1st MIBARS In Vietnam!

On Mission and Impact

An Excerpt From

VIETNAM STUDIES: The Role of Military Intelligence 1965-1967

Department of the Army, Washington, D.C., 1994

Photo Credit: MIV

Above:  "B" Detachment in formation of the I Corps Compound in 1967

"The technological advances that have been made in optics (lenses and cameras), film, sensors, illumination, and methodology provided the greatest 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.

"Doctrinally, the 1st Military Intelligence Battalion (Air Reconnaissance Support) would be employed as an element of a field army to produce and disseminate intelligence information obtained or developed by Air Force reconnaissance aircraft, and its organization permitted deployment of a military intelligence detachment with each squadron of the tactical reconnaissance wing that customarily supported a field army.  This concept had been tested extensively during field exercises in the United States and had been implemented successfully during the Dominican Republic crisis. However, the battalion, designed for conventional wars of the classic continental battlefield, had not been tested adequately in a counterinsurgency such as that in Southeast Asia, nor had it been in a prolonged combat theater.

Photo Credit: MIV

Above:  Delivery Platoon pilot assigned to "B" Detachment show aloft at the controls of Good Guy 182, somewhere over the Republic of South Vietnam in 1967, delivering military intelligence products to ground units in the I Corps Tactical Zone"

"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.

"In addition, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Tymchak, battalion commander, and his officers visited tactical units throughout South Vietnam to publicize the support their organization could provide to combat operations and how that support should be requested. Command-wide interest was thereby generated in the aerial reconnaissance and surveillance program.  As the MIBARS gained experience and expertise, more ambitious measures were implemented.

"One of the most significant missions undertaken by the 1st was Project WAYSIDE, a complex operation to produce annotated photomaps of selected areas in South Vietnam.  The topographic map coverage we had in the early days was not accurate enough. While terrain features may have been correctly depicted, survey data and grids were only approximate.  The MIBARS initiated Project WAYSIDE in an effort to provide photomaps of U.S. installations and areas in which military operations were planned.  These maps proved to be reliable enough to permit accurate artillery support to be fired from map data, something that had been not always possible with the topographic maps previously in use.  These photomaps became extremely popular and were in great demand.

"These successes do not mean that the system was without fault. We never obtained a high enough priority to get all the equipment and support that the MIBARS needed and deserved.  During my tenure as J-2, for example, we did not receive all the communications equipment authorized for the battalion.  This lack contributed to the difficulties we experienced in attempting to provide more timely aerial reconnaissance support for the tactical units.  A four- to seven-day time lag generally passed between request and receipt of photo, causing some criticism of our program, though there were instances of receipt within hours after request.  An additional detracting factor was the lack of float aircraft for the battalion.  When an aircraft was down for maintenance or other reasons, no substitute replaced it, and delivery of photos to supported units was delayed.


"Although numerous problems arose in the aerial reconnaissance and surveillance field, the personnel of the military intelligence battalion were extremely successful in overcoming them. Some of the first problems to be approached concerned education; there were almost no knowledgeable reconnaissance personnel in the Army. Too few commanders and staff officers knew how the aerial reconnaissance and surveillance system worked or appreciated what it had to offer. The battalion attacked these problems initially by publishing a comprehensive handbook that explained in detail its mission and how tactical units could request and receive support.

Above:  1st MIBARS Aerial Reconnaissance Information Booklet.  This is the second edition, published 1 September 1967.

"Lieutenant Colonel Eugene Kelley, Jr., who succeeded Colonel Tymchak, 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."

Above, Top:  LTC Kelley [1924-2012] walking the ranks during an inspection of "B" Detachment in late 1966.  Above, Bottom:  LTC Kelley being briefed by an Imagery Interpretation (II) Section technical lead on operations in I Corps.  In the background, mounted on a briefing board, are paper strip prints of aerial photographs such as those taken by a squadron of the 460th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing of the U.S. Air Force, which formed the basis for the majority of the II Section's analytical work.

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo Credit: MIV

For Information On the 1st MIBARS' delivery of military intelligence products to supported combat 

units and the essential transportation of 1st MIBARS personnel, see the "Delivery Platoon"


Visual Surveillance

Hand-held Camera Program

Intelligence Keys

ES-38 Mobile Photography Laboratory

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