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Kevin Escapes Palace Bombing Through Flying Ducks

[ Admin Note: Kevin left these comments to another Post about the Palace bombing. I’ve moved it here for all to read and so it won’t get lost in the Archives. You can read the original here. ]

Geeze Ken, you were out of the loop, and you went to school?

Not me!

For those of you who are saying to yourself “Who the heck is Kevin Wells” and by way of explanation, I was the little fat kid that sold candy and popcorn at unreasonably high prices to Alhambra patrons.

Being a little fat kid, I took my mother’s advice and started going to the Cerc every morning at about 6:00 AM to do laps in the pool, then went back home out Ngo Dinh Koi (two miles from ACS) for breakfast and the bus to school.

That morning, the taxi driver that was always waiting for me was in his usual spot for the daily fare home. We left the Cerc, turned right toward the Palace and took the left towards the airport and ACS. This was the street that aligned with the end of the Palace on the right as it was viewed from the front.

Just as we made the left turn away from the Palace, an A4 flew over at less than 100 feet right down the street with his smoke generator on and passed directly over the Palace. I remembered thinking that buzzing the Palace was a really bad idea because of the track vehicles with the machine guns on the Palace perimeter.

Next came the trailing aircraft which released a napalm that hit the end wall of the Palace. Things got intense very quickly. The driver was driving as fast as those little cabs could go, but he was looking out the back window. I started looking out the windshield, mostly because he was not, to see one of those conical hats and a cage of ducks bounce off the hood, the windshield and disappear over the roof. (Ducks and the person involved survived, the bicycle did not.).

By this time the perimeter guard had caught up with current events but had no target. That changed when the first aircraft returned and finished the job with high explosive, also hitting the end of the building.

And me without a camera. I had carried a camera as an article of clothing for years, but for some reason, not that day.

I made it home, tore in the house, shouted that the Palace had been bombed, dashed for the camera and headed out the door only to be stopped by my father’s simple question about where the HELL did I think I was going?

We had no phone (who did?) and relied on word-of-mouth for news. The rest of the story, some undoubtedly true, came to us the usual way, around the pool at the Cerc.

Kevin L. Wells

6 comments to Kevin Escapes Palace Bombing Through Flying Ducks

  • RandySeely

    Kevin L. Wells said “For those of you who are saying to yourself “Who the heck is Kevin Wells” and by way of explanation, I was the little fat kid that sold candy and popcorn at unreasonably high prices to Alhambra patrons.”

    Migod…I remember buying bags of popcorn and candy from you back “in the day.” As a matter of fact, I seem to recall a candy bar with chocolate that was turning white. Any chance of getting a refund? 🙂 Nice to see a name with another memory of Saigon! Best regards…Randy

  • Kevin L. Wells

    Randy,

    My policy was cheerful refunds or replacements on the spot, you shoulda complained! Geeze, you would think the Commissary would have had better stuff!

    Reselling Commissary goods was illegal, but apparently small time criminals like me were beneath notice. I must have been something of a nuisance because the Commissary finally set up a concession stand and charged Commissary prices rather than my retail prices. And the popcorn was better.

    I ran into a former customer on the streets of Washington, DC in the summer of 1962 and his greeting was more or less:

    You again! You kept on suckering me with those prices but I kept on buying so I guess it was OK.

    Kevin

  • Admin

    ROFL … heck, all the good stuff never made it to the commissary … the good stuff was sold off the back of the trucks (into the ‘black market’) somewhere between the port docks and the commissary docks … just a way of life in Saigon … lol 🙂

    Strange how the commissary shelves could be empty .. . yet, every local merchant in Saigon had FULL shelves of USA goods … for which the commissary was awaiting an incoming shipment … hmmm … puzzling, it was .. it was … lol

    Then of course there was that place, based in Thailand, which specialized in supplying USA goods “not available locally” … Amazing how you could contact them in Thailand, than within 24 to 48 hours they delivered your order right to your door in Saigon … dang! … that was FAST shipping all the way from USA (supposedly) …

    Bob

  • Randy

    Kevin: Sure…the commissary-concession stand popcorn might’ve been better……..but I’m sure their concession wouldn’t have contributed fodder for this website. Your entrepreneurial spirit of those days makes the foundation of the website the entertainment that it is today! Regard…Randy!

  • shanna

    We were there for the palace bombing. My sister Pati and Bob (I’m not sure if my brother Tom was)but I remember being hauled out of the ACS and driven to our home on Phan Than Gen (sp). All of us ran to the roof garden on top of our house and watched the planes flying over and dropping the bombs. They looked like large insects. We stood there until the planes left and the bombing was over. We waited. Our mother, Ruby Nell Hanna taught kindergarden in a building nest to the Palace. Like good BRATS – we didn’t cry, we just waited. We found out later that our father had been the one called to disarm the bomb. It had fallen through several floors and sat on the floor just above where the Nhu’s and Diem were having breakfast. I wonder how the war would have changed if that bomb had made it all the way down.
    Sandy Hanna

  • Suellen Oliver Campbell

    Dear Kevin~
    Just found, thanks to you and your Naiad, it seems. Thank you for sharing the info so others could locate me. I am excited to be on the Saigon Kids list, as I often wondered what happened to so many of my ACS friends. Perhaps now I can get some of those questions answered.
    As for questions, I am curious which lovely Lander Lily you married. Like ACSkids, we are a rather small sorority of Lander girls, and I expect I may have known your wife while in college.
    I did graduate from Lander in 1967, married my P.C. fellow, and 42 yrs. later live in Houston, TX. I just spent a week in the Boston area with my college roommate, DeeDee Galloway. We have only seen each other 4 times in the 42 yrs. since graduation. She had a sister several yrs. ahead of us, so perhaps your wife would know Penelope,”Nappy” Galloway, too.
    Would love to hear your story. Your article about the palace bombing was wonderfully written, and I enjoyed your first-hand account of that day.

    We left Saigon in 1960, so experienced only a few minor incidences during 1958-60…some beheadings(not “minor” to those involved!) and the Marine movie bombing, which resulted in having our school bus take different routes for a few days. Other than that, we lived a rather carefree, innocent life during a quieter time.

    Hope to hear from you, Kevin. Thank you again for helping with the search for me.
    Suellen Oliver Campbell

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