“The Bombing of Saigon,” 5-6 May 1944

American B-29 Superfortresses dropping incendiary bombs over Asia in 1945 (U.S. Air Force photo)

From L’Écho annamite, organe de défense des intérêts franco-annamites, 11 May 1944

Saigon, 6 May 1944. – The city of Saigon was bombed on the night of 5-6 May 1944 by successive waves of Allied aircraft. Populous residential districts were hit, leaving at least 200 dead and 356 wounded, with many women and children victims still not accounted for. All of the victims were Indochinese, with the exception of a European who was injured. Two enemy planes were damaged by the D. C. A. (Press)

The Écho annamite bows with emotion before the coffins of victims of this raid and begs the cruelly bereaved families to find here an expression of its sincerest condolences.

After the bombing

Saigon, 6 May – M Hoeffel, Governor of Cochinchina, accompanied by M Parisot, Prefect of the Région de Saigon-Cholon, went immediately after the bombing to the affected areas, and also visited those in hospitals.

Admiral Jean Decoux, Governor-General of French Indochina from July 1940 to 9 March 1945

This morning he went to the bedside of the wounded and expressed his gratitude to the staff of the Grall and Lalung-Bonnaire Hospitals, the Clinique St-Paul, and the Choquan Hospital, for the outstanding dedication with which they have devoted themselves to their tasks.

The Governor of Cochinchina congratulated the Prefect of the Région de Saigon-Cholon for the excellent organization and functioning of the Civil Defence Services, whose staff had carried out most efficiently the mission entrusted to them.

Admiral Decoux attends the funeral of the victims

The Vice Admiral of the Fleet, Jean Decoux, Governor General of Indochina, informed us of the tragic events that have cast a pall over Saigon as and when they unfolded, and insisted on going immediately to visit the unfortunate victims, so that he could bring them the comfort of his presence.

In the late afternoon he presided over a moving ceremony held at the Annamite Cemetery of Chi-Hoa, in the presence of the Governor of Cochinchina, the President of the Chairman of the Joint Commission of the Colonial Council, the General Commander of the Cochinchina and Cambodia Division, the Vice Admiral Commander of the Navy in Indochina, Monsignor Cissaigne, Vicar Apostolic of Saigon, the First President of the Court of Appeal, and the Attorney General at the Court of Appeal, as well as the Administrator of the Région Saigon Cholon, the President of the Légion des Combattants, and numerous other civil and military dignitaries.

Bomb damage

The Japanese Mission, Army and Navy were represented by their General Chief of Staff, their General Commander in Chief, their Lieutenant Colonel Head of the Liaison Section of the Japanese Army, their Frigate Captain Chief of the Liaison Section of the Japanese Navy and a representative of the Consul General, Head of the Japanese Mission in Saigon.

After the Buddhist ceremony, the Governor General bowed before the coffins of the 213 victims, while buglers of the local civil guard sounded the honors to the deceased.

…. and visits the disaster areas

On the morning of Sunday 7 May, the Vice Admiral of the Fleet, Jean Decoux. Governor General of Indochina, went in the company of M Hoeffel, Governor of Cochinchina, M Parisot, Prefect of the Région Saigon-Cholon, and M Aurilles, Director of the Cabinet, to visit the neighbourhoods affected by the 5-6 May bombing and the hospitals where the survivors are being treated.

Leaving his palace on boulevard Norodom at 8.30am, the Admiral toured the residential streets affected by bombs, stopping in particular at the Municipal Theatre, the interior of which was devastated by a projectile.

At the Grall Hospital, the Admiral talked to M Denis, a young man of 17 who had sustained an injury while at his passive defense post.

At the Choquan and Lalung-Bonnaire Hospitals, the Governor General of Indochina and the Governor of Cochinchina visited wards which still house, in very large numbers, those injured as a result of the despicable aggression of 5-6 May.

Saigon Municipal Theatre was also hit

The Admiral stopped at the bedsides of many of the wounded, listening to the stories of those most seriously affected and paying particular attention to the fate of some young children, innocent victims of this abhorrent attack on our city of Saigon.

After visiting the injured, the Admiral was taken to meet the Médicin general, Dr Giotron, the Director of Health in Cochinchina, who presented to him the medical staff who had worked tirelessly, making the many necessary interventions and giving all their attention to the wounded from the start of the alert until late the next morning.

He expressed his warm compliments to all of the medical and nursing staff and doctors, notably: Drs Deleg, Roque and Dauplin at the Grall Hospital; Colonel Dr Testes and Dr Harmant at the Choquan Hospital; and Drs Fabry, Tran Quang-D, Do Van Hoanh and Raglot at the Lalung-Bonnaire Hospital.

The Admiral also stopped briefly at the Clinique St-Paul, where he thanked its Chief Doctor, Dr Roton, and the medical and hospital personnel of this private clinic, for the very important role that they have played in the provision of emergency care to the victims.

During his visit, the Admiral was also presented to the personnel of the Police, and complimented several officials of that body, whose attitude and dedication during the bombing and during the tedious hours that followed, are worthy of the greatest praise.

Tim Doling is the author of the walking tour guidebook Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City (Nhà Xuất Bản Thế Giới, Hà Nội, 2014).

A full index of all Tim’s blog articles since November 2013 is now available here.

Join the Facebook group pages Saigon-Chợ Lớn Then & Now to see historic photographs juxtaposed with new ones taken in the same locations, and Đài Quan sát Di sản Sài Gòn – Saigon Heritage Observatory for up-to-date information on conservation issues in Saigon and Chợ Lớn.

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