IN THE COMBAT ZONE: An Oral History of American Women in Vietnam, 1966-1975 by Kathryn Marshall

IN THE COMBAT ZONE: An Oral History of American Women in Vietnam, 1966-1975

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A welcome addition to the literature about the Vietnam experience. This is the voice of the voiceless. ""Officially,"" Marshall explains, ""women who had been in the military in Vietnam hardly existed; civilian women, officially, didn't exist at all."" Here, then, are those nurses, lieutenants and Red Cross workers. We learn of their shock and horror of going over, the betrayals by the military and sometimes, of family and friends, and the confusion and isolation they felt returning home. Lily, an Army nurse, realized once she got there that ""The army never taught me anything--I mean anything. Nothing. Everything I learned about surviving I learned from the men."" There's Jeanne, part of the Red Cross team assigned to keeping up morale: ""It would just blow your mind to see the guys laughing with you in the morning and blown to bits and in the hospital by afternoon. . ."" There's Ann, a nurse who, like many veterans, had trouble telling people back home what it was really all about when they asked: ""I usually regret it when I talk so I'm trying to keep my mouth shut. Only sometimes things just slip out."" Saralee was a nurse who believes that her children's deformities are the result of her exposure to Agent Orange. Leslie was a nurse so traumatized by the relentless suffering that she saw that she took a job in a hospital recovery room upon her return: ""I knew I had to have a job where I'd have minimal interaction. Because I just could not deal with any more people who were hurt."" All these women hurt. And it took them all a long time to find help and comfort. Veterans organizations were slow to welcome them. There is much pain in their stories, but a lot of courage, too. Marshall has told them eloquently.

Pub Date: Feb. 20th, 1986
Publisher: Little, Brown