The Women of the Vietnam War: The Donut Dollies
In 1966, the American Red Cross expanded its Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas (SRAO), a program that provided recreational activities to servicemen posted too far from USOs and other military entertainment facilities. The Red Cross recruited female college graduates between the ages of 21 and 26 to participate in these "Clubmobiles." Soldiers referred to these young women as ‘Donut Dollies,’ a reference to the Red Cross Donut canteens of World War II.
- American Red Cross Clubmobile Banner
- Recruitment Brochure for the American National Red Cross (April 1969)
- July 1968 map of Vietnam indicating Red Cross locations
Volunteers could choose to go to Korea or Vietnam, but all Donut Dollies participated in a two week training course in Washington, D.C. before their departure overseas.
- Photograph: Red Cross Headquarters, Washington, DC
- Letter from Jennifer Young to Family, describing her training in Washington, DC (November 2, 1968)
- Plan for SRAO Personnel Inoculations (July 24, 1967)
- Orientation Notebook for Employment Documents (November 8, 1968)
- Western Union Telegram (November 14, 1968)
- Letter from Jennifer Young to her family upon her arrival in Saigon (November 15, 1968)
The Donut Dollies created game-show-like entertainment programs, then traveled in jeeps, helicopters, and planes to forward areas to share these programs with the troops.
- Clubmobile Program Exchange - Games and Activities (February 10, 1968)
- Donut Dolly uniform, including skirt, blouse, and cap
Donut Dollies often brought along candy, decks of cards, paperback books, mirrors, combs, stationery and other items to distribute to the soldiers. They also set up and staffed more permanent Red Cross recreation centers for troops, which offered coffee, Kool Aid, games, reading libraries, music, and other activities.
The young women serving with the Red Cross provided a valuable respite for soldiers, and played an important role in maintaining the morale of the troops.
I think the troops appreciated that these young ladies would take time out of their lives to come over there and risk their lives and try to make their life a little bit better.
Vietnam Veteran Neal Creighton
The Donut Dollies, God bless them, used to go out in the jungle in a helicopter and talk to the guys and all that. They played these games and the games weren’t the point, everybody knew that, the point was [the soldiers] got to talk to a woman and all and see somebody who didn’t smell like bug juice.
Interviewer: How do you feel about your service in Vietnam today, overall?
I’m proud. I think that if someone can serve their country in some capacity-- civilian, military, Peace Corps then they’re the better for it and they also carry with them a sense of, "Okay, I did what I could … at least I’m not somebody who stayed on the side line."
Interviewer: Do you feel like the Donut Dollies made a difference?
Boy, that’s a good question. In the grand scheme of things, no, but I know that from some of the letters that we got from the individuals who said "You made my day," "I appreciated our conversation in that rec center" or "I really appreciated your smile" that maybe we made a difference in his outlook for that day or made him feel better about something, then okay, I’ll take that.
Film: AKA Donut Dollies - produced for the reunion of the Red Cross Donut Dollies, July 2005