Minutes before 6 a.m., Army nurse Martha Green woke with a jolt to a thunderous explosion half a mile away. It was the steamy morning of June 8, 1969, and she was in her bed at Chu Lai base at the height of the Vietnam War.
Green’s husband returned with tragic news: A Soviet-built rocket had struck the hospital, and Sharon Lane, 25, a fellow nurse from Ohio, had been killed instantly.
“The news struck me like lightning,” said Green, who’d chat with Lane while stationed on the same shift. “She was a very sweet, quiet young woman. The sadness was really palpable.”
Today, Lane is immortalized in books and statues, and she even helped inspire characters in a television show. Among the roughly 11,000 American women stationed in Vietnam, Lane was the only one killed by hostile fire during the decadeslong war. Seven other women died in accidents and illnesses.
Her biographer, Philip Bigler, calls her “a symbol” of nurses at war. Lynda Van Devanter, the nurse whose memoir inspired “China Beach,” a late 1980s drama about women in Vietnam, recalled the searing shock of Lane’s death the very day she arrived in Vietnam.