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1963


1963 with her family in New Hamp- shire when she received a special- delivery letter informing her that her next duty station would be Saigon, South Vietnam. The news came as a shock because Reynolds, a nurse, had requested Japan, Spain, or Italy. Neither she nor her parents knew exactly where Vietnam was, so they pulled out the family ency- clopedia to fi nd out. “That took care of the remainder


of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the following day,” Reynolds re- calls. “Every time my mother looked at me, she would [burst into] tears and leave the room.” Reynolds spent a year in Viet- nam caring for wounded American servicemembers and others at the 100-bed U.S. Naval Station Hospital in Saigon. “During that time, there were only two military hospitals in


the entire country,” she says. “We were the beginners, you might say.”


Ready for duty An estimated 11,000 military women served in Vietnam, 90 per- cent of whom were nurses. Mem- bers of the Army Nurse Corps fi rst arrived in April 1956, tasked with teaching modern nursing tech- niques to the Vietnamese. Over the course of the war, nurses from near- ly all branches — ably assisted by Army medics and Navy corpsmen — served where needed, including at rural fi eld hospitals and urban military hospitals, aboard Navy hospital ships, with Air Force casu- alty staging units, and as Air Force fl ight nurses.


Though some nurses, like Reyn-


olds, were assigned to Vietnam, the vast majority volunteered for duty. “When they said they needed nurses in Vietnam, I put my hand right up,” says former Navy Lt. Mary O’Brien Tyrrell of Orleans, Mass., who served at U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, a 450-bed hospital, from June 1967 to December 1968. “I thought I was a good nurse and that I could do a good job. I had been in the Navy a year and a half at that time.”


A sign in front of the 95th Evacuation Hospital in Da Nang, Vietnam, reminds nurses of the mission at hand. The hospital was deactivated in March 1973.


64 MILITARY OFFICER JUNE 2016


NAVY LT. J.G. ANN DARBY REYNOLDS was spending Christmas Eve For Lt. Col. Marsha Jordan,


USAF (Ret), an Air Force fl ight nurse who served with the 56th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron out of Yokota air base, Japan, from August 1969 to August 1971, it was all about helping the servicemem- bers in the fi eld. “I just wanted to take care of the guys,” she says. “I saw on the news how badly they were being injured, and I wanted to be part of taking care of them.” However noble a nurse’s inten-


tions, arrival in Vietnam almost always was a sensory shock. “The smell that hit you when you arrived was indescribable,” recalls Reynolds. “It was like rotten eggs, the sewer, dead bodies. And the heat was like stepping into a furnace.” Reynolds’ arrival in country was all the more memorable because her plane took sniper fi re on approach, forcing the pilot to make a rapid-descent landing that was so jolting Reynolds thought the plane had crashed. Once they were in Vietnam, how-


ever, military nurses immediately assumed their duties of caring for the wounded and others. Army 1st Lt. Elizabeth Ann Scarborough of Port Townsend, Wash., served in the 95th Evacuation Hospital in Da Nang from June 1969 to June 1970. There, she cared for American servicemembers, North and South Vietnamese soldiers, and Vietnam- ese civilians. She saw a variety of battle-related injuries, including


PHOTO: COURTESY COL. BETSY VANE/ARMY NURSE CORPS


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