Despite the diverse regional and group backgrounds of women in Vietnam, their Vietnam service gave them a sense of togetherness, which set them apart from the majority. At the heart of that separation is a thorough and personal understanding of war. No Time for Tears gives the viewer a glimpse into their very souls, as the women reflect on their stories, entwined with the era's historical footage and music. There are even elements of humor and smiles from the interviewees. The result is an emotionally powerful film, but one that does not make the listener feel embarrassed or react with excessively negative feelings or responses.
Of the seven women, only Doris (Lucky) Allen, who served with the army intelligence, adopted the military as a career, and her experiences differ because she did not provide direct services for the soldiers on a one-to-one basis. Liz Allen, Penny Spaulding Newton, Kathy Splinter, and Lilly Lee Adams served as nurses, while Larry Young Hines was with the Red Cross and Cathlene Cordova, the Army Special Services. Separately, each tells a story of the war and its personal impact. While all describe their unique experiences, common themes emerge as they relate their reasons for going to Vietnam, their arrival and first impressions, work and living conditions, personal changes while serving, encounters with sexism, return home, anti-war sentiments, flashbacks, and stress.
Gradually, the listener comes to know and admire each of these women, as their remembrances are vividly told and illustrated with personal pictures and historical footage. The painfulness of their experiences is transparent through their candid comments. We see how a young nurse's naive views of war are reinforced by the era's Army Nurse Corps recruitment video, and view the happy girl from home in the footage of Red Cross volunteers interacting with soldiers. Watching a panel of children talking about how their young lives were affected by their mother's service helps the viewer understand why the war remains a part of women's lives and thought. The need to educate the next generation about war becomes clear as we hear the children tell of how friends hurt them, made fun of them, or were intolerant of medical problems related to their parents' wartime service. We share the frustration of Kathy Splinter, as she says, "I couldn't believe my ten-year-old son was sitting there telling me that women don't go to war." And we share Elizabeth Allen's sadness at having to inform college students that going to war to help relieve human suffering and try to save lives was not crazy or stupid.
No Time for Tears powerfully communicates the Vietnam experiences of the soldiers and those who worked closely with them. While centering on the experiences of women, the historical footage and women's comments describe a range of combat and non-combat experiences that gives the viewer a more realistic glimpse into the lives of both male and female veterans. The last scene (recorded at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.) clearly shows the mutual respect Vietnam veterans have for each other and the importance of the memorial as a healing place.
Historians and educators will find many ways to use the video. No Time for Tears is a fine example of women's history. The subjects selected for interviewing clearly illustrate the complexity of studying a historical event. They provide both a variety of facts and interpretations of the Vietnam experience. But beyond these positives, the film illustrates good historical methodology. The video makes excellent use of oral history while using historical footage to document and verify memories and interpretations given by interviewees. If time and money limit you to only one film to show about Vietnam, the film should be No Time for Tears.
Mary E. Haas
Dept. of Curriculum and Instruction
West Virginia University