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Capital Kinh Do – Theater bombed on February 16, 1964 (50 Wounded, 3 killed)

The Bombed Out Theater …

Capital Kinh Do

Thanks Kathy for locating this picture.

Thank You, Frank for this information.

If you wish to thank or make comments about Donald Koelper, it is not to late. Go to the http://www.thewall-usa.com. Type in his name.
It looks like the other two that were killed were:
Peter Feierabend, U.S. Army and William Reid, U.S. Army.


(Note: In researching this I found there are several accounts all giving different dates of the bombing. Some say April 16th, February 11th and February 18th. I think February 18th is the correct date, as it is the date reflected in the Navy Cross Citation.)

(Note Note: Mary Lou has posted an article which says it was Februrary 16th. See Commnets. )

(Note Note Note: Okay, I looked on a 1964 calendar. Sunday, which all accounts agree was the day of the bombing was on Feb. 16th. Hence the correct date would be Feb. 16, 1964)

Thank you Mary Lou for the following post.



From Mary Lou …

Hi Everyone,

I’m sorry to be such a stickler for detail (it’s the history teacher in me), but the bombing occurred on February 16th, not 18th. Since retelling of the Kinh Do has created so much interest, I am quoting verbatim Neil Sheehan’s UPI article that ran on February 17th, 1964:

“I felt like Alice in Wonderland tumbling down that hole,” said 15-year-old Barbara Bready, describing her feelings at the moment when a Communist bomb shattered an American community theater here Sunday.
Barbara, her red hair swathed in a large white bandage covering the cut she received from a piece of falling debris, was calm and cheerful as she told her story in the living room of her family’s Saigon home today.
“I went to the movie alone, but I met my girl friend, Mary Lou Poudre, there. We were sitting in the back about four rows from the door on the right hand side.It was real near the end of the movie when I heard this sound like a wooden box dropping against concrete. It sounded like it came from the candy counter out back. I had this strange feeling that something’s going to happen,” Barbara said.
“So women started stumbling around screaming and yelling. People started to push their way out of the rows, toward the doors, trampling over each other and falling down. i sort of got up and moved and then sat down again. Then i heard someone yell ‘Sit down!’ ‘Sit down!’. Mary Lou tugged at my skirt, and I threw myself to the floor and covered my head with my hands. I was all doubled up. The next thing I knew debris was flying all over. There was nobody else around. I felt like Alice in Wonderland tumbling down that hole. Then I heard the explosion. It was real, real loud and it was sharp and it was quick. When I got out on the street, I noticed blood tumbling down my blouse. But I didn’t feel a thing. Mary Lou and I walked to the bowling alley (U.S. Armed Forces bowling alley) about a block away. We went there because we thought they could help us and I could get my head bandaged. When we got there, a lot of soldiers rushed up to me and told me to sit down. One guy had a wet towel and he put it on my head. But a lady said don’t do that, and then another man put a bandage on my head from a first aid kit. A soldier gave me a shirt to put on because my blouse was too bloody. I went up to the lady’s room upstairs and changed.”
Barbara said she and her friend went to a U.S. military hospital about a mile away. A Navy corpsman sewed seven stitches into the cut on Barbara’s head to close it and swathed her head in a large white bandage.
Asked if she intends to go to the movies again in Saigon, Barbara, her freckled face breaking out into a smile said, “I don’t know. It depends on whether or not there’s a good picture.”

And that’s Barbara’s and my story in Barbara’s own words.


6 comments to Capital Kinh Do – Theater bombed on February 16, 1964 (50 Wounded, 3 killed)

  • Dick Banks

    My parents were planning to go to the Capital Kinh Do the night it was bombed. Luckily they stopped for dinner before going at a rooftop BOQ restaurant. Dinner took longer than expected. As they were about to leave, someone announced that the Kinh Do had been bombed.

    Since I was attending Brent High School in Baguio, I only heard about this incident when I returned to Saigon at the end of the school year. Though I only went to the Kinh Do a few times, I do remember the nearby bowling alley.

    Thanks, Mary Lou, for submitting that first hand account.

    Dick Banks

    P.S. Saigon was my “hometown” during the summers and Christmas holidays between 1962 and 1964.

    P.P.S. My mother was a substitute teacher at the American Community Elementary School. I remember her telling me that the principal told her to always check in the students’ desks and look around the classroom for any suspicious packages before the school day began.

  • Deborah O. Melvin

    Does anyone remember a bomb scare prior to that where the theater was cleared out? The movie had to do with a princess and the search for a blue rose…I left and ended up with a nice guy in a neighboring apartment, but my parents had been evacuated and couldn’t find me for some while. I am looking for a date, but remember the other details.
    Mahalo in advance for any memories circa 1961 to Oct. 31, 1963.
    (Deborah O. Melvin aka “Debby Melvin” – ACS Elementary School.

    • Deb,

      I can’t help you very much with determining the date you saw that movie in Saigon. But the movie was probably “The Thief of Baghdad,” a 1961 Italian movie. It premiered in Rome, and was released in the U.S. in August of that year.

      Whew! Seeing you were in the elementary school years at the time you saw it, I was worried about what its rating was … but the present movie rating system came out some years later, in 1968. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops must have found it okay, though, giving it their rating of A-I (meaning “general patronage”). Their review of the movie is amusing:

      “Plodding variation on the Arabian Nights story about a good-hearted vagabond (Steve Reeves) who overcomes a host of obstacles to find the blue rose that will free the sultan’s daughter (Georgia Moll) from an evil spell. Director Arthur Lubin plays much of this for laughs and the result is only sporadically entertaining. Italian production dubbed in English. Stylized violence.”

      This sporadically entertaining movie can be seen online on YouTube.


  • Nick Mottern

    I was sitting in the balcony of the Capital Kinh Do when the bomb went off. It happened during the fox hunt scene in The List of Adrian Messenger. For me, everything then happened in slow motion. Small holes and rips instantly appeared in the movie screen as the images of the horses and riders continued across the screen. The round ventilator covers and bits of ceiling, jarred loose by the concussion, began to float, or so it seemed, down from the ceiling. I had always wanted to sit in the balcony as a kid, and I was grateful I had the impulse at the Kinh Do because had I been sitting downstairs, I would have likely been wounded or killed.

    As the years have passed, I’m now 75, my memory of the bombing has become more like a dream that one wonders if they really had. I appreciate the comments of those of you above in bringing that experience back in sharper, specific reality.

  • Dee Le

    Thank you for sharing as I was a little kid in Saigon. My father owned the theater.

  • Robert Luke

    My parents were also getting ready to go to the movie that night. I heard the explosion and saw smoke rise in the air.

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