After a visit to the War Room exhibit at the Woodman Institute Museum last fall, Darby Reynolds decided to donate her uniform and medals to the Dover museum. This donation is the first related to the Vietnam War and displays her dress uniform with medals along with photos of the Brink Hotel bombing where she was wounded.
She spent 26½ years in the Navy, retiring with the rank of captain. She was one of the first females to serve in Vietnam, serving at the very beginning when it wasn’t considered a war.
Capt. Darby Reynolds and three others were the first Navy nurses to receive a Purple Heart in Vietnam. The 1957 Dover High School graduate was injured during the Saigon Christmas Eve bombing in 1964. She was recognized for her selfless response assisting others that were injured…and her response to receiving the recognition: “None of us felt we deserved it because we were just doing our job.”
She was home on leave for Christmas in 1963 looking forward to receiving orders for her first assignment after spending two years at Pensacola, Florida. Darby requested an assignment in Japan, Spain or Italy, wanting to travel. Orders arrived at her parents Dover home on Christmas Eve from her chief nurse. Along with the news that Reynolds had been promoted to lieutenant, the assignment was Saigon, Vietnam.
Wearing her winter dress blue uniform, Lt. Reynolds and 100 men, mostly Army soldiers complete with rifles, on a cargo plane with wooden seats and no windows, landed under sniper fire on a runway at Saigon airport in March 1964.
Unaware that she was injured during the Christmas Eve bombing, her first response was to join the other nurse and immediately begin triage and treatment of the 100 injured. Two persons who were in the next room next to Lt Reynolds died when the floor above fell on them. One of the corpsmen noticed that Reynolds was bleeding and needed several stitches. She also had received a concussion when a door hit her. During the presentation of medals, the presenter said, “These four will be recorded by historians as the first women members of the U.S. Armed Forces to receive the Purple Heart in Vietnam.”
The museum’s collections also represent Dover soldiers who served during the War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I and World War II.
These collections are available for viewing as part of the museum’s regular tour