Monika Schwinn

Monika Schwinn (born September 16 , 1942 in Lebach ; † March 12, 2019 there) was a German nurse who worked in South Vietnam together with four other German aid workers as part of a humanitarian aid operation by the Malteser Relief Service and was kidnapped by Viet Cong rebels. 

After completing her school education, Monika Schwinn learned the trade of hairdressing, later trained as a pediatric nurse and was employed at the Lebach Hospital. She followed a call from the Maltese Relief Service to help the civilian population in South Vietnam and began working as a nurse in a children’s ward in Da Nang in 1968/1969 . On April 27, 1969, a Sunday, she was kidnapped by the Vietcong guerrilla organization along with the doctor Bernhard Diehl , the nurses Marie-Luise Kerber and Hindrika Kortmann and the paramedic Georg Bartsch on a country trip and after long stays in various camps to North Vietnam. Monika Schwinn and Bernhard Diehl – the other prisoners did not survive the hardships – were eventually taken as hostages to the so-called Hanoi Hilton , where they were tortured as political prisoners. With the Paris Agreement of January 27, 1973, the Vietnam War was ended and peace was concluded. This paved the way for a return to Germany.

On March 7, 1973, Monika Schwinn and Bernhard Diehl returned to their homeland visibly scarred by their captivity.

She co-wrote We came to help with Bernhard Diehl about their experience in captivity

Rika Kortmann

Henrikka Kortman was captured along with Bernhard Diehl, Georg Bartsch, Marie Louise Kerber, and Monika Schwinn. 

She worked for an organization called The Knights of Malta, which was established as an aid organization in the Middle Ages, under the aegis of the Roman Catholic Church. 

Kortmann died of generalized weakness and inanition.

Marjorie Nelson

Dr. Marjorie  Nelson  was a  member  of  the  American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)  team  in Quang Ngai,  South Vietnam, serving as a doctor at the Quaker Rehabilitation Center.  A 1970 report from the Center noted that nearly 90% of the injuries treated at the center are war-related, with landmines and artillery being the principle causes. Of these injuries, 75% were leg amputations.

During the Tet Offensive in 1968 Dr. Nelson and her friend Sandra Johnson who was serving in Vietnam as an International Voluntary Service worker, were taken captive by the National Liberation Front of Vietnam. These excerpts from Dr. Nelson’s report to AFSC recount her  experiences  with  the  NLF  during  the  fifty plus  days  she  was  a  ‘guest’  of  the  Front.  

Surviving many days and nights of walking through the jungle, blisters and amoebic dysentery, Marjorie was grateful for the care she received from her captors until her release on April 1, 1968.

Betty Ann Olsen

Betty Ann Olsen (October 22, 1934 – September 26, 1968) was an African-born American nurse and missionary. She was killed while captive as a prisoner of war by the North Vietnamese Army during the Vietnam War.

Olsen was sent to Da Nang, where she worked in the missionary hospital and studied Vietnamese.  Two nights a week she taught English to a class of sixty Vietnamese students, mostly teenagers. She told a reporter about her students “They are particularly curious about America.  I told them about the skyscrapers and the subways but I am afraid they didn’t understand subways or why anyone would want them.” Every Saturday morning she volunteered at the USO Club in Da Nang, where she attracted attention from servicemen as a rare single Western woman in the city, earning her the nickname the “Belle of Da Nang”. She turned down all of their romantic overtures, telling a reporter “I am not interested in romance, and I have no idea of getting married.

The next year, Olson was sent to continue her preparation in Da Lat. Her final destination was her assignment at a leprosarium outside of Buôn Ma Thuột, a city about 200 miles northeast of Saigon.

As a provincial capital, Buôn Ma Thuột was one of the targets of the Tet Offensive in January 1968. The missionary compound was bombed and eventually overrun and eight of the thirteen missionaries were killed or died later in captivity. Olson endured ten months in captivity, with forced day-long marches, beatings, inadequate food, and no medical attention. Olson’s did on September 26, 1968:

Eleanor Vietti

Eleanor Ardel Vietti (November 5, 1927—disappeared May 30, 1962) was an American physician and missionary. She worked at the Buôn Ma Thuột leper colony where she was taken as a prisoner of war on May 30, 1962. She is currently the only American woman unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.

On May 30, 1962, Vietti, Archie E. Mitchell and Daniel A. Gerber were kidnapped by 12 Viet Cong guerillas. Vietti’s ankle was injured, so it was reported that she was not tied up by the soldiers and was limping. Vietti, Mitchell and Gerber were taken to the nurses’ house, where the Viet Cong members lectured them, and also promised that Dr. Vietti would not be harmed. The three captives were taken away by car. The other nine Americans in the leper colony were left behind. It was suspected that she was taken in order to work in a Viet Cong hospital. A captured Viet Cong soldier told interrogators later in 1962 that Vietti was treating the Viet Cong wounded.

It was believed that she was being moved from village to village and was still believed alive in 1965. A report of a white woman asking for a in a village came through in 1967.n In 1968, the Christian and Missionary Alliance announced at their General Council that Vietti and the other 2 missionaries captured were still alive. Reports of seeing Vietti and the other two missionaries among the Montagnard villages continued into the 1970s.  However, by 1991, she was listed as “presumed dead” on the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action list.

Sandra Johnson

Sandra Johnson who was serving in Vietnam as an International Voluntary Service worker, were taken captive by the National Liberation Front of Vietnam.

She was captured alongside Dr. Marjorie  Nelson

Carolyn Griswold

Carolyn Griswold, a linguist and teacher, arrived in Ban Me Thuot in 1953.  Much of her time was spent preparing bilingual elementary school primers in the Rhade and Vietnamese languages.  At approximately 3:30 A.M. Tuesday, the second day of the Tet offensive of the “Year of the Monkey” in 1968, someone pounded on Carolyn’s door.  After identifying herself as a missionary to the NVA, they ordered her back into the house and sappers blew it up.  Carolyn’s father was killed instantly, and she lay gravely wounded for four days in the rubble.  On Friday, Carolyn was rescued by a 155 Aviation “dust off” and flown to the 8th Field Army hospital in Nha Trang.  She died on Saturday morning.

Ruth Thompson

Ruth Thompson was half of a husband-and-wife linguistic team who worked on the Mnong dialect.  Ruth and Ed joined the CMA group in Ban Me Thuot in 1965 after Prince Sihanouk closed Cambodia to U.S. missionaries.  After Carolyn’s dad was killed, the missionaries made several attempts, to no avail, to negotiate with the NVA, who had set up in the Montagnard church on the CMA compound.  Sappers blew up the Thompsons’ house at about 6:00 P.M. on Wednesday.

Somehow, the Thompsons managed to flee to a garbage pit that had been converted to a bunker over which a white flag had been raised.  On Thursday morning, sappers blew up the remaining houses and the NVA rushed the bunker, throwing in grenades and shooting into the pile of bodies, killing Ruth, Ed and others.

Ruth Wilting

Ruth Wilting was the fiancé of Dan Gerber, who had been captured by the Viet Cong in 1962.  Besides her work as a nurse at the Leprosarium, Ruth also taught midwifery classes for Rhade women.  She shared a house with Betty Olsen across the road from the main Missionary compound.  During a lull in the fighting on Monday night, Ruth and Betty darted across the road to help tend to Carolyn and the other wounded.  On Thursday morning she and Betty decided that Carolyn had to be taken to the Provincial hospital immediately or she would die.  Betty ran toward a jeep but was stopped by a NVA and led away.  Through a hail of fire, Ruth ran for the bunker only to be killed with the Thompsons.

Evelyn Anderson

Evelyn Anderson was a 22-year-old nurse from Quincy, Michigan captured with Beatrice Kosin was a 34-year-old schoolteacher from Ft. Washakie, Wyoming.  Both were with the Christian Missions of Many Lands and served in the southern Laotian town of Kengkock, about thirty-five miles from Savannakhet.  They were in Laos not to kill but to help. 

In the late hours of Saturday, October 27, 1972, a small group of North Vietnamese soldiers invaded Kengkock and took Evelyn, Beatrice, and two other missionaries, Lloyd Oppel and Samuel Mattix, captive.  Several other Americans managed to escape.  Although there was a plan to rescue the missionaries, reports indicate that on orders from Washington the American Embassy in Vientiane squelched the plan.  The Paris Peace Negotiations were underway and it was feared that a rescue attempt would compromise the sustained level of progress of the talks.  This proved to be a death sentence for Evelyn and Beatrice.

Beatrice Kosin

Beatrice Kosin and Evelyn Anderson were missionaries with the Christian Missions of Many Lands, serving in Laos, when they were captured on October 28, 1972. A captured North Vietnamese soldier later told U.S. military intelligence that the women were captured, tied back to back and their wrists wired around a house pillar. The women remained in this position for five days. After receiving orders to execute the two, the Communists simply set fire to the house where they were being held and burned the women alive. A later search of the smoldering ruins revealed the corpse of Miss Anderson. Her wrist was severed, indicating the struggle she made to free herself.

Women KIAs:

Mary Therese Klinker

Capt. Mary Therese Klinker.  On the Wall at 01W 122 [TLC].  Capt. Klinker, a flight nurse with the 10th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron temporarily assigned to Clark Air Base in the Philippines, was on the C-5A Galaxy which crashed on April 4 outside Saigon while evacuating Vietnamese orphans.  This is known as the Operation Babylift crash.  From Lafayette, IN, she was 27. She was posthumously awarded the Airman’s Medal for Heroism and the Meritorious Service Medal.  Also remembered at: Westchester NY Memorial.

Carol Ann Elizabeth Drazba

Capt. Mary Therese Klinker.  On the Wall at 01W 122 [TLC].  Capt. Klinker, a flight nurse with the 10th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron temporarily assigned to Clark Air Base in the Philippines, was on the C-5A Galaxy which crashed on April 4 outside Saigon while evacuating Vietnamese orphans.  This is known as the Operation Babylift crash.  From Lafayette, IN, she was 27. She was posthumously awarded the Airman’s Medal for Heroism and the Meritorious Service Medal.  Also remembered at: Westchester NY Memorial.

Elizabeth Ann Jones

On the Wall at 05E 047 [TLC]. 2nd Lt. Elizabeth Jones was a graduate of the Medical College of South Carolina. She died in a helicopter crash near Saigon, February 18, 1966.

She was interred in buried at Swallow Savannah Cemetery, Allendale, South Carolina. She was 22.

Hedwig Diane Orlowski

On the Wall at 31E 015 [TLC]

Known as Harriet or Heddy, Hedwig Diane Orlowski was one of the eight female US soldiers, all nurses, killed in Vietnam. She is the only female soldier from Michigan killed in the Vietnam War.

An additional 56 female US civilians were killed in the Vietnam War. More than 265,000 women served in the armed services at the time and nearly 10,000 served in-country.

On November 30, 1967 she was a passenger on the US Air Force C-7B De Havilland Caribou #62-4175 from the 458th Tactical Airlift Squadron at Cam Ranh Air Base. They hit a mountain about 5 miles south of Qui Nhon after they missed their approach in bad weather.

This was a terrible single incident loss, with 26 people killed in the crash. Four crewmen, two Air Force passengers, 18 US Army personnel, and two US civilians. Five of the passengers were medical personnel.

Pamela Dorothy Donovan

On the Wall at 53W 043 [TLC].  Lt. Donovan, born in Wirral, Merseyside, UK of Irish parents, and raised in Brighton MA, became seriously ill and died on July 8, 1968 in Gia Dinh, South Vietnam.  She was assigned to the 85th Evac. in Qui Nhon and was 26 years old at the time of her death.  Buried Mount Hope Cemetery, Walkhill Street, Boston (Grave #26, US Servicemen’s Lot, Row 14 Laurel Ave.)  See also The Irish on the Wall. Also remembered at:

Westchester NY Memorial.

Sharon Ann Lane

 On the Wall at 23W 112 [TLC].  Lt. Lane died from shrapnel wounds when the 312th Evac. at Chu Lai was hit by rockets on June 8, 1969. From Canton, OH, she was a month short of her 26th birthday. She was posthumously awarded the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm and the Bronze Star for Heroism.  In 1970, the recovery room at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver, where Lt. Lane had been assigned before going to Viet Nam, was dedicated in her honor.  In 1973, Aultman

Hospital in Canton, OH, where Lane had attended nursing school, erected a bronze statue of Lane. The names of 110 local servicemen killed in Vietnam are on the base of the statue.  Also remembered at:

Westchester,  NY Memorial.  The Sharon Lane Memorial Clinic Fundraiser

Annie Ruth Graham

On the Wall at 48W 012 [TLC].  Chief Nurse at 91st Evac. Hospital, Tuy Hoa.  From Efland, NC, she suffered a stroke in August 14, 1968 and was evacuated to Japan where she died four days later. A veteran of both World War II and Korea, she was 52.  Buried at Arlington National Cemetery Military – Royal Australian Army Nurse Corps

Barbara Black

Served at Vung Tau, Vietnam, and died of illness in Australia in 1971.   She is counted as a casualty of the war.

Civilian Deaths

American Red Cross
  • Hannah E. Crews.  Died in a jeep accident, Bien Hoa, October 2, 1969.
  • Virginia E. “Ginny” Kirsch.  Murdered by a U.S. soldier in Cu Chi, August 16, 1970.
  • Lucinda J. Richter.  Died of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Cam Ranh Bay, February 9, 1971.

Army Special Services

  • Rosalyn Muskat.  Died in a jeep accident, Long Binh, October 26, 1968.
  • Dorothy Phillips.  Died in a plane crash, Qui Nhon, 1967.
Catholic Relief Services
  • Gloria Redlin.  Shot in Pleiku, 1969.
Central Intelligence Agency
  • Barbara Robbins:  Died when a car bomb exploded outside the American Embassy, Saigon, March 30, 1965.
  • Betty Gebhardt.  Died in Saigon, 1971.
Entertainer
  • Cathy Wayne (aka Warnes).  Australian murdered by a soldier who shot at his commander, but she was in the way.
Journalists
  • Georgette “Dickey” Chapelle.  Killed by a mine while on patrol with Marines outside Chu Lai, November 4, 1965
  • Marguerite Higgins.  Died after picking up a parasite on her last visit to Vietnam, January 3, 1966.
  • Philippa Schuyler.  Killed in a helicopter crash into the ocean near Da Nang, May 9, 1967.
United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
  • Marilyn L. Allan:  Murdered by a U.S. soldier in Nha Trang, August 16, 1967.
  • Dr. Breen Ratterman.  American Medical Association – died from injuries suffered in a fall from her apartment balcony in Saigon, October 2, 1969.
  • Civilian – U.S. Department of the Navy OICC (Officer in Charge of Construction)
  • Regina “Reggie” Williams:  Died of a heart attack in Saigon, 1964.
New Zealand Foreign Affairs Ministry
  • Marilyn L. Allan:  Murdered by a U.S. soldier in Nha Trang, August 16, 1967.
  • Dr. Breen Ratterman.  American Medical Association – died from injuries suffered in a fall from her apartment balcony in Saigon, October 2, 1969.
  • Civilian – U.S. Department of the Navy OICC (Officer in Charge of Construction)
  • Regina “Reggie” Williams:  Died of a heart attack in Saigon, 1964.

Operation Babylift

The following women were killed in the crash, outside Saigon, of the C5-A Galaxy transporting Vietnamese children out of the country on April 4, 1975.  All of the women were working for various U.S. government agencies in Saigon at the time of their deaths with the exception of Theresa Drye (a child) and Laurie Stark (a teacher).   Capt. Mary Therese Klinker was killed in the crash, but is listed above.

Sharon Wesley had previously worked for both the American Red Cross and Army Special Services.   She chose to stay on in Vietnam after the pullout of U.S. military forces in 1973.

Barbara Adams
Clara Bayot
Nova Bell
Arleta Bertwell
Helen Blackburn
Ann Bottorff
Celeste Brown
Vivienne Clark
Juanita Creel
Mary Ann Crouch Dorothy Curtiss
Twila Donelson
Helen Drye

Theresa Drye
Mary Lyn Eichen
Elizabeth Fugino
Ruthanne Gasper
Beverly Herbert
Penelope Hindman
Vera Hollibaugh Dorothy Howard
Barbara Kauvulia
Barbara Maier
Rebecca Martin
Sara Martini
Martha Middlebrook

Katherine Moore
Marta Moschkin
Marion Polgrean June Poulton
Joan Pray
Sayonna Randall
Anne Reynolds
Marjorie Snow
Laurie Stark
Barbara Stout
Doris Jean Watkins
Sharon Wesley

Operation Babylift was the name given to the mass evacuation of children from South Vietnam to the United States and other western countries (including Australia, France, West Germany, and Canada) at the end of the Vietnam War (see also the Fall of Saigon), on April 3–26, 1975. By the final American flight out of South Vietnam, over 3,300 infants and children had been airlifted, although the actual number has been variously reported. Along with Operation New Life, over 110,000 refugees were evacuated from South Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam War. Thousands of children were airlifted from Vietnam and adopted by families around the world.

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