Life Goes On

Street scenes in Saigon in the 1960s


There was death and destruction throughout Vietnam during the 1960s and early 1970's. Fatalities on each of the North and South Vietnamese sides in the war are estimated at close to a million, including 58,303 U.S. military personnel. (1) But everyday life also had to go on, and this page is devoted to pictures of Vietnamese street scenes where often the only sign of war is the occasional military vehicle.

South Vietnam's capital of Saigon was considered fairly safe from Viet Cong insurgents in the early 60's, but on Christmas Eve 1964 two Viet Cong operatives detonated a car bomb underneath the Brink Hotel, which was being used to billet junior American officers in the country in an advisory and support capacity. The explosion killed two Americans and injured approximately 60 people. That bombing, and the first penetration of the regular North Vietnamese Army into South Vietnam, were two events that made December 1964 a turning point in the war, and led to the arrival of U.S. combat troops. (2)

The Brink Hotel, also known as Brink's BOQ (Bachelor Officers' Quarters) was repaired following the bombing, and American officers continued to stay there until the fall of Saigon in April 1975. (3)

Ritz Hotel, SaigonThis detailed photo (400K JPEG) was taken from the Brink's BOQ rooftop restaurant by George Lane in 1969. (4) Probably many of the vehicles in the parking lot belong to Americans; mainly small European cars, although near the left side is what looks like a brand new 1969 white Impala.

There are six Jeeps visible, including two MUTTs and an M38A1; chances are good that the rest are CJ-3Bs, but it's hard to see for sure. There's also a Jeep Wagoneer in the lot, and a Willys station wagon passing on Tu Do Street.

SaigonGeorge Lane took this one from street level, also in 1969. (4) A Kaiser M606 with minimal South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) markings threads its way through construction vehicles, somewhere in Saigon.

Saigon, 1963In the early 1960s, a military coup overthrowing the Saigon government was pretty much an annual event. This is Le Loi Boulevard during the November 1963 coup, which laid siege to the presidential palace and executed President Ngo Dinh Diem. Photo from the George Krizansky Collection of the Virtual Vietnam Archive (5).

In addition to a couple of Mitsubishi CJ3B-J4's, this picture includes an ambulance which looks like it could be a Siebert Willys S.O.S. Ambulance (110K JPEG).

Oscar Hotel, SaigonBumper to bumper on Nguyen Hue Boulevard, Saigon, circa 1968. The wider version (180K JPEG) of this shot by an unknown photographer, includes a Wagoneer as well as a CJ-3B and a MUTT.

The picture was taken from the second floor of the Oscar Hotel, which as of 2015 is still a prominent hotel in what is now known as Ho Chi Minh City.

Saigon, 1968This scene is looking south on Nguyen Van Thoai, known today as Ly Thuong Kiet. To Americans in Saigon it was known as Plantation Road, and was a couple of miles south of Tan Son Nhut airbase. In the background here is the Phu Tho racetrack.

The three Jeeps in a row include an all-white J4 which is a bit of a mystery -- I'm not sure who it would belong to.

The 1968 photo is by Paul Moore, who also took one facing north (300K JPEG). (6)

Saigon, 1965More ubiquitous even than Jeeps in Saigon, were the little Renault 4CV taxis like the one seen beside the Willys here, downtown at the Lam Son traffic circle in 1965. The new Renault Dauphine taxi in the foreground was less common. (7)

The Jeep here has yellow headlight shades -- were these intended for blackout use?

Hue, 1966Yellow headlight covers again on this Mitsubishi parade Jeep.

This is an interesting photo, taken in Hué in 1966 by Ted Dexter. (8) A close look reveals that this is Gen. Nguyen Chanh Thi, commander of ARVN's I Corps. He was referred to as "a coup specialist" by The New York Times, being best known for his involvement in many of the frequent coups in the 1960s, before being exiled to the U.S. in a 1966 power struggle. This may be Thi's last public appearance before his exile, which set off a 3-month rebellion against the government. (9)

Saigon, 1968This is probably where General Thi was put on a plane to the U.S. This is the front gate into Tan Son Nhut airbase in Saigon, reportedly in 1968. (10) The red banner is advertising a Vietnamese Air Force Christmas party. If it is in fact 1968, the guards seem remarkably relaxed, considering that the base was heavily damaged by Viet Cong attacks in January and May of that year. (11)

Tan Son NhutThis is the same gate, but with the camera looking off the base. Photographer and date unknown.

Incidentally, according to The Times, General Thi worked in various jobs in the U.S. including motel custodian, until he died in 2007 at the age of 84. But when he was recognized in Vietnamese restaurants, he was treated as a hero. (6)

Tan Son NhutWe get a reminder about the real meaning of war in this aerial view of Tan Son Nhut. This remarkable photo (500K JPEG) from 1969 is by George Lane, with photo restoration by CJ3B.info. (4)

Laid out in front of the base is a large French National Cemetery for casualties of the First Indochina War (1946-1954.) This cemetery was the site of a significant battle between USAF Security Police and a large Viet Cong force attacking the air base during the Tet Offensive of January 1968 (8), and again in May 1968.

Pat Clifton photoNot much moving in the street at noon on a hot day, except a few Jeeps and a few kids playing, in this undated photo from the Pat O. Clifton Collection of the Virtual Vietnam Archive (10). The location is unknown; an airfield is seen in the background, and is possibly Tan Son Nhut Air Base.

Le Loi Blvd. This was taken on Dai lo Le Loi or Le Loi Boulevard, the central street which as of 2022 has been returned to normal traffic after seven years of subway construction. A Mitsubishi Jeep and a military bus are seen here in 1968. Thanks to Roberto for finding the photo(11).

Thanks to Luis Mariano Paz, Federico Cavedo, and of course the photographers. -- Derek Redmond

See more Street Scenes in Vietnam on CJ3B.info.


  1. Vietnam War at Wikipedia.
  2. Vietnam at War: The History, 1946-1975 by Phillip B. Davidson.
  3. 1964 Brinks Hotel bombing at Wikipedia.
  4. Vietnam in 1969 by George Lane at Flickr, via Creative Commons.
  5. The Virtual Vietnam Archive at Texas Tech University.
  6. Photos by Paul Moore, under CC.
  7. Photo courtesy of m20wc51 on Flickr.
  8. Ted Dexter, under CC.
  9. Gen. Nguyen Chanh Thi, 84, Seen as Hero in Vietnam, Dies, The New York Times, 28 June 2007.
  10. Photo credited to Michael & Lisa T, under CC.
  11. Tan Son Nhut Air Base at Wikipedia.
  12. Vietnam in 1969 by George Lane at Flickr, via Creative Commons.
  13. The Virtual Vietnam Archive at Texas Tech University.
  14. Photo credited to William Ruzin.

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Last updated 13 November 2022 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond