Vietnam Women Veterans
Stories from Vietnam Women Veterans Living in the East Valley as told by CGCC Students in partnership with Chandler Museum's Public History Program
Overview
 

Researched and written by Kevin Foote and Jaron Paul
 
It was 1965 when American troops landed on the shores of Vietnam and began a war that would give rise to many questions back on the home front.  The main question Americans had was "why are we fighting someone else's war"?  The US aided South Vietnam in preventing the spread of communism from the recently revolutionized North Vietnam, who had broken away from their French rule in 1955.  The American government was aware of the spread of communism throughout the world, and initiated a fear amongst Americans of its spread into the US.   North Vietnam attacked South Vietnam and was making an attempt overthrow their government.  
     
     The US was not in desperate need of troops in 1965.  After being brutally out-battled by the North Vietnamese, the US called for more troops.  The American government decided to have a draft of men between the ages of 18-26.  The draft was implemented on January 1, 1970.   Women were not drafted. They went as volunteers, so that meant that they would not be paid.  They wanted to help out the troops the best they could, if they could not be in combat.  Women had seen work in WWII as nurses, communications operators, and even service pilots. In the Vietnam War era, Women could become a part of the WAVEs (Navy), WASPs (Air Force), or WACs (Army).  There were chances in these fields to help out and even be paid a little bit.   
 
   Stories of women's bravery were rich in the Vietnam War's history.  Nurses stayed on board Navy ships to care for the wounded who were flown in from the battle front.  They served for ninety consecutive days on these ships before receiving a leave.  The odd thing about that fact is that ships were only serving for thirty days then a new one was brought in. The ships were then pulled back off the coast, reloaded, and refueled out at sea.  The nurses would joke and say "I can give more service time than this ship".  The women of the WACs were probably given the hardest job out of all of the divisions.  These women were close to the battle sites in Vietnam and saw the worst of the worst injuries.  These women also served for a whole year without any leave time.   
 
   There were differences on a mass scale between the Vietnam War and World War II.  The first contrast was the lack of support and public backing for the Vietnam conflict, whereas in WWII there was amazing public unity towards fighting the axis powers.  The US was fighting the North Vietnamese, yet they had never been a dire threat to the US.  In WWII the United States had good reason to fight the Japanese: Pearl Harbor.  The experiences for women in Vietnam as compared to WWII also changed.  There was no weapon training for the women who served in Vietnam.  Women who served also were not seen as heroes when they got home from the war-- there was not quite the fanfare and parades for soldiers like in WWII, when they returned from Vietnam.  This was due to the lack of public approval of the US entering the conflict.
 
   Women in military service reacted to the war in different ways.  Wherever they were assigned they made it feel like home.  This made it easier to deal with the horrors of the war and gave the men something to believe in.  Women also had conflicting feelings about the Purple Heart medal.  Men were proud to receive these and liked to show them off.  Some of the women proclaimed "I want the General who gave this medal to come down here and see each and every man who is suffering for himself", and, "a piece of metal can not erase the horrific battles that the men endured".  Although the women who served in Vietnam did not get the fanfare as in WWII, they still had an amazing sense of pride.   
 
   The United States along with South Vietnam signed a cease fire agreement in January of 1973.  This would pull all troops from Vietnam and end the Vietnam conflict.  The Vietnamese had not followed the agreement and continued fighting.  Both the North and the South Vietnamese agreed that their war would not end on paper; it was to finish on the battlefront. The North Vietnamese conquered the South in 1975, and the fighting ceased.

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Vietnam Women's Memorial