An Army brat whose father served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, Keith, 19, held a full-time clerical position with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Saigon’s Cholon district when she was invited to interview as AFVN’s weather girl. She got the job and the immediate notoriety that went along with it, but because it was without pay, she retained her USAID position.
Billed as the Saigon studio’s “bubbling bundle of barometric brilliance,” Bobbie was a definite troop morale booster. Troops assigned to base camps with access to television looked forward to her daily, anything-can-happen weather updates. Her TV trademarks were stylish miniskirts, groovy frugs, naughty winks, and that suggestive sign-off: “I wish everyone a pleasant evening weather-wise and other-wise.”
Bobbie did more than report daily weather conditions across South Vietnam, out-of-country R& R sites, and American hometowns. Her broadcasts included lively skits and surprises that provided comic relief in the face of wartime tensions and tragedy. She once rode a motorcycle onto the set, flew around the studio on a broomstick on Halloween, allowed herself to be doused with buckets of water whenever reporting on monsoon rains, and even appeared in a bikini with temperatures stenciled onto her body.
Troops out in the bush may not have seen her broadcasts, but they knew Keith from the pinup pages of their unit newspapers or her hundreds of firebase visits, where she’d charm the war fighters with her winsome smile, personal warmth, and girl-back-home sincerity.
“The experiences I had because of the show were invaluable,” Keith noted in a 2009 issue of Vietnam magazine. “I mean, I wasn’t paid, but it was worth more than a million dollars, because I got to see the men and the country, from the DMZ to the Delta.”
Bobbie was indeed the consummate volunteer. If she wasn’t helping in mess facilities and visiting hospital patients in Saigon after her day job at USAID, she was traveling by any mode possible and spending most of her weekends in the field visiting troops at remote fire bases or evacuation hospitals.
Keith left Vietnam in 1969, having earned the respect and appreciation of thousands of Soldiers like 9th Infantry Division veteran Ed Whitmarsh, who remarked, “Bobbie Keith brought as much to the war effort as anyone could. As young soldiers, support was extremely important. We received some from our families, but little from our Country. Nurses helped save our bodies. Bobbie helped save our souls and humanity. Where do girls like her get their courage?”