1st MIBARS In Vietnam!

The Mission

The Unique Role of the 1st MIBARS

Air Reconnaissance Support

Using US Air Force

Air Reconnaissance Photo Acquisitions

To Support the Troops On the Ground

Photo Credit: MIV

Above: 1st MIBARS Pocket Tag issued in late 1966 by the battalion's [combined] Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) in Saigon.  This tag was worn by all 1st MIBARS personnel using a snap on the leather strap at the top, through the buttonhole of the left breast pocket of both fatigue and khaki uniforms.  Many military units of all services used such tags in Vietnam to identify themselves as members of their organizations.

The Word From the Top:  The Concept for MIBARS Participation in the Vietnam War

Photo Credit: MIV

"Technological advances [by the time of the war in Vietnam] . . . made in optics (lenses and cameras), film, sensors, illumination, and methodology provided the greatest [tactical aerial reconnaissance photographic] capability ever known.  The biggest problem, mastering our technology and making the system work, was eventually overcome.  Through the efforts of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, we developed a magnificent photography program.  In spite of potential charges of parochialism, I extend a large share of the credit to the 1st Military Intelligence Battalion (Air Reconnaissance Support) (MIBARS), which greatly facilitated co-ordination of the photographic effort throughout the country.

"The 1st MIBARS [was] employed . . . to produce and disseminate intelligence information obtained or developed by Air Force reconnaissance aircraft . . .   The concept for the employment of the MIBARS placed the battalion headquarters at Tan Son Nhut with a detachment in each of the four corps tactical zones and thereby provided a direct support facility that would be familiar with the local situation.  We became particularly satisfied with the arrangement, even though all the Air Force photography missions were flown out of Tan Son Nhut.  By virtue of their personal contact with the reconnaissance wing and their close relationship with ground units, the battalion personnel contributed immeasurably to developing a truly joint effort in photo intelligence.  

"Elements of the battalion and the 460th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing merged in order to provide the greatest capability.  The rapport and mutual co-operation that evolved resulted in the 1st Military Intelligence Battalion (Air Reconnaissance Support) being one of the few Army units ever to receive a Presidential Unit Citation through Air Force channels.  In addition, its many accomplishments were recognized when the 1st received two Meritorious Unit Citations.

"Lieutenant Colonel Eugene Kelley, Jr., who succeeded Colonel Michael Tymchak [as commander of the 1st MIBARS], established schools for G2 air officers and imagery interpreters. The course for air officers was designed to promote more efficient and effective utilization of aerial reconnaissance and surveillance resources by training men from the tactical units in the fundamentals and mechanics of the system. The imagery interpretation course was available to all imagery interpretation units in Southeast Asia, regardless of service, and was intended to provide the environmental orientation and familiarization that is so essential to accurate photo and imagery interpretation."

Major General Joseph A. McChristian

Vietnam Studies: The Role of Military Intelligence 1965-1967 

Department of the Army

Washington, D.C. 1994

In 1967: Two Commanding Officers, Both Up Through the Ranks -- And One A Special Forces Green Beret

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo Credit: MIV

Left:  "B" Detachment Commanding Officer, at left in photograph, briefs LTC Eugene Kelley, Jr. [1924-2012] 1st MIBARS commanding officer on aerial intelligence gathering operations in the I Corps Tactical Zone.  Right:  Change of command:  former "B" Detachment commander, MAJ Anthony F. Matta [1929-2014], center facing in photograph, receives the guidon as he assumes leadership of the 1st MIBARS on the rooftop of the battalion's headquarters building in Saigon, Republic of South Vietnam, early in 1967.  The outgoing commander, LTC Kelley, looks on at left.

In Memoriam

EUGENE KELLEY JR. January 6, 1924 to April 18, 2012. GEN Kelley was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to a working class Irish American family. He was drafted and assigned as an Infantry soldier by the US Army during World War II, where he was awarded a battlefield commission and promoted to a second lieutenant. After the war, he remained in the army and pursued a career as a professional army officer. Concurrently, he began college study and eared both undergraduate and master's degrees. GEN Kelley and his wife, Doris, had five children. His career in the military encompassed duty assignments around the world and he ultimately achieved the rank of Brigadier General. GEN Kelley is one of a select fraternity of army officers who commanded infantry troops in three wars World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam. He was in the Special Forces during the Vietnam War and felt it was an honor and privilege to be a Green Beret. After his retirement from the military after thirty three years of service, he undertook a second career in the defense industry.

Adapted From U-T San Diego on Apr. 27, 2012

The Battalion's Table of Organization In 1967

In addition to its Headquarters and Headquarters Company in Saigon, the 1st MIBARS included four field detachments that were spread throughout the four Corps Tactical Zones (CTZ) of South Vietnam to provide direct, day-to-day operational support and assistance to tactical units on the ground, country-wide.  They were:



Corps Tactical Zone





Bien Hoa

Near Saigon




Coast of Northern South Vietnam



Can Tho

Mekong Delta



Nha Trang

Coast of Central South Vietnam

In addition, a  fifth detachment, "E" Detachment, was formed in Phu Bai, also in the I Corps Tactical Zone, in November 1967 from the XXIV Army Corps' 45th Military Intelligence Detachment and augmented with additional personnel reassigned from "B" Detachment.  Phu Bai was located in the northern reaches of South Vietnam, just east of the A Shau Valley and areas of increased ground action in 1968 and later.

The MIBARS Detachment's Organization To Accomplish Its Mission
A Detachment Headquarters:

The Detachment Commander, a Military Intelligence Corps officer with the rank of major, provided command leadership, direction and accountability for the Detachment, as well as administrative, supply and motor maintenance functions.

An Imagery Interpretation Section:

The Imagery Interpretation Officer, a Military Intelligence Corps officer with the rank of Captain, provided leadership for a function that received, examined, analyzed, annotated and compiled reports on objects of actual or potential military intelligence value from aerial imagery provided by the U.S. Air Force and, later, from other intelligence-gathering sources.

A Photographic Reproduction Section:

The Photographic Reproduction Officer, a Signal Corps Officer with the rank of 1st Lieutenant, provided leadership for a function that received, machine-processed, printed and duplicated aerial photography generated by the U.S. Air Force and, later, hand-processed photographic material from other intelligence-gathering sources.

A Delivery Platoon Contingent:

The Detachment Aviator or Pilot, depending upon rank, was a commissioned officer of varied branch designation with the rank of Captain, or a Warrant Officer, who commanded a small contingent [more often himself, a maintenance mechanic, and an aircraft] that used an organic U6A deHavilland Beaver aircraft to deliver detachment work products to requesting organizations, as well as unit personnel to other location as required.

121 Chi Lang, Saigon

Temp Hup!


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