In Honor of 2nd Lt. Pamela D. Donovan


2nd Lt. Pamela D. Donovan:  Pamela was born to Irish parents, Joyce and Ted Donovan, in the UK and educated as a nurse and nun in several countries. After hearing of the need for nurses to care for our soldiers in Vietnam, Pamela became a US citizen in order to volunteer in the Army Nurse Corp and Vietnam duty. She was assigned to the 85th Evac Hospital in Qui Nhon. Pamela died after only 4 months in country of pneumonia. 

Pamela Donovan did what some US born citizens found they could not. She was very proud to be able to volunteer in the efforts to serve our troops in Vietnam. Her unselfishness and caring makes her someone that we as Americans should never forget. To be able to tell others about Pamela and what she sacrificed for our country gives us great honor.

There is much more to her story as we were to learn from Pamela's sister Liz, who we have been in touch with. Liz referred us to the book their mother, Joyce Donovan, had published, Grasping The Nettle. According to her mother, in May of 1968, she was advised that Pamela had gone to the beach and suffered severe sunburn and was hospitalized in Qui Nhon where she was stationed. During her recovery, Pamela made an audio tape for her parents in which she "sounded happy and in good spirits." (Background info: We believe this beach to have been Red Beach which was heavily guarded and only open to our service men and women for fun and relaxation.)


In subsequent letters she told her parents of her plans to travel to Japan and Australia at the conclusion of her one year tour of duty in Vietnam. She wrote of the possibility of applying to a number of nursing schools in the USA and furthering her nursing degree. In another letter Pamela told her parents that she had become aware of the existence of a "heroin ring" within the hospital and had determined that is was her duty to report this. Her parents wrote back cautioning their daughter to be very careful, that she could be putting herself in extreme danger.  

Shortly after in June of 1968, Pamela's mother was hospitalized.  Pamela wrote to her mother daily giving her great support.

On July 4, 1968, Joyce and Ted (Pamela’s parents) received a cable from Vietnam stating that Pamela had been placed on the seriously ill list on the 3rd of July, as a result of an overdose of barbiturates, stating that she had been found unconscious in her billeting facility and was hospitalized in Vietnam.

Another cable arrived from Vietnam saying that Pamela was still unconscious and was being flown to the capital of Vietnam where she could receive "more appropriate treatment.”

On July 9 a limousine came to her parents front door as a high ranking officer informed them that Pamela had died the previous day, July 8th and that the cause of her death was pneumonia.


Ted telephoned the Army Nursing Recruitment Headquarters in Boston where Pamela had enlisted and the Red Cross. Joyce and Ted had many questions but none received proper answers. They wrote Pamela’s Commanding Officer and the Chaplain in Vietnam but received no response. The Senior Army Officer handling the case in the States intimated that if they would stop asking questions Pamela would be given a full military funeral – the obvious implication being that a military funeral would be refused if they continued their inquiries. For Pamela’s sake they asked no further questions.

July 12 the post office brought a letter to Pamela's parents from their dead daughter, dated July 3, five days before her death:


"Dearest Mummy and Daddy, I know over the years you have been unhappy, as I have been unfaithful to the Church and to going to Mass and the Sacraments. Well, I want you to know that last night I went to the Chaplain out here to Confession, and this morning I went to Mass and Holy Communion. I feel a new person.....  All my love Pamela. "

On July 18 Pamela's parents received the death certificate: "Died 8 July 1968 in Vietnam from pneumonia secondary to overdose of barbiturates."


In September the family received a second death certificate with an additional sentence added: "Self destruction while mentally unsound".

It does not seem possible that this woman, so happy on July 3rd, could have taken her own life five days later.

6 months after her death a nurse friend of Pamela's from Vietnam called to tell her mother "the truth" about what had happened to Pamela. "No I can't tell you. I am too afraid of what might happen to me” and hung up. A few weeks later there was another call from another of Pamela's friends from Vietnam who also wanted to tell the truth but was too afraid.

All of this leaves so many questions unanswered. However know matter how many questions the life of Pamela leaves, it makes very clear that 2nd Lt. Pamela Donovan was a brave, caring and compassionate Irish woman who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the love of others.


Peace be with you Pamela. With all our Love, America