• river vale
  • Bergen
  • September 18, 1940
  • November 30, 1967
  • Army
  • RANK:
  • CAPT
  • KIA
  • South Vietnam


Eleanor Grace Alexander was born on September 18, 1940, in New York, to Mr. and Mrs. Francis H. Alexander.  She had one brother, Frank.  Her home of record is River Vale, NJ.  She attended St. Michael's High School in Manhattan, graduating in 1957.  Eleanor later graduated from D'Youville College School of Nursing, Buffalo, NY, in 1961 with her BS.  She worked at Madison Hospital for six years in upstate New York and moved to River Vale, NJ, to be closer to her family. 

Eleanor joined the Army Nurse Corps in May 1967, and attained the rank of Captain.  After finishing her basic training at the Brooke Army Medical Center in Houston, she was placed at the 85th Evacuation Hospital in Qui Nhon, Vietnam in June 1967.  Alexander was killed on November 30, 1967.  She was with twenty-six other people in a transport plane that crashed three miles south of their station. 

She is the only woman from New Jersey killed in action.  The town of River Vale has dedicated a park in her honor.

Since I was a young enlisted truck driver with the 85th Evacuation Hospital during 1967-68, I had no conversational contact with Captain Eleanor Alexander who was a nurse and officer.  However, I do remember her well because of her beauty, and I noticed her because she was a subject of admiring conversation by all of my enlisted buddies.  She was a remarkable looking young woman who was always smiling and bright-eyed.  If I remember correctly, she had, full, red-auburn hair that fell almost to her shoulders. Also, from memory, she was probably about 5' 4" or possibly taller, slim, with an excellent figure which naturally attracted the devoted attention of we lonely young guys.

When word came that we had lost Captain Alexander, everyone was very sad.  We had lost other young men from our unit, and I have to say that we had hardened ourselves against such losses and expected them.  Captain Alexander, however, was different, and her loss was felt by everyone, and grief cast a cloud over the 85th for a day or two.  I think that after we lost her, we all realized that we had idealized and loved her a little, and that she had made our lives in Vietnam a bit more bearable.

The 85th Evacuation Hospital at Qui Nhon where Captain Eleanor Alexander lived and worked received seriously wounded Americans, allied and enemy soldiers.   The doctors and nurses attempted to stabilize patients enough for transport home, or in the case of enemy POWs, to be turned over to the South Vietnamese for internment.  This is what Captain Alexander, other nurses, doctors and medics did.  Nurses and doctors had a separate enclosed compound made up of wood and screen wire buildings, with rooms much like the layout of a motel.  This was located near Quonset hut hospital wards some of which were air-conditioned. This is where patients were treated and recovered.  The Quonset huts were connected by a long, tin roof covered cement walk that ran beside them.  On the east end of this walk is where wounded were triaged and admitted.  On the opposite end to the right side of this walk was a helicopter landing pad, where choppers landed day or night, depending on how heavy the fighting in the surrounding countryside was.  We could always tell how the war was going by the level of activity at the landing pad, and on rare occasions, everyone had to carry stretchers when helicopters landed one after another.  We were located about 1/4 mile from the main airstrip at Qui Nhon.  The 85th was located about 1/2 mile from the South China Sea.  There was a beach, but it was pretty dirty.  You could buy large shrimp from local fishermen and cook them yourself, which we often did.  The entire area was quite beautiful and exotic, except for the war going on, and the poverty of the people who had been displaced by the war who arrived in Qui Nhon with no means of making a living.

The area streets and airport around the old 85th compound still exist today and can be seen on Internet maps and photos of present day Qui Nhon.

Researched history and events that contributed to Captain Alexander's death:

The following is according to Troung Nhu Tang, Justice Minister for the Viet Cong, and came from his book Vietcong Memoir:

In late 1967, North Vietnamese General Giap, talked the Viet Cong into increasing attacks and planning a unified offensive against the Americans.  In his memoirs, Trong Nhu Tang, Justice Minister for the VC, explains how half of the VC were non-communists and nationalists and were a potential threat to the future success of the North Vietnamese unification of Vietnam.  General Giap convinced (and goaded) the Viet Cong that the Americans could be beaten with unified attacks.  These raids and attacks began to occur around November 1967, about the time Captain Eleanor Alexander flew to Pleiku to help with wounded there, and they began occurring all over Vietnam.  The VC finally did attack in a large, coordinated, unified effort during the Tet Offensive of 1968, a little over a month after Eleanor Alexander was killed.  The VC lost around 100,000 and the Americans had around 20,000, killed or wounded.  This action effectively destroyed the Viet Cong as a fighting force, and the North Vietnamese Army took over the war against the Americans after this point.  This is what General Giap intended so he would not be faced with political divisions or civil war after the Americans were driven out of  Vietnam.

Written by Harold David Parks, Vietnam Veteran

Source: Frank Alexander (brother), Harold David Parks (Vietnam Veteran) and NJVVMF.


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