Martha Raye AKA Colonel Maggie

Posted on November 14, 2011

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Everyone has heard about the entertainers who went to Vietnam. Bob Hope came every year to do a “Christmas” show. Others such as John Wayne would show up from time to time. However, the one “entertainer” who would do shows from time to time showed up for periods of four to six months at a time. She showed up at such places as: Nha Trang, Saigon, Vung Tau, Doc Hoa, Kontum, Ap Bac, LZ Center AKA Hill 348, on board the USS Stormmes and Special Forces Camps everywhere. This special “Lady” was Martha Raye.

Martha was born August 27, 1916 and died October 14, 1994. She is the only woman buried in the Special Forces section of the cemetery at Fort Bragg, N.C.. Martha was an Honorary Member of the Green Berets and was granted the Honorary rank of LTC (Lieutenant Colonel) by President Lyndon Johnson. President Clinton presented Martha Raye with the “Presidential Medal of Freedom” in 1993.

Martha Raye was a Nurse.

The story relates how Colonel Maggie,who was also a trained RN before going into the entertainment field, went to entertain and visit a very small Special Forces camp. (It could have been at Soc Trang, around the early part of 1967.) I was told that she and some clarinet player, had gone to the camp to entertain, but while they were there the NVA attacked the camp. Mortar rounds and small arms fire were incoming. It appeared that there was a full-scale assault on the base camp. It was uncertain if the camp would be able to hold off the assault.. The camp medic was hit, and so with her being a nurse, she took over and began to assist with the treatment of the wounded who kept pouring into the aid station.

The camp was in great danger for several hours of being over run. The higher-ups in the military were trying to dispatch helicopters to the camp, but a combination of very bad weather and heavy fighting made that task a very dangerous mission for any crews that would be trying to come in to get the wounded, or to pull her out to a safer place. All this time, she was subjecting herself to the dangers of flying shrapnel and incoming automatic rifle rounds. She tended to the task that she was trained for – treating the wounded. She was said to have remained calm and fully active in doing her work – even with all the action taking place just outside the aid station. She kept focused on treating the wounded and did not seek shelter or safety for herself.

She kept refusing any and all rescue missions. She spent hours putting her skills as a nurse, to use treating patients and even assisting with surgery. She was in the operating room for 13 hours; she then went through the aid station talking with the wounded and making sure that they were okay. It was said that she worked without sleep or rest, until all the wounded were either treated, or evacuated out on a Huey (helicopter). She did not leave that camp until she was satisfied that all wounded were taken care of.**

There are many websites about LTC Maggie. here are two that are really great at telling you just who she was: www.war-veteran.org and www.vietnaexp.com/morestories/MarthaRaye.htm .

** extracted from www.vietnamexp.com/MarthaRaye/htm

      Robert (Bob) Eastburn served in Charlie Troop but he had a chance run in with Col Maggie while he was assigned to another unit. Here is how he describes that run in:

In late 67, Martha Raye visited the Ninth Infantry Division at Bearcat. She was scheduled to come over to our (314th CAB) club for a few minutes, and the
Battalion CO decided I was the Bachelor who would go over to the Ninth Division to pick her up, and then deliver her after her visit with us. I had to fight
the Ninth Div to get her in the jeep, and they sent MP’s to get her back, but as she left, she passed me, and looked up, smiled that smile that only she could
do, and said, “we know what you’re doing here, and why we’re doing it, and I love you for it”. She kissed me on the cheek, and left me with a moment that
still brings tears. And they ain’t tears of shame!

No matter how much crap seems to make the news, I always think that God blessed us with her, and she represented all that was worth fighting for.

Bob E.

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Posted in: Special Memories