Viet Cong Attacks on the Eve of the Year of the Dragon

My mother, Martha Remer Connor, kept a daily journal she began when she first married Bobby D. Connor in 1948. In it she recorded events and expenses. When we arrived in Saigon June 1, 1963, it became a record of history.

Mother’s Diary, Sunday, February 9, 1964

“Just learned that on February 7 that a bomb exploded in the Playboy Bar in Saigon. Bob said five of our boys from MAC-V were killed. Four more were injured along with thirty-five Vietnamese.”

Saigon in 1964 was a dangerous place after the overthrow of President Ngô Đình Diệm in the November 1, 1963 coup. Although the people of Republic of Viet Nam were assured there would be government stability, the leader of the military junta, Dương Văn Minh also known as Big Minh, was overthrown by General Nguyễn Khánh on January 30, 1964.

Everyone in Saigon was looking forward to the beginning of Tet and the Year of the Dragon on Feb. 13, 1964. With so much preparation for the holiday, few were thinking of Viet Cong terrorist attacks.

The weekend began with the bombing of the Playboy Bar, a popular American hangout for military personnel. According to an article in the THE DAILY SUN Saturday, February 8. 1964, it was “the worst terrorist blast in Saigon in more than a year killed five Vietnamese yesterday.”

Six U.S. servicemen were wounded, apparently none of them seriously. Witnesses said a bar girl was blown to bits by the huge blast that tore apart a bar called the Playboy. Three men and a boy were killed outright. Police did not identify the fifth victim. Twenty Vietnamese were hospitalized. Original reports said the blast, attributed to Communists, had wounded 39 persons. It was reported the six Americans three soldiers and three sailors were released from a hospital after treatment. Their identities were withheld.

On Monday, February 10, 1964, Mother recorded the following:

“Bob is acting CO with Owen and Ryan gone. He’s having a heck of a time writing a letter to the parents of Pfc. Don Taylor who died yesterday at Pershing Field. What can he say?”

Pershing Field was a U.S. military softball diamond outside Saigon near Tan Son Nhut Air Base. Watching from the bleachers, 150 American fans—soldiers, sailors, embassy civilians, wives and children were enjoying an evening game. Without warning, two explosions under the stands went off leaving two soldiers dead and 23 other Americans dazed and injured.

The Vietnamese firmly believe that events occurring during Tet dictate successes in the new year. The bombing of two popular American entertainment sites four days before the holiday was a major concern for the 1,800 American wives and children living in Saigon who now had to deal with the realities of the coming war.