Thought you’d like this. For some, this might simply be a reminder.
It was well recognized that Martha Raye endured less comfort and more danger than any other Vietnam entertainer.
Somehow I just can’t see Brittany Spears, Paris Hilton, or Jessica Simpson doing what this woman (and the other USO women, including Ann Margaret & Joey Heatherton) did for our troops in past wars.
Most of the old time entertainers were made of a lot sterner stuff than today’s crop of activist whiners.
The following is from an Army Aviator who takes a trip down memory lane:
“It was just before Thanksgiving ’67 and we were ferrying dead and wounded from a large GRF west of Pleiku. We had run out of body bags by noon, so the Hook (CH-47 Chinook) was pretty rough in the back. All of a sudden, we heard a ‘take-charge’ woman’s voice in the rear. There was the singer and actress, Martha Raye, with a Special Forces beret and jungle fatigues, with subdued markings, helping the wounded into the Chinook, and carrying the dead aboard.
‘Maggie’ had been visiting her SF ‘heroes’ out ‘west’.
We took off, short of fuel, and headed to the USAF hospital pad at Pleiku.
As we all started unloading our sad pax’s, a ‘Smart Mouth’ USAF Captain said to Martha…
“Ms Ray, with all these dead and wounded to process, there would not be time for your show”
To all of our surprise, she pulled on her right collar and said,
“Captain, see this eagle? I am a full ‘Bird’ in the US Army Reserve, and this is a ‘Caduceus’ which means I am a Nurse with a surgical specialty… Now, take me to your wounded!”
He said, “Yes ma’am… follow me.”
Several times at the Army Field Hospital in Pleiku, she would ‘cover’ a surgical shift, giving a nurse a well-deserved break.”
Her final years were plagued by ill health. She suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and had lost both legs in 1993 from poor circulation. She died in Los Angeles at 78 of pneumonia on October 19, 1994 after a long history of cardiovascular disease.
In appreciation of her work with the USO during World War II and subsequent wars, special consideration was given to bury her in Arlington National Cemetery on her death, but on her request she was buried with full military honors in the Fort Bragg, North Carolina post cemetery as an honorary colonel in the U.S. Marines and an honorary lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army.
Martha is the only woman buried in the Special Forces cemetery at Ft. Bragg.
Hand Salute! To a great lady…