The Eight Women on The Wall: Nurses Who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice

The names of eight women, all nurses (seven from the Army and one from the Air Force), are inscribed next to their fallen brothers on The Wall in Washington, D.C.

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(L to R: 1st. Lt. Hedwig Orlowski, 2nd Lt. Carol Drazba, 1st. Lt.Sharon Lane, Capt. Mary Klinker, Capt. Eleanor Alexander, 2nd Lt. Elizabeth Jones, 2nd Lt. Pamela Donovan, LTC Annie Graham)

Each dedicated themselves to taking care of the wounded and dying.

See their faces and remember their names. These are their stories.

1st Lt. Sharon Ann Lane of Canton, Ohio.

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She is honored on Panel 23W, Row 112 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Lt. Lane died from shrapnel wounds when the 312th Evac. at Chu Lai was hit by rockets on June 8, 1969. She was posthumously awarded the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm and the Bronze Star for Heroism.

She was 25 years old.

 

2nd Lt. Pamela Dorothy Donovan of Brighton, Massachusetts.

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She is honored on Panel 53W, Row 43 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. 

Lt. Donovan served with the United States Army Medical Corps and was assigned to the 85th Evacuation Hospital at Qui Nhon when she became seriously ill suffering from pneumonia. She subsequently died on July 8, 1968.  She was 26 years old.

 

 

Lt. Col. Annie Ruth Graham of Efland, North Carolina.

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She is honored on Panel 48W, Row 12 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Lt. Col. Graham served with Headquarters & Headquarters Detachment (HHD), 91st Evacuation Hospital, 44th Medical Brigade in Saigon. On August 8, 1968, she was admitted to the 91st Evacuation Hospital after suffering what appeared to be a fainting spell. Upon admission to the hospital, her illness was diagnosed as a stroke (subarachnoid hemorrhage). Due to the seriousness of her condition she was evacuated with one of the physicians in attendance to the U.S. Air Force Hospital at Tachikawa Air Force Base, Japan, where, despite every effort to save her life, she died six days later on August 14.

She was a veteran of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. She was 51 years old.


Capt. Mary Therese Klinker of Lafayette, Indiana.

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She is honored on Panel 1W, Row 122 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

On April 3, 1975 Klinker was aboard a U.S. Air Force C-5A leaving Saigon and bound for Clark Air Base in the Philippines. She was a part of the initial mission in “Operation Babylift.” The C-5 troop compartment carried 145 Vietnamese orphans and seven attendants enroute the United States. The cargo compartment held 102 orphans and 47 others. Twelve minutes after takeoff, the rear loading ramp’s locks failed, leading to explosive decompression and massive structural damage. The C-5 touched down in a rice paddy, skidded about 1,000 feet before becoming airborne again, hit a dike, and broke into four parts. The cargo compartment was completely destroyed, killing 141 of the 149 orphans and attendants.  Klinker was posthumously awarded the Airman’s Medal for Heroism and the Meritorious Service Medal.

She was 27 years old.

2nd Lt. Carol Ann Elizabeth Drazba  of Dunmore, Pennsylvania and 2nd Lt. Elizabeth Ann Jones of Allendale, South Carolina.

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They are honored on  Panel 5E, Row 46 and Panel 5E, Row 47 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

2nd Lt. Drazba and 2nd Lt. Jones were the first military women killed in the Vietnam War. They died on February 18, 1966. Both were assigned to the 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon. They died along with five other passengers in a helicopter crash including Jones’ fiance. Both were 22 years old.

Capt. Eleanor Grace Alexander  of Rivervale, New Jersey and 1st Lt. Hedwig Diane Orlowski of Detroit, Michigan.

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They are honored on Panel 31E, Row 15 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Capt. Eleanor Grace Alexander and Lt. Hedwig Diane Orlowski died on November 30, 1967, when a U.S. Air Force C-7B hit a mountain about 5 miles south of Qui Nhon. The presence of low clouds and rain had reduced visibility to about two miles. It took search and rescue teams five days to locate the crash site in the dense jungle. Twenty-six people were killed in the crash. Four crewmen were lost, two Air Force passengers and 18 U.S. Army personnel, including two U.S. civilians, were also killed in the accident. Five of passengers were medical personnel. Alexander and Orlowski died along two other nurses. Both women had been temporarily assigned to a Pleiku hospital and were returning to Qui Nhon. 

Alexander was 27, Orlowski was 23. Both were awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

These eight women embody selfless love, sacrifice, and courage. They are American heroes who volunteered to serve their country.

They joined the over 265,000 American women served during the Vietnam era. Approximately 11,000 served in Southeast Asia. Close to ninety percent were nurses. A small number of women served in civilian capacities, such as the American Red Cross and the USO. More than 50 civilian American women died in Vietnam.  Others worked as physicians, air traffic controllers, intelligence officers, clerks and in other capacities.

It wasn’t until November 1993 that the patriotic service of all women was honored in the nation’s capital at the dedication of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial.

A grateful country remembers.

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