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Martha Raye
Did you know?

We all remember Martha Raye as a comic actress and singer. You may know that she travelled throughout During World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War with the USO to entertain the American troops, even though she had a lifelong fear of flying.

Martha Raye entertaining troops 1943

Martha Raye entertaining troops
(Probably North Africa, c. 1943)

But did you know about this story told by an Army Aviator?

It was just before Thanksgiving '67 and we were ferrying dead and wounded from a large GRF west of Pleiku. We had run out of body bags by noon, so the Hook ( CH-47 CHINOOK) was pretty rough in the back. All of a sudden, we heard a 'take-charge' woman's voice in the rear.

There was the singer and actress, Martha Raye, with a SF (Special Forces) beret and jungle fatigues, with subdued markings, helping the wounded into the Chinook, and carrying the dead aboard. 'Maggie' had been visiting her SF 'heroes' out 'west'.

We took off, short of fuel, and headed to the USAF hospital pad at Pleiku. As we all started unloading our sad pax's, a 'Smart-Ass' USAF Captain said to Martha.... Ms Ray, with all these dead and wounded to process, there would not be time for your show!

To all of our surprise, she pulled on her right collar and said....Captain, see this eagle? I am a full 'Bird' in the US Army Reserve, and on this is a 'Caduse' which means I am a Nurse, with a surgical, take me to your wounded. He said, yes mam'... Follow me.

Several times at the Army Field Hospital in Pleiku, she would 'cover' a surgical shift, giving a nurse a well-deserved break.

Martha Raye was an honorary Colonel in the Marines and an honorary Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army. She is the only woman buried in the SF (Special Forces) cemetery at Ft. Bragg.

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