Donut Dollie jungle hat

Women serving in the Red Cross during the Vietnam War

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Over 600 American women joined the Red Cross’ Supplemental Recreational Activities Overseas program, unofficially known as Donut Dollies, during the Vietnam War. Donut Dollie Jennifer Young wore this U.S. Army jungle hat while in South Vietnam, decorating it with insignia pins from the military units she was stationed with or visited in the field.

Getting their nickname from the program’s donut canteens of World War II, the Red Cross’ Donut Dollies primary goal was maintaining troop morale. These women provided social engagement, support, and a connection to home. They planned entertainment programs, played games, served coffee and Kool Aid, and brought along books, music, candy, and decks of cards, providing respite in the middle of active war zones. When asked why she volunteered, Donut Dollie Jennifer Young answered, "I wanted to try, in some way, to help with the awful situation that my male peers were subject to. I also wanted adventure."

Donut Dollies primarily worked at Red Cross Recreation Centers on military bases. Young was stationed at Dong Ba Thin Army Base when she first arrived in South Vietnam in 1968 but was transferred to three other bases over her year of service. Donut Dollies also traveled throughout the war-torn country to units in the field, bringing field bags of gifts and activities that offered a distraction from the rigors of war.

During the Vietnam War, women were not yet allowed to serve in active combat units and were not included in the draft. Wanting to contribute, tens of thousands of women served in non-combat military units — a vast majority as nurses — or volunteered for humanitarian organizations like the Peace Corps, the United Service Organizations (USO), or the Red Cross.

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Donut Dollie jungle hat Artifact from Lubbock
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