Historical review on role of women in the vietnam war
Explore the facts about Vietnamese women contribution in the several war of the region. All women who served in Vietnam were volunteers, whether civilian or military.
For as long as the Vietnamese people fought against foreign enemies, women were a vital part of that struggle. The history of women and war has been largely forgotten in favor of recording men’s military achievements. There is no exact number available for the women who served in Vietnam. Women have always played a part; however, it was more than to simply keep the “home fires burning.” Between 1962 and 1973, according to Department of Defense statistics, approximately 7,500 women served on active military duty in Vietnam. The Veteran’s Administration puts the numbers even higher, at around 11,000. Independent surveys estimate that the number of women, both civilian and non-civilian, working in Vietnam during the war is between 33,000 and 55,000. Estimates range from 4,000 to 15,000. Women were represented in all military branches, but over 90% served as nurses. Some served as nurses in evacuation hospitals, MASH units and aboard hospital ships. Others worked in support roles in military information offices, headquarters, service clubs, and various other clerical, medical, and personnel positions. Servicewomen in Vietnam experienced many of the same hardships as their male counterparts and served bravely in dangerous situations. Non-military women also served important roles. They provided entertainment and support to the troops through the USO, the American Red Cross, and other humanitarian organizations. Women working as civilian nurses for USAID participated in one of the most famous humanitarian operations of the war, Operation Babylift, which brought thousands of Vietnamese orphans to the US for adoption. Additionally, many women reported the war for news and media agencies. The number of civilian women killed in Vietnam is unknown.
Militery women in the war
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. Ignoring women’s service records in the region during World War II and the Korean War, the military argued that combat zones—especially in the environment of Southeast Asia—were inappropriate for American women.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 his country.” The work must be “psychologically and sociologically” suitable. 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.
Civilian women performance
In addition to women serving as military nurses and support personnel, an unknown number of civilian women volunteered during the Vietnam War. Some traveled abroad as members of organizations such as the American Red Cross, Peace Corps and the USO. Others were journalists, missionaries or part of the Army Special Services. Those who volunteered with the Army Special Services operated libraries, service clubs and shops meant to boost the morale of military personnel deployed in Vietnam. In the words of Nancymay S. Healy, a Vietnam volunteer with the Army Special Services, they “provided a little bit of home to the infantrymen.”
Honored for their bravery
Many women received awards for their service during the Vietnam War. Five Navy nurses received the Purple Heart after being injured in a 1964 Saigon bombing on Christmas Eve, thereby becoming the first female members of the U.S. military to receive the Purple Heart in Vietnam. In 1967 Captain Eleanor Grace Alexander and First Lieutenant Hedwig Diane Orlowski were posthumously awarded the Bronze Star after perishing in a plane crash.
One of the most well known servicewomen to be decorated was First Lieutenant Sharon Ann Lane, who was posthumously awarded the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross and the Bronze Star for Heroism. She died from shrapnel wounds following a 1969 rocket attack on the hospital where she was working and was the only U.S. servicewoman killed as a direct result of enemy fire. In 1973 the hospital where Lane had attended nursing school – Aultman Hospital in Canton, OH – erected a bronze statue in her likeness with the names of 110 local servicemen who had died in Vietnam engraved on the base of the statue.
View on Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation
The Vietnam Women’s Memorial was established not only to honor those women who served, but also for the families who lost loved ones in the war, so they would know about the women who provided comfort, care, and a human touch for those who were suffering and dying. The Vietnam Women’s Memorial was dedicated in 1993 as part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Vietnam Women’s Memorial Project was incorporated in 1984 and is a non-profit organization located in Washington, D.C. The mission of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Project is to promote the healing of Vietnam women veterans through the placement of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial on the grounds of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.; to identify the military and civilian women who served during the Vietnam war; to educate the public about their role; and to facilitate research on the physiological, psychological, and sociological issues correlated to their service. The Project has the support of every major veterans group in the country including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and more than 40 other diverse organizations.