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  • ARCRA Webinar- November 1, 2020 - Celebrating the Red Cross Donut Dollies Friday, November 1, 2020 at 2:00 PM EST

ARCRA Webinar- November 1, 2020 - Celebrating the Red Cross Donut Dollies Friday, November 1, 2020 at 2:00 PM EST

11/12/2020 4:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
The ARCRA Webinar took a look at this proud part of the history of the American Red Cross, hearing about the experience of the Donut Dollies in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

Linda Pelegrino served as a “Donut Dollie” in Vietnam in the early years of that war.  She says it was a life-changing experience.   She said she was young and well trained and so focused on her responsibility to the service member that she does not remember feeling any fear about being in a war zone. 

There was a lot of competition for these jobs.  The young ladies were required to have a college education and they were carefully selected.

Donut Dollies, Maxine Powell Taylor-WWII, Shirley Hines Atkins-Korea and Vietnam,  and Debby McSwain-Vietnam,  joined Linda  to share their experiences.  The program was hosted by Sue Richter-Vietnam.

Click here to watch the recording of the webinar


In 1867 a journalist wrote “Miss Barton is what we call a strong hearted woman, not “strong minded” in an offensive way of the term”. Indeed Clara Barton was a strong hearted woman, strong minded too and led the way for women to be involved in all activities in what was to become the American Red Cross. She once said “The door that nobody else will go in…seems always to swing open widely for me”.

While todays program highlights the work of the Canteen women workers from WWI, to the Club and Clubmobile workers in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, we want to acknowledge the important work done by men and women who served in other positions overseas during wars, combat and now operations to support our United States Military.

The Canteen Program started in 1917 by the French and was soon expanded by the American Red Cross. They took over large spaces and buildings, had instruments for bands and even a twenty-piece orchestra in one area for concerts. Red Cross girls supplemented the evening entertainment by distributing cigarettes, candy, apples and hot chocolate. Workers in canteens near the front lines also helped do emergency service, as we know now as emergency communications.

The first American Red Cross clubs were opened in England in May of 1942. The idea of “clubmobile program grew out of the need to reach men stationed where no service clubs were available. The idea belongs to Harvey Gibson who took on the post of Commissioner to Great Britain in 1942. It started with converted buses or heavy trucks. They were equipped with donut making machines. The program was very successful and these women traveling in teams were soon serving in every theatre of the war and they endured all the hardships as the troops. There were even 2 “trainmobiles in the Burma/China and India area. No matter the difficulties and there were many, the Red Cross women serving in all these areas found ways to be with the troops and bring a “smile from home”. They had grit!

In 1950, when war broke out in Korea, General Douglas McArthur requested the Red Cross provide Clubs as they had in WWII. By 1953 the small club system was replaced by a mobile recreation force that became known as the SRAO (Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas) program. Highly mobile yet also managing small recreation centers these women provided recreation programs that they took to the field, centers where service-members could enjoy card games, read books and of course have coffee and donuts! The term Do-nut Dollie is thought to have been a nickname given by the soldiers in Korea.

The SRAO program continued in Korea and at the same time, in 1965 at the request of the military authorities, the SRAO program was started in Vietnam. The purpose was to provide clubmobile teams of Red Cross women who traveled by helicopter, jeep, and trucks to remote U.S. bases in South Vietnam where they conducted audience-participation recreation activities for isolated troops and in large support areas ran Recreation Centers.

In 1967-68 the peak year of the program, a monthly average of 280,000 servicemen took part in Red Cross activities in the 20 major military commands in Vietnam. The teams traveled an average of 27,100 miles per month and Red Cross officials estimated they logged over 2,125,000 miles in the 7 years they were stationed in Vietnam. The May 26, 1972, Red Cross press release “Red Cross Clubmobile Girls Coming Home From Vietnam” stated that during the 7 years of the program, 627 young women most of them just out of college, served in Southeast Asia. The SRAO program in Korea ended in 1973.

RCRA Webinar - November 13, 2:00 p.m. EST


Jim Hamilton                                                   Harold Brooks


ARCRA President                                           Chair, Advocacy & Education



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