The Donut Dollies and the I Corp Wrestling Tournament

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Da Nang, 1968, Avis is kneeling in front
By Doug Cerretti

I have previously written about Avis Schwab and her service as a Donut Dolly in Vietnam from 1967 to 1967. 

Young, single and college educated women volunteer for a Red Cross program to support the GIs in Vietnam. Armed only with smiles and hand-made games, the Donut Dollies risked their lives every day to achieve their mission of cheering up and bringing a sense of home to the U.S. troops. 

The Dollies were always thinking of new projects to interact with the GIs. One day, Avis suggested that they organize a wrestling tournament. 

Wall to wall people attended the unadvertised event
Where did Avis get that idea, you may ask. Avis’s favorite professor at Western Washington University was also the wrestling coach. Avis was a physical education and health major and had a particular interest in athletics. She had attended many wrestling matches and thoroughly enjoyed the excitement of the sport. 

So, the Donut Dollies went to work... where can we have the tournament, can we get mats, etc. The wrestling tournament took on a life of its own with everything coming together. However, there was one thing they could not find in Vietnam, trophies. She wrote her parents and they contacted A-1 Trophy Co in Olympia and D & E Trophy Co in Tacoma and they enthusiastically donated the trophies.

Trophies awarded were donated from Washington companies

The D & E Trophy Co included a note, “We hope all goes well. Let us know what else we can do.” 

On June 16, 1968, the I Corp Wrestling Tournament was held at the Red Cross Center, Freedom Hill, Hill 327, Danang Run. It was standing room only with GIs spilling out the door. Avis was surprised by the number as they had no advertisement for the tournament; clearly word of mouth played a big role and they came from all over, some from the DMZ. 

Enlisted GI vs Officer
The match that elicited the most excitement pitted an enlisted versus an officer. Avis remembered that the referee was Marine Major Spinella and she wondered how he found a referee’s shirt. Also, one of the wrestlers actually had a singlet. Avis did note he (Navy) was the most accomplished wrestler. Not surprisingly most of the winners were Marines, OORAH! 

A very entertaining day for the troops and just another day of work for the Donut Dollies.

--Photos courtesy of Avis Schwab


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