Selected Women’s Autobiographies on the First and Second Indochina Wars

Women’s Autobiographies


The linked titles of the autobiographies are connected to an entry in GWonline that provides you with an abstract and additional information.


Nineteen women from all branches of the United States military lend their voices in the poetry and personal essays of this collection. They have seen conflicts from Somalia to Vietnam to Desert Shield, and many are authors and winners of writing awards and fellowships or hold MFAs from some of the country’s finest programs. Their writing exposes the frontline intersection of women and soldiering, describing from a steely-eyed female perspective the horror, the humor, the cultural clashes, and the fear that are the inevitable accompaniments of war.


As the only French woman among some 11,000 defenders at Dien Bien Phu, Geneviève de Galard had a unique perspective of the siege and fall of the French fortress. This memoir about her years as a flight nurse for the French air force offers previously unknown details about the French defeat. De Galard was on the flights that evacuated casualties from the battle, often landing in the midst of Viet Minh artillery barrages. After a French air force C-47 with de Galard on board was seriously damaged, she tended to the wounded and dying in a field hospital. Her efforts won her the Knight's Cross and the Croix de Guerre, as well as the nickname “Angel of Dien Bien Phu.” Following a tickertape parade in New York, President Eisenhower awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1954.

Wikipedia site on: Geneviève de Galard


The youngest of six children in a close-knit Buddhist family, Le Ly Hayslip (born in 1950) was twelve years old when U.S. helicopters landed in Ky La, her tiny village in central Vietnam. As the Southern Vietnam government and Việt Cộng troops fought in and around Ky La, both sides recruited children as spies and saboteurs. Le Ly was one of those children. Before the age of sixteen, Le Ly had suffered near starvation, imprisonment, torture, rape, and the deaths of beloved family members. Almost 20 years after her escape to America, she was drawn inexorably back to the devastated country and family she left behind. Scenes of this reunion are interwoven with the brutal war years in this haunting memoir, offering a poignant picture of Vietnam, then and now, and of a courageous woman who experienced the true horror of the Vietnam War and survived to tell her unforgettable story.

Wikipedia site on: Le Ly Hayslip


This chronologically organized book describes the little-known participation of American service women during the Vietnam War in their own voices. These women served in a myriad of duties, everything from intelligence analysts, flight controllers, clerk-typists, translators, physical therapists, dieticians, and communications specialists, among others. The last women left Vietnam along with the remaining men in March 1973. The impact they had in Vietnam set the stage for the subsequent expansion and integration of women into additional roles in the American military.