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Tales of the Archivist

January 1971. Camp Eagle, South Vietnam – The Tuesday visits of Vivian Hayes to the men of the 101st Airborne are the highlight of their week. Vivian brings quizzes and other audience-participation activities to help the men forget their troubles for a while. Photo by John Hendrickson/American Red Cross

Vivian Hayes was part of the Supplemental Recreational Activities Overseas (SRAO) program.  Starting in 1965, at the request of military authorities, the Red Cross sent teams of young, female college graduates to South Vietnam to run recreation programs for service members. Their typical tour of duty lasted for one year.

Red Cross activity peaked from 1968 to 1969 with 110 women operating 17 recreation units and reaching nearly 300,000 service members each month. While in Vietnam, Red Cross staff shared the hazards of conflict with the military personnel they were there to serve. And through it all, they were expected to remain positive and upbeat—even when faced with hardship, privation and frequent danger.