Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Martha Raye was a true friend to Special Forces . . . We Love Her . . .

Lt. Colonel Martha "Maggie" Raye

Martha Raye (August 27, 1916 – October 19, 1994) was an American comic actress and singer who performed in movies, and later on television. She was honored in 1969 with an Academy Award as the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award recipient for her volunteer efforts and services to the troops.

Beyond being an entertainer who went to the camps that no other entertainers went to, Martha Raye was also a trained nurse who interrupted her shows to render medical aid to the wounded. She would go to any Fire Base anywhere in Vietnam and visit the troops and bring bear no fear always supported the teams.

Why Did The Guys Love Her?

Martha Raye did USO tours where some celebrities refused to go out of fear in Vietnam . . . and who could blame them, right? Well Martha Raye won the hearts and souls of the Green Berets while she was there, later in life the Governor of California made her an honorary Lieutenant Colonel in the California National Guard, in honor of her service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. After Vietnam, when the American public had turned their backs on the Veterans, Colonel Maggie had a standing invitation to any Green Berets to stop by her home in L.A. and she would fix coffee and just chat for a while. During those dark days, this personal touch meant so much to so many.


Here's one example from the foggy recesses of an old trooper's memory banks: Colonel Maggie was visiting the A and B camps of D Co in the Delta and the S-4 Air Ops was assigned to be her escort officer. She had visited Cai Cai A-431 and moved on to RON somewhere else. They were hit that night. When she heard the news the next day, she ORDERED her slick to go back to Cai Cai so she could see if they needed her. She was a qualified nurse. The escort radioed back for instructions and IIRC, the CO (Colonel Bob Hassinger) said HE wasn't going to countermand Maggie and he didn't think it would be a good idea for anyone else to try either. She ALWAYS put the men first.

A Brother Remembers:She was scheduled to visit our Team in Vietnam. Two things: we had to have a bottle of Vodka dedicated just for her and magic markers handy. If she wanted to write on the walls, to let her.

When Colonel Maggie died, she was buried in the military cemetery at Fort Bragg, in accordance with her wishes. The Green Berets lined up to be her honorary pall bearers. Guys placed so many Special Forces coins in her coffin that they had a hard time lifting it up at her wake.

Colonel Maggie - picture taken at VungTau, Viet Nam in 1967 around January or February.

Politically, Raye was conservative affirming her political views by informing an interviewer, "I am a Republican because I believe in the constitution, strength in national defense, limited government, individual freedom, and personal responsibility as the concrete foundation for American government. They reinforce the resolve that the United States is the greatest country in the world and we can all be eternally grateful to our founding fathers for the beautiful legacy they left us today."

When Col. Maggie died, I was working at SERE (Evasion/Survival) and Richmond Nail told us all kinds of crazy stories about her visits out to the firebases in Vietnam, and how she loved to drink and play cards with the troops. All the Nam-era vets taught us to respect Col Maggie for the way she supported SF during, and especially after the war. There is a shrine to Colonel Maggie at the Special Forces Museum at Fort Bragg; a replica of the living room of her home in Bel Air, where she entertained so many returned soldiers, seeking their way after their return from Vietnam.

Colonel Maggie is a Hero of Special Forces.



  1. Much respect for this lady!

    Was the monsoons of early '68 & I'm thinkin' jungle enshrouded mountains west of Quang Tri & Dong Ha. Word came down that she & some rear-echelon VIPs would be arriving, if we could locate a suitable LZ. We were also informed that, despite the fact that our feet were totally trashed (shriveled, cracked & bleeding) from what they called immersion-foot, we were to state otherwise, if anyone happened to inquire. FTA!!! --- if ya know what I mean.

    We hacked out a very small LZ & she came in for about a ten minute stay. It was fairly brutal terrain & I was totally impressed that she actually wanted to be there.

    Also, remember singer Connie Francis doing an unscheduled 15 or 20 minutes for about 15 wounded troops. We really appreciated it.

  2. Hey Sean,

    I remembered doing a post about her last year? You had dropped her name on a post you were doing and I decided to do a bit of research on her and there was a lot! She was also a nurse. She was uniformly loved by the GI's. Nancy Sinatra was also very popular with the troops for the myriad of USO shows she did. A lot of GI's especially talk fondly for those women that made the time to go see them.

  3. TomR,armed in TexasAugust 27, 2014 at 6:35 PM

    I saw her in Sep or Oct67. She put on a show at Soc Trang helicopter base in the Delta. The next day a large number of those helicopter crewmen and advisors became casualties in an operation that went sour. Maggie gave a pint of blood and then went to work in the small OR as a nurse. Quite the trooper and very proficient at using expletives.

    Later in my SF days guys told me of her drinking prowess while visiting A camps and FOBs.

  4. Met Maggie by accident at MACV, HQ. We talked (in the hallway) for about 5 minutes. A wonderful down to earth Lady. No Hollywood stuck up. She made me feel like we were old friends. I will always cherish that encounter and conversation.