1st MIBARS In Vietnam!

Life In the

Cantonment Area

If I should die in a combat zone,

Box me up and ship me home.

--  Traditional Army Cadence Call

Photo: full field inspection, the inspecting officer being from battalion headquarters, on the tennis court adjacent to the "B" Detachment operations area on the I Corps Compound

Photo Credit: MIV

Above:  The Full Field Inspection.  The full field inspection was an occasional annoyance for the troops when they were required to display all items of equipment issued to them.  The purpose of continuing inspections was to ensure that soldiers were keeping their gear available and in serviceable condition.  The inspection shown above was conducted  during the spring of 1967, during a light rain, by a team from the 1st MIBARS battalion headquarters in Saigon.  The inspecting officer is shown examining a gas mask, probably an M17 Field Protective Gas Mask of the Vietnam War period.

The True Grit

"One of the banes of every soldier is, of course, inspection, especially if its conducted by the battalion brass.  Next to the fence were four latrines and on the other side of the fence was a street and then an open field.  Just as the battalion and company brass decided to go inspect the latrines, a Chinook landed in the field, throwing up a lot of dust and sand. The inspection party got covered with the dust and sand.  Kind of made the preparations for the inspection worth while."

Stephen Griffis, "B" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation Section, 1968-1969

Work and Play

Photo: work detail tidies up the sand bag walls protecting "B" Detachment's field generators

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

The Sand Bag Detail 

"My first, and as far as I can remember, my only sandbag detail, took place shortly after I arrived.  Larry Lockhart and I had to get sandbags filled so that the bunker located just outside entrance to the II vans could be improved.  Larry got a deuce & Ĺ [truck], this was early in the afternoon, and we took a ride over the bridge, took a left up the road towards Monkey Mountain, and then somewhere along the road turned right between a couple of roadside shacks and drove onto the beach. Between Larry and me a lot of sandbags were filled and tossed up into the back of the deuce & Ĺ so that we have a pretty good load.  By this time it was late in the afternoon and we didnít want to be on the beach in the dark (or at least I didnít).  Larry hops in the driverís seat and gives it the gun.  Unfortunately, with the load, the tires just dug into the sand and we couldnít make any progress to get off the beach.  So, we unload some bags back onto the beach and try again. No progress, so we unload even more bags. Still only minimal progress to get off the beach and back on the road and itís starting to get darker. Eventually, we unloaded enough bags to be able to get back on the road, but now thereís a . . . load of filled sandbags sitting on the beach that have to be carried up to the road and tossed back up into the truck. We hired some Vietnamese kids to do the grunt work. Iím not sure how much it cost us but it was well worth the price."

Gene Pianka, "B" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation Section, 1967-1968

Photo: two troopers enjoy a cold one under the shade afforded by a jeep's canvas during a detachment picnic

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo: sand bag detail takes a break for a noon-time game of volley ball

Photo Credit: MIV

Above Left, Top:  A sand bag detail tidying up the protective wall around the generators that provided electric power to the Tactical Imagery Interpretation (TIIF) complext and the Reproduction Section facility.  The open structure, roofed with corregated aluminum sheets, protected "B" Detachment's generators from sun, rain and hostile action on the ground.  Above, Left, Bottom:  Nothing like a good game of volleyball to help ease tensions and bleed off testosterone in the war zone.  This net was set up next to the TIIF complex in the Detachment's area of the I Corps Compound for noonday breaks from duty assignments.   Above, Right: Two troopers having a U.S. Army-sanctioned 3.2 beer at "B" Detachment cook-out.

Cooking Out

Photo: trooper scarfes up on a freshly-grilled steak at a detachment picnic

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo: "B" Detachment personnel grilling steaks at a detachment picnic

Photo Credit: MIV

Above, Left:  Trooper, standing down in civilian clothes for an off-duty bar-b-que in the "B" Detachment's area of the I Corps Compound, scarfes down a steak.  While steaks were relatively plentiful, accompaniments were not -- no french fries, baked potatoes or tossed salad.  Just steak.  And 3.2 percent alcohol beer available through military channels, of course.  Above, Right:  The GI charcoal bar-b-que grille, created by military metal shop troopers who cut an an oil drum in half lengthwise, then added a welded metal stand and a grate, was a staple in Vietnam.  Nearby naval and SeaBee units always had a case or two of steaks in the "reefer" [Note: military slang for a refrigerator - Site Administrator] to trade for booze and other commodities.  A crisis developed in mid-1967 when stocks of liquor by the bottle at military clubs and package outlets ran low due to a delay in the arrival of supply ships.  Hurriedly dispatched to the retail store by senior NCOs, one MIBARS officer returned with the last four bottles of booze on the shelves -- Old Overholt rye whiskey, not a popular commodity, even in Vietnam.  Nevertheless, they were soon traded to the Navy for frozen steaks and other goods or services.  

Combat Readiness . . . 
A Word On Keeping Fit

"The CO scheduled a PT [physical training] test one Saturday afternoon Ė the only one I can recall during my tour. The test was scheduled for around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and everyone was to attend. Unfortunately, this was a poor choice of times by the CO as the EM Club was open and the drinking started at noon. If I remember correctly, my plan that day was to start at one end of the bar and drink a different drink until I got to the other end. Needless to say, neither I nor most others were in any shape to take any test. I remember we were to do some push-ups, and to run around the perimeter of the entire I Corps compound at least once. I donít think anyone made it all the way around Ė I know I didnít, and the push-ups didnít go so well either. This test ended very quickly Ė never as I recall being re-scheduled."

Gene Pianka

Photo: troopers in formation on the I Corps Compound

Photo Credit: MIV

Serious Scenes . . . And Not

Photo: "B" Detachment commanding officer and visiting US Air Force Forward Air Controller talking at picnic

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo: "B" Detachment executive officer tests attack alarm on the I Corps Compound

Photo Credit: MIV

Above, Left:  U.S. Air Force Forward Air Controllers stopped by from time to time to feed with "B" Detachment, this one in conversation with the Detachment's Commanding Officer, MAJ Anthony F. Matta [1929-2014].  Above, Right:  The Executive Officer tests the Detachment's emergency alarm system -- an expended artillery shell suspended from a wooden frame and manually activated by a heavy iron peg normally used to tie down a large general purpose [GP] Army tent.

Commander's Call

Photo: "B" Detachment commanding officer holding an informal meeting with detachment troopers under the shelter of the motor maintenance van

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo: commander's call in the "B" Detachment operations area on the I Corps Compound

Photo Credit: MIV

Above, Left and Right:  "B" Detachment Commanding Officer meets informally with the troops under the vehicle maintenance shelter in the detachment's operations area in mid-1967.  All officers and non-commissioned officers are recalled to have been extremely mild-mannered and approachable, with informal gatherings such as this occurring as regularly as formations.


Up At The Villa

We Lived In a Palace

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