From the Stars and Stripes archives

Survivors describe attack on Saigon hotel

Rescue efforts continue at the Metropole five hours after the truck bomb explosion.


By JACK BAIRD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 6, 1965

SAIGON — "It's a funny feeling. You're sound asleep and you wake up fighting for your life." said Air Force TSgt. Franklin U. Davidson.

Davidson, 30, of Chipley, Fla., was one of the injured survivors of the attack on the Metropole Hotel here Saturday morning.

Davidson, treated for neck burns and cuts and released from the U.S. Navy Hospital across the street from the Metropole, was sleeping in his second-floor front room when the attack started.

He was awakened by automatic weapons fire, grabbed his weapon and was about three feet from his bed when the bomb exploded. "The whole window casing was blown in on my bed," he said.

Davidson said he was conscious but dazed and lost his breath from dust and debris. He said he was carried to the hospital by SSgt. Gerald L. Trudeau, who lived in a room near Davidson's.

Another survivor, Marine Lance Cpl. Edward T. Maguire said, "I want to go back up to Da Nang where I have a fighting chance. The hell with this hotel living." Maguire, 27, of Farmington, Me., was not injured.

He said he was awakened by the small arms fire.

"I thought they (the terrorists) were in the building. We grabbed our weapons and planted ourselves on each side of the window against the wall, expecting them to come in the door.

"But then the bomb exploded."

Maguire said his roommate, Army SP4 Sam Pate, was cut on the foot by flying glass. The marine and the soldier then began carrying injured victims out of the hotel and across the street to the hospital.

Army PFC Humphrey Stevenson, 23, of Feeding Hills, Mass., was at his Military Police post about one-half block down the street from the Metropole when the terrorists struck.

Stevenson said that when he heard the machine gun fire he crouched behind oil drum barriers in front of his post but "couldn't see a soul in front of the Metropole."

Stevenson said he stayed at his post because he thought there were more bombs in the area and he wanted to secure his post.

Navy Lithographer 2C Robert R. Eck had a commanding view of the fight for a few minutes. Eck was shaving in his room on the second floor of the Metropole when the action started.

Eck said lie heard shots and he ran out on the balcony of his room. "When I looked over the railing, I could see flashes from guns being held by two Vietnamese terrorists across the street. They were down on one knee with their weapons propped on the other knee firing at the MP in front of the Metropole."

Eck, 27, of Garden City, Mich., said he went for his weapon, but the terrorists had moved out of his view. Eck said he had just shouted down to ask the MP if he was all right when the explosion rocked the Metropole.

"Nobody panicked. Everyone started helping others — digging in the rubble for buddies," said Eck. "It felt like an eternity while the stretcher bearers worked."

Eck and several other survivors praised the efforts of Navy Hospitalman James B. Green, who used bed sheets for stretchers to carry injured servicemen.

Green, 20, of Soquel, Cal., said he was awakened by the shooting before the bomb blasted the hotel. "I wasn't hurt, so I started seeing what I could do for the others," he said.

Working in the dark, with occasional candlelight, Green made two trips carrying injured buddies across the street to the hospital. When asked whether he was worried about further terrorist activities. Green said "I was more interested in helping guys than worrying about another explosion."

An eerie footnote was added when the explosion knocked the ''A'' out of the word ''Bombay'' on a tailor shop sign.

from around the web