February 2024
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64 Kinh Do Bombing

Wow! The reference to the Kinh Do bombing certainly brought lots of folks out of the shadows. Interesting to hear everyone’s stories. I remember Mike Cooper going to the movie that night without me (why did I ever date that guy?) and that my parents were there in the balcony. I also remember attending the memorial service for the Marine Captain that ran into the theater to warn everyone to move forward (Captain Koelper). I wish I had asked a long time ago how to contact his family and express my admiration and thankfulness for his courage. Wasn’t there a second marine killed also? And where were you all during the coup? I was waiting for a bus outside MACV headquarters and got pulled off the street by the marines and ushered into headquarters. The marines drove me home hours later. My parents must have been frantic. What did we do before cell phones? My brother also assisted in looting the palace. And I pick on my son for traffic tickets! Everyone remember the Cerc Sportif (2-piece bathing suits – so risque back then), La Ritz on top of the Hotel Caravelle, the Rex BOQ, Cheap Charlies, and Brodard’s on Tu Do?

Alice Ahlgren Blackburn

12 comments to 64 Kinh Do Bombing

  • Kathy Connor Dobronyi

    We didn’t have school that day because of All Saint’s Day, and I was home with Linda Owen and Niecy (I don’t know her last name). Linda was the eldest daughter of my father’s CO, Colonel Tom Owen. We were listening to the Armed Forces radio in my room when the announcements began around 1:00. My father was at Tan Son Nhut, and my mother was working in the catalogue ordering desk upstairs at the PX. She came home early, and while our houseboy Nam held her taxi, she collected Niecy and Linda and took them home. I waited on the balcony. We lived at 214 A Yen Do just down the street from the Xa Loi Pagoda and across the street from Nhu’s Secret Police Compound.

    We didn’t know where my brother Mike was throughout the coup. He left early in the morning to parts unknown. We later found out he was out at Tan Son Nhut. I don’t know if he was at the JDP Compound, but he sat out the “storm” in that area.

    On November 2, we got a phone call early in the morning telling us of his location. He called to the only phone in our complex that was at Captain Wood’s house. Captain Wood came over to tell us Mike was found and that he was safe.

    I remember the Cercle Sporteff and the bottled lemonade drink called “lemon nod.” I remember the French kids who didn’t want us there and called us foul names.

    Yes, there was an MP who was guarding the theatre who was the first fatality at the February 1964 explosion at the Capital Kinh Do. After he was shot, a bag was rolled into the theatre. Captain Koelper was buying a ticket at the time. When he realized what was happening, he rushed into the theatre. When the bomb exploded, it blew out the back of his head, and he died instantly.

    I also found out that a third person died. I think he was also an American, but could only find out that he was so badly torn up they couldn’t identify him.

  • Mary Lou Poudre Berven

    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.

  • Admin

    Thanks Mary Lou great comments. So, now we have February 16th as the offical date of the bombing … lol … it would be nice if the various accounts of this event would all use the ‘same’ date the event happened. Don’t ya think?! LOL … but, they all do say it happened on a Sunday … hmmm maybe we need to find a 1964 calendar … LOL 🙂


  • Admin

    Mary Lou, you are correct it was Feb. 16th. I looked on a 1964 calendar. Feb. 16th was on a Sunday and all accounts of the bombing say it was on a Sunday. Thanks for your imput.


  • Frank Stoddard

    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.

  • Admin

    Thank you Frank … I added this information to the Post with the picture of the bombed out theather.


  • aliceahlgren

    Please everyone go to thewall-usa.com and look up Donald Koelper, Peter Feierabend, and William Reid. It moved me to tears. Please post a thank you comment or whatever else you think of. These names put real people into an old memory of a bombing that many of us survived because of them.

  • Kathy Connor Dobronyi

    I found a calendar. February 16 was a Sunday. Want to know any other dates and days from June 1963-March 1964?

    Does anyone remember when we went back to school? Was it in August or September?

    I just made a shocking discovery. Tet 1964 began Wednesday, February 13. The bombing at Pershing Field occured on Sunday, February 9, two days before Tet Eve, and the bombing of the Capital Kinh Do happened on Sunday, February 16 during the 10-day Tet celebration.

  • Admin

    Kathy said: Does anyone remember when we went back to school? Was it in August or September?

    Kathy as I recall back in 1959 – 61 when I was there, we went to school year round. 7:30 a.m to 11:30 a.m. Our only studies were correspondence courses from the U of SoCal. And, the ‘school year’ as far as studies were concerned was ‘off’ by 3 months, so when I returned to USA I had to retake the 2nd half of the previous grade to get back in sync with USA school years. Which was nothing new to me really, because after growing up moving all the time, schooling got really messed up many times. LOL … end result I graduated a year later then I should have. LOL

    Hmm I never knew they bombed our baseball park (Pershing Field) … do you have any info on it?


  • Kathy Connor Dobronyi

    My goodness there’s a lot on Alice’s site!

    So much horror happened in February 1964 for U.S. personnel in Saigon.

    3 February 1964–Kontum City (MAAG compound) was attacked with grenades. 1 U.S. soldier wounded and 1 building burned.

    7 February 1964–Playboy Bar bombed and 5 U.S. killed

    9 February 1964–Pershing Field bleachers were bombed during the second softball game. 2 U.S. killed and 23-25 wounded. (There was a mention in the Gecko about this.) A bomb was placed in a bicycle that was leaned against the bleachers. In another account, it stated that a second portion of the bomb failed to explode. If it had, an estimated 50 people would have died.

    PFC Don Taylor, with the 3RRU my father’s unit, was at the game. He was supposed to report for duty, but stayed to watch the second game. He never returned to duty and was one of the two casualties.

    Also that February there was an attempt to bomb the bowling ally. Police found a bike rigged with plastic explosives in the ally. It was leaning against the wall. Luckily it failed to detonate. (This was shared by Les Arbuckle.)

    All these bombings began the first evacuation of U.S. dependents that took place March 10. My mother, brother, and I were with that group. My father stayed behind to finish his tour of duty, before joining us stateside in November 1964.

    • James

      Kathy, I didn’t follow the entire thread, but found this discussion on a google surch. My grandpa was at the feb 9 Pershing Field bombing and took a picture after. Nothing graphic,, Just some of the damage….

  • connie oliver swedberg

    i also lived at 214a yen do. we were the 1st family to live in the beautiful 2 story duplex. Nam also worked for our family. His wife’s name was Cecille and they had a son Joseph and another son who’s name I can’t recall. we left in 1963, spring i think.

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