nurses wait out a rocket attack in the hallway of their quarters
at Cam Ranh Bay in 1970.
In 1965, US involvement in Vietnam accelerated
as two battalions of combat-ready Marines landed in Da Nang. Six
months later, nearly 150,000 American troops were in-country,
but except for a small cadre of nurses, none of them were female.
Military women were not posted
to Southeast Asian combat zones in significant numbers for almost
two years, despite servicewomen's requests for deployment to Vietnam
and despite the presence of numbers of civilian women in administrative
and clerical positions or working with the Red Cross and USO.
women's service records in the region during World War II and the
Korean War, the military argued that combat zonesespecially
in the environment of Southeast Asiawere inappropriate for
A Pentagon spokesman told columnist Jack Anderson
that women cannot be employed at jobs that are not in conformance
with the present cultural pattern of utilizing women's services
in this country. The
work must be psychologically and sociologically suitable.
Should We Send Our Women Soldiers to Vietnam?") by Jack
Anderson from the January 2, 1966, Parade magazine. Slow
loading, but worth the wait.)
Even Women's Army Corps Director Brigadier General
Elizabeth Hoisington discouraged sending Army women to Vietnam,
believing that public controversy over the issue of women in combat
zones would deter progress in expanding the role of women in the
Army. Others maintained that only male nurses should be assigned
to the combat theater area.
As male casualties mounted and demands to free
servicemen for combat grew, the presence of nurses and other servicewomen
increased in Southeast Asia. By the time American troops withdrew
from Vietnam, more than 7,500 women had served. Almost 6,000 of
these women were nurses and medical specialists. Seven Army nurses
and one Air Force nurse died in Vietnam.