Week of April 16

Week of April 16

On April 17, 1956, three U.S. Army women nurses arrived in Sài Gòn as part of a medical training team assigned to the U.S. Military Assistance and Advisory Group, Vietnam. They were the first U.S. servicewomen to deploy to Vietnam.

The three women faced great challenges immediately on their arrival, including language and cultural barriers, poor local infrastructure, and harsh working and living conditions. Despite these difficulties, they quickly began the task of setting up a military hospital and training its Vietnamese staff. They were also instrumental in developing a nursing manual for the Cộng Hòa military hospital, in Sài Gòn, and having it translated into Vietnamese.

As many as 11,000 servicewomen eventually deployed to Southeast Asia between 1956 and 1973. They served in medical, administrative, intelligence, finance, logistics, legal and civil affairs, and many other specialties. They were all volunteers, and most served in combat zones or locations that were vulnerable to enemy attacks. Eight American servicewomen died in Vietnam and their names are inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, in Washington, D.C.1

1Mary T. Sarnecky, A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps (Philadelphia, Univ. of Penn Press: 1999), 331-33; and Carolyn M. Feller and Constance J. Moore, eds., Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps (Wash. DC, Center for Military History U.S. Army: 1995), 28-29. Elizabeth Norman, Women at War: The Story of Fifty Military Nurses Who Served in Vietnam, (Philadelphia, Univ. of Penn Press: 1990), 57-58. Spencer C. Tucker, ed., The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History (2nd edition; Santa Barbara, Ca.: ABC-CLIO, 2011), 823. Mitchell K. Hall, ed., Vietnam War Era: People and Perspectives (Santa Barbara, Ca.: ABC-CLIO, 2009), 117; "Vietnam Women's Memorial Foundation," http://www.vietnamwomensmemorial.org/vwmf.php (accessed 4/9/15).