Meet an original "Donut Dolly" in our ongoing Service & Sacrifice series about East Tennessee Veterans.
Donuts, coffee, cards, and conversation were among the distractions offered by a group of American Red Cross workers to US troops serving near the front lines in Europe during World War II. The trucks they drove were outfitted with mobile kitchens and helped them earn the nickname "Donut Dollies."
"Just to talk to us meant so much (to the troops)," recalled Gerry Kelley.
In our on camera conversation Ms. Kelley explained the loss of her first love, a combat fighter pilot, drove her to sign up for service in the Red Cross. Once overseas, at the age of twenty-four, she experienced firsthand the horrors of war. For months she served on the grounds of the concentration camp at Dachau. She arrived after it had been liberated but there was still blood on the walls inside the buildings.
"It made a very lasting impression on me," said Ms. Kelley.
She does has mostly fond memories of her two years of service with the Red Cross. From 1945 to 1947 she learned to drive a three-quarter ton truck, to ice skate, and to ski in some postcard settings across Europe.
At age ninety-two Ms. Kelley has saved close to a half-dozen albums loaded with dozens of personal pictures that chronicle her days in the Red Cross and coming of age during her service.