1st MIBARS In Vietnam!


Scenes From

The Repro Shop


The Reproduction Section

Photo Credit: MIV

Above:  A senior Reproduction Section NCO, who played a key role in keeping the ES-38A operational during 1967, is decorated by the "B" Detachment Commanding Officer.

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo Credit: MIV

Above, Left:  The entrance to the site-built Reproduction Section facility.  The SeaBees not only completed the job with a raised walkway -- a duckboard -- to the side entrance, but they also added a "butt can," the Number 10 food can half-filled with sand, shown to the left of the photo fixed on the white stick, so that staff and visitors could dispose of their cigarettes before entering the building.  Right, Above:  Repro Section specialist pictured in front of the new facility.  Right, Below:  Repro Section personnel cleaning components of the ES-38A Mobile Darkroom Facility before reinstallation in the renovated van, the open door of which is visible in the background mounted in the front wall of the building.     

Photo Credit: MIV

Photo Credit: MIV

Above, Left:  A Repro Section specialist is shown working in the ES-38A van.  In the foreground is a film processing machine that had been removed from the van during its renovation and placed on 2x4's on the concrete floor of the new facility.  Connected to water and electric power, the equipment could be operated from that location.  Above, Right:  A second specialist is shown "pulling maintenance" on the relocated equipment.  The entry to the ES-38A van, with open door in the background, is "butted" through the wall and directly into the plywood interior of the new building.

The Men Who Worked The ES-38A and the Hand-held Camera Lab

Above: and Right:  Portions of Pages 119 and 120, TM 12-427. Military Occupational Classification of Enlisted Personnel, War Department, 12 July 1944, with a position description for Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) classification 945, Photographic Laboratory Technician, and allied occupations.


Citation Credit: TM 12-427, posted by the 134th Infantry Regiment at coulthart.com

Photo Credit:  MIV

Photo Credit:  MIV

Photo Credit:  MIV

Above Left:  Civilian technical representatives were sent to the war zone by equipment manufacturers to evaluate the performance and durability of their products and to determine the need for product improvements.  The largest contractor may have been Pacific Architects and Engineers, a construction firm, known more familiarly throughout Vietnam and The Orient as "P, A and E."  Pictured is the tech rep first sent to "B" Detachment by the manufacturer of the ES-38A Mobile Darkroom Facility and who also worked in other detachment areas representing companies such as Viewlex Engineering and PAX Electronics.  His visit to DaNang in 1967 was to look at the damage caused by corrosion to the framing and covering of the ES-38A's van.  Top Right:  Repro Specialist performs maintenance on film processing equipment mounted inside the ES-38A prior to completion of the new facility.   The draped object to his left is the Lucky enlarger bought at the post exchange and used for printing 35-mm film acquired through the Hand-Held Camera Program.  Bottom Right:  Interior of the spacious new Repro Section facility that was built by the SeaBees in mid-1967.  Black, tubular film cannisters are on the floor at right.  The often-spotty availability of roll photographic paper stock and the development and printing chemistry required by the ES-38A was, indeed, a concern for "B" Detachment in 1967, one that sometimes threatened the continuity of operations. 

A Prescient Concern for the Repro Section

"[Before the 1st MIBARS was deployed to Vietnam] . . . another potential supply problem concerned me.  I wondered whether the supply system in Vietnam was prepared to resupply us with photographic paper and chemicals needed to process film.  . . . [An officer sent on a fact-finding trip to MACV headquarters in Vietnam returned and] . . . said that the supply system was not prepared to resupply us with our photographic needs." 

LTC Michael Tymchak, Commander, 1st MIBARS, 1964-1966

When the Repro Officer stated his intention to ask a visiting general from Saigon for assistance, he was firmly admonished by the Executive Officer to remain silent and was promptly sent off on a fruitless trip to Nha Trang on the Detachment's U-6A Beaver to search through warehouses for the needed supplies.

Photo Credit: John Shimashita, "B" Detachment, Reproduction Section, 1967-1968


Photo Credit: John Shimashita

Above, Left:  The Reproduction Section's collapsible rubber tank that held water for the ES-38A photo processing unit.  The tank is shown here, with its top cover in place, sited on its own platform, adjacent to the rear end of the facility built by the SeaBees -- the clapboard structure partially shown in the background.  A hose, suspended at left in the photo, carried water to the ES-38A located at the opposite end of the building.  The tank was filled periodically by Repro Section personnel from a  large steel tank, mounted on a trailer, that could be pulled by either a Jeep or a truck.  Above, Right:  A successor ES-38 Mobile Darkroom Laboratory, mounted into the front wall of the Repro Shop building, was received in 1968 to replace the damaged unit that had been repaired on the I Corps Compound a year earlier.  The Repro Section also seems to have be able to scrounge at least one air conditioning unit, mounted just under the sign, to cool the building itself.    

A Hard Lesson:  Never Settle For Assumptions In a Combat Zone

The Reproduction Section lost the services of one of its skilled photographic laboratory specialists early in 1967 due to a mishap.  The trooper, a personable and conscientious young E-4, was invited by the staff of the nearby Military Assistance Command - Vietnam (MACV) I Corps advisory staff's technical intelligence office to fire captured Viet Cong/North Vietnamese Army (VC/NVA) weaponry for familiarization purposes.  Given the fearsome reputation of the VC/NVA's AK-47 assault rifle, the opportunity to handle and fire this weapon would have been considered a real treat and a unique opportunity by the majority of military personnel serving in the combat zone.

Considering the source of this invitation, i.e., a U.S. Army captain and supposed weapons expert, the "B" Detachment Reproduction Section Chief and Senior Non-Commissioned Officer assumed that this firing exercise would be conducted on an established firing range with standard military safeguards and under the supervision of a qualified range officer.  Unfortunately that was not the case.  It was soon learned that the familiarization actually took place at an ammunition disposal dump where live, but unserviceable, ordnance had been abandoned, left stacked and piled on the ground by the military services.  In the course of the familiarization firing, an item of discarded ammunition exploded, sending a component part of a 2.75-mm aerial rocket into the leg of the Section's Repro Specialist.  The rocket's tubular propellant section penetrated the trooper's knee, creating a traumatic injury that required immediate amputation of the limb.  The GI newspaper, The Stars and Stripes, subsequently reported the incident because the military doctors had performed surgery, at some risk to themselves, involving the handling of the live and potentially dangerous propellant charge.  The article lacked specificity, however, and the natural  inference on the part of the reader would have been that the fragment removed was actually a fused 2.75-mm rocket warhead loaded with either a high explosive or white phosphorous.  That would have made the surgery far riskier for both medical personnel and "B" Detachment's trooper. 

"B" Detachment members who visited the trooper just prior to his quick evacuation from Vietnam reported their sadness at seeing their colleague by-passed as other soldiers wounded in combat had Purple Heart medals pinned to their pillows by hospital personnel.  Soldiers injured in non-combat incidents were not eligible for the Purple Heart.  It was later learned that troopers in Saigon were routinely awarded the Purple Heart for cuts and scratches caused by VC-fabricated harassing explosives -- soda cans filled with nails and scrap metal, detonated by a hand grenade fuse -- dropped from roof tops into troop carriers as they traveled through the narrow streets of the city.  It is not known what consequences -- if any -- were ultimately faced by MACV's I Corps technical intelligence office for this instance of carelessness resulting in injury. 

Another Recollection

"I had only been in the unit a short while when someone was seriously injured. Some people had gone out on a Saturday afternoon to the rifle range and a round had hit an unexploded rocket which came back and embedded itself into this personís leg without exploding. I canít remember the personís name but the operation to remove the rocket made the Stars & Stripes. Unfortunately, the guy lost his leg."

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

Reproduction Section MAIN PAGE

ES-38A -- Mobile Darkroom Facility

ES-38A -- A Closer Look

Facility Improvement

Expanded Capability

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