During the Vietnam War, a small group of American women volunteered for a Red Cross program that sent them into a war zone with almost no training or reparation. Armed with nothing but Kool-Aid and home-made entertainment programs, their mission was to be the girl next door, the sister and the shoulder to cry on for hundreds of thousands of American troops. They were “The Donut Dollies” – idealistic young women with no idea what they were getting into, whose lives would never be the same. Amazingly, over 50 years since the first Donut Dollies arrived in Vietnam, many people have still never heard of them.
While shedding light on the story and shared experiences of the 627 Donut Dollies who served in Vietnam, this film will focus on two best friends Dorset and Mary, who volunteered for the program together in 1968 at the peak of the war. As public opinion of the war plunged from bad to worse in the aftermath of the Tet Offensive and the My Lai Massacre, why on Earth would Mary and Dorset decide to risk their lives and futures to go to Vietnam? And once there, how could they possibly do their job? How could they cheer up troops who didn’t know why they were there and didn’t understand why the people back in the States called them baby killers and spat on them when they got home?
Seven days a week for a full year, the Donut Dollies acted as therapists, confidants, comedians and one-woman versions of the USO. Just like the GIs, they formed close friendships and lifelong bonds. Just like the men, they saw friends die. Although they weren’t on the front lines, they were shot at and they were caught in mortar attacks. Their lives were at risk every day, and, over the course of the war, three Donut Dollies lost their lives in Vietnam.
As a result of their traumatic experiences and negative reception when they returned to the states, just like countless veterans, many Donut Dollies boxed up their memories when they got home – literally and figuratively – and hid them away and never spoke about their experiences in Vietnam. In an intimate verité style, we will follow Mary and Dorset as they “unbox” their memories and return to Vietnam for the first time in almost 50 years.