Friday, March 27, 2009


1968-69 ....

A civilian volunteer in Vietnam: Dian, Saigon, Binh Hoa, Tay Ninh, Long Binh, II Field Force Headquarters .....

Though this was my usual travel attire (I also carried a sawed-off M-1 in my purse), civilians were NOT allowed to carry weapons ....

Civilians carried two "Non-Combatant" ID cards. If captured by the Viet Cong, we were supposed to give them one and we brought the other back .... Someone forgot to tell these rules to the Viet Cong, however.

As time allows, I will be adding a photo journal of my experiences and reflections on my work in Vietnam.

Included with my personal collection, I will be adding segments of a project that several co-workers and I started circa 1998-2001 (but regretfully, never completed). To my knowledge, a history of the Special Services program has never been compiled. This was to have been our effort ..... I have no way to contact the few (especially Cathy, Dee, Deborah) who worked diligently on this project --- but now, as I attempt to include it, consider it a testament to the efforts of the hundreds who have served .....

I was invited to volunteer .... so I did --

... and while I asked myself "why?" a few times during that year, I have never regretted having gone ....

Over the years, memories have faded, but never disappeared ... There have been few days in my life when I have not reflected about an incident or a person whom I met there ....

Images: helicopter pilot ... Opening a club with General Ewell ... Bingo! ... my bunker home .... hitching a ride to Saigon ... an arial view of B-52 strike several miles away ... the Valley ... mission #1: smile ....


What I did .... The Vietnam Program

I organized recreation and entertainment programs for enlisted military personnel ... Sometimes I assisted in designing and/or decorating clubs and facilities ... for example -- for troops rotating in from the boonies or assigned to support bases, there were nightly activities (other than the EM-clubs, of course) ....

Live USO shows, games (bingo, monopoly, , movies, cards, music rooms (for listening or playing available musical instruments), cook outs (much tamer than the unit stand-down parties), putt-putt golf, golf driving range, arts and crafts, swimming, billiards, board games -- to name a few.

Most clubs (such as the Free World Service Club) included a library, weight room, auditorium, stage (indoor and/or outdoor), expansive magazine collections; some included a photo lab and commercial kitchen .... We tried our best to provide FOR the best .... Regretfully, the program was understaffed and we were unable to develop clubs in the more northern areas before troops were sent south. (More on that later.)

Our program was supervised by the U.S. Army Special Services Section. We worked closely with and scheduled USO shows throughout Vietnam. Today the program is called the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Program. Today's program includes family services, counseling, referral agencies and works closely with related Veterans' programs at the federal and (for state-side military bases) state levels.

Another group we worked closely with (and were often confused with) was the American Red Cross. Red Cross programs (the gals were nicknamed Donut Dollies) were delivered directly to the troops at outposts. Special Services worked primarily in club sites, although we also visited troops at area firebases and outposts.

Civilians who volunteered in the anti-war movement of the 1960's were a unique group .... We were there to serve. Volunteering was not simply a political statement -- it was a statement of support for the troops. And the program I was invited to join had been serving troops for decades: in WWI, Korea, WWII.

You may read more about the Special Services program under the History posts.

--Notes and interviews compiled for the Reflections in Marble collection.


A History of Special Services, Part I

The Role

"When I think about the purpose of our program, I am reminded how far back theroots of morale, welfare and recreation go. I think about those cold, hungry,
ragged soldiers at Valley Forge and what “morale” must have meant to them. There
were no fitness centers or theme restaurants. There weren’t even enough boots or
blankets. Most of them hadn’t eaten a good meal or drunk a tankard of ale in
weeks. But there was the fife and drum corps for morale.

And elsewhere behind the lines, history tells us Revolutionary War soldiers
found the energy to sing, gamble, stage skits, and play practical jokes.
Anything to get their minds off the horrors of battle and the boredom of

Then I think about the blue and gray soldiers in the Civil War. There was a
lot of suffering and death, but there were also a few more distractions to
sustain morale: minstrel shows, chess, woodcarving, foot and horse races, dice,
poetry, books and newspapers, cards, sports, the Sutler’s store, and even teas
and balls hosted by local citizens...."

A preliminary inquiry into the history of Special Services must acknowledge the roles and contributions of The Salvation Army and the YMCA during World War I. Composed of volunteers who placed themselves in harm's way to tend to the morale and well-being of military personnel, each organization was the prototype of the morale, welfare, educational and recreation programs that exist today.

Special Services programs are believed to have been "born" (circa 1917-18) when morale-support agencies (such as the YMCA, Red Cross and Salvation Army) were pulled out of most WWI European combat zones. Although sports and athletic programs were always available to military personnel -- field commanders wanted more.

"In the 20th century, when it came time to train thousands and thousands of young men for service in World War I, Dr. Raymond Fosdick, Commissioner of Training Camp Activities for Secretary of War Newton Baker under President
Woodrow Wilson, wrote 'Morale is as important as ammunition and is just as
legitimate a charge against the public treasury.'That was 1919.

Then I think about the doughboys across the pond on the front lines in France,
where Salvation Army sisters responded to a homesick, wet, cold Arkansas
soldier’s wish for a fresh donut to go with his hot coffee. Yes, those Salvation
Army sisters who fried fresh donuts using scrounged ingredients and a
jerry-rigged stove, were the original 'Donut Dollies.' ” (See photo above.)

To maintain the morale and leisure welfare of WW I troops, the US Army established a "special services" program to coordinate "day room" activities with an existing library program staffed by American Library Association volunteers. It is believed that the Army entertainment section , featuring "entertainment for the soldier by the soldier," evolved concurrently with the expansion of "day room" activities.

Congress subsequently mandated the establishment of the US Army Special Services program. With this mandate, staff titles were changed from "hostesses" to "specialists".... A history of the arts and crafts division indicates that this program area was developed in the early 1940's.

"This caring for and responding to the morale needs of soldiers was formally institutionalized in 1940, and in 1941, President Roosevelt instructed the War Department to employ 100 Army hostesses to staff allied leave centers in the Caribbean and Europe."

During WWII, most programs were staffed by the Women's Army Corps and civilian volunteers. With the establishment of the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Department in 1942, a civilian staff (under the auspices of the military) became responsible for administering programs. The first Special Services staff director was Pat Abernathy (circa 1944). She was followed by a succession of women who were leaders in their respective areas of programming: Ester Walsh, Marilyn White, Elizabeth Scarborough and D. J. Schmidt.

next: Part II

Source: Research and interviews for the Reflections in Marble collection, circa 2001.


History of Special Services, Part II

The Mission

The first two program areas within Special Services were service clubs and library services. Service club facilities traditionally housed new programs (movies, arts, crafts, entertainment, recreation, etc.) which were added to meet the diverse interests of military personnel. By the mid-40's, programs and facilities were available to armed forces throughout the world.

"When troops went into action in Korea, Army Service Clubs staffed by young women were authorized to operate in a combat zone for the first time.

In Vietnam, a full complement of programs staffed by several hundred college graduates (coed) as well as active duty soldiers in Special Services military occupational specialties supported our troops."

In 1966, a Special Services team (Riki Coll, Vera Vincent, Effie Fairchild, Angela Silcox and Ruth Baker) arrived in Saigon to work with two staff members who were already on task: Ruth Rappaport (with the Navy Library Services program) and Gordon Grunke (MACV entertainment and USO programs).

The number of Special Services civilian personnel in Vietnam between 1966 and 1972 is estimated to have been between 300-600. There was never an official count; this estimate may include entertainers, military-liaison personnel and a host of TDY specialists from Europe, Korea, the US and Japan who were temporarily assigned to Vietnam to either train new staff or to maintain programs until new staff arrived....

Each volunteer selected for the Special Services program (referred to as "Army" or "military" civilians) possessed unique skills in organization, management and resourcefulness... a college degree in a related program area was required.... As late (or as early) as the 1960's, selectees was subjected to security clearance and background checks....

Combat zone programs (such as in Vietnam) were established in areas where facilities were immediately available. At the discretion of post commanders, Special Services facilities were either newly-constructed or renovated to accommodate a multitude of activities and conveniences for the troops: swimming pools, indoor and outdoor theaters, libraries, athletic fields, fully-equipped music rooms, writing rooms, game rooms, weight rooms, craft rooms, large kitchens... full bathrooms with private showers (including hot water and flush toilets).....

Two Vietnam "model" clubs were BLACKHORSE (built by Xuan Loc soldiers over a 5-year period, but open only 29 days before the base was closed) and FREE WORLD SERVICE CLUB (rebuilt by US and PHILCAG troops after the original club burned) at Tay Ninh. Near the Tay Ninh club, base commanders built small "stand down" cottages ("HoJo Village"), reserved strictly for returning LRRP and RECON patrols.... several years after the withdrawal of US troops from South Vietnam, the club at Tay Ninh was featured in a commemorative TV program as a "popular resort facility" for Vietnamese dignitaries.

Evidenced by the work of Special Services in Vietnam, rapport and teamwork were notably high among program planners. Activities and schedules were coordinated monthly, weekly and daily. With a plethora of "packaged" themes (decorations, game kits, lists of local and personnel resources, etc.) readily available -- program specialists worked diligently to coordinate activities. Music rooms, libraries, craft rooms, game rooms, weight rooms and smaller "sitting" areas were always open. Evening activities normally featured pre-scheduled programs -- movies, bingo, tournaments, special entertainment (local or touring soldier shows), USO troupes, or theme parties..... canisters of coffee and koolaid were always available. Depending upon military "status" within the region and event popularity, daily participation rates could range in the hundreds to the thousands.....

Program specialists were never confined to club facilities in promoting morale .... WW I veterans recall "hostesses" who visited soldiers near the battlefront, beyond the crowded canteens and "day rooms".... WW II, Korean and Vietnam soldiers -- assigned to small, isolated outposts and firebases -- have shared "special" memories of visits and programs brought to them by entertainment, library, crafts and recreation specialists who traveled by truck, jeep, APC and helicopter.....

"I don't remember if we played any games or what she brought us," recalled a Korean War veteran. "I remember it was cold and when she hopped out of that truck, the whole unit warmed up..... She spent maybe an hour with us, talking
and laughing, drinking coffee and taking pictures, asking us where we were from
and all.... a couple of the guys cried and she cried with them.... It was just
tears of happiness, I think, to see an American woman.... to know she cared....
When she left, we all shook her hand -- it would not have been right to hug her
back then.... A few hundred of us saw Marilyn Monroe once, but I will never
forget that lady who came to see us..." --A Korean vet

Innovation and resourcefulness were often keys to boosting morale ....

When a "Week at the Races" (featuring theme movies, model car crafts, library reading lists and book discussions, athletic competitions, horse and car racing games) did not garner much attention, a hastily organized Roach Race (featuring entries from each unit) drew large crowds. Competition was so intense that several "heats" and challenge races were necessary.... three "winning" units was treated to a cookout (roaches excluded). Additional prizes were awarded for roach painting and roach names.

Next Part III

-- Based on research and interviews for the Reflections in Marble collection, circa 2001.

History of Special Services, Part III


The Special Services program experienced numerous changes after Vietnam, pursuant to government downsizing and restructuring. By the late 70's, uniform dress codes had been eased; program areas were developed in theater and fine arts, and several were merged with existing military programs. Supported previously by non-appropriated (NAF) funds and military allocations, appropriated funds became available.

The mission (to promote the morale, welfare & recreation needs of military personnel) remained fundamentally the same in the 70's and 80's. Traditional recreational activities and programs were expanded; critical intra- and inter-personal services such as counseling, family assistance, youth programs, day care services and relocation assistance were added....

A Department of Defense directive (1015.1) issued August 19, 1981 clarified the activities, role and funding for a comprehensive Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Program: "...activities exclusive of private organizations .... located on military installations ... that provide for the comfort, pleasure, contentment, and mental and physical improvement of authorized DoD personnel in terms of providing recreational and free-time programs, self-development programs, resale merchandise and services, or general welfare. MWR activities may be funded wholly with appropriated funds, primarily with NAFs or with any combination of appropriated and NAFs."

Today, the Morale, Welfare and Recreation program includes a spectrum of "special services" worthy and essential in supporting a high-tech, sophisticated, all-volunteer military community -- whether in peacetime or in the combat zone. R & R locations are maintained for military personnel around the globe; access to the Internet and information technologies are basic modes of communications; personnel and their families have access to a wide range of educational and social programs through the local MWR center.

"....then I think about the 10,000+ soldiers keeping the peace downrange and the
MWR specialists carrying on that proud tradition, not just in Hungary, Bosnia,
Macedonia, and Kosovo, but here at home and all over the world wherever there
are soldiers and families. Morale - the Army’s secret ingredient for 225 years -
and our* mission. Now that’s something to celebrate!"

Major General Craig B. Whelden observed: "The MWR program is a diverse collection of leisure, recreation and social services enhancing the quality of life of soldiers, families and civilians serving our Armed Forces. The services provided make our communities a great place to live and work: sports and fitness, recreation and parks, arts and entertainment, youth and child development, social services, golf and bowling as well as dining and catering..... Wherever soldiers are stationed, we must provide....a quality of life equal to that they are pledged to defend."

And that, we know -- has always been the mission of Special Services.

Dedicated to Roz Muskat
Friend & co-worker, Stateside Service Club
A Circle of Sisters 1968

We had worked together at DiAn.... bright, effervescent, a people-person ... her disposition was well-suited for Club work -- Roz bubbled with enthusiasm, wit and charm. The guys enjoyed being around her and she around them -- she was a listener, a sympathetic shoulder, a caring and sensitive friend whose compassion for others far exceeded her years. Shortly before her tragic death, she had been to visit -- to talk me through a "downtime." Not many knew Roz's intellectual and pensive side. If she was not writing during her time-off, she was at the club -- playing chess, board games or listening to music with the guys. Few knew she was a member of MENSA. I used to ask her why she was not in med school or smashing atoms or discovering new galaxies. She would respond with a blush to her freckled face, a sparkle in her eyes and that chortled laugh, "I'm still not sure what I want to be when I grow up...."
You were a special person, Roz -- You would have been anything you chose to be. Those of us who knew you -- especially we who felt such dismay in your death -- now smile warmly in your memory.

-- Based on research and interviews for the Reflections in Marble collection, circa 2001.


A Circle of Sisters

A CIRCLE OF SISTERS • CIRCLE OF FRIENDS began as a coalition of friends and families of civilian women who died while serving with various organizations in Vietnam and throughout Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.

In a special ceremony on November 12, 1993, tributes were presented in the memory of 58 civilian women -- honoring their service to America and her soldiers, in hopes of bringing deserved recognition for that service and long awaited comfort to the families and friends who will always grieve them.

It is our belief that more civilian women lost their lives during this conflict. It is hoped that in time, families and friends will come forward to add their names to this Honor Roll.

• • • •

Twenty thousand American civilian women volunteered to work in Vietnam (during the war years) with such organizations as the Red Cross, Army Special Services, the USO, the Department of Defense, the State Department, U.S.A.I.D., the C.I.A. and Operation Baby Lift.

There were yet others who went as journalists, missionaries and civilian medical personnel.
It is commonly known that 8 military women died as the result of their service in Vietnam (one as a result of hostile fire). Those 8 names are listed on the Wall.

Few, however, are aware that 58 AMERICAN CIVILIAN WOMEN were also killed in the line of duty in Vietnam. Their names are not on the Wall. In fact, they were known and remembered only by those who loved them... their family and friends.

The Circle of Sisters was founded in 1993 (by Jolynne Strang of Colorado and Cathleen Cordova of California) to publicly honor these patriotic American veterans of the Vietnam War who gave their lives and whose contributions have gone unacknowledged far too long.


American Red Cross

Hannah E. Crews Died in a jeep accident, Bien Hoa, October 2,1969.
Virginia E. Kirsch Murdered by US soldier in Cu Chi, August 16, 1970.
Lucinda J. Richter Died of Guillain-Barre syndrome, Cam Ranh Bay, February 9, 1971.

Army Special Services

Rosalyn Muskat Died in a jeep accident, Long Binh, 1968.
Dorothy Phillips Died in a plane crash, Qui Nhon, 1967.

Catholic Relief Services

Gloria Redlin Shot to death in Pleiku, l969.

Central Intelligence Agency

Barbara Robbins Died when a bomb exploded in front of the American Embassy, Saigon, March 30, 1965.
Betty Gebhardt Died in Saigon, 1971.

United States Agency for International Development

Marilyn L. Allen Murdered by US soldier in Nha Trang, August 16, 1967.
Dr. Breen Ratterman Died in a fall from a balcony in Saigon, October 2, 1969.

United States Department of the Navy OICC (Officer in Charge of Construction)

Regina "Reggie" Williams Died of a heart attack in Saigon, 1964.


Georgette "Dickey" Chappelle Killed by a mine on patrol with Marines outside Chu Lai, November 4, 1965.
Phillipa Schuyler Killed in a firefight, Da Nang, May 9, 1966.


Carolyn Griswald * Ruth Thompson * Ruth Wilting: All 3 killed in raid on leprosarium in Ban Me Thuot during Tet February 1, 1968.
Betty Ann Olsen Captured during raid on leprosarium in Ban Me Thuot during Tet 68. Died in 1968 and was buried somewhere along Ho Chi Minh Trail by fellow POW, Michael Benge. Remains not recovered.
Eleanor Ardel Vietti Captured at leprosarium in Ban Me Thuot, May 30, 1962. Still listed as POW.
Janie A. Makil Shot to death in an ambush, Dalat, March 4, 1963. Janie was 5 months old.
Evelyn Anderson * Beatrice Kosin Both captured and burned to death in Kengkok, Laos, 1972. Remains recovered and returned to US.

Operation Babylift

The following women were killed in the crash, outside Saigon, of the C5-A Galaxy transporting Vietnamese children out of the country on April 4, 1975. All of the women were working for various US government agencies in Saigon at the time of their deaths with the exception of Theresa Drye (a child) and Laurie Stark (a teacher). Sharon Wesley had previously worked for both the American Red Cross and Army Special Service. She chose to stay on in Vietnam after the pullout of US military forces in 1973. (Source: August 13, 2000 The Baltimore Sun)

Barbara Adams * Clara Bayot * Nova Bell * Arleta Bertwell * Helen Blackburn * Ann Bottorff * Celeste Brown * Vivienne Clark * Juanita Creel * Mary Ann Crouch * Dorothy Curtiss * Twila Donelson * Helen Drye * Theresa Drye * Mary Lyn Eichen * Elizabeth Fugino * Ruthanne Gasper * Beverly Herbert * Penelope Hindman * Vera Hollibaugh * Dorothy Howard * Barbara Maier * Rebecca Martin * Sara Martini * Martha Middlebrook * Katherine Moore * Marta Moschkin * Marion Polgrean * June Poulton * Joan Pray * Sayonna Randall * Anne Reynolds * Marjorie Snow * Laurie Stark * Barbara Stout * Doris Jean Watkins * Sharon Wesley

-- Data is based on research and interviews for the Reflections in Marble collection.