ATLANTA VOICES: MEMORIES OF VIETNAM
Rachel Torrance: Building Morale As A 'Donut Dolly'
VOLUNTEERING TO SEE A DIFFERENT SIDE OF WAR
Supplemental Recreational Aide Overseas, Red Cross
Rachel Torrance volunteered to go to Vietnam as a Red Cross ‘Donut Dolly.’ She helped build morale with soldiers by playing games and serving coffee with donuts. In this interview, she recalls what it was like as a woman serving in the Vietnam War and how a close call made gave her a new perspective on the war.
Rachel Torrance's Vietnam War Photos
RACHEL TORRANCE'S STORY
Rachel Torrance was in Vietnam from November of 1969 to November 1970. She went as a Red Cross "Donut Dolly," a term from World War II when the Department of Defense wanted to supplement the recreation available to the G.I.s. The Donut Dollies would serve coffee and donuts.
"Our mission over there was to break the monotony of the war and to remind them of home. Most people don’t realize that war is one person doing the same thing over and over again, day and day out. So just having a different person to talk to, or to see a girl from the United States with round eyes – they referred to us as round eyes – was a real morale booster.”
The Donut Dollies would often fly out to remote firebases on helicopters.
“I grew up on a farm but I’ve never been as dirty as I was getting on and off helicopters. They stir up all the dust and you could tell where people had been because you had either an orange tint where it was red soil or a greyish tint where there was black soil. I washed my hair and had to scrape the grit out of my head every day, every night when we got home.”
Torrance recalls being close to military action on a regular occasion.
“A lot of times we would meet with them in their gun pits when they were firing artillery and if they got a call of course they had to respond immediately. We would just sit along the wall and wait for them to get through firing their mission and then they would all come back and we would pick up where we left off. One time my partner and I were on this firebase and we realized there was no concertina wire, there was nothing. It was just right in the jungle. They started taking fire and the soldiers almost shoved us down into the bunker and we scrunched up in the corner and tried to stay out of the way.
But for Torrance, the fear of war didn't come until after an event like this.
“I really was not afraid most of the time in Vietnam. However, as we spiraled out of the firebase we could see where the craters were, where the explosions were, and that’s when you get scared. It’s after it’s over and you realize what could have happened.”