Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. --
Master Sgt. Barbara Dulinsky arrived in Vietnam, after an 18-hour flight, March 18, 1967, at Bien Hoa Air Force Base, about 30 miles from Saigon. When she stepped off the plane, she made history, becoming the first female Marine to serve in a combat zone.
When Dulinsky arrived at the airfield in Vietnam, she was held overnight due to safety concerns on the unsecure roads. The next day she reported to her command in Saigon and was given a briefing on the security concerns of living in insecure billeting. The briefing included guidance on recognizing booby traps and checking cabs before entering to ensure there was a handle inside.
Dulinsky enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1951 and volunteered to deploy to Vietnam in 1967. When it was approved, she spent a year there as an administrative chief with the Military Assistance Command in Vietnam (MACV), at Tan Son Nhut Air Base near Saigon. She was one of 36 female Marines to serve in Vietnam between 1967 and 1973, all assigned to MACV except for two Lt. Cols. serving as historians with the Military History Branch.
In a Feb. 9, 1968 letter, both wry and serious, Dulinsky described the surreal experience of living in a city teeming with danger:
“We are still on a 24-hour curfew, with all hands in utilities . . . MACV personnel (women included) were bussed down to Koeppler compound and issued 3 pair of jungle fatigues and a pair of jungle boots. Right now, most of us don’t look the picture of ‘The New Image.’ Whew! Hardly! I can’t determine at night, if I’m pooped from the workday or from carrying around these anvils tied to my feet called combat boots. Our Young-uns (and me too inside) were scared; but you’d have been proud of them. They turned to in the mess, cashiering, washing dishes, serving and clearing tables”
Mitzi Manning, a fellow Marine and close friend of Dulinsky, described her as epitomizing the crusty senior staff NCO and was a hard as nails drill instructor, but underlying was one of the most intelligent and artistic women she had known in the Corps.
Dulinsky retired from the Marine Corps in 1974. She was living in Kent, Washington when she passed away of natural causes in 1995 at the age of 66.
Graphic design by Lance Cpl. Mikayla R. Anaya, MCBQ CommStrat
Pictured: Lance Cpl. Kelly Kwantoro and Master Sgt. Babara Dulinsky
Historical Information obtained from:
A History of Women Marines 1946-1977, Col Mary V. Stremlow;
Marine Corps History Division; Task and Purpose, James Clark