1st MIBARS In Vietnam!

The "TIIF" -- A Closer Look

The Tactical Imagery Interpretation Facility

Examining Aerial Photography

 In the Field Environment

Photo: www (dot) Wikipedia (dot) com

Above:  A U.S. Army issue pocket stereoscope used by analysts of aerial imagery in a field environment.  Designed to be laid on the face of a photograph, the folding wire stand sections, when deployed as seen at the ends of this device, placed it at the proper viewing distance from an image for its 4-power magnification.  The circular lenses are adjustable for users by sliding the sections back and forth along a frame at the top of the device, and their separation allowed the user the three-dimensional effect that was sometimes achievable when using separate but similar photographic images side by side.  For best use, this stereoscope required a stable flat surface.  Since the user was essentially nose-on to the photograph, either sitting or standing, it could be tough on the analyst's back when work was conducted for long periods.  As seen below in a photograph taken inside the Tactical Imagery Interpretation Facility and shown elsewhere on MIBARS In Vietnam!, 1st MIBARS was equipped with pedestal-mounted High-Magnification Viewers that made the examination of aerial imagery much easier and rapid.         

The Tactical Imagery Interpretation Facility 

By the US Army Intelligence Training School (USAINTS)

 circa 1960's

"The TIIF is a van, mounted on a truck chassis, 12 ft. in length and augmented by road and curbside wall expansion to provide a workroom 12 ft. square in area.  This van housed all of the devices needed by a photo interpreter to read out/analyze collected imagery for intelligence operations and planning by field commanders.  A computer with a specially-designed software program to facilitate interpretation was also provided."

Above:  Graphic and excerpt from a USAINTS training manual by Joe Buesing, "B" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation Section and HQ, 1969-1970

At Work In the TIIF

Photo Credit: MIV

Left:  Imagery Interpretation Specialists at work in the Tactical Imagery Interpretation Facility in 1967.  These men can be placed in the TIIF using the graphic above.  They are working near the communications cabinet at the front of the van.  This photo shows two teletype machines in the cabinet, with a light table and work table to the right.  In the foreground, an II Specialist examines imagery at a table also supporting a white, pedestal-mounted stereoscope with dual eyepieces.  He may be making a photo-montage since what appears to be a canister of adhesive is standing right.  This area is shown at the center of the graphic, above, where an analyst is shown seated and operating a teletype machine.

Right:  A centerpiece of the TIIF was the AR-85A Viewer/Computer which, according to the 1st MIBARS Aerial Reconnaissance Information Booklet, was "used primarily for coordinate determination and for mensuration of conventional, SLAR [side-looking airborne radar] and Red Haze (Infrared) imagery."  This device moved  imagery across a light table and allowed its operator to fix the locations of features and determine sizes and distances.  It is seen at the rear of the van in the above graphic, with an operator pictured from the side.  A small console next to the table held controls for this equipment.  It is visible to the right of the operator in the graphic and to the right of the Imagery Interpretation Specialist in the photograph.

Photo Credit: MIV

New Technology -- In Practice

"In concept it was a cool idea: one would place a transparency on the light table, and with a reticle spotter, one could determine the length of a bridge, the height of a building, etc.  The problem was that moving the reticle was very cumbersome as it was controlled by left-right, up-down buttons which seemed to have a life of their own.  Moving in those directions wasn't too much of a problem, but any other angled direction and you were constantly having to fiddle with the control buttons to get things lined up.  We have become totally spoiled by common-place things like the computer mouse which would have made the TIIF far more practical.  Once the two reference points (each end of a bridge, for example) were established, it was possible to get a measurement within .01 feet of accuracy.  Of course, that depended on the mission pilot correctly entering the altitude and the TIIF user doing the same.  And this accuracy was compromised quite a bit if the ground surface wasn't reasonably level.  Any hill or valley would change the scale and the measurements would not be as good."

Roger Houglan, "B" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation, 1967 - 1969

From One Who Labored In the TIIF

"We worked 12-hour shifts looking at aerial photography.  When the plane delivered the film to us we had a 12-hour period to get the "hot rep" (hot report) sent out.  For a while it was my job to type the reports that the II's (Imagery Interpreters) wrote out.  Of course in 1968-69 there were no computers in use and there were no copy machines to make copies from.  We used a manual typewriter as this was pre-electric time, and we had a machine that was called a memograph duplicating machine. [NOTE: Probably a mimeograph machine.  It used heavy waxed-paper "stencils" that the typewriter keys cut through.  Typewriters of the period had an adjustment whereby the inked ribbon could be shifted aside and the typewriter keys would strike the stencil directly on the platen, making the cuts.  For use, the stencil was then wrapped around the drum of the (manual or electrical) duplicating machine, which forced ink out through the cut marks on the stencil.  The paper had a surface texture (like bond paper), and the ink was black and odorless. With help from Wikipedia. Site Administrator.]  The paper we used to type the report on was designed to place on the machine and then ink was applied to the drum and we ran off the copies that we needed.  I had a Warrant Officer in charge of the Admin Section who was a real jerk to say the least . . . when he found a typo on the form -- instead of just letting us know so we could make a correction to it -- he would take a red pen and circle the mistake with a great big circle, this meant I had to retype the entire report. 

I remember the time we discovered and reported some Soviet-built tanks. Even though the Soviets provided many pieces of equipment to the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), it was a real find when we discovered the tanks. Lots of times we found AAA (Anti-Aircraft Artillery) sites and some SAM (Surface-to-Air -Missile) sites. We discovered many trails thru the jungle that were used by the NVA and Viet Cong to travel and transport supplies.  I recall one time when I was interpreting some film, and was feeling in a mischievous mood. I came across a couple of water buffalo in a rice paddy that were in the mating process.  Water buffalo were used by the Viet Cong to transport supplies and equipment so I reported them as a VC transport manufacturing site.  I got into a little hot water from the commander for this prank, but everyone thought it was funny."

Rex Sands, "D" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation Section, 1968-1969

A Look At What Type of An Area May Have Been Under Surveillance

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo Credit: MIV


An Analyst's Bottom Line . . . 

"It didn't take very long for us to realize that the TIIF computer wasn't a very efficient tool. Just about everything it could do we could do ten times faster with accurate measuring devices. We were trained at the 'Bird [US Army Intelligence School, Fort Holabird, Maryland] to use a special type of slide rule (remember those?) that was a standard slide rule on one side and a photo interpretation rule on the other that would give you the speed of vehicles, help calculate scales and all the rest of the stuff the TIIF could do.  . . . In Vietnam I believe every detachment had a TIIF unit. At Detachment B, the computer never worked during my entire tour and no effort was ever made, to my knowledge, to get it up and running. I seriously doubt it would have been used in any event. It was just too slow and the type of warfare we dealt with there wasn't really applicable to its capabilities. The VC moved around too much and didn't have any of the facilities or war toys that would make using it worth the trouble."

Roger Houglan, "B" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation, 1967 - 1969

Above, Left:  This photo, taken of an area west of DaNang shows the countryside of Vietnam but -- lacking bomb craters -- obviously not an area of active combat.  The circular features in the center are gravesites, round in an Eastern tradition, but rectangular ones, more in the Western style, are also visible.  Surrounding the cemetery are cultivated fields, delineated by raised earthen dikes.  To the left, numerous branching trails meander from the top to the lower center of the picture between patches of woods.  Above this site, and out of the picture, is a river.  Seemingly peaceful and bucolic, this is an area that analysts might have monitored for indications of increasing or changing human activity suggesting Viet Cong presence.  Above, Right: Imagery Interpretation Section Team Lead examines a roll of aerial imagery using a powered light table.  Other rolls of film can be seen awaiting analysis in the open racks directly below this Warrant Officer's arm.    

Interpretation Section MAIN PAGE

Tactical Imagery Interpretation Facility (TIIF)

Evaluating Aerial Reconnaissance Imagery I

Evaluating Aerial Reconnaissance Imagery II

Sharing Lessons Learned

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