Stories

Sharon Lane

Sharon Ann Lane was born 7 July 1943 in Zanesville, Ohio.  Two years later the Lane family moved to Canton, where Sharon spent the remainder of her childhood.  She graduated from Canton South High School in June 1961 and decided to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse by attending the Aultman Hospital School of Nursing.  She graduated on 25 April 1965 and worked at a local hospital for two years before trying her hand in the business world.  She made it through three quarters at the Canton Business College before deciding to join the U.S. Army Nurse Corps Reserve on 18 April 1968.

Training for 2LT Lane began on 5 May 1968 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.  She graduated on 14 June 1968, and just three days later reported for duty at the Army’s Fitzsimons General Hospital in Denver, Colorado.   Her first assignment was with three tuberculosis wards, but after receiving a promotion to first lieutenant, she was placed in the Cardiac Division’s Intensive Care Unit and Recovery Room.  She worked in the ICU until 24 April 1969, when she reported to Travis Air Force Base, California, with orders sending her to Vietnam.

1LT Lane arrived at the 312th Evacuation Hospital at Chu Lai on 29 April.  She was originally assigned to the Intensive Care Unit, but a few days later was reassigned to the Vietnamese Ward.

Nursing the Vietnamese in Ward 4 was often physically and emotionally challenging, yet Lane repeatedly declined transfers to another ward.  She worked five days a week, twelve hours a day in Ward 4, and spent her off-duty time taking care of the most critically injured American soldiers in the Surgical ICU.  She thrived despite the demanding schedule, and was adored and respected by co-workers and patients alike.

On the morning of 8 June 1969, the 312th Evacuation Hospital was struck by a salvo of 122mm rockets fired by the Viet Cong.  One rocket struck between Wards 4A and 4B, killing two people and wounding another twenty-seven.  Among the dead was 1LT Lane, who died instantly of fragmentation wounds to the chest.  She was one month shy of her twenty-sixth birthday.

Though one of eight American military nurses who died while serving in Vietnam, Sharon Lane was the only American nurse killed as a direct result of hostile fire.  A memorial service was held in Chu Lai 10 June 1969 and a Catholic mass followed the next day.   Lane was buried with full military honors at Sunset Hills Burial Park in her hometown of Canton, Ohio.

For her service in Vietnam, 1LT  Sharon Ann Lane was awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star with “V” device, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the National Order of Vietnam Medal, and the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross (with Palm).

In the years that followed her death, various individuals and organizations honored Lane in a variety of ways.  On 11 November 1969, the Fitzsimons Hospital named its recovery room the Lane Recovery Suite and put a plaque and a picture on display.  In that same year, the Daughters of the American Revolution named her Outstanding Nurse of the Year, and posthumously awarded her the Anita Newcomb McGee medal in 1970.  In 1973 a statue of Lane was dedicated in front of  Aultman Hospital, and in 1986, the Hospital opened the Sharon Lane Woman’s Center in its front lobby.  The Canton Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America officially changed its name to the Sharon Lane Chapter #199, and roads in Denver, Colorado, and at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, have been named in her honor.  Despite the fact that over thirty years have passed since her death, 1LT Sharon Ann Lane remains an important symbol representing the sacrifices and service of the thousands of American women who served in the Vietnam War.

Sharon’s name is remembered on Panel 23W, Line 112 of The Wall.

Information courtesy of the Army History Center

 

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Women in Vietnam

The Women on The Wall

Eight women, all nurses, are among the more than 58,000 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  Most were killed in airplane or helicopter crashes. Sharon Lane was the only one killed by enemy fire.

Eleanor Grace Alexander

Captain Eleanor Grace Alexander, U.S. Army had been working in a hospital in Pleiku to help out during mass casualties from Dak To when her plane crashed on the return trip to Qui Nhon on November 30, 1967. She was with the 85th Evacuation Hospital. She was from New Jersey and is remembered on Panel 31E Line 8.

 

Pamela Dorothy Donovan

2nd Lieutenant Pamela Dorothy Donovan, U.S. Army died of a rare Southeast Asian virus on July 8, 1968. Born in Ireland, she was assigned to the 85th Evacuation Hospital in Qui Nhon. 2LT Donovan is remembered on Panel 53W, Line 43.

 

Carol Ann Elizabeth Drazba

2nd Lieutenant Carol Ann Elizabeth Drazba, U.S. Army was killed in a helicopter crash near Saigon on February 18, 1966. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, she is remembered on Panel 5E, Line 46.

 

Annie Ruth Graham

Lieutenant Colonel Annie Ruth Graham, U.S. Army suffered a stroke on August 14, 1968. She was from North Carolina and was the Chief Nurse with the 91st Evacuation Hospital in Tuy Hoa. Her name can be found on Panel 48W, Line 12.

 

Elizabeth Ann Jones

2nd Lieutenant Elizabeth Ann Jones, U.S. Army was flying with 2LT Drazba and was killed in the same helicopter crash near Saigon. She was assigned to the 3rd Field Hospital.  2LT Jones was from South Carolina and is remembered on Panel 5E Line 47.

 

Mary Therese Klinker

Captain Mary Therese Klinker, U.S. Air Force was part of an on-board medical team during Operation Babylift. Her flight was carrying 243 infants and children when it developed pressure problems and crashed while attempting to return to the airport. Captain Klinker was killed on April 4, 1975, just three weeks before the Fall of Saigon. A native of Indiana, she is remembered on Panel 1W, Line 122.

 

Sharon Ann Lane

1st Lieutenant Sharon Ann Lane, U.S. Army was killed by a rocket explosion on June 8, 1969, less than 10 weeks after she arrived in Vietnam. Assigned to the 312th Evacuation Hospital, 1LT Lane was working in the Vietnamese ward of the hospital when the rocket exploded, killing her and her patients. She was from Ohio and her name can be found on Panel 23W, Line 112.

 

Hedwig Diane Orlowski

1st Lieutenant Hedwig Diane Orlowski, U.S. Army was onboard with Capt. Alexander when their plane crashed on its return trip to Qui Nhon.  She was assigned to the 67th Evacuation Hospital, 1LT Orlowski was from Michigan. She is remembered on Panel 31E, Line 15.

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Roles of Women

Women in Vietnam

Eight women, all nurses, are among the more than 58,000 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Most were killed in airplane or helicopter crashes. Only one was killed by enemy fire. First Lieutenant Sharon Ann Lane, an Army nurse listed on Panel 23 West, Line 112, was killed during a rocket attack on June 8, 1969, less than 10 weeks after she arrived in Vietnam. Assigned to the 312th Evacuation Hospital, Lane was working in the Vietnamese ward of the hospital when the rocket exploded, killing her and her patients. She was from Canton, Ohio.

Overall, more than 265,000 women served in the military during Vietnam — and nearly 10,000 military women served in-country during the conflict.

It is a common misconception that all women serving in Vietnam were nurses. Barred from combat, military women served in health care, communications, intelligence and administrative positions.

All had to be volunteers, and like their male counterparts, they volunteered for a variety of reasons: duty to one’s country, a desire to help those serving overseas, or an interest in advancing one’s military career to name a few.

Civilian women also volunteered and served as foreign news correspondents, worked for organizations such as the American Red Cross, Army Special Services, United Service Organizations (USO), Peace Corps, and various religious groups such as Catholic Relief Services, or served in other government agencies.

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Roles of Women

Military Nurses

In April of 1956 three women arrive in Saigon to teach South Vietnamese nurses medical procedures and techniques. This was the start of American nursing during the Vietnam War. In Vietnam nurses could be male or female, however the majority were women with the average age being 23. Tours lasted twelve months, but differences hospital size and locations made each experience unique. These young women were tasked with performing medical procedures in a radically different environment than their predecessors had in World War II. Helicopters meant that service members who would have previously died on the long haul from the battlefield could now get a medevac and be seen within minutes. The swiftness of this care meant a higher rate of survival, but also saw nurses dealing with more intense traumas. Working long shifts in sweltering and dangerous conditions nurses ensured that service members, some in their final hours, found healing and care. More than 5,000 nurses served in America’s longest war and 8 gave their lives. Their names are engraved upon the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Learn more about Women in Vietnam
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Voices of Women

Interviews with Nurses

As many as 11,000 women served in Vietnam during the war and close to 90% were nurses. A few of these nurses recount their most vivid memories caring for the horribly wounded. They also discuss how they helped their patients die with dignity.

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Patricia McCorry served as an operating room nurse at the 95th Evacuation Hospital in Da Nang, Vietnam from 1969 through 1970. She said that the biggest reward was “knowing that you helped somebody or saved a life.” She said one of the greatest impacts of being a nurse was being able to emotionally support the GIs.

HEAR PATRICIA’S STORY

 

Grace Moore served as a nurse at the 12th Evacuation Hospital in Cu Chi, Vietnam in 1968. At the time, she was the head nurse at the orthopedic and amputee ward. Grace talks about some of her most vivid memories caring for her patients and what the Vietnam Women’s Memorial means to her.

HEAR GRACE’S STORY

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