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Cover image for American daughter gone to war : on the front lines with an army nurse in Vietnam
American daughter gone to war : on the front lines with an army nurse in Vietnam
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : W. Morrow, ©1992.
Physical Description:
352 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Introduction: One December day, 1966 : Saigon, Vietnam -- May-October 196 5: Fort Dix, New Jersey -- November 1965-August 1966 : Camp Zama, Japan -- September-October 1966 : the Third Field Hospital, Saigon -- November 1966 : seeds of distrust -- December 1966 : war zone holidays -- January 1967 : hard roads to travel -- February 1967 : intensive care and recovery room -- March 1967 : scorched suns -- April 1967 : where no birds sing -- May 1967 : my soul for a soldier's life -- June 1967 : emergency room and triage -- July 1967 : the Twenty-Fourth Evacuation Hospital, Long Binh -- August 1967 : the thousand-yard stare -- September 1967 : the home stretch -- September 19-October 19, 1967 : my freedom bird home -- October 20, 1967-March 8, 1968 : Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri -- March 1968-June 1983 : from sea to shining sea -- July 1983-October 1984 : spirits of the past -- Veterans Day weekend, 1984 : Washington, D.C. -- December 1984-April 1985 : back in San Francisco -- May 7 weekend, 1985 : the Canyon of Heroes, Manhattan -- March 1991 : after the homecoming parade.
Winnie Smith was an idealistic twenty-one-year-old first lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps in 1965, the year that North Vietnam bombed the U.S. base in Pleiku and our involvement in the war became official. Filled with romantic notions about being a combat nurse, Winnie requested assignment in an intensive care unit in Saigon, where casualties were brought by helicopter just minutes from the battlefield. There she became one of the courageous corps of American women who witnessed the drama and horror of combat firsthand. American Daughter Gone to War is her powerful, poignant story, a narrative of one woman's struggle to survive the bloodbath she confronted on the ward, and the trauma that filled her life afterward.
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Call Number
959.70437 Smith 1992
959.7043 SMITH

On Order

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Terse and telegraphic, Smith's style suits her subject: a year this army nurse spent caring for patients in the ICU, emergency and triage wards of a Saigon field hospital during the Vietnam War. Smith's story is almost unbearably gripping. The tenor and misery of the sick and wounded emerge vividly as she describes burn victims, amputees and the phantom pain felt by those with severed limbs. Primitive conditions, the tropical climate, stench, blood and constant danger all added to her occupational stress and exhaustion, which she relieved only through brief respites in local bars and hasty romances. After returning from three years of duty (1965-1968) to a family and a country torn by dissent, Smith was haunted by memories of Vietnam. Now 48, she has honored those memories in this book. Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

A searing account from former Army nurse Smith of her tour of duty in Vietnam and its devastating personal aftermath. Joining the Army ``to see the world,'' Smith was a gung-ho supporter of the war, and an initial period at an Army base in Japan with all the comforts of home did little to dispel her enthusiasm. In fact, the ``warriors' air of bravado and cocky self- assurance fanned [her] notions about war'' even as she ``was drawn to the strong kinship among them, a sense of family.'' And this closeness would make her stint in Vietnam even worse, because the men she liked, and sometimes loved, often were killed, lost in action, or horribly wounded. Hospitals she served in, like the Third Field Hospital in Saigon, were nightmarish places of inadequate supplies and equipment, squalid living quarters, and men with wounds so terrible that it was difficult at times for Smith not to show her own horror and dismay. The local Vietnamese were exploitative and resentful, nothing seemed to work, and the war was obviously not going well. Her tour over, Smith returned to the US, but had difficulty adjusting to her family, old friends, and new jobs. Peter, whom she had met in Vietnam, asked her to marry him, but terrified of losing him--he was a professional soldier--she turned him down. In the years that followed, Smith went to graduate school and moved to San Francisco, but was troubled by often debilitating memories and flashbacks. With the help of a veterans' support group, she finally exorcised her memories and recovered sufficiently to attend the 1985 dedication of N.Y.C.'s Vietnam Memorial, where the warmth of the crowd's welcome was a ``long- awaited dream come true.'' No false heroics, no patriotic gloss, only the Vietnam War in all its grim reality. (Fifteen b&w photographs--not seen.)

Booklist Review

Smith served as an army nurse from May 1965 to October 1967: 6 months at Fort Dix, New Jersey, 10 months in Japan, 10 months in Saigon, and 4 months at Long Binh. Her description of that service--and, more briefly, of the 25 years since she returned to "the world"--is graphic, mesmerizing, sometimes hilarious, often horrific. The publisher's allusion to TV's "China Beach" is not misplaced: Smith brings her coworkers, patients, friends, and lovers to life so effectively that the reader cannot evade the insane logic and absurd reality of medical care in Vietnam, where men and women barely out of their teens were forced to function as adults and professionals in the middle of a slaughterhouse. Smith acknowledges a powerful debt to Lynda Van Devanter's Home before Morning [BKL Mr 15 83], the first published narrative of an army nurse's experiences in Vietnam; reading that book 17 years after she left Southeast Asia devastated Smith and ultimately drove her to come to terms with her own memories. American Daughter Gone to War is the result: an often painful, always moving story of people and realities this nation should not forget. ~--Mary Carroll

Library Journal Review

The remarkable thing about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the similarity of its effects on its victims. Captain Smith was under constant stress from witnessing injury and death as an army nurse in a post-operative ward near Saigon and later in Long Binh. When her tour was over she retreated into a semianesthetic fog of alcohol and work until her internal anguish forced her to choose between self-destruction and the painful process of healing. This memoir is an eloquent description of that journey. At one point, as she stands in the screened corner where hopeless cases are sent, a coworker stops by. `` `I come here, too,' she says quietly. `I hate them dying alone.' '' An excellent picture of both the medical role in the war and war's cruel effect on the healers.-- Mel D. Lane, Sacramento, Cal. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.