In our fourth edition of the Donut Dollie Detail, Linnie Stone tells how during a mortar attack a brave soldier led her and a Donut Dollie sister to the safety of a bunker, plus how she devised a way to help soldiers clean up their language before returning home to the “real world”.
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Please meet Red Cross Donut Dollie Linnie Stone…
What prompted you to join the SRAO (Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas) and want to go to Vietnam?
Living in Hawaii after college, I did volunteer work at the Red Cross chapter. My job was to drive their station wagon to Honolulu hospitals, delivering blood supplies.
One day at the chapter, the manager helped me load the wagon, and asked about my job. When I told him I worked in recreation with local kids, he said, “we’re looking for college graduates to do recreation in Vietnam”.
My first thought was, “Are you kidding?” But as he talked about the job, I became interested. So I applied and was excepted. I first reconnected with my family in California. Then I went to Washington, DC for training and to Saigon for more training.
When and where were you stationed in Vietnam?
My in-country homes were:
Pleiku – October 1966 – February 1967
Long Binh – February 1967 – June 1967
Lai Khe – July 1967 – November 1967
What was a routine day like in Vietnam?
Since I will discuss our many routines later, I will focus here on a specialized problem. I felt part of my job was to help our men clean up their language before returning home to the “real world”. When they thought the Donuts Dollies were out of ear shot, they swore freely.
One time at our Long Binh recreation center there were three men at a card table. One was facing me as I worked on props for a game. He kept using the “F” word, not realizing I could hear him. I wracked my brain to figure out how to stop him without his buddies knowing. Finally when he glanced at me for a moment, I put my finger up to my lips for “shhh”. Shocked, he understood what I meant, and quickly looked at his two buddies. Of course, they hadn’t seen me. He immediately stopped using the “F” word and life went on.
At our Lai Khe rec center, the ping-pong table was out on the veranda. It was on the other side of the wall to our office. As our men played heated games, the “F” word was yelled alot. Again I couldn’t figure out how to clue them in. Finally I found a picture of Charlie Brown and Snoopy and wrote on it, “Watch your language, Charlie Brown”, and posted it on that wall. It worked like magic, with no one embarrassed.
Did you ever have any “close calls” either on base or in any vehicles?
I was in 4 mortar-rocket attacks in Vietnam. At Lai Khe in 1967, it seemed we heard outgoing mortars every night. It was called “H and I firing” (harassment and interdiction). One night at our rec center with two of us donut dollies on duty, I was running the poker party. Soon the usual H and I firing started up. Suddenly someone yelled, “Incoming!” I yelled back, “It can’t be incoming – I’m finally winning!” But it was, and the men tore off for their bunkers with all the lights out.
The two of us Donut Dollies were stuck. Our rec center bunker was only half built… without a roof. So we headed for our strange, tall-sided French-style bathtub, where we kept our bulky supplies. We tossed out the supplies, climbed in and scrunched down.
Shortly a voice yelled, “Donut Dollies! Where are you?” “In the tub!” we yelled back. He followed our voices and then, after helping us out of the tub, he said, “Follow me to our bunker”. We hung onto each other as we crossed a wide open area in the pitch black night.
As we entered the bunker, the men couldn’t see us, and were telling racy stories. Our “protector” said, “Hey guys, clean it up. The Donut Dollies are here”. They not only cleaned it up, but also made hysterically funny comments for the next few hours. We were laughing so hard, it sounded more like a party than a mortar attack. But it helped us all get through a scary night when the mortars were exploding way too close.
Were you ever injured while in Vietnam?
What was it like to visit the soldiers in the hospitals?
We visited our men in the hospitals on a regular basis. In Pleiku, there was a serious attack on the nearby 25th Infantry, where the only men who were left back at the base camp were short-timers (soon to go home).
The next morning we went to the 18th Surgical Hospital to visit our injured men. I approached one man who said he was supposed to go home that day. The night before, when he heard the incoming mortars, he sprinted for the bunker, tripping over a tent stake. When he hit the ground, his foot was sliced by pieces of hot shrapnel. Then he said, “The doctors couldn’t save my foot, but at least I still have my leg ”
I could only say, “You take care”. He said “Thanx for coming to check up on us”. I nodded and turned quickly so he couldn’t see my tears ready to fall. As I pulled myself together, I headed to the next wounded soldier.
How was the transition returning home to the United States?
Returning home in the end of 1967, I enjoyed the peace and quiet of being away from a war zone. Being home with a loving, supportive family was so comforting. But our country was still being torn apart by the war.
In August 1968, I moved to Australia, where I lived in Sydney and taught ballroom dance for year. I then traveled the country, working as I went.
It was what I needed… to be free of the Vietnam War, which had become a battleground at home in America as well as in Vietnam.
What would you like people to remember and understand most about the women who served?
Donut Dollies had a choice to go to Vietnam, whereas the servicemen didn’t. Once I got there, I felt we could bring humanity and a touch of home to our men through recreation, conversation, and smiles.
And in the hospitals, nurses were saving lives. I admire them for being able to experience the daily challenges and tragedies they faced, and still focus on what had to be done.
How do you feel Veterans think of your time having served with them? Have any Veterans expressed their feelings to you directly?
I’ve been volunteering at a VA recreation program for nearly 4 years. Many of the vets have stories from World War II, and others from Vietnam. They seem appreciative that Donut Dollies were actually willing to volunteer to go to a war.
What were your fondest or most interesting memories of your time serving in Vietnam?
Some of my fondest memories are from working with our men at our Lai Khe rec center. There were four of us Donut Dollies working out in the field and at our rec center there. The center was open every day from 9 AM till 10 PM. Since I had had rec center experience in Hawaii, they decided my second day there to let me be a rec center chairman – yay!
In the evenings we had various programs, but Friday became the night for our special programs with all four of us there. With new man who had been out in the field a long time, our program usually started off slowly.
One of my first nights there, I was leading charades with four tentative men. As the game picked-up and others heard us yelling, they joined in. Two hours later with 25 enthusiastic man, we had to wrap up, since the center was closing. The final score was 94 – 82!
On other nights:
* we played blackjack using paper clips for chips
* we played Jeopardy for 2 1/2 hours
* we had a roundtable discussion with a heated debate over the popularity of softball vs. dragracing (their choices). The men were all trying to out yell each other, while I was neutral but arguing points on both sides.
* we had a “psychedelic night”, where we brought out the washable paints to decorate everybody’s faces, arms, and legs. Of course we Donut Dollies were the first guinea pigs to be painted. Then the men got into the spirit of it, and painted each other, with lots of laughter, of course.
* with everyone decorated, we then had simultaneous jam sessions: folk music in the music room, and soul music out on the veranda with one man on piano, and three others harmonizing.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE ARE 3 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)
I was the other Donut Dolly n the tub that nigh in Lai Khe…remember it so clearly! Also psychedelic night. Great to hear Linnie’s remembrances!
Welcome home, you all were much loved
Doc Thompson Tan Son Nhuet AFB 67-68
How great to read your comment on our Lai khe experiences. You were so fun to team with there.
I think I met you in Pleiku at camp Holloway.
When many in the US were protesting or ignoring our men in uniform, you ladies volunteered to bring your empathy, your smiles and your ability to help these brave men escape the rigors of combat for well needed diversions. I have seen your sisters in action, bringing soldiers together for camaraderie, fun and quiet time as needed. You were loved by many, even those who only caught a glimpse of the girl-next-door smiling at them in blue cords. Thanks for all you did for the morale and well being of so many fighting men in Vietnam.
– Bob O’Neal, Lt.Col., US Army, Vietnam 1967-1971