Donut Dolly: An American Red Cross Girl's War in Vietnam

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Hardcover ISBN-13: 9781574413243
Hardcover ISBN-10: 1574413244
Physical Description: 6x9. 384 pp. 35 b&w illus. 1 map. Notes. Bib. Index.
Publication Date: November 2011
Series: North Texas Military Biography and Memoir Series | Volume: 6
  • Branson Stars and Flags Award, 2012

Donut Dolly puts you in the Vietnam War face down in the dirt under a sniper attack, inside a helicopter being struck by lightning, at dinner next to a commanding general, and slogging through the mud along a line of foxholes. You see the war through the eyes of one of the first women officially allowed in the combat zone as a civilian noncombatant. Initially a pacifist, Joann Puffer Kotcher transforms into a combat veteran, faced with life or death decisions.

When Kotcher left for Vietnam in 1966, she was fresh out of the University of Michigan with a year of teaching, and a year as an American Red Cross Donut Dolly in Korea. All she wanted was to go someplace exciting. In Vietnam, she visited troops from the Central Highlands to the Mekong Delta, from the South China Sea to the Cambodian border. At four duty stations, she set up recreation centers and made mobile visits wherever commanders requested. That included Special Forces Teams in remote combat zone jungles. She brought reminders of home, thoughts of a sister or the girl next door. Officers asked her to take risks because they believed her visits to the front lines were important to the men. Every Vietnam veteran who meets her thinks of her as a brother-at-arms.

Donut Dolly is Kotcher's personal view of the war, recorded in a journal kept during her tour, day by day as she experienced it. It is a faithful representation of the twists and turns of the turbulent, controversial time. While in Vietnam, Kotcher was once abducted; dodged an ambush in the Delta; talked with a true war hero in a hospital who had charged a machine gun; and had a conversation with a prostitute. She found answers to the questions: What is it really like in a war? What will a soldier say to a girl while sitting in a bunker with shells flying overhead? What did the men think about the war? Why would a man risk his life to save another? The answers will surprise you.

A rare account of an American Red Cross volunteer in Vietnam, Donut Dolly will appeal to those interested in the Vietnam War, to those who have interest in the military, and to women aspiring to go beyond the ordinary.

"Donut Dolly is an engaging and useful account of an almost totally ignored facet of the Vietnam War. Kotcher and her colleagues attempted to make life more bearable for the soldiers and airmen engaged in the war, and along the way her insights are fascinating."—G. L. Seligmann, co-editor of The Sweep of American History

"Memoirs about women's experiences in the Vietnam War are hard to come by and outnumbered by books filled with men's combat experiences. Women's experiences reveal an entirely different dimension of the war. The day to day interactions that Kotcher had with servicemen certainly succeeded in warming their hearts and reminding them what they were fighting for.—Meghan K. Winchell, author of Good Girls, Good Food, Good Fun

"One day while guarding Highway 13, we had the rare pleasure of your ladies visiting us. I couldn't believe that you would come to such a terrible place. You were a treat for us to see. We wanted to go home so bad. To see you was a blessing. You may never know how many lives you touched by coming to visit us."—Gary W. Sergeant, C 1/28, 1st Infantry Division, Quan Loi, 1967-68

For more information about this title and the author, and to obtain signed and personalized copies, please visit the author's website:

About Author:

After graduating from the University of Michigan, JOANN PUFFER KOTCHER was assigned to Korea and Vietnam as an American Red Cross volunteer from 1965 to 1967. Once home, she returned to teaching, married, and spent twenty years as a homemaker. Earning an MBA, she then became a business trainer. Kotcher has contributed numerous interviews and written articles for veteran's projects and periodicals such as Military magazine, the Oversea'r, and several local newspapers. She is featured in the film documentary Our Vietnam Generation (2011). Kotcher has two grown children and lives with her husband in Rochester Hills, Michigan.