Lessons From War: Nancy Sinatra

This is the second installment in our Lessons From War project that features interviews with prominent Americans who served during Vietnam or have other ties to the Vietnam War, as well as other military operations. Jan Scruggs, VVMF founder and president talks to them about their Vietnam experiences and you can read these interviews on the blog each Thursday until Veterans Day 2012.

Nancy Sinatra

Nancy Sinatra is an American singer and actress. She is the daughter of singer/actor Frank Sinatra, and remains best known for her 1966 signature hit “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” which she performed for the troops in Vietnam.

Q: Tell us about meeting Elvis Presley at the airport to welcome him home from the U.S. Army.

A: Since I had a crush on him like 99 percent of the girls in the world I was not immune to his smile, so when I met him at the ripe old age of 19, I was even more “in love” because he was more gorgeous in person than in pictures.

There was a terrible blizzard hitting the east coast and when we, my public relations guy and I drove home from Fort Dix to my grandparents’ house in Fort Lee we had to stop every few miles in the ice and snow and our driver would set a rag on fire in the carburetor to deice it. It was scary. It took us so long to get back my grandmother called the state police to look for us. We were freezing and hungry but I didn’t care – I had met Elvis!

Q: When did you go to Vietnam to entertain the troops?

A: It was February of 1967 and my band of five plus Jimmy Boyd, our escort officer, Frank Livolsi of the 11th Cavalry and I were there over Valentines Day. The guys me made valentines, gave me presents and painted their trucks pink for me. It was a three-week trip that completely changed my life.

Q: Can you tell us your memories of your time in Vietnam?

Mostly I remember the hospitals and the wounded. I still have no words, especially about the field hospitals. Very painful.

We were a small enough group we could go in country and travel by chopper not having to use the larger aircraft, unless there was no other way to move us to the next base. In the middle of one night Capt. Livolsi and I grabbed a Green Beret and a chopper and went into foxholes with magazines and chewing gum. It wasn’t much but it was enough to give the troops a smile.

Guys gave up their seats on choppers, some of them heading out on leave, so we could move ahead and “the show” could go on. Nurses put me up on air bases so I wouldn’t have to sleep with the guys all the time.

We had full 24-hours off, but we declined it and asked to do more work so they sent us to the Kitty Hawk and that was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Q: Bob Hope was a great comedian, was he funny off stage?

A: He was sweet and funny and very dear to me. He taught us all how to do it that’s for sure.

Q: You have sung for Rolling Thunder and at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  What do Vietnam veterans come up and say to you?

A: Mostly they tell me they saw one of my shows in NaTrang or Pleiku or Monkey Mountain, that sort of thing.

Q: What has the Vietnam War done to help society provide a better return for the soldiers leaving the military today? 

A: Our troops will never suffer the indignities of being scorned and ignored ever again. I believe the country learned a huge lesson and now everyone understands how important the words are, “welcome home.”