Anne Marie Doering -  American WAC
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SAIGON (AP) Maj. Anne M. Doering is the only WAC stationed in Viet Nam with 5,000 US servicemen.

With two U.S. Army nurses, she comprises the only American military women in this small country of conflict.

Does it give her a heady feeling?
“I’ve always been a woman among men.” Says the 54 year-old officer with a shrug, “I don’t consider myself an oddity here, but I guess I am.”

Major Doering who works in the intelligence division, arrived here on March 30- “I was almost a present to the command on April Fool’s Day,” she says.

It was a return to her homeland for the first time in 38 years. She was born in Haiphong, an important seaport now in the Communist controlled half of Viet Nam.

Left for Texas at 15
“I've come home,” Major Doering explains. “Ill be here for 15 months- I hope. I don’t want to go back before that. For me, it is a great honor and opportunity to be here.”

Her French Father died when she was young. He is buried in Hanoi, the capital of North Viet Nam. Her German-born mother married an American accountant for an oil company in Saigon.

At 15, she left Saigon in 1924 for Europe and Texas, where she completed high school and graduated from college. Her stateside home is Georgetown, Tex., a small town of 5,000 only 26 miles north of Austin.

“I had a hard time at first in the States.” She explains, “I was trying to learn English.” Today, she is studying Vietnamese, her native language, three nights a week, “but I’m not doing at all well.”

Made her homesick

She says US servicemen ask her how she learned to speak French so well. “I just tell them we have good French-speaking schools in Texas. It gets too involved to tell them where I was born.”

“When I came back to Saigon the whole place made me homesick.” she says.

She looked in the shops along Tu Do Steet, where American servicemen sit alongside the bars and sidewalk cafes or do the Twist to booming bands. It was called Rue Catinat 38 years ago. “I went to the old French church near the Presidential Palace that I used to attend,” she says. “Now its Episcopalian.”

She went to the Circle Sportif where she used to play tennis with her teen-age companions. Today it is the most elite of Saigon’s vanishing social clubs where bikini clad maidens parade around the swimming pool that has been added in the past 38 years.

She visited one of the two houses her family lived in. :There is a high fence around one of them now and I couldn’t see much looking through the gate.” She is waiting to get access to a jeep to find the second house.

Saigon “Peaceful”
She noticed that the large central market had more people now “and they’ve stuck skyscrapers up al around.”

“We lived as part of the colony then. We had a pleasant and lazy life with all kinds of servants. We used to take the launch up the river into the interior. Now it is very serious there. I haven’t been out of the city yet.”

Saigon is a “very quiet peaceful place” compared to her other 15 years of military service, which were as hectic as those of any solider.

She joined the WAC in March 1943, only 10 months after the Corps was founded. The following year she was among 600 of the first WACs to land in Australia, New Guinea, Leyte and Manila were next on her itinerary. She was in one of the first WAC groups to enter Tokyo, only a few months after the Japanese surrender.

“I wasn’t in any fighting,” she says, “but I was awfully close to it. When we moved into Manila, they were still shooting 10 miles out of the city.”

After the war, she tasted civilian life, working for four years as a secretary and studying for her master’s degree.

In 1950 she again put on her lime green seersucker uniform to activate the WAC detachment at Ft. Hood, Tex. A tour of France and an assignment at the WAC training center, Ft. McClellan. Ala., was followed by a five year term with the US Army Strategic Intelligence School in Washington DC.

“I don’t know why I was selected to come here.” She says, I’ve tried to find out myself.”

Why did she join the WAC in the first place?
“Well don’t put this down,” she laughs, “I did it out of gratitude for my country. It showed me people with imagination, joie de vivre (joy of life), and an interest in their fellow man. That’s my impression of America.”

She says she’s interested in the reaction of other Americans to Saigon.

“They expect it to be like the United States, and there is no other country in the world like it. That’s its charm.”

“I’m more like the people here.” She explains. “Wait and it will come to you. I’ve taken up their ways.”