By Joann Puffer Kotcher
Donut Dolly, Joann Puffer Kotcher, is a former Math teacher at the explosive beginnings of the Viet Nam War. Joann Puffer Kotcher ducks bullets and mortar shells to bring moments of home to scared GIs.
The book shows Kotcher's own baptism into reality. She deftly intertwines her unique experiences with the grueling life of the ordinary Soldier.
Joann Puffer Kotcher's job is much more than doling coffee, cookies, or small gifts to Vietnam soldiers. The name Donut Dolly is a remnant from a time when young women passed out donuts to those in combat. Kotcher's experiences are human, exhausting, dangerous, inspiring, with splashes of romance.
She is one of the first women to serve in a combat zone. She intertwines her personal life with her compassion for soldiers. The book describes how she disregards her own welfare to carry out everyday duties. She dodges bullets, shells and shrapnel as part of her job. She represents an older sister, or the girl next door to troops under fire. She was 'a letter from home.'
Kotcher takes us along on her defiant visits to perimeter fox holes and enemy-infested jungles while she serves combat and combat support troops.
An historically accurate work, Donut Dolly corrects misconceptions about the War. Kotcher brings a new and first person perspective to a War that will continue to be debated.
The veteran heroes of Viet Nam are comfortable accepting her as one of their own, one of the Band of Brothers.
SERVED WITH COURAGE AND BRAVERY
"One of the best researched books I've read about Nam. Not only that, Donut Dolly is a GREAT read. I recommend it to everyone. Joan served the military with courage."
Dale Throneberry, Veterans Radio
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful (AMAZON)
Kotcher masterfully re-creates the smells, sounds, fears and emotions of the earliest and most vicious days of the Vietnam War. She relives her dangers as a Red Cross Donut Dolly serving soldiers on the front lines. She was one of the first women permitted to be in the fox holes and to work in the desolate enemy-ridden combat zone jungles.
Her first-hand accounts are vivid, fresh and accurate. We often found ourselves on the edge of our seats. Kotcher manages to re-create the searing reactions of a soldier finding his sergeant has been killed by the V C with the same sensitivity she treats a young corporal comforting a child startled by exploding shells.
Donut Dolly is a war book that maintains the pride of bravery both of the soldiers and of Kotcher, herself. To read Donut Dolly, is to give us a better, more complete historic perspective of the most controversial war in America's history. Moreover, it's lively and sometimes charmingly romantic.
Its polished prose and honest action is rare in any kind of book, military or otherwise.
HISTORIC TREASURE Kotcher's book, Donut Dolly: An American Red Cross Girl's War in Vietnam is a jewel. Kotcher was a Donut Dolly in Vietnam serving in five duty stations at the height of the War. She saw what most girls would never encounter, with courage and with bravery. Her book is a historical treasure.
Donna Teresa MONTERAY (CALIF.) HERALD
Donut Dolly is available world wide.
PART OF THE PROCEEDS WILL BE DONATED TO VETERANS' CHARITIES
(Ms Kotcher has been, but is not now, employed by the American Red Cross or any of its subsidiaries. She is an independent author, who has worked on Donut Dolly for over eight (8) years.)
"DONUT DOLLY" AWARDS
National Library Association Citation
Army Historical Foundation (Nominated for "Book of the Year")
National Books Critics Circle - Book of the Month
Literary World Pick (Award)
Stars and Flags National Book Award
Stars and Flags National Writing Excellence Prize
Cantigny 1st Division Museum Award
Library Guide Commendation
UAW Region 1 'National Recognition of Veterans Honor'
Veterans Coalition Annual Award
United States House of Representatives Special Recognition Certificate
Royal Oak (MI) (international) Memorial Day Presentation Oration
National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution Award for Women in American History
State Of Michigan Legislative Special Tribute
Patriot Award - Michigan Veteran's Foundation
Senior Men’s Club of Birmingham – Trophy Award
Rochester Hills Museum – Veterans’ Day Launch
Southeast Michigan Regional Loyalty Day (May 1 2012) Honors
Proclamation-Recognition Honor – City of Rochester Hills (MI)
CHOOSING: DEATH BY LIGHTNING OR BY THE VIET CONG
(Excerpt from Donut Dolly: An American Red Cross Girl’s War in Vietnam)
Patches of the monsoon punctuated with lightning blocked our route. The storm closed in. Soon, it would be dark. Our helicopter spiraled into the dense jungle. We landed at a Special Forces camp. The pilot explained, “I came down because of the lightning. Between the lightning up there and the VC down here, I prefer the VC.”
The team commander offered us sandwiches. Our escort officer, Captain Goodwin sat down beside me. “The weather is getting worse. We might have to stay the night. The ceiling over Bien Hoa is dropping. If we don’t leave now, we can’t land.”
The commander offered: “There is room for you to stay. We can set aside a place for you girls. My men can secure the helicopter. We are in a guarded area where there is little danger of attack. We would be glad to have you.”
Everyone looked at me. They wanted me to decide whether we would go or stay. I was stunned. With all these trained men around, why should I be the one to decide? Then I realized that because I was a civilian with simulated officer rank, I was the one to make decisions.
Without any warning, I had the lives of seven people, plus a helicopter in my hands.
The pilot said, “Every minute we’re here we lessen our chances. The weather is getting worse. If we don’t start now we won’t make it back.”
I was thinking intuitively, not logically. If two Red Cross girls spent the night at a Special Forces camp, the Red Cross would be upset. If the VC decided to attack, only a large force could over run the camp. Getting caught in an assault would cause a stir in Saigon.
Capt. Goodwin offered his opinion. “I think we should stay.”
I asked the pilot, “Are you willing to try it?”
He said, “Yes.” I didn’t expect that. I knew pilots hated bad climate. Some airplane pilots would fly in bad weather, but if chopper pilots thought the conditions were too severe, nothing could get them to go. I thought, If the pilot is willing to fly through that storm, I’m willing to go with him.
I said, “Let’s go.” The co-pilot, crew chief, and gunner got up. I had made the decision, and now they had a job to do. For the group to make it out, everyone had to work together. It was risky. Captain Goodwin frowned. He didn’t like the weather. Camilla was new and probably didn’t understand what was happening. I thought, She’s the only one who’s not afraid.
The night hung black and blood-warm. Tropical air folded heavily around us. The rain had stopped. A jeep brought us to the helicopter, and I jumped off. The ground was rough. Don’t turn your ankle, I said to myself. If we crash in the jungle, I won’t make it on one foot. The ship sat on a rise, too high for me to step onto it. The men were all busy readying the aircraft. No one had time to help. I climbed up on one knee and felt my skin scraping off on the rough metal of the helicopter's floor. No concern for anything so minor. I felt my way to a seat and fumbled for a seat belt.
“Lighten the aircraft,” someone said. Everybody passed boxes out. Dark forms climbed into the seats and pulled at belts. The pilots strapped in.
A blinding flash of lightning engulfed the skies. The world had caught fire. The co-pilot looked at the pilot and said, “Oooh!” He hesitated.
The pilot didn’t falter. “Don’t sweat it.” He checked his instruments.
I changed my definition of bravery. The old one was, “You’re brave if you’re scared, but you do it anyway.” I added, “And you don’t let anyone know you’re afraid.”
I knew that trip was going to be bad. I followed the pilot’s advice, “Don’t sweat it.” The rotor groaned into action; the gunner and crew chief climbed in behind their machine guns, and readied their weapons. The ship shuddered and lifted off the ground.
As we hovered and began to rise, Camilla yelled into my ear, “We could have stayed here, nothing would have happened.” Fear seized me. My mind had functioned on intuition before. Now the situation became stark, clear, and real.
If we stayed, maybe the VC wouldn’t find us. If we tried to fly out the weather could tear the helicopter apart. If lightning struck us we would crash in the unforgiving jungle. I started to lose the battle with my fear.
The pilot didn’t turn on the landing lights. The ship’s tail lifted. We began to rise and spiral into the air. My ears popped as gravity pulled at us.
Rain exploded on the windshield. Inside the ship everything was dark except for the green glow of the instrument lights. Lightning struck around us. My fear grew. The windshield wipers began to lose their struggle to keep up with the rain.
The noise of the helicopter made conversation difficult. Maybe talking would help lessen the fear. I screamed into Camilla’s ear and pronounce everything carefully so she could understand me. Then I had to listen hard and concentrate on what she said to understand her answer. We compensated by simplifying our sentences. I yelled, “It was great to see the Montagnards today. What level do you think they are in the scale of humanity?”
She hollered back, “I’m not sure how to compare them. They are primitive tribes.”
I forced my brain to scour my memory, “Do you think they’re in the Stone Age?”
“Maybe. I don’t know.” Our small talk chewed up time.
Without warning, a monstrous flash of lightning, streaked across the length of the sky. It sent fiery forks around us. It engulfed us. Dozens of fingers reached close. Everything went black. If I was dead, how come I heard the whop, whop, whop of the helicopter‘s blades. There was no light at the end of a tunnel. My skin insisted on tingling with fear. Maybe, that’s what happens when you’re not dead.
Mystically the ship righted itself and kept flying. The windshield wipers slapped back and forth at the rain. The instruments glowed green. We and the ship were still in one piece.