Less than a month later, Bobbi's world descended into chaos. Coils of barbed wire blocked the streets and gun emplacements commanded urban fields of fire just outside the hospital. As Commander Hovis watched from the fifth floor, three aircraft dove on the Presidential Palace a few blocks away. Bullets flew in all directions, and Bobbi watched helplessly as one entered the rear window of a car, passed through the driver, and blew out the windshield in front. She saw national police madly tearing off their uniforms, throwing them down, and disappearing into the chaotic maze of Saigon's streets.
As she watched from her high vantage point, Commander Hovis nearly became one of the tragic characters in the drama below as a .30 caliber bullet struck the balcony wall, missing her by inches. For many hours thereafter, she and the other nurses wondered if they would live or die in the midst of the frenzied fighting in which friend and foe were indistinguishable. Fascinated, frightened, and bewildered, they watched and listened as tanks rolled down the streets and artillery shells exploded in a deafening cacophony.
Commander Hovis' retelling of events
in the Naval Institute's Americans at War Series
When at last the fighting stopped, the Americans learned that there had been a military coup and that President Ngo Dinh Diem had been deposed and ultimately assassinated. People poured into the streets to celebrate the beginning of a new era, not realizing that what had occurred was merely one of a string of dramatic events that would lead to a tragic end more than a decade later.
Commander Hovis remained at the hospital for another year, treating thousands of patients before returning to the United States. In her seabag was a journal that she would eventually turn into a very readable memoir, Station Hospital Saigon , . . . and a .30 caliber bullet that nearly hit her.
Bobbi Hovis is one of the many veterans appearing in the Naval Institute's Americans at War series, currently airing on national television.