The Only U.S. Military Woman KIA in Vietnam

The Only U.S. Military Woman KIA in Vietnam

by Janie Blankenship

SHARON ANN LANE is honored on Panel 23W, Row 112 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

 

Although seven other American female military nurses died while serving in Vietnam, Sharon Ann Lane was the only U.S. servicewoman killed as a direct result of enemy fire during the war.

On June 8, 1969, the 312th Evacuation Hospital was struck by a salvo of 122 mm rockets fired by the Viet Cong. One rocket struck between Wards 4A and 4B, killing two other Americans and wounding 27. Lane died instantly of fragmentation wounds to the chest. At 25 years old, she was buried with full military honors in Canton, Ohio.

Lane was born on July 7, 1943 in Zanesville, Ohio. Her family moved to Canton, where she attended high school.

She graduated from Aultman Hospital School of Nursing in Canton in 1965. Following two years of clinical practice as a general duty nurse, Lane entered the Army Nurse Corps in 1968.

After completing basic training at Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas as a second lieutenant, she was assigned to the U.S. Army Fitzsimmons General Hospital in Denver, Colo. After receiving a promotion to first lieutenant, she was placed in the cardiac division’s intensive care unit (ICU) and recovery room. Lane also volunteered to nurse the most critically injured American soldiers in the surgical ICU in her off-duty hours. She worked in the ICU until sent to Vietnam.

On April 26, 1969, Lane arrived at the 312th Evacuation Hospital in Chu Lai. Although nursing in Ward 4 was challenging, Lane repeatedly declined transfer to another ward. She also volunteered to care for the most critically wounded GIs in the surgical ICU.

Posthumously, Lane was awarded a Purple Heart, Bronze Star with “V” device and the South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm.

In 1969, the Daughters of the American Revolution named Lane “Outstanding Nurse of the Year.” In 1970, the Recovery Room at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital was dedicated in her honor, and the Aultman Hospital erected a bronze statue of Lane in 1973. The names of 110 local servicemen killed in Vietnam are on the base of the statue.

In 1986, Aultman Hospital opened the Sharon Ann Lane Womens Center. Fort Hood, Texas, dedicated the Sharon Ann Lane Volunteer Center in 1995. The Sharon Ann Lane Foundation completed and dedicated the Sharon Ann Lane Foundation Clinic in Chu Lai in 2002.

 

JANIE BLANKENSHIP is the associate editor for VFW magazine. This article is reprinted with permission from VFW magazine's 2008 special publication, Women At War.