Janet Fortune ..............  Reflections of a  Red Cross Donut Dolly.   Posted  8/12/2001

June 18, 1967

     At this moment, 20 to 10 DST Central time, I'm winging my way to Washington D.C. via Chicago and Cleveland on Northwest Orient, flight 326. It's a beautiful day but I hear Washington is having a heat wave. My emotions at this point are mixed. I still feel that I'm doing the right thing by spending 12 months in Vietnam. Maybe I'll be ready to settle down after this jaunt.

June 18, continued:

It's now 9 pm. I arrived at the Presidential Hotel at 3 and met my roommate Sonya from Tennessee and Liz from Fort Lauderdale. They're both going to Korea. The more I hear, the more I think I should have gone to Korea. It sounds like paradise compared to Vietnam. Can't wait until tomorrow when all 24 of us (16 for VN and 8 for Korea) get to Red Cross Headquarters and find out what's going on. We even have three evening sessions. Most of the girls are right out of college. We got to comparing notes and everyone has different opinions and information about the coming year. The gals are from all over the U.S. and have many different educations and backgrounds. We get our uniforms tomorrow. Our air-conditioner isn't working very well and Washington is muggy. Guess it's good training. The hotel is $6 a night and it's not that great. No dining room, swimming pool or any of the luxuries. But we have to get used to that too.
Seems like years since yesterday.

June 19, Monday

After today I feel I've been here a week already. We got our uniforms and tried them on and NOTHING fit, not even the hats. So I turned them in and will get another set next Monday. We also got arm patches, ARC pins and the red enamel pins. We saw slides and asked questions of Mary Louise Dowling and Mary Cherney. After the session at HQ Jean (from L.A.) and I walked to the Washington Monument and the White House so I got to take some slides.
There are 105 girls in VN now and 18 units but they might start a new unit. Out of my $300 advance I should have about $100 left to turn in. Uniforms were $104 but the RC paid for them. I authorized the RC to send $125 biweekly to my bank. We'll clear $146 biweekly and I found out we get $3 a day maintenance above that. So I should save lots of money.

June 20, Tuesday

We had our yellow fever shots at HEW today. At HQ we had the introduction to doing programs. Our assignment over the weekend is to break up into 6 groups of 4 girls each and develop a program to present next week.  Some of the girls shook hands with Bobby Kennedy today and Luci had a baby boy and named it Patrick Lyndon - 8lbs, 10 ounces.  One of the girls might drop out of the program. She misunderstood the whole thing I guess.

June 22, Thursday

Got my coat and culotte uniforms today. Tomorrow we visit the Pentagon and also get more shots. I'm so tired and happy that this first week is almost over. Carol and Barb have been teaching me how to play bridge. They want to play tonight but I'm too tired to concentrate that much. Wonder if I'm qualified for this job?

June 28, Wednesday

Only two days left. We find out tomorrow when we'll leave for San Francisco and when we'll leave for VN. I bought Valley of the Dolls today which just came out in paperback.

July 1, Saturday

Our United Airlines plane just left Friendship Airport in Baltimore and on our way to San Francisco. We fly to VN tomorrow. Yesterday we got passports, travel orders, visas, ID's, dog tags, etc. Hope I don't lose anything. This flight is $135.  

July 2, Sunday

We just left Travis AFB on a Continental Golden Jet. We'll stop at Wake Island and Manila on our 18-hour flight to Saigon. Can't believe we're really on our way. Guy across from me is looking at pictures. Homesick already probably.

July 4, Tuesday

July 4th in Saigon! Who would have dreamt it last 4th of July as I floated on my air mattress and drank beer at the lake? Barb and I just had a martini at the Hotel Aster bar where we're staying. We talked to a Sgt. Major who calls General Westmoreland “Westy.” Earlier we had our hair done for 280 piastres. Saigon traffic is wild with Army jeeps, buses, cabs, rickshaw drivers, bicycles and many Hondas. We have a curfew at 11. Tomorrow we meet with the Saigon RC people. Guess I'll wear the ugly culottes.

July 6, Thursday

Big Day! We got our fatigues and combat boots (not sure why) and we found out where we'll be stationed. Mary and I are going to Cam Ranh Bay. We leave Saturday.  Yesterday they gave us two non-combatant cards which we are to use if we get captured. Except they're in English. Barb and I went to Brinks BOQ and then to the Rex for drinks.

July 7, Friday

Tomorrow the new year starts. What will it bring? It'll be nice to get into a routine again and stop living out of a suitcase.

July 10, Monday

Today is the start of my first work week except we seem to work seven days a week here. I flew into Cam Ranh on a C-130 which is something else. It's built more for supplies than passengers but I stood up in the cockpit with the pilots most of the time. Gary (our driver) and Ann (one of the girls) met me and took me to one of the Centers and then to the trailer. There are three trailers, two girls in each and they're air-conditioned. Very nice. I met Peggy the program director and Jacqueline the unit director. The girls seem to assume I know everything about this place so I'll have to ask questions and figure it out as I go along. This place is all sand -- one big beach. We're supposed to have off one day a week but sometimes it doesn't work out that way. Curfew is at 11. On Sunday Jacqueline and I flew to Dalat in a helicopter. Premier Ky has a summer home there. We did a program there. The program here is mostly center and you have to program every night at each one. There are only 4 clubmobile runs.
It would be nice to receive some mail. I've had two letters since I left Minnesota.

July 16, Sunday

Went to the beach Thursday for the first time. We met the lifeguards who are crazy if they don't like THEIR Army job. We had a staff meeting Friday and my responsibilities will be keeping statistics and run book and acting as secretary. Wish I could get an idea for a program!

The Day it Snowed in Vietnam: a true story
(Christmas in Vietnam, 1969)
My Christmas Day in Vietnam in 1969 was very memorable because of two Donut Dollies. I've written about that day, and my memoir was published in "From Saigon to DC"
The story is now on line at
The author of the story is the founder and webmaster of The Virtual Wall.
Jim Schueckler
Vietnam Donut Dolly Jan Sigurdson