Donut Dolly: An American Red Cross Girl's War in Vietnam

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Overview


Donut Dolly puts you in the Vietnam War face down in the dirt under a sniper attack, inside a helicopter being struck by lightning, at dinner next to a commanding general, and slogging through the mud along a line of foxholes. You see the war through the eyes of one of the first women officially allowed in the combat zone.
When Joann Puffer Kotcher left for Vietnam in 1966, she was fresh out of the University of Michigan with a year of teaching, and a year as an American Red ...
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Donut Dolly: An American Red Cross Girl's War in Vietnam

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Overview


Donut Dolly puts you in the Vietnam War face down in the dirt under a sniper attack, inside a helicopter being struck by lightning, at dinner next to a commanding general, and slogging through the mud along a line of foxholes. You see the war through the eyes of one of the first women officially allowed in the combat zone.
When Joann Puffer Kotcher left for Vietnam in 1966, she was fresh out of the University of Michigan with a year of teaching, and a year as an American Red Cross Donut Dolly in Korea. All she wanted was to go someplace exciting. In Vietnam, she visited troops from the Central Highlands to the Mekong Delta, from the South China Sea to the Cambodian border. At four duty stations, she set up recreation centers and made mobile visits wherever commanders requested. That included Special Forces Teams in remote combat zone jungles. She brought reminders of home, thoughts of a sister or the girl next door. Officers asked her to take risks because they believed her visits to the front lines were important to the men. Every Vietnam veteran who meets her thinks of her as a brother-at-arms.
Donut Dolly is Kotcher’s personal view of the war, recorded in a journal kept during her tour, day by day as she experienced it. It is a faithful representation of the twists and turns of the turbulent, controversial time. While in Vietnam, Kotcher was once abducted; dodged an ambush in the Delta; talked with a true war hero in a hospital who had charged a machine gun; and had a conversation with a prostitute. A rare account of an American Red Cross volunteer in Vietnam, Donut Dolly will appeal to those interested in the Vietnam War, to those who have interest in the military, and to women aspiring to go beyond the ordinary.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Donut Dolly is an engaging and useful account of an almost totally ignored facet of the Vietnam War. Kotcher and her colleagues attempted to make life more bearable for the soldiers and airmen engaged in the war, and along the way her insights are fascinating.”—G. L. Seligmann, co-editor of The Sweep of American History

“Memoirs about women’s experiences in the Vietnam War are hard to come by and outnumbered by books filled with men’s combat experiences. Women’s experiences reveal an entirely different dimension of the war. The day to day interactions that Kotcher had with servicemen certainly succeeded in warming their hearts and reminding them what they were fighting for.”—Meghan K. Winchell, author of Good Girls, Good Food, Good Fun

“One day while guarding Highway 13, we had the rare pleasure of your ladies visiting us. I couldn’t believe that you would come to such a terrible place. You were a treat for us to see. We wanted to go home so bad. To see you was a blessing. You may never know how many lives you touched by coming to visit us.”—Gary W. Dyer, Sergeant, C 1/28, 1st Infantry Division, Quan Loi, 1967-68

"Readers may be surprised to learn details of the role American Red Cross women played, often serving in dangerous and remote areas as the first women officially allowed in a combat zone. Kotcher was smart, open-minded, and sympathetic and was able to bond well with soldiers from all walks of life. Her memories are especially interesting coming from a time when gender norms were changing both at home and in war. Recommended to readers interested in baby-boomer memoirs, personal stories of the United States in Vietnam, and women's studies."--Library Journal

"Donut Dolly . . . offers a unique perspective from one of some 600 young women who served, often in harm's way, to bring a touch of home to the Americans in Vietnam."--Vietnam Magazine

"Donut Dolly is as much the story of the men whose spirits she tried to cheer as it is her story, though, and includes powerful wisdom she learned firsthand--such as just what motivates a man to put his life on the line for another. Donut Dolly is a captivating firsthand testimony and a welcome addition to Vietnam War biography and memoir collections."--Midwest Book Review

"[A] riveting first-hand account of Joann Puffer Kotcher's experiences as a program director for the American Red Cross in the early years of the Vietnam War. . . . I recommend Donut Dolly to those interested in the advancements of the role of women in the armed forces."--Military Review

Library Journal
In 1966, bored and in search of adventure, Kotcher joined the American Red Cross and headed for Vietnam. She came from a military family and had already served as a Donut Dolly (the nickname for American Red Cross women in theaters of war) in Korea. Her mother convinced her to keep a journal, and this forms the basis for the book. Kotcher set up recreation centers for troops all over Vietnam, providing food (although she learned quickly that Vietnam's climate was "too hot" for donuts), reading and writing materials, and a kind face, a reminder of home. Readers may be surprised to learn details of the role American Red Cross women played, often serving in dangerous and remote areas as the first women officially allowed in a combat zone. Kotcher was smart, open-minded, and sympathetic and was able to bond well with soldiers from all walks of life. Her memories are especially interesting coming from a time when gender norms were changing both at home and in war. VERDICT Recommended to readers interested in baby-boomer memoirs, personal stories of the United States in Vietnam, and women's studies.—Patti McCall, Pratt Inst. Lib., Brooklyn
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Product Details

Meet the Author


After graduating from the University of Michigan, JOANN PUFFER KOTCHER was assigned to Korea and Vietnam as an American Red Cross volunteer from 1965 to 1967. She is featured in the film documentary Our Vietnam Generation (2011). Kotcher lives with her husband in Rochester Hills, Michigan.
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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Author's Note xix

Chapter 1 On My Way to the War 1

Part I Arrival and An Khe

Chapter 2 A Blacked-Out Runway 25

Chapter 3 A Disguise to Fool a Sniper 51

Chapter 4 Hot Landing Zone 93

Part II Dong Ba Thin

Chapter 5 Poison Booth at the Carnival 117

Part III Di An

Chapter 6 Bring a Case of Beer 147

Chapter 7 A Veteran under the Desk 169

Part IV Bien Hoa and the Voyage Home

Chapter 8 Rabies 201

Chapter 9 Ambush in the Delta 227

Chapter 10 The Cigarette in the Rain 253

Chapter 11 The Long, Confusing Road Home 277

Epiloue 289

Appendix 1 Let Us Remember 291

Appendix 2 Some Questions Answered 295

Appendix 3 Whatever Happened To 305

Endnotes 315

Works Cited 331

Index 341

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