During World War II, a group of women named the Donut Dollies were sent overseas to boost the morale of American troops. They were responsible for providing wholesome entertainment for soldiers in the form of a beloved American treat: fried donuts. Soldiers were able to take their minds off the perils of war for a little, as they socialized with their friends and the pretty young women who ran the donut trucks. However, these women were much more than pretty faces.
The Donut Dollies were Red Cross volunteers, but the standards for becoming one of these female volunteers were considered by some to be higher than the standards of the military. Only one out of six applicants were chosen, one of the requirements being an excellent personality. Women had to be 25 years or older, have attended college, able to pass physical exams and provide letters of recommendation. The Donut Dollies had to wear a uniform and were unable to wear earrings, hair accessories, bright nail polish, or too much makeup. These women were expected to be symbols of purity, although they at times received judgment from people who thought they were only there to taunt the men.
Once chosen to be a Donut Dollie, women attended weeks of basic training in the policies and procedures of the Red Cross and the U.S. Army. They then received immunizations, were fitted for their uniform and sent overseas. Once there, they operated a Clubmobile, which was a single-decker green bus equipped with the gear to fry fresh donuts and travel to faraway army bases and camps. These buses allowed the Donut Dollies to make about 48 dozen fresh donuts per hour on the spot for soldiers missing homecooked food. The Red Cross later opened a few bakeries to help the women keep the Clubmobiles stocked.
The Donut Dollies did much more than fry up donuts. They created a safe, entertaining space and helped to lift the soldiers’ spirits and allow them the rare chance to relax. The men were able to socialize in the makeshift lounge in the back of the Clubmobile, listen to music, and even stock up on cigarettes, gum, magazines, and newspapers. These women were so successful that the services continued throughout the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Nearly 900 Donut Dollies served in South Korea, where they traveled to secluded locations in order to ensure that soldiers had a place to go to take their minds off the drastic changes and danger that war had brought. 627 Donut Dollies served in Vietnam, although there was a shift to mostly recreational activities for the soldiers, such as sing-alongs, and games like ping pong and pool.
These women were faced with a difficult task: travel far from home to perilous conditions that at times involved sniper fire and being gassed, in order to lift the spirits of soldiers who knew any day could be their last. They listened, they entertained, they baked, and they showed incredible courage and sacrifice along with the men that they helped.