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Rochester Hills Author Recalls… (video)

Rochester Hills Author Recalls Year in the Combat Zone of Vietnam as a Donut Dolly (video)essential

Joann Puffer Kotcher was one of just 600 women who went to Vietnam with the American Red Cross to go into war zones and bring comfort and support to troops entrenched in battle. Just out of college from the University of Michigan in 1966, the young math teacher wanted to experience the world and do her part to ease the suffering of those fighting in war.

“I thought that the men who were there were protecting us and offering their lives in service, and I thought they would appreciate somebody coming to cheer them up, to make them realize that the people at home cared about them,” she said. “We were like a letter from home.”

Having women in the combat zone was rare in 1966, but Kotcher and her fellow “Donut Dollies’ were up to the challenge. She explained that in World War II the Red Cross had women in the soldier’s camps delivering donuts to the men who were resting after combat. It boosted morale among troops who longed for home. In Vietnam it was too hot for donuts, but the ladies would bring other comforts, like cookies or hygiene items.

“They would have a fort in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by fox holes for defense. We would be allowed to walk along the fox holes and talk to the men in the fox hole,” Kothcher said.seed5977Cyndi Rhuland Peltonen

Kotcher wrote a book about her experience in Vietnam, which lasted for one year. Donut Dolly: An American Red Cross Girl’s War in Vietnam was peer-reviewed and published in 2011 by North Texas University Press. It’s won over 20 awards and is noted for its historical accuracy, it’s story of women being brave in war,and for its down-to-earth and enjoyable storytelling. “I wrote it so children 8th grade and up could read it. Being a teacher and a mom I figured this would be interesting for youngsters as well as adults.”

Donut Dolly took eight years to write and go through the review process. Each part had to be MBREW draft onedocumented and footnoted to be accepted by the university.

Kotcher, who lives in Rochester Hills, enjoys going to events to talk to people about the book. Earlier this year she had a booth at the Civil War Ice Cream Social at the Pine Grove Museum in Pontiac earlier this summer, where she talked with the oc115 about her book. (Read more about that event at

While Kotcher seems a soft-spoken lady who was driven by compassion to help the troops, her experiences in the war demonstrate her strength and braveness. Her year-long stint took her through many regions, including the Mekong Delta, the South China Sea and the Cambodian border. She was abducted, she avoided an ambush, and had interesting conversations with people from prostitutes to war heroes.

Check out Kotcher’s book at, and watch her interview below:


About the author

Oakland County Times has written 13722 articles for Oakland County Times

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