1st MIBARS In Vietnam!


Epilogue


See, the conquering hero comes!

Sound the trumpets, beat the drums!

Thomas Morell, 1703-1784

 

Photo: Vietnamese woman kneeling before a grave in a small cemetery next to the 1st MIBARS Headquarters in Saigon

Photo Credit: MIV

Above: This photograph, taken in late 1966 from the roof of 1st MIBARS headquarters in Saigon, shows a neighborhood graveyard that, with its roaming chickens, trash, and unkempt vegetation, appears more like a vacant lot.  Yet, the setting and the solitary mourner seem to confirm the universality of  feeling among human beings.  This poignant view of the young woman kneeling at what may be either a circular Buddhist grave site or the Christian grave of a child,  suggests that sorrow and remembrance amid the turmoil of war was much the same among the Vietnamese people in 1967 as it was among other people, in other conflicts, in other countries, in other years.


What Happened to "B" Detachment?

We know that "B" Detachment, along with the entire of the 1st Military Intelligence Battalion (Air Reconnaissance Support) was de-activated in 1972 and its personnel returned to CONUS [the Continental United States] after being in continuous combat service from 1 December 1965.

We know that part of  the Detachment was sent to Phu Bai in 1968 to join  personnel from the 45th Military Intelligence Detachment in forming the planned "E" Detachment, 1st MIBARS.

We know that the battalion's authorized strength in 1966, 279 personnel, swelled to 319 in 1968 before dropping to 139 in 1971. 

We know that by early 1972, "B" Detachment in DaNang consisted of only six (6) personnel.  No further information has come forth regarding the Detachment's involvement in significant analytical, interpretation, or combat operations subsequent to 1969.  Therefore, until further specific information is available, it may be assumed that "B Detachment's mission and complement -- and indeed the whole of 1st MIBARS -- began to peak 1968 and may have reached maximum productivity -- as could be suggested by workload reflected by the operations report for April 1970, to the right -- and were gradually reduced sometime thereafter until the battalion was released from combat service.    

Monthly Operations Report For April 1970

The primary mission of providing tactical interpretation, reproduction and aerial delivery of imagery and related materials from tactical air reconnaissance operations within the Republic of Vietnam was successfully accomplished during the reporting period.  Support has been rendered to the Republic of Vietnam Army (ARVN), Republic of Korea Forces (ROK), 1st Australian Task Force, New Zealand and Royal Thai units as well as US Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force elements throughout the four (4) Corps Tactical Zones.  Significant operational statistics and illustrative examples of the numerous types of regular and special support rendered by the 1st MI Bn (ARS) to the requesting units are presented:

Number of targets interpreted:

3,684

Number of frames interpreted:

837,112

Number of imagery interpretation reports:

3,490

Number new items or significant changes reported:

6,606

Number of mosaics constructed:

1

Feet of paper processed:

594,460

Number of hand-held missions flown:

136

Number of hand-held prints made:

18,906

1st MIBARS, APO San Francisco 96307, 18 May 1970

What Happened to the Vietnamese People With Whom "B" Detachment Worked and Interacted?

We have, unfortunately, little information on what happened to the Vietnamese people who worked and interacted with members of "B" Detachment or other units of the 1st MIBARS during 1966-1967.  A Vietnamese expatriot who owns a barber shop in Virginia, stated one day -- presumably in jest -- that all of his countrymen who cooperated with American forces were relocated to the United States after the Vietnam War.  Logic tells us that this is not so, and all we can say that is that hopefully those who wished 1st MIBARS well survived the conflict and successfully adapted to a new life following the eventual cessation of hostilities.

Below:  During the 2007 Ride to the Wall, a veterans' observance, held by motorcycle riders annually in Washington, D.C., a veteran of the 1st MIBARS reunites with an Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) officer whom he knew during the war in 1968.  This ARVN colonel spent 17 years in prison after the fall of Saigon in 1975.

Photo: 1st MIBARS veteran of "A" Detachment poses next to a former Army of the Republic of Vietnam colonel at the 2007 Rolling Thunder "Ride to the Wall" in Washington, DC

Photo Credit: Paul Guinta, "A" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation Section, 1966-1967

A Reality of the Vietnam War

"It was really over.  I felt it this time.  . . . But I genuinely felt something else, an unsettling feeling gnawing deep in the pit of my stomach.  The American public, disenchanted and upset by the mounting casualties, higher taxes, and no prospect of a solution in sight, saw fit to turn against the war -- and in many cases, against the warriors they had dispatched to do the fighting.  As a result, we were pulling out and leaving our Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian brothers-in-arms to go it alone.  While most Americans felt no personal attachment to these Southeast Asian warriors -- the ARVN,  Montagnards, Hmong, and Khmers -- those of us who had fought beside them right up to the very last minute felt firsthand the guilt and shame of deserting our allies.  We may have been ordered to leave the battlefield, but we would never forget our friends who would continue the fight until they won -- or until they died trying."

Tom Yarbourough, DaNang Diary, St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1990.


An Old Soldier Goes Back To Vietnam in 2009

"I was given an earful of what happened in this area when America up and walked away. . . . Many people in the south of Vietnam went back to their homes and waited after the 1975 takeover by North Vietnam. Trade commerce came to a squelching stand-still. Everything shut down, so, locals were forced in[to] bartering amongst themselves for food and essentials during the initial days and weeks following the fall of the South Vietnamese government. It was a very bad time as communist forces slowly took control of the province, village by village, and hamlet by hamlet. One day, everyone was alerted to report to the village center for documentation purposes. It was during that time that many individuals working for Americans or the South Vietnamese military were immediately rounded up and off to Reeducation Camps. Many never returned to their homes or families, according to the storyteller, and what happened in many of the camps is still waiting to be told by those who survived."

"I asked if any Americans stayed behind after the war, and one replied with a smile, ‘Well, yes, Dai Uy. Some are living right here.’ ‘. . . They want to be left alone, another piped up.’ How can I meet them, I asked. ‘We will not take you, came their stern warning.’ What the hell do I do with this information?"

Darrell S. Mudd, Author of the novel, Cold War Burning, and veteran of the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.  Visit his blog at blogs.hdnews.net/vietnam/ for his impressions of modern-day DaNang and Vietnam.


What Happened to the City of DaNang?

"The 1975 final offensive created total chaos in Danang.  With the fall of Hue on March 26, and the earlier loss of Thoung Duc, Quang Ngai, and Tam Ky, more than a million refugees were trying to crowd into the city.  The Vietnamese Marines, who had retreated from Hue in good order, were dug in at Hai Van Pass 15 miles north of the city.  To the west and south the battered 3rd Infantry Division and the remnants of the 1st Infantry Division were taking up defensive positions.  By the afternoon of March 28 the military situation was bleak, and ships and planes began evacuating important civilians and troops.  . . . Seeing this happening, the civilians panicked and attempted to crowd aboard any means of transportation that was departing the city.  At 9 o'clock that night, the NVA shelled the city and virtually within minutes chaos reigned and the western and southern defenses collapsed.  . . . On March 29, DaNang, the most heavily defended city in the entire country other than Saigon, its warehouses packed with food, ammunition, and weapons for months, fell to two truckloads of guerrillas, more than half of them women, who came up from the south."

                                                                                 

Philip Gutzman, Vietnam: A Visual Encyclopedia, 2002, PRC Publishing, Ltd., London


“In 1975, I was among the first to witness the liberation of DaNang.  I entered the city on a military truck.  As we approached, southern soldiers were fleeing the city in their shorts and undershirts.  They had stripped off their uniforms.  I wondered why they didn’t attack us or try to retake the city, but they didn’t make any effort to resist.  They waved to us.  It meant the war was over.  What an unbelievable feeling. Those first days were so much fun.  Students came forward to welcome us and children came to see us and learn some of our songs.  But the merriment was short-lived.  I was soon overwhelmed by feelings of disappointment.  People in the North always thought the cities in the South must be big and well equipped and luxurious, but when I walked around DaNang I soon realized was merely a consumer city.  It lived on goods, so when the products were gone, it was just another impoverished city.  There was plastic stuff everywhere – even the roofs were made of plastic – but there were no big factories, nothing.”

Le Minh Khue, Writer, as quoted in Christian G. Appy's Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered From All Sides, Viking, 2003


"With the capture of Ban Me Thuot and the Central Highlands by North Vietnamese forces in late March 1975, the disastrous retreat by the ARVN had a profound effect on the South Vietnamese troops and civilians around Hue, Quang Tri and DaNang.  Conflicting orders from Saigon caused confusion, lowered morale, and led to troop movements which defied any logic. As rockets and artillery fire began to hit Da Nang Air Base on March 28, the 1st Air Division was ordered to evacuate. Those ARVN soldiers who did not desert to assist their fleeing families, but instead chose to stand and fight, were overrun.

The troops who somehow managed to escape capture then joined the crazed mob attempting to leave Da Nang on anything that floated. Chaos ruled the streets of Da Nang Easter weekend 1975 as military deserters armed with their combat weapons attempted to dictate the terms of their departure. Before the weekend ended some of the most disciplined members of the armed forces would use their weapons against their countrymen in order to gain passage from Da Nang. Approximately 130 aircraft managed to evacuate but over 180 were left behind along with huge stocks of fuel and ordnance. Abandoned were thirty-three A-37s, most of which were captured intact by the NVA.

By March 30 one of the largest cities in South Vietnam and its huge air field were under communist control. Coming so soon after the loss of Kontum and Pleiku, the fall of Da Nang caused widespread panic and desertion within the South Vietnamese armed forces. The North Vietnamese, sensing that victory was theirs, deployed their reserves and immediately began pushing south along the coast in what was known as the Ho Chi Minh Campaign, the final push toward Saigon."

On DaNang Main Air Base.  From: Wapedia (dot) com.

Special Work -- For Special Missions

"I told a Special Forces (SF) captain who gave me a ride what we were doing and a week later we were flying missions for SF.  Early on, we were tasked by a CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) agent with photographing villages for the awful Phoenix program.  I developed a simple way of shooting as straight down as possible for three overlapping frames.  I would then tape the prints carefully together so they would fit well.  We flew quite a few missions for The Company."

Daryl Tucker, "B" Detachment, Reproduction Section, 1967-1968

A Book Review:  "A Hundred Feet Over Hell: . . ."

"The author completely missed the many 1st Military Intelligence Battalion (Air Reconnaissance Support), 45th Military Intelligence Detachment/Detachment "E" (1st MIBARS) air photography missions flown with the 220th RAC [Reconnaissance Airplane Company] in support of many units and agencies throughout Upper I Corps including the DMZ [Demilitarized Zone] Khe Sanh,and the A Shau Valley from 1967 to 1972.  These missions provided valuable intelligence in support of active operations in Upper I Corps.  I know because I was one of the 1st MIBARS members who participated in these air photography missions.  Their omission does an injustice to those who participated both with the 1st MIBARS and the 220th RAC."

From Amazon.Com: A Review Written by John T. Nichols, "A Hundred Feet Over Hell: Flying With the Men of the 220th Recon Airplane Company Over I Corps and the DMZ, Vietnam 1968-1969," August 27, 2014

John T. Nichols, Headquarters/Headquarters Company and 45th Military Intelligence Detachment/"E" Detachment, 1st MIBARS, Imagery Interpretation Section, 1968-1969


What Was The War's Impact On the Timeline of Vietnam's History?

Perspective on America's War In Vietnam

"He seemed bemused by our total focus on our war in Vietnam and suggested that we might profit from a visit to the Vietnam Historical Museum nearby [in Hanoi, August 28, 1990].  It was good advice, and . . . we toured the museum . . .  The high point for us was not the exhibits but finding a huge mural stretched across one long wall that was both a timeline and a map of Vietnam’s unhappy history dating back well over a thousand years.  There on the wall we saw thick red arrows dropping down into Vietnam from the north, depicting half a dozen invasions and occupations of Vietnam by neighboring China, and some of those occupations lasted hundreds of years before Vietnamese patriots and rebels drove them out, again and again and again.  The Chinese section of the timeline stretched out for fifty feet or so.  The section devoted to the French and their 150 years of colonial occupation was depicted in about twelve inches.  The minuscule part that marked the U.S. war was only a couple of inches."

Harold G. Moore, We Are Soldiers Still, HarperCollins Publishers, 2008

Photo: 1st MIBARS veteran points to the location of "Touraine," the French name for DaNang, on an antiquarian map painted on the wall of the Museum of Cham Sculpture in DaNang, 1967

Photo Credit: MIV

Above:  In another museum, this one in DaNang, in 1967, there was another wall painting depicting the historical geography of Vietnam.  The city, located on the map above the upraised hand, was labeled "Tourane," in accordance with the name given by the French.  The museum -- deserted, unidentified, and littered with debris when this photo was taken -- appeared to be in a severe state of deterioration.  Thanks to pictures posted today by its visitors on image-sharing sites such as Flickr and YouTube, we can now identify it positively as the Cham Museum of Sculpture, and judge that in 1967, it was calmly undergoing renovation even as the war escalated around DaNang.


And What of the People of Vietnam?

Photo: Children in a different area of the cemetery pictured above wave to the photographer on the roof of the building next door

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo: A Vietnamese man and woman on a red motor scooter travel a paved highway from Saigon to Long Binh in late 1966

Photo Credit: MIV

The hope of all societies -- its young people.  This group was also present in the graveyard pictured at the top of this page, but outside of the range of the camera's lens.  Seeking treats or simply curious, their smiles and attention-getting antics reflected little concern about the war around them or the mourner just 50 feet away.  It has been for this generation, and those who have followed, to restore normalcy to post-war Vietnam. 

The road to Long Binh in 1966 -- a scene probably greatly changed today!   Judging from postings on the World Wide Web, mopeds, motor bikes and automobiles are now everywhere in Vietnam.   Although this one carries only two, Vietnamese riders were supremely adept at juggling multiple adult passengers and children.


A Thoughtful Epitaph

Marion Robert Morrison

May 26, 1907 -- June 11, 1979

Pacific View Memorial Park, Corona del Mar, Orange County, California

Bayview Terrace, Section 575

"Tomorrow is the most important thing in life.  Comes into us at midnight very clean.  It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands.  It hopes we've learned something from yesterday."

At the Gravesite, the Bronze Marker Bears This Man's Professional Name --  John Wayne -- the American Film Actor, Director, and Producer


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