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Kinh-Do Bombing, Sept. 1963 & Other Memory Flashes

Mary-Anne (Purvis) Sullivan here. Saigon 1962-1964 (ACS grades 5 & 6).

I was researching the first bombing in hopes of getting some dates clear and luckily/happily stumbled upon this cite, decided to register. I read several of the blog comments on the first bombing of the movie theater and remember it a bit differently in some respects…probably because I experienced it not through the eyes of a brave-faced teen in high school, but through the eyes of a very scared eleven year old girl in strange place. Lady and the Tramp was playing. I was sooo excited to see the movie…I was invited as a guest of my friend and classmate Jeannie Adams for the movie and a sleep-over. As the kid of a businessman, we had no PX/Movie/Commissary or Medical Dispensary privileges, so seeing the first movie since my arrival in June of 1962 was HUGE! Jeannie wore glasses and wanted to sit way down front for better view, but I asked if we could sit more towards the back to be able to take in the whole screen. Movie started, kids moving around like ants in and out by the bathrooms down by the exit (on left of screen)…and then the BOOMs! (Later, I was told it was not a “bomb” but several grenades tossed in the restroom area?) Screams, some crying, someone telling us to get out, some kids running up the aisles…older ones walking…I moved fast to the end of our row, turned and saw Jeannie still standing by our seats staring. Went back, grabbed her wrist and drug her with me….she regained herself and we moved quickly. Not having a clue as to where I should go or what I should do … I didn’t get much time to scope out the place before the movie started. We rushed up the aisle and came out down the steps to the lobby and were told to stay low near the wall. We kind of crawled toward the ticket window/office area and I tugged on the first green uniform I saw. The airman sat us near the office and proceeded to call Jeannie’s Dad (Gen. Milton Adams). With no phones at my house where we lived [out off Cong Ly (extended) out by Tan San Nhut Airport] -and no way to contact parents, I was very thankful to be Jeannie’s friend that night and relieved when her father arrived to pick us up and my parents advised.

Luck seemed to play a part in those years for us…we weren’t hurt in that bombing unlike the students and military members in the Kinh-Do-Redux. God Bless them for their bravery and valor.

The theater was scary and alarming…but my brothers and I had already escaped one other near-miss in our first year in Saigon in 1962. We lived along Hai Ba Truong extended at the time…about half-way between inner city and airport. Mom and Dad were picked by friends for a function, leaving Dan, myself and younger (baby) brother George at home with the maid. We heard commotion down the street and saw a core of rabblerousers gathering momentum and people as they marched along the bicycle path of the main road, burning the Vietnamese flag and some figure in effigy. The maid came up and told us they were “VC” and that we should hide… we doused the lights and hid in the dark alcove on the upstairs outside balcony, hid from view by a side brick work. My brother Dan grabbed the machete, our maid held onto my baby brother and we watched as the group of rioters moved past our home, carrying the burning figure. At that moment, the police showed up and the crowd dispersed..a couple guys jumping our wall, and several others turning down the alley road towards the BOQ housing behind our house. The guys that jumped our wall, shook our french doors but moved quickly back over the back gate into the alley-way as they were honked & hissed at and bitten by our two very unfriendly pet geese…they got a shoe off of one of them. However, four maybe five “VC” were caught in the very back house that I believe was occupied by a Navy Commander and his wife. The rioters had explosives on them and they were caught before they could blow themselves up I guess.

CLOSE CALLS

My family was also there during the Coup on Nov 1, 1963 when Diem and his brother Ngu were assassinated in the tunnels under the zoo. My older brother Dan had a wild day that afternoon as he had gone with some buddies on a motorbike down to the Cerc Sportif and was eventually delivered back to our home in a caravan that contained (I believe) Gen. Westmoreland and several hangers on. Westmoreland’s aide Col. Klinghaven and family lived next door to us. That was a day. We had helicopters with American troops landing at this Vietnamese orphanage school across from our house, forming a perimeter around our whole neighborhood. My Dad drove his old Peugeot station wagon down into Saigon to look for his son and came back empty handed only to see Dan drive up in the General’s car. Relief! We had 40 stray Americans stay with us that night. My Mom had to send the maids out to the very local market to get food to feed everyone.

It was amazing to read the blogs and comments. I’m glad to be able to share.

It seems my whole life has been lived in a war…when my parents finished serving, my brothers did and now my sons are fighting. Full circle.

9 comments to Kinh-Do Bombing, Sept. 1963 & Other Memory Flashes

  • Burt Parker

    Wow!

    Mary Ann, what a nice heartfelt report upon those days and those times. Thanx…

    Regards,

    Burt

  • Admin

    Mary-Anne … WELCOME! πŸ™‚

    Thank you so very much for your wonderful Post and sharing your memories and experiences with all us Saigon Kids.

    We welcome you as a Saigon Kid and hope you will visit often. It is always so wonderful to reconnect with another Saigon Kid who shares our very special bond of so long ago in Saigon.

    If you have not already done so, we invite you to please subscribe to our Newsletter and Register on our Photo Gallery. The links are on the Menu on the right side of this page ——->

    Again, on behalf of all Saigon Kids … Welcome! And, please come back often as we are very happy to have you join us … πŸ™‚

    Bob

  • Randy Seely

    Mary Ann: Nice perspective of your time in Saigon…thanks! I think more SK’s who were in the lower grades should post their memories, as well. The ‘brave faced teens’ weren’t necessarily brave-faced…we just had a different, more self-centered look at things that were going on. Thanks for posting your take on the way things were! Regards! Randy

  • Ken

    Mary-Anne, you must have done some wonderful research as your above post is amazingly full of details that I have long forgotten…names of streets, etc. I was not in Saigon at the time of bombing but of course I knew about it….I think I went to that theater once to see West Side Story and afterwards all the guys had to have purple shirts including yours truely. Keep blogging and all the best – Ken

  • MASullivan

    Bob, Randy, Ken and Burt…Thank you for your great comments. I have to get my brothers on board as well. My oldest brother,Paul Purivs (who sadly died in 1998) attended junior and senior year at Brent School in Baguio, Phillippines, graduating in 1964. Not sure if he got to know any of the Saigon teens during his holidays home. Next oldest brother, Dan 15, although I think he was in 8th grade when we left in ’64, but he remembers many more names, faces and places & more accurately than I do. As a lower grade kid, my world was pretty small in Saigon, and I was only taking things in…not putting them together at the time. My family lived on the local since we weren’t Embassy or Military. However, that life-style was a plus in a way since it expanded our circles with Vietnamese and French with whom we socialized and got to know Saigon because we shopped at the Central Market, the arcades and shops along Tu Do street and moved in a lot of places with our non-dip license plates. Our family did attend the Catholic Church with Father Crawford. My older brothers were altar boys. I can’t remember the name of the Church just now…Our Lady of something perhaps? Anyhooo…..SO many memories. My Dad returned to Saigon with the USG in 1973-1974. I never knew where my Dad actually worked for a long time. Thought he couldn’t keep a job he made us memorize so many employers. Very interesting times. Thanks so much for the warm welcome!

  • Admin

    Mary-Anne, some of the Saigon Kids attended Brent school, also. In fact, Roy has put together a Brent school reunion to take place right before the ACS Saigon reunion. Also, there are several French kids who are part of our Saigon Kids group… ya just might run into some old friends here. Also, the French kids from Saigon have a web site too. Here’s the link to the Brent Kids web site: http://www.brentkids.com/
    Here’s the link to the French Kids web site: http://www.lesanciensdesaigon.fr.st/

    If you and your brother are in contact or can locate any of the kids from the lower grades and/or anyone who was a kid in Saigon … send them this way … the more the better πŸ™‚

    Thank you for sharing your pictures in the Photo Gallery. I had to smile when I saw your ID picture … they never let me ‘smile’ for ID pictures, so always ended up with State Dept ID cards with what looked like “mug shots” on them .. lol

    Have a great day and keep those memories coming … πŸ™‚

    Bob
    “Kind Words Go A Long Way”

  • Ken

    Mary-Ann, May I ask you for your email? I want to ask for your help and it would be easier with a direct email. Thanks. Ken

  • KK German

    Mary Ann, Karen Klingenhagen here. Didn’t you go by Tweetie Purvis? We used to play but you were a couple years older? My sister and I were at the theatre bombing, too. Wasn’t your birthday Feb 29th? Hope you answer back. I see this is a really old thread. Best, KK German

  • Sandy Hanna

    Mary-Ann…was the theater you went to with Westmorelands daughter known as the underground theater. Do you remember if it had a name or was it the Kinh Do theater. We would catch the bus in front of the PX and go to what seemed like a store front with a metal gate on it, go in and go down a ramp to what seemed like a bomb shelter with screen, balcony and theater seats. Does this sound like the one you went to?

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