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.”

  • Chris West

    I was an HM2 assigned to the Navy Hospital, Saigon and was in the first ambulance to arrive at the scene. I had been about to go to the My Khan myself, but my girlfriend became ill and I walked across the street to get some medicine for her when the ambulance (an old Metroliner) pulled out of the gate at the hospital, so I climbed in and arrived to find a scene from hell. I worked on casualties for hours and then we finally got all the wounded and dead to the hospital and we all worked through the night. I spend the remainder of the night fingerprinting the dead.

  • Erica Elliott

    My grandfather, Leo Nelson was killed there. He was one of the servicemen.

  • J. Trainer

    My father, D. Trainer, was nearby during the My Canh attack. He was assigned to MACV-Saigon and later sustained shrapnel injuries from another mine detonated by VC near the Saigon river on December 26, 1965.

  • Jim Wade

    18 KIA

  • Jim Wade

    Call me, Doc; 321.604.1835

  • Lewis Shanks

    I just looked this up on the web today for the first time in 52 years. You tend to try to forget. I was in a bar around the corner with a buddy and we had just decided to have a 2nd beer before we were going to go to the My Canh for dinner. We heard the two explosions and a few minutes later a bar girl who worked there came running into the bar covered in blood and hysterical. She was there with her American boyfriend and the first claymore that went off blew his head off. We ran out and down to the restaurant – it was a scene from hell. Already there were MP’s, and medical workers there and we really could not help. Ultimately, we left and just drank the rest of the night. I was a Sp4 in the US Army Security Agency based at Tan Soh Nhut and ended up staying in country for two years, but this was one of the worst things that I experienced while there.
    Lewis Shanks