Lt Col Maggie
Martha Raye and SF troops, South Viet Nam, 1968
(photo by Lou Gutierrez)
The OSCAR was presented to her on 14 April 1969 by Bob Hope during the
41st Academy Awards Show.
One of the three stars for Maggie on the Hollywood Walk
The most unforgivable oversight of TV is that her shows were not taped.
This is a great story about a great
woman. We were unaware of her
credentials or where she is buried.
Somehow I just can't see Brittany
Spears, Paris Hilton, or Jessica
Simpson doing what this woman (and the other USO women, including Ann
Margaret & Joey Heatherton) did for our troops in past wars. Most of the
old time entertainers were made out of a lot sterner stuff than today's
crop of activists and whiners.
The following is from an Army
aviator who takes a trip down memory lane: "It was just before
Thanksgiving '67 and we were ferrying dead and wounded from a large GRF
west of Pleiku. We had run out of body bags by noon, so the Hook (CH-47
CHINOOK) was pretty rough in the back. All of a sudden, we heard a
'take-charge' woman's voice in the rear. There was the singer and
actress, Martha Raye, with a SF (Special Forces) beret and jungle
fatigues, with subdued markings, helping the wounded into the Chinook,
and carrying the dead aboard. 'Maggie' had been visiting her SF 'heroes'
We took off, short of fuel, and
headed to the USAF hospital pad at
Pleiku. As we all started unloading our sad pax's [passengers], a 'Smart
Ass' USAF Captain said to Martha.... Ms Ray, with all these dead and
wounded to process, there would not be time for your show!
To all of our surprise, she pulled
on her right collar and said '.....Captain, see this eagle? I am a full
'Bird' in the US Army Reserve,
and on this is a 'Caduceus' which means I am a Nurse, with a surgical
specialty....now, take me to your wounded.'
He said, ' Yes M Ďam.... Follow me.'
Several times at the Army Field Hospital in Pleiku, she would 'cover' a
surgical shift, giving a nurse a well-deserved break.
Martha is the only woman buried in
the SF (Special Forces) cemetery at Ft Bragg.
Hand Salute! A great lady..
Noonie Fortin, Martha Raye's biographer told TruthOrFiction.com that
Raye was lovingly called "Colonel Maggie" but the rank of Lt. Colonel
and membership of the Green Beret Special Forces unit were both
honorary. The entertainer was also an honorary Colonel in the United
States Marine Corps.
Fortin, who wrote "Memories of Maggie," also said that it was not
uncommon for Ms. Raye to jump in to assist in caring for wounded
serviceman throughout her history with the USO. Fortin said "She would
often pull rank, pointing out the oak leaf or bird on her collar and
Green Beret as well as the nurse's emblem. Likewise she often helped out
in the surgical units and wards."
The Department of Defense issues non-military identification cards to
civilians who accompany armed forces to present in the event of capture.
Each card contains the person's name and vital statistics such as
height, weight, eye color and blood type. The cards also have what is
called a "Geneva Conventions category." Category IV issued to such
volunteers which is a rank equivalent to majors, lieutenant-colonels,
Fortin told TruthOrFiction.com that "Maggie took it a step further and
began wearing a uniform with the rank on it. As time progressed so did
the honorary rank she held. By the time Vietnam ended she was a
Lieutenant Colonel for the Army and Colonel for the Marines but wasn't
really a member of either branch. Everything was honorary including the
ribbons that she would often wear though some years later were actually
awarded to her."
Raye received numerous awards and commendations from the military in
appreciation for her years of service and in 1993, President Bill
Clinton awarded the entertainer with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Raye died on the 19th October, 1994 and was buried among veterans of
many wars at the Fort Bragg Cemetery in Fayetteville, NC. Special
request had been made for her to be buried there since she wasn't
The Colonel Maggie web site is maintained by Fortin and has a impressive
display of Martha Raye's biography and awards.
[Click to visit
the Colonel Maggie site]
Entrance to the Main Post Cemetery, Fort Bragg, NC
looking across the cemetery grounds, it invokes memories
of so many other national cemeteries
marker for Martha Raye, labeled simply as "Civilian", in the Fort Bragg
Main Post Cemetery, NC.
(above photos courtesy of Lou