Lieutenant (junior grade) Anne Darby Reynolds arrived in Vietnam in February 1964. At 25 years of age, this recent graduate of St. Anselm’s College in Manchester, New Hampshire, was the youngest Navy nurse at the Station Hospital Saigon. She spent much of her time in Saigon working late night shifts in the surgical ward or the intensive care unit. When she wasn’t treating the wounded, she was marching up and down the hotel’s five flights of stairs delivering food to patients. Even on her days off, Darby devoted precious time hunting down scarce hospital supplies at various Saigon apothecaries, often paying for items with her own money.
Reynolds shared an apartment with three other nurses in the Brink Bachelor Officers Quarters (BOQ)—a drab seven story hotel leased by the Navy to provide housing for American officers in Saigon. Commander Ann Richman, the head nurse, instructed Navy nurses to always travel in pairs and never leave their quarters after dark. “We heard that they had a price on the heads of the medical personnel,” Reynolds later told an historian, “A nurse was worth $25 dollars and a physician was worth $50.”
On Christmas Eve, 1964, Reynolds stood in her living room and gazed across the street hoping to see Bob Hope, who had just arrived in town for his annual Christmas tour. She had her faced pressed against a French door when a 200-pound bomb in a panel truck went off in the Brink’s garage. The door blew into the room and glass broke on top of Reynolds, cutting her in the leg. Since she was on call that evening, her first thought was, “Oh boy. Hospital OR [operating room] call. Here we go!” Dazed, Reynolds tried to go to her bedroom to retrieve her sneakers but was ordered to evacuate by another officer. She noticed fire and smoke as she made her way to the building’s courtyard, and then tried to assist the victims. When the ambulances arrived, she got into the first one and took some patients to the hospital six miles away. Reynolds had no idea she was bleeding until a corpsman said, “You need to be sutured so I am putting a suture set aside for you.” Reynolds worked on patients until everyone was taken care of before requesting that her leg be examined.
The Brink BOQ bombing destroyed three floors of the building, killing two U.S. servicemen and injuring 63 Americans, an Australian Army officer, and 43 Vietnamese civilians. Four Navy nurses in the building, including Reynolds, were wounded in the attack and each one insisted on treating victims at the scene and helping with disaster response before tending to their own injuries. All received Purple Heart decorations for their combat wounds.