While women were a force in the anti-war movement, they were also an integral part of the Vietnam War, itself. They nursed the wounded back to health, trained troops back home, boosted morale in country and so much more.
Here is a selection of seven stories featuring Minnesota women who were part of the war effort. We offer a salute to them on International Women’s Day and on every other day.
Vonny Rolhoff – I Was Treated Like a Queen
What are the odds – being a single woman with thousands of men around… Everyone treated me so well.
As a young woman looking for a new job and some excitement, Vonny Rohloff signed up to work as a civilian with the Special Services. She was stationed in Phuoc Vinh and later Soc Trang, providing recreation like Bingo to enlisted men in the U.S. Army. Though it was sometimes difficult, she felt useful and enjoyed her time.
Jeanne Mahaffey – From Delivering of Babies to Taking Care of the Wounded
I went in January of 1971 and as the war was winding down. I didn’t get to do my full tour.
Jeanne Mahaffey followed in her father’s footsteps and joined the Navy. Due to the war winding down, she was in-country for less than a year; she finished her tour in Guam, where she delivered babies during the day and treated medevaced soldiers in the evening.
Mary Beth Crowley – Sharing War Stories Heals Wounds
At the time, I thought the U.S. had a reason to be there, so I didn’t really quite see the point of people who were against the war. I kind of changed after I was there.
Mary Beth Crowley, Second Lieutenant Army Nurse Corps (1969-1971), describes how serving in Vietnam changed her, and how the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Project helped connect her to fellow nurses and start to heal some of her wounds.
This excerpt is from Twin Cities PBS’s documentary Minnesota Remembers Vietnam: The Telling Project.
Korrinne Kanne – Thrilled That They Came Back
It used to be a man’s world, but there are women who paved the way for people like me.
Korrinne Kanne started her active duty as the Vietnam War was winding down, having recently finished up a 24-month stint in the Peace Corps in South Korea. Her first assignment was working stateside at Wilford Hall in San Antonio, Texas, and she notes that it was very moving to see the buses of soldiers coming back.
Choua Thao – Lima Site 85, the Hmong and the CIA
We Hmong people didn’t know why we were in this war.
CIA operatives like Jerry Daniels worked hand in glove with General Vang Pao and the Hmong to conduct the Secret War in Laos. Hmong men and boys were recruited as soldiers for Special Guerrilla Units (SGU)—unofficial surrogates of the US armed forces. Many SGUs lost their lives defending US interests in Laos. The US radar facility Lima Site 85, also known as Phou Pha Thi, was one such loss.
Choua Thao was a nurse during the CIA’s clandestine operation in Laos and witnessed firsthand the often horrifying brutality of both the Vietnam War and the “secret war” that unfolded in its shadows.
This excerpt is from Twin Cities PBS’s documentary Minnesota Remembers Vietnam: America’s Secret War.
Donna Korf – Women Serving in War
One of the patients woke up while I was taking vitals and checking him over and he asked, “Am I in heaven?” In my mind I thought, “This is Hell.” But, I managed to tell him he’s at the 93rd and we’re going to get him home.
Army Nurse Corps veteran Donna Korf, explains how she learned to care and encourage her patients at the 93rd Evacuation Hospital during the Vietnam War while also dealing with her own emotions.
Karen Mosso – Finding Camaraderie During War
To call out, “Forward, march!” and then have these women start coming behind me and making our way around the parade field. I loved that.
Karen Mosso joined the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) and served in Fort McClellan in Alabama, Germany and Maryland during the Vietnam War. As a platoon officer at Fort McClellan, she trained female troops before she eventually opened a WAC detachment in Germany. Karen enjoyed the Army because it allowed her to travel and to connect with other women during a turbulent time.