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SAIGON KIDS™ STORIES: MEMORIES OF THE KINH DO THEATER BOMBING

By Deborah Spohr Martins (ACS)

We were all sitting at the dinning room table having dinner, my Mom , Dad , brother, sister and my self,when the bomb went off and shook our house windows. My father who was the assistant manager of ESSO Oil Company,(he was a civilian and always seemed to know what was going on and used to brag that he kept the war going by supplying the military with all their oil) got up from the dinner table and calmly said, “There goes the Theater. I knew it would be the next place to go. I warned General Westmoreland.”

My Dad, Henry Spohr, then got on his little lambretta and went to the theater to see the devastation and then he went to the hospital to give blood. He had a very rare kind of blood.

These events never seemed to be a surprise to him. Perhaps his service as a commander of a submarine during WWII prepared him for all this.

My mother always wondered if he wasn’t an FBI (a spoof as she called it) agent during the Vietnam war because he always knew what was going on and had frequent meetings with the generals. He often took unexpected trips back to the USA and Geneva Switzerland.

We lived a very short distance from MACV head quarters and not far from the Westmoreland’s. In fact I remember going over to the Westmoreland’s home to watch movies! I was 12 years old at the time so I have a pretty good memory of all of this. Movies were a big deal in those days as we did not have TV in Vietnam. We listened to the radio and my mother, in the evenings, always read classical novels out loud to us.

I remember going to the American military base with my father to see movies and we went bowling!! Other than the Circle Sportif, skiing on the Saigon River and the market place was the entertainment for us.

For a short vacation I remember taking a short trip, on a military plane. I had never been on a military plane before!, I went with a friend of mine, Luana Reed and her family. We flew to Nha Trang on the ocean.

What a beautiful place that was with beautiful beaches and scuba diving!! I think we stayed in a small cabin on the edge of the ocean. I remember hearing the sound of the waves all night long!

12 comments to SAIGON KIDS™ STORIES: MEMORIES OF THE KINH DO THEATER BOMBING

  • Joan Mashburn

    We were watching Lady and the Tramp when the theater was hit. Grenade hit the back of the screen area, none of the American inside were hurt, but several Vietnamese out back were killed.
    My parents were at a party at the Jackson’s house and all of us kids ran to their house after smoke starting filling the theater.

    I was only 9 years old, running through the streets from a bomb. Yet it just seemed part of the daily like in Saigon. It was a bit scary, but not traumatic. Somehow our parents made us feel safe.

    Lady and the Tramp …..

  • Joan, there were two bombings of the Kinh Do. The first was September 23, 1963 and “The Lady and the Tramp” was showing.
    One Vietnamese woman died.

    I was there at the first bombing. The MPs took control of the situation. No smoke filled the theater, just the dust released from the explosion. A bicycle, packed with plastic explosives was leaned against the building near the women’s bathroom down in front near the screen.

    The second was in February during Tet. “The List of the Andrian Messenger” was showing. Three people died. I wasn’t there. My family was in the Philippines on R&R.

    • Jim Cooper

      Actually the first bombing was of the Alhambra Theatre in Cholon – the bombing occurred very early on in the film, and the theatre was evacuated very shortly thereafter. I didn’t get a chance to watch “Lady and the Tamp” in its entirety until I was an adult!

      • Marie (Perry) Wright

        Hi Jim
        I was in Saigon from 1961 to 1965 when we were evacuated…Elvera Roussel asked me if I could get your email address as she wanted to email you. Let me know if that’s okay?
        Thanks , Marie (Perry) Wright …class of ’66

        • Tom Jacobs

          Hi Marie,
          You were friends with my sister Mary Jacobs. I’ve got some home movies of you and Mary back then… let me know if you’d like to reconnect.
          Thanks
          Tom Jacobs
          Tom@jacobs.us

  • Barbara L Parker

    Hmmm, this is a spooky thing for me. I remember when the terrorists first started their infiltration. There were armed guards around the school, a guard at our house at night, but the one thing that ticked me off was that I was not allowed to go to the movies. I was told there must be no congregation of Americans, anywhere. I got the picture, but my willful teen mind couldn’t fully understand. Well, now I do. I think this would have been 1960.

  • Laurie Methven

    I was at both bombings and remember them both well. my father even wrote about one in his book [“Laughter in the Shadows”- the funny side of the CIA]. I was 12 & 13 as I recall.
    I remember lying down as we were told to do {I was in the aisle @ the first) and was nearly trampled to death by folks panicking. During the second one, a small piece of shrapnel hit me in the forehead for which I still have the scar. I can still see the MP or Vietnamese cop lying flat on his back dead with a bullet to his head.

  • Maile Doyle

    Deborah Spohr Martin, I wonder if you knew the Laughlin family also with ESSO? I have been trying to locate Michelle Laughlin and hope you can give me a lead.I knew her 1962-1963. Thanks, Maile Miller Doyle

    • Kenneth R. Yeager

      Now wouldn’t that be nice, to reconnect with another SK of our time.

    • Maile – Type this into Google Search:

      “Michelle Laughlin”

      Be sure to put her name in *quotes*.

      Go through the search results starting with Face Book, Twitter and LinkIn … after that check out the remaining search results listings Google shows.

      Also, try Google Search for “Michelle Laughlin wedding” … “Michelle Laughlin engagement” … “Michelle Laughlin obituary” … if you know her parents names try searching for “(insert parent name) obituary”, many times it will show the name and location of family survivors in the parents obituary. If found, search for her by name in the location found in the obituary.

      Have fun exploring the land of Google Search … 🙂

      Bob

  • David Baldwin

    Who knew there was a website….. I was there, I remember a lot of excited adults and being hustled outside….

  • I do remember the Laughlin family. The name Michelle sounds very familiar. I cannot give you any leads on her. My husband does ancestory research and seems to be able to locate just about anyone.

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