Stories from American Red Cross Donut Dollies

They chose to serve armed only with humor and compassion. They came from all over America, for many their first time away from home. The troops gave them their nickname – the “Donut Dollies.”

At the request of military authorities, the American Red Cross sent teams of young women—all college graduates—to Vietnam beginning in 1965 to serve as Supplemental Recreational Activities Overseas (SRAO) workers. Their main activity was to conduct light entertainment and audience participation programs for service personnel, featuring such things as quizzes, games and musical performances. They also served refreshments to the troops in the tradition of the traveling Clubmobiles of World War II and the Korean War. These so-called “Donut Dollies” provided their services at stationary Red Cross recreational centers and traveled by helicopter, truck and jeep to bring “a touch of home” to the troops in the field. In the peak year of 1969, 110 young women operated 17 SRAO units in Vietnam. It was estimated that they reached nearly 300,000 servicemen each month that year.