1st MIBARS In Vietnam!

On Visual Surveillance Programs

An Excerpt From

VIETNAM STUDIES: The Role of Military Intelligence 1965-1967

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

Photo Credit: Bob Crowell, "B" Detachment, Delivery Platoon, 1966-1968

Above:  Lock 'n load!  A "B" Detachment trooper performing visual surveillance on a .30 caliber machine gun


Grasshoppers In '44 -- Bird Dogs and Beavers In '67!

Photo Credit:  USAF Museum Via Wikipedia

Above:  A Taylorcraft L2-M used in World War II, undoubtedly helpful for directing artillery fire, transporting VIP personnel, conducting low-level visual surveillance of the battlefield, and bringing beer back to the unit from wherever it might be obtained -- just like aircraft available to 1st MIBARS twenty years later.

"The visual surveillance program was conducted jointly by the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Army aviation, and the Vietnamese Air Force. The nature of tactical operations demanded fully coordinated and repetitive coverage of border and coastal areas and other sites of high interest known to be utilized by the enemy in order to obtain real time reports of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army activity.  The program varied from screening large areas for indications of enemy presence to concentrating coverage where ground operations were under way or patrolling over friendly troop movements. It included the capacity for directing artillery, naval gunfire, or air strikes on any targets, either fixed or fleeting, detected in the area of search.  While helicopters supported the program at division level, the Army, Air Force, and Marine O-1 Birddogs (single-engine light observation aircraft) served as the backbone of airborne visual reconnaissance.  Initially hampered by a shortage of aircraft, eventually we fully implemented the program with sufficient aircraft allocated to each corps to permit coverage of the entire country.

"The corps were divided into visual surveillance areas governed in size by the area that one aircraft crew could cover in a systematic search during a two-hour mission.  Frequency of coverage was influenced by the enemy situation, indications of activity reported by other sources, friendly operational plans, suspected enemy operations, weather, and aircraft availability.  To make the program more effective, a pilot and observer covered the same area each day, developing in this way a familiarity with the terrain that facilitated detecting evidence of enemy activity (such as a new trail or road repairs).  When necessary, or possible, a Vietnamese observer went along to permit communications with Vietnamese Army units in the vicinity.

"As the program progressed, service responsibilities became more clearly defined. Air Force O-1's were assigned to tactical support squadrons, one of which was placed in support of each corps.  These aircraft, however, were under the operational control of the Tactical Air Control Center through the corps' direct air support centers and were intended to perform in a forward air control role more than in one of visual surveillance; but they were available to support the reconnaissance effort when operational requirements permitted.  This arrangement worked well as a result of the excellent rapport that existed among the corps staffs and their Air Force counterparts.  The Army aircraft and crews were placed in direct support of the corps or division at which they were stationed. With their primary mission of supporting combat operations, the Army O-1's carried on visual surveillance, adjustment of artillery and naval gunfire, column cover, and radio relay.  The Air Force Birddogs directed air strikes and, as a secondary mission, performed visual surveillance."

From the World Wide Web

"The platoon also received a new mission of flying hand-held camera photo missions for Military Intelligence Battalion Aerial Reconnaissance and Surveillance [sic] (MIBARS) and produced effective confirmation of low rated information for the benefit of all Delta units - Second Platoon; Can Tho; IV Corps Support; IV Corps Advisory; 5th Special Forces."

Annual Supplement - 221st Reconnaissance Airplane Company; "Shotguns"

For information related to visual surveillance programs, see the "Hand-held Camera Program"


Mission and Impact

Hand-held Camera Program

Intelligence Keys

ES-38A Mobile Photography Laboratory

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