When Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, the Red Cross jumped into action. Under a 1905 act, the government required the Red Cross to supply aid to the wounded and sick during the time of war. In addition, they were charged to uphold communication between United States citizens and the military.
At the time, the government declared the Red Cross would be the only civilian organization to work over seas with the military. Consequently, the Red Cross was charged with keeping the morale of the troops assigned overseas, especially Europe, up. In the beginning, Red Cross volunteers manned canteens, helped out at transportation hubs, to provide food and entertainment for servicemen heading overseas as they mobilized.
Due to the number of military members being sent overseas, the Red Cross needed to increase the number of volunteers helping out. They created a sophisticated campaign t attract a higher class of women. In fact, their requirements were more stringent than those for joining the military. Women had to be at least 25 years old, have a college degree, have an outstanding personality, provide extremely good reference letters, and pass a physical exam. They were so picky that only one in six women who applied, made it into training. They wanted women with the right look, the ability to talk to any soldier on any topic from baseball to music, and be able to make and take wisecracks.
Upon being accepted, women traveled to Washington, D.C. for about six weeks of training at the American University. While there, they learned about history, policies and procedures for the Red Cross, were immunized, received and were fitted for their uniforms, and learned about the military in detail. In addition, they had to learn all the rules contained in a 10 page document covering every aspect of their uniform from pinning collars to no jewelry.
Once they completed their basic training, they learned more about recreation and administration. When they finished all their training, they worked in Washington, D.C. until they received orders to go overseas. Per a suggestion by a retired United States General, the Red Cross created club mobiles to be used in Europe. These club mobiles were actually single decker lime English Green Line buses outfitted with coffee and doughnut making equipment, along with chewing gum, cigarettes, newspapers, and magazines. The Donut Corporation of America donated over 450 donut making machines.
In addition, they had phonograph systems to play music, records, and speakers. There was also a lounge in the back of the bus where soldiers could hang out and talk. Each bus has three American Red Cross volunteers assigned and they got the nick "Donut Dollies" since they had to make a lot of doughnuts. In essence, these girls in the club mobile provided soldiers with a little bit of home they missed. Aside from the women, the men loved the doughnuts and coffee offered. Although each machine could produce 48 dozen doughnuts every hour, it was not enough to keep up with the demand of the soldiers so the Red Cross needed to set up central bakeries so they had enough donuts.
If you wonder, in December 1944, 205 women served over 4.5 million doughnuts to service men stationed in the United Kingdom. The Red Cross club mobiles provided recreational activities for Americans who were stationed no where near the few set up in London and such. Although the uniform was standard, the women knew how to wear a bit of perfume and lipstick to enhance the situation. The women provided conversation to those who needed it or listened to men who wanted to talk about girl friends or family still at home.
These club mobiles were not only found in the United Kingdom. Beginning in June 1944, just after the Normandy invasion, many were sent over to France. These club mobiles used converted GMC trucks manned by three American women who followed the troops as they advanced through France and Europe. These women stayed in towns in-between visiting different basis providing doughnuts, music, talk, coffee, and music, just as they did in the United Kingdom.
Up until VE Day, the club mobiles continued following the army through France, Luxembourg, Germany, and Belgium. Once the war was over, they remained in Europe till the end of 1946, continuing to offer their services. Although they followed the army through Europe, "Donut Dollies" were not completely safe. 54 female volunteers lost their lives serving in Europe for the Red Cross.
When the Korean War or the Vietnam war began, the Red Cross provided "Donut Dollies" to entertain the troops just as they did in World War II. Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. Have a great day.