1st MIBARS In Vietnam!

Up At the Villa

  Officer Country --

Not Quite Like

 Your Grandfather's War

Photo: Warrant Officer in civilian clothes sitting on the front porch of the officers' villa reading the GI newspaper The Stars and Stripes, the headline of which reads "Will Continue Peace Bid: LBJ"

Photo Credit: MIV

Above:  Great Expectations.  "B" Detachment II Section Team Lead catches up on the latest news with the armed services' newspaper, The Stars and Stripes.  This picture was taken in mid-1967, and the American presence in Vietnam did not end until 1975.  The headline reads, "Will Continue Peace Bid: LBJ."  This warrant officer was seated with others here on the front porch of the villa one morning enjoying his coffee when he sniffed the air and remarked that one could always recognize the aroma of fresh bread being baked no matter where it might be found around the globe.  Moments later the aroma took on a more sinister character and the gathered officers rushed inside to check on the source of what had become a strong odor.  Because of the high level of humidity in DaNang, and the absence of closets as architectural features in homes, sleeping rooms were equipped with free-standing wooden wardrobes.   These wardrobes generally had an electric light bulb fixture mounted in the bottom, protected by a wire basket, for use with a 100-watt bulb that produced enough heat to dissipate humidity in the enclosed space.  That morning, the maid had stacked freshly laundered fatigues too highly in his wardrobe, the stack had fallen over, and the heat from the bulb was enough to set the clothing smoldering.  Predictably, jokes about the aroma of fresh bread hounded this resident of the villa for days.  

Initially, all "B" Detachment personnel were quartered in downtown DaNang -- in hotels that had been leased in their entirety and fortified by the local billeting authority -- the U.S. Naval Support Command.  During 1966-1967, support services in DaNang were provided by the U.S. Navy, and perimeter security was the responsibility of the U.S. Marine Corps. 

The Mysterious Villa on Quang Trung Street

In early 1967, "B" Detachment learned that a rented house in the city was being vacated by a covert military intelligence unit also under the 525th MI Group.  Perhaps underscoring the assumed improbability of success, a newly-assigned Lieutenant, was immediately dispatched to the Naval Support Command with the priority mission of securing the property for the officers of "B" Detachment, 1st MIBARS.   Thereupon, a story was spun about the Detachment's pressing need for a safe house in the city to meet with covert operatives.  Of course, "B" Detachment had no covert operatives, but planning for an eventual need to establish such a program was thought to be a good idea at the time.  The Navy was, as always, attentive and willing to help.  "B" Detachment was soon assigned the house and was thereby able to consolidate living quarters for its commissioned and warrant officers who were scattered in billets across the city.  In the French tradition, a single family home in DaNang was referred to as a "villa;" so the ramshackle house at 33 Quang Trung became known as the Officer's Villa.   It was learned later that the residence had been intended for a Navy captain but had been diverted to "B" Detachment on the basis of military intelligence priority.

Photo: Vietnamese guard at the front gate of the officers' villa

Photo Credit: MIV

Above Right:  Vietnamese guard in front of the stone gateway to the Officers Villa.  While the armed guard may have looked impressive, his WW II-era M-1 Carbine was long-since obsolete, and the side and rear walls to the compound remained totally unprotected.  In addition, the guard was known to look the other way when neighborhood kids scrambled over a wall to steal mangoes from a tree in the courtyard.  For some reason, the Vietnamese in DaNang considered Mangoes a delicacy, and the Villa's lone tree was soon fully stripped of its fruit to provide treats for the waitresses at the Officers' Club.

Scenes . . .

Left Below:  "B" Detachment's Delivery Platoon pilot at the entrance to the I Corps Advisory Officers' Mess Association, where the officers took their meals.  Membership was open to officers from all military units, and the "O" Club, like similar service clubs for enlisted members and non-commissioned officers, was also a center of entertainment and social contact.  Sometimes, it was also a venue for the telling of tall tales, drinking contests and other forms of sophomoric behavior.  Weapons were checked at the door, and while the atmosphere was mostly civilized, a silly ritual of head-butting, karate-chopping, and flinging empty beer cans across the bar room, practiced by some junior officers and would-be warriors, sometimes led to confrontations with others who were sprinkled with flying beer or smacked up side of their heads by such missiles.  Right Below: "B" Detachment officers seated on the front porch of the villa.  Pictured are, in mid-1967, the commanding officer, the executive officer, and the Delivery Platoon pilot.    

Photo: Delivery Platoon pilot standing in front of the DaNang MACV Officers' Open Mess

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo: Three officer personnel in civilian clothes on the front porch of the officers' villa

Photo Credit: MIV

Down the Street, At the Officers' Open Mess

Photo: two dancers entertain at the MACV Officers' Open Mess

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo: a singer entertains at the MACV Officers' Open Mess

Photo Credit: MIV

Above, Left and Right:  In addition to the huge United Service Organization (USO) shows popularized by major entertainers like Bob Hope, all of the military service clubs in DaNang offered entertainment on a periodic basis, primarily lounge shows with music and dancers.  Of course, when the dancing stopped for this particular show, the balloons on the performers' costumes had been popped, but the modest two-piece bathing suits underneath were very much in place.  The acts shown above were typical of such shows.  While the musicians and dancers were, at the time, assumed to be Vietnamese, they could very well have been contractors from other countries.  The music presented was contemporary for the time and consisted primarily of popular music -- the same that G.I.'s were accustomed to back home.  Eric Burdon and the Animals' version of "We Gotta Get Out of this Place" was especially popular.  At twenty-five cents for a drink, table rounds were customarily bought by each party, creating the situation seen above, left, where an individual might have three or four fresh drinks sitting before him.  Most were well watered down by the time they were consumed.  

The Front and Back Yards

Photo: separated by a wire fence, a resident of the officers' villa and water buffalo being herded along Quang Trung Street are nose to nose

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo: interior courtyard of the officers' villa

Photo Credit: MIV

Left:  Repro Section Chief ponders the water buffalo being herded by Vietnamese children along Quang Trung Street just outside of the front yard wire fence.  Such bovine drives were common along city streets and Americans, conditioned by Western movies, were always alert to the possibility of small stampedes along the narrow streets.  There were none -- the water buffalo were generally as laid back as the two-legged residents of DaNang.  Right: A view of the interior courtyard of the villa.  

Happy Hour

Photo: "B" Detachment personnel and visitors at the bar in the day room of the officers' villa

Photo Credit: MIV

Left:  "B" Detachment officers and visitors in the "day room" of the villa.  They are standing behind a bar that was made on site with Philippine mahogany plywood and board lumber -- wood highly prized in the United States for furniture building but in the Orient used for dunnage to secure cargo in the holds of supply ships docking in DaNang.  The wood for this bar was obtained only after considerable dickering with dock personnel because it was considered refuse.  Local Vietnamese were contracted to dispose of refuse and, since they found use for virtually everything, -- including soda cans that, with tops and bottoms cut away, could be flattened, connected by folded seams to make sheet metal, and fashioned  into salable merchandise like small suitcases and attaché cases -- they wanted everything.  The decorative drapery in the background -- provided by the Detachment aviator, second from left in the photo --  is a camouflaged parachute canopy, stripped of its shroud lines and suspended from the ceiling.     

More Time On the Veranda

Photo: picnic at the officers' villa with enlisted personnel eating on the front porch

Photo Credit: David Keuter, "B" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation, 1967-1968

Photo: "B" Detachment warrant officer reading on the front porch of the officers' villla

Photo Credit: MIV

Above, Left: "B" Detachment personnel, those off duty in civilian clothes, the trooper in fatigues at left perhaps having come to the villa to take a break for chow on duty, gathered for a cook-out in 1968 on the front porch of the building.  Above, Right: Off-duty II Section Team Leader kicks back with a magazine on the front porch of the villa. 

33 Quang Trung Today -- No Ghostly Voices From the Past!

Photo: contemporary view of Quang Trung Street showing modern, clustered residences at the location of No. 33

Photo Credit: Jim Wilson, "B" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation Section, 1969-1970, "C" Detachment, 1970

Photo: contemporary view of Quang Trung Street showing late-model vehicles and outdoor cafes

Photo Credit: Jim Wilson

Above:  Recent Photographs of Quang Trung Street in DaNang.  At Left, the entrance to a residence at 33, with another building immediately adjoining.  Clearly, the spacious front yard of the old MIBARS officers' villa no longer exists, occupied now by two or even more structures.  The broken sidewalk may have survived from 1967, however.  At Right, a view of bustling Quang Trung Street with 33 at center in the distance.  Businesses, vehicle traffic, parked cars and outdoor eateries -- absent from the street in 1967 -- show how the city has changed since the conclusion of the Vietnam War.

In the Cantonment Area


 We Lived In a Palace

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