Jun 26

A Sailor Responds to the Bombing of the My Canh Café: 26 June 1965

Saturday, June 26, 2010 5:00 AM


A favorite hang-out for Americans in Saigon was the My Canh Cafe, a floating restaurant on the Saigon River renowned for good Vietnamese food and riverside views. On 26 June 1965, a grenade exploded in the establishment at the height of the dinner hour. Then, as dazed and wounded customers headed to shore by way of a gangplank, a mine planted in the riverbank exploded, causing mass casualties among people fleeing from the first blast.

Construction Electrician (Wiring) Third Class (CEW3) William Gary Hadley, a 20-year old Seabee from Tulare, California, was one of the first rescuers at the scene. His Seabee detachment generally performed construction missions Headquarters Support Activity, Saigon, but when a bomb went off, the detachment became a rescue and recovery team. Relying mainly on pry-bars and their own hands, Hadley’s team worked to recover dead and wounded trapped in the rubble. According to Hadley, “There were pools of blood and shattered glass everywhere. This is the first time I had ever seen so many dead and wounded people. I remember carrying a decapitated body out of the restaurant. After I got back to my billet, I was covered in blood and had to throw out all my clothes. Blood had even gotten inside my boots.”

Hadley had joined the Navy in 1964 to work in construction as a Seabee, not to recover “elbows and assholes” from blown up buildings. “I never imagined before coming to Vietnam how sick and immoral our enemy was.” In all, 32 people were killed at My Canh and another 42 wounded. Among the dead were 13 Americans (7 military and 5 civilians), and the wounded included 15 U.S. service personnel and 2 civilians. Many of the victims were ordinary Vietnamese citizens gathered at a nearby soft-drink stand, cyclo drivers waiting for passengers and others out for an evening stroll.

Terrorism in Saigon continued to make Saigon unsafe for Americans in 1965. “Saigon was no rear area,” explained Hadley, “it was very dangerous.”

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