During the Vietnam War, Red Cross workers provide services to U.S. military personnel and assist Vietnamese refugees (1962-1974) In 1962, the American Red Cross sent its first paid field staff to Vietnam to assist the growing number of servicemen at various bases and hospitals. At the height of its involvement in 1968, 480 field directors, hospital personnel, and recreation assistants served throughout Southeast Asia. Red Cross workers, who provided 1.9 million services to U.S. military personnel, shared the hardships and privations of war with the soldiers. Five Red Cross staff members gave their lives, and many others were injured as they helped servicemen resolve personal problems or get home when emergency leave was granted due to death or serious illness in their immediate family.
Bound by its charter to provide welfare services to the able-bodied troops on duty, the American Red Cross engaged in efforts to sustain the morale of the troops in Vietnam, just as it had during the Korean War and previous conflicts. In response to a request by the military, the Red Cross sent teams of young female college graduates to Southeast Asia to conduct audience-participation recreation programs for men stationed in isolated sections of the region. For example, the recreation worker pictured above checks a GIís blindfold during a game at Fire Base Jamie, one of several front-line areas visited regularly by the American Red Cross.
A monthly average of 280,500 servicemen took part in recreation programs at 20 major military commands. Officials estimate that the clubmobile workers, who traveled by jeep, truck, and helicopter, logged over 2,125,000 miles during the programís 7-year history. Trained Red Cross personnel also engaged in therapeutic recreation, which was geared to patientsí individual rehabilitation needs.
In 1976, despite protests from commanding officers, the recreation program was drastically reduced in a cost-reduction action that removed professional recreation personnel from military hospitals.
View our combined scrap book of Vietnam