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This Is The Untold Story of a USO Icon's Vietnam War Experience
By Jean-Marie Bralley
The annals of wartime history are illuminated by the lives of men and women whose deeds of devotion, courage, and sacrifice have been called heroic. Many of these people are well-known and well-lauded. Others are not remembered by subsequent generations, though they left an invaluable and permanent mark on the lives of those they encountered. They are the unsung heroes.
The men and women who valiantly fought in the Vietnam War certainly deserve the title of hero. Yet, a civilian heroine who served in a different capacity during that difficult time also merits particular acknowledgment. Her name? Patricia Krause.
She was the assistant director of the United Service Organizations center at Saigon, the home base for all USO Vietnam and Thailand operations. Subsequently, she worked as the director of public information for the entire USO Vietnam undertaking, spending a total of three-and-a-half years in these capacities from late 1965-68
No matter her official title, Krause did not spare herself in her work, pouring her heart and soul into her service of the troops.
“When you look at the pictures and you see all the different locations, she was everywhere. She seemed to be omnipresent,“ said Michael Case, the USO’s senior digital archivist. “Wherever there were troops, wherever there was a (USO) center … even these places that are out on the front lines. … There’s also the picture of her with the U.S. Army nurses … so she made sure every segment – as much as she could as an individual person – got the benefit of the USO touch.”
A March 1969 article in the Detroit News reported, “Mrs. Krause trudged from one end of Vietnam to another by Jeep and helicopter to photograph GIs for hometown newspapers and to deliver the thousands of gifts and letters sent through the USO.”
Accompanied by military escorts, Krause traveled to the front lines and to remote locations to deliver care packages of food and toiletries to service members, Case said.
In the Detroit News article, Krause described what it was like to hear mortar shells flying past her Saigon residence: “You can hear them coming,” she said. “I was always told to hide under the bed during a raid, but I couldn’t—all my possessions were stored under my bed. All you can do in a situation like that is close your eyes and pray.”
Her self-sacrificing, tireless devotion did not go unnoticed by the military. She was the recipient of multiple certificates and awards of achievement and appreciation from military leaders and other groups.
One recognition came in the form of a nomination by Navy Rear Adm. Kenneth L. Veth, commander of U.S. Naval Forces in Vietnam, for the VFW 1968 Unsung Heroine Award. Veth praised Krause for her work in both her roles with the USO in Vietnam and notes her acceptance of the National Jewish Welfare Board’s Certificate of Achievement in 1966 and the certificate of appreciation she received from Army Gen. William C. Westmoreland, who commanded American forces in Vietnam from 1964-68.
On a lighter but still important point, Veth wrote about Krause’s insistence on dressing femininely despite the less-than-ideal conditions in which she would find herself. The letter stated that Krause “refuses to wear fatigues and boots because ‘the men like to see a girl dressed like a girl.’”
Case said that in her role of director of public information, Krause was the point of contact for people booking Hollywood celebrities who wanted to arrange visits to the troops in Vietnam. Krause also would be their escort during their time overseas, he said.
Even prior to taking over as director of public information, Krause was the host of the Armed Forces Radio Saigon Program, “What’s New at the USO?” according to Veth’s letter.
Case said Krause was also the host of the less frequent television show of the same name. He described these programs as USO newsletters while Veth’s letter called Krause “the voice from home” for deployed service members.
“What’s New at the USO?” also featured celebrity interviews. A 1969 Delaware State News article reported that Krause’s interviewees on the program included big names such as Charlton Heston, James Garner, Lana Turner, Nancy Sinatra and USO icon Bob Hope.
A poignant part of the radio show was USO Mail Call. Veth’s letter explained that Krause quickly realized upon arrival in Vietnam that many service members did not receive correspondence from the homefront, so she decided to change that.
During USO Mail Call, Krause read letters from families who wanted to write to service men, individuals and groups expressing admiration and support and young girls volunteering to be pen pals, Veth wrote. Krause would then offer to send copies of letters as well as names and addresses to service members who would otherwise go for weeks without a single postcard.
Veth noted that her radio program earned her the Certificate of Achievement from the director of Armed Forces Radio Vietnam in 1966. Krause, along with actress and entertainer Martha Raye, were also awarded the special distinction of honorary Green Berets as a thank you for the effort they made to visit Special Forces soldiers at far-flung forward operating bases and outposts, Case said.
Veth’s letter also highlighted Krause’s honor of meeting then-President Lyndon Johnson, who thanked her for her work in Vietnam.
According to the Detroit News, Army Brig. Gen. Leo Benade presented Krause with the U.S. Civilian Service in Vietnam Medal in 1969. Moreover, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported in 1968 that Army Gen. Creighton W. Abrams awarded her a medal and citation for service in Vietnam.
Krause additionally received less formal acknowledgement of her work. One squadron gave Krause a flag hand-made in Vietnam by the local people. It is decorated with a tiger and embroidered with the words, “To Patty.” Case said these types of flags, often seen during the Vietnam era, were given as tokens of recognition and thanks.
Interestingly, Krause did not appear to be a stranger to the military even before joining the USO. A 1956 Seattle Times article reported that Krause – maiden name: Mack – was a member of the Women’s Navy Reserve Officer Corps during her time at Seattle University.
A few Vietnam era news reports also note that Krause herself was a military widow. She had worked previously for the USO in the U.S. and Turkey prior to marrying Navy Lt. Eugene S. Krause. Following his death in a military accident in 1964, she resumed her work with the USO.
Upon her departure from Vietnam, Krause became assistant director of public relations for USO National Headquarters in New York.
The South China Sea Sentinel reported in 1971 that Krause was remarried in 1970 to Cmdr. Mark Hopkins, Jr., taking his last name and moving to the San Miguel military base in the Philippines. While there, she resumed work with the Red Cross for which she had worked before joining the USO in the 1950s.
“Those years in Vietnam are unforgettable,” Krause told the newspaper. “I had an opportunity to travel all over Vietnam visiting remote sites, delivering gifts, just talking with men and bringing them a bit of home.”
Editor’s Note: After years of wondering what happened to Patricia Krause in her later years, USO Senior Digital Archivist Michael Case recently discovered that she died in Henderson, Nevada, on Jan. 19, 2011. She was 78. Despite her passing, her USO legacy is cemented in history.