thuy from May – July 1971.

Meet Donut Dollie Karel Dierks Robertson – I was stationed at Camp Eagle from August – October, 1971, at Cam Ranh Air Base (CRAB) from October 1971 – late March, 1972, and then TDY (temporary duty) at Bien Hoa for 2 weeks in mid-March. I returned to CRAB for at least a week after being at Bien Hoa to help pack up and close the centers and then went to Saigon to await DEROS (Date Estimated Return From Overseas).

Meet Donut Dollie Teri Fisk Hermans – I attended the training class in Washington, DC at the end of July, 1969, and I was first stationed at Camp Eagle with the 101st Airborne Division from August – November, ’69; then Cam Ranh AFB from November ’69 – May ’70; and then at Cu Chi with the 25th Infantry Division from May – July ’70.

Meet Donut Dollie Linda Sullivan Schulte – I was stationed in Lai Khe with the 1st Division… the Big Red One.  In October I was transferred to Dong Ba Thin to close that unit and move it to a new Air Force Base at Tuy Hoa.  Then in February or March, not sure exactly, I was sent up north to Phu Bai.  

Meet Donut Dollie Roseann Krikston Johnson – I was stationed in Danang from July to October, 1969 and then at Bien Hoa from October 1969 to July 1970.  

Meet Donut Dollie Sara Porter Smith – I was stationed at Tuy Hoa from August – November 1970, at Danang from December 1970 – April 1971 and at Phan Rang from May – December 1971. I was in Vietnam 15 months, which was just a little longer than the typical year most Donut Dollies were in Vietnam.

Meet Donut Dollie Sherry Giles Cozzalio Taylor – I was first stationed at Long Binh (II Field Force) from June – October, 1968, then TDY (temporary duty) at Phan Rang Air Base in October, 1968, followed by Bien Hoa from November, 1968 – January, 1969 and finally Dong Tam from January – June, 1969.

Meet Donut Dollie Terry Lee Harmon – I was stationed at my first base at Cam Ranh Airbase from March 1970 – August 1970 and my second base was Danang from August 1970 –August 1971.

Meet Donut Dollie Rose Karlo Gantner – I believe I was one of only four American women to serve in the SRAO twice.  During my first tour of duty from June 1966 – June 1967, I was first assigned to Nha Trang and then Pleiku.  My second tour was January 1969 – January 1970 at the headquarters of the American Red Cross SRAO program in Saigon.

Meet Donut Dollie Sheila Otto Rosenberg – I was stationed in Vietnam from 1966 – 67.  I was sent TDY (temporary duty) to Long Bin for a couple of weeks until I could go to Phan Rang to set up the unit there.  I was at Phan Rang for about 6 months and then sent to Cu Chi to set up that unit until I returned home.

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