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.
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.