Graphic: Campaign Ribbon bar for the Vietnam War

1st MIBARS In Vietnam!


Updates,

Addenda

and

Errata


A Fighting Man Atones To His Maker . . .
"Where to begin.
I regret having trifled with married women.
I'm fairly ashamed of having cheated at cards.
I deplore my occasional departures from the truth.
Forgive me for taking Your name in vain, my Saturday drunkenness, my Sunday sloth.
Above all, forgive me for the men I have killed in anger, and for those I am about to."

By actor Roscoe Lee Browne, as Jebediah Nightlinger, in the American motion picture The Cowboys, Warner Brothers, 1972

Above: This quotation has absolutely nothing to do with 1st MIBARS but, in the tradition of Hollywood movies of the 20th Century and, obviously tongue-in-cheek to set the stage for the immediately following shoot-'em-up scene, it is amusing and, in a way, seems to exemplify the sometimes-whimsical, sometimes-serious bravado heard among some younger fighting men during the Vietnam War.  Check it out sometime, as well as the action following as Mr. Nightlinger and his pint-size drovers join the fight to take back the herd.


Entry Log

No.

Date

Subject


001

04 July 14

From the Site Administrator:  An Open Letter To 1st MIBARS Veterans and Friends!

002

04 July 14

A Retrospective:  LTC Anthony F. Matta

003

27 Aug 14

Additions of text or photographs to "Evaluating Aerial Reconnaissance Imagery I", "Lessons Learned In Rocket City", "The Tet Offensive 1968", "On Intelligence Keys", "Recollections From the Back Seat", "We Lived In A Palace" and miscellaneous corrections on other pages.

004

27 Oct 14

Addition of a new website page "Looking Back."  Additions of text or photographs or text editing to Witness I, Witness II, Evaluating Aerial Reconnaissance Imagery I, Out And About In Vietnam I, Faces Through A Wall, Wings Over DaNang, We Lived In A Palace, A Visit To The Wall, Facility Improvement, Site Map, and the Main Page. 


001   To the Veterans and Friends of the 1st MIBARS:

1stMIBARSInVietnam may be my memoir, but it is also your web site.  I hope that it will generate meaningful memories for veterans of 1st MIBARS and, at the same time, constitute a useful and educational contribution to the record of the battalion during the Vietnam War.  On another plane, it is intended to help Vietnam veterans teach the young -- our successor cohorts raised on an impersonal Internet and computer-generated war and disaster movies where no lives are disrupted, no pain is felt, neither fear nor sorrow lingers, and where people can always interact successfully without the pesky problem of actually having to deal with others -- , to show what group effort can accomplish and what national service in the past involved.

Does This Apply to the Vietnam War Also?

"Histories are written about men like . . . military leaders who determined the course of the war.  But the great lessons of World War II may be learned by passing on the stories of the "ordinary" men who were dragged into the conflict, who fought with and for each other.  These men are dying now at a faster rate than they were killed during the war itself.  It is vital that we record their stories, their hopes, and their wisdom to hand along to our own children."

Maxwell Taylor Kennedy, Danger's Hour: The Story of the USS Bunker Hill and the Kamikaze Pilot Who Crippled Her, 2008, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY

Although  --  by necessity  --  the bulk of the site addresses my primary source material, "B" Detachment, I have attempted to make 1stMIBARSInVietnam as representative and inclusive of all 1st MIBARS veterans as possible, referencing materials generated by my contacts with wartime compatriots, other veterans, the e-mail group, the Wikispaces site, other sources on the World Wide Web and my own book shelf -- when they support photographs or recollections.  My goal has been to produce a concise and objective circa-1967 picture story of the who, what, when, where, how and why of the 1st MIBARS mission and organization in Vietnam.

I have also attempted to make the story multi-dimensional, going beyond a traditional men-at-war core to present what little I have of inter-service cooperation, wartime Vietnamese allies, some of the people of Vietnam, and views of the war zone outside of the military encampment.  It is my goal that all veterans of 1st MIBARS will be able to refer family, friends, acquaintances, etc., to this site with pride and with confidence that our overall Vietnam mission and organizational experience are described accurately, fairly and with dignity.  My appreciation to members of the 1st MIBARS community who have shared information with me over the years -- in particular, Bob Crowell, Paul Guinta, Don Skinner and Gene Zwarycz.  And a special thanks to Daryl Tucker  whose labor many years ago in an airless, unventilated and uncooled shack has facilitated the extensiveness of this picture story of "B" Detachment, 1st MIBARS, nearly five decades later.

My ultimate plan for 1stMIBARSInVietnam is to present it to an appropriate governmental or institution of higher education repository of historical study materials for the Vietnam War.  Until that time, I will continue to look for materials to refine, supplement and even expand it to a broader focus.  If you would like to dig into those old foot lockers and contribute photographs, publications or text that support this site's objectives, please feel free to do so.  I am in need of color scans of brass Army Intelligence Service uniform devices -- both for commissioned officers and enlisted personnel, as well as uniform devices for Signal Corps enlisted personnel -- on an olive drab or dark green background.  I would especially like to add further material on imagery interpretation techniques as practiced in the TIIF and the II vans; the continuing evolution of the 35-mm photo processing operation after 1967; improvements incorporated into subsequent versions of the ES-38 to prevent the deterioration experienced in 1967; significant II or Repro Section projects, accomplishments or operational involvements; the nuts and bolts of ARLO operations, especially coordination between Saigon and the individual detachments on target acquisition and disposition; interactions with other branches and units of the U.S. military -- both at the headquarters and field levels; additional experiences of Delivery Platoon personnel in the course of their independent flight missions in the battalion's Good Guy aircraft; the involvement of the HHC and the detachments in facility defense and defensive aerial reconnaissance during the Tet Offensive of early 1968; Didi's origins and the last time she, SGT Sh*thead and Ace were seen; and descriptions of the battalion's and the detachments' closing-down activities, departures  and good-byes from the various CTZ facilities.  Scans of the covers and table of contents pages of any FM's [field manuals] or TM's [technical manuals] for the procedures or equipment unique to the 1st MIBARS' operations, or additional pages with illustrations from related training materials at service schools could also be of potential historical interest and use.  And did anyone happen to bring back a frame or two of actual USAF or Army OV-1 air recon aerial imagery from the war period or the cover sheet used for a 1st MIBARS imagery interpretation report?  Other relevant material on the operational or cultural aspects of your tour in Vietnam that you believe could support the objectives of this site will be most welcome but please -- no bad-boy stories, tell-alls or put-downs of individuals.  While I reserve the right to ultimately decide on the content of 1stMIBARSInVietnam!, contributions of any and all photographs and text will be clearly and publicly acknowledged.  I am also interested in presenting on the site indications of how the one-year (or longer) tour of duty in Vietnam with 1st MIBARS may have affected its personnel after return home and in subsequent life.  Perhaps it would be useful to share thoughtful reflections of the influences of the war with old compatriots at this stage of the game, maybe along with "then" and "now" photographs.  I am certainly open to suggestions.  Finally, I would also think that the MIBARS community might wish to poll its membership and report on the occurrence of later-life illnesses thought to be related to Agent Orange exposure, especially for personnel assigned to Bien Hoa and DaNang -- two areas of significant dioxin contamination.

Although I can name many of the persons pictured on the site, I have, after long and deliberate reflection, chosen not to do so at this time, at least for individuals who have not given their approval.  In some instances, however, it is not practical to separate an individual's identity from their contributed material.  Also, I thought it appropriate to remember by name those compatriots who are pictured and who have now slipped from the ranks of surviving 1st MIBARS veterans.  If you recognize folks on any of the pages, you may wish to let me know their names, ranks, and assignments to ensure a complete record.  The final archival version of the site, in addition to being illustrated with higher-resolution photographs, will be labeled with correct names insofar as it is possible for me to do so.  Note that if you are pictured on the website and wish your name to be shown currently, please let me know and I will gladly add it.

Most of us are now past the age of social security eligibility, and it must be accepted that time is eroding opportunities to leave a historical page marker for the battalion with each passing day.  As some have mentioned in Internet postings, 1st MIBARS commanders did not always seem to do an adequate job of explaining how the unit fit into the grand scheme of things during the war.  Consequently, many of us may never have truly understood why we were there and how we related to the missions of other military units.

Looking Back . . .

"The individual American fighting man in Vietnam had a very limited, very narrow, very personal view of the war . . . [and] his view was often flawed by this limited perspective . . . [and] caused him to overestimate his enemy and underestimate his own performance . . ."

Mark W. Woodruff, Unheralded Victory: The Defeat of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army 1961-1973, Presidio Press, New York, 1999.

Now, however, retrospect, a closer reading of material of record on 1st MIBARS, and the sharing of memories by 1st MIBARS veterans -- through personal contacts and on the World Wide Web regarding their Vietnam experience -- suggest that a reasonably noteworthy role in the Vietnam War and record of accomplishment are linked to the battalion.  These include  --  

*  The 1st MIBARS mission was a unique program conceived well in advance of the Vietnam War to support ground operations.  The battalion produced large quantities of work in accordance with its mission, although perhaps not with the results originally anticipated by military planners.  It is important to remember that negative results are often as valuable as positive results in the evolution and development of equipment or concepts.

*  The 1st MIBARS served as a primary wartime user and evaluator of equipment developed in the evolution of the Army’s own mobile air photographic reconnaissance capability.  It is reasonable to consider that the 1st MIBARS' experience in manual and machine-assisted photo interpretation contributed to future developments in mobile interpretation facilities as digitalization and computerization expanded in the US Army.  

*  The 1st MIBARS was in the game – summaries, analyses and veterans' accounts confirm that the battalion produced intelligence documentation and photo analyses that were requested and/or used in allied air and ground operations during the war.  

*  The 1st MIBARS was manned by one of the last cohorts of soldiers who served under the military draft system originated during World War II.  The battalion's experience was unlike that of today‘s all-volunteer services and is one that is worthy of documentation while its veterans are still able to recall it.

The 1st MIBARS was a "can-do" outfit.  It hit the ground running in Vietnam immediately upon its arrival in-country.  It's accomplishments are now noted on the World Wide Web.  Are there other noteworthy contributions to the war effort made by 1st MIBARS that are as yet untold? 

Terry Wheeler, a veteran of the 45th MID and Detachment E, wrote the following to 1st MIBARS personnel on November 9, 2007:  "One of the things that worked against us [1st MIBARS, in analyses of the military intelligence effort in the Vietnam War] is not what we may have done or not done, or whether we were important or not . . . a lot of guys have that problem, our problem was a complete lack of history [emphasis added.]"  Well, today's surviving veterans of the 1st MIBARS can help remedy this lack of identity, and the options for doing so are many.  For example:

!  1st MIBARS vets could come together to document their history in a structured   manner.  The battalion was composed of a Headquarters organization and, ultimately, five field units.  Many of these six organizations were in the war zone for seven years -- from 1965 to 1972.  Seven years for multiple units having NCOs, EMs, OFFs, WOs passing through continually adds up to a lot of wartime experiences and viewpoints.  For an indication of how sharp memories remain after forty years -- and the wealth of information that can be imparted -- check out Mike Garemko's ["B" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation Section, 1969-1970] extensive September 2010 oral history posted on Texas Tech University's website for their Vietnam Center and Archive.   Also, see Gene Pianka's ["B" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation Section, 1967-1968] presentation for Central Connecticut State University's (CCSU) CCSU Veterans History Project, currently on YouTube.  Such an initiative would require a serious team effort involving individuals working in groups and focusing on contacting, interviewing, transcribing, coding, reviewing and editing.  It would require careful planning and initial data gathering through questionnaires completed and returned by 1st MIBARS veterans -- with responses invited also from other Vietnam-era veterans who worked with the Battalion or did similar aerial reconnaissance work with other US Army units or in other branches of the US Military or Allied military services.  It could provide a historical contribution to the overall record of the Vietnam War and, undoubtedly, contribute to the present-day reconnection of 1st MIBARS veterans.

 

!  The nationwide community of 1st MIBARS veterans of the Vietnam War could select a small group of peers --  together with leadership provided by qualified outside conservators --  to curate a collection  of Vietnam War-era memorabilia related to the battalion's operations for donation to a historical repository of information on the Vietnam War.  Such a collection, focusing on the 1st MIBARS mission, would, of course, be comprised of material donated by 1st MIBARS veterans and others involved in aerial intelligence collection or who were stationed in areas where 1st MIBARS units were located.  This initiative would preserve historical and/or documentary material that might otherwise be lost in the future to the trash collector or casual yard sale shopper as the Vietnam War generation passes on.  While some veterans might be reluctant to part with their wartime materials, the promise of  preservation, stewardship and availability of the 1st MIBARS story to the American public in the future should alleviate any concerns that their materials will be mishandled or squandered on a frivolous enterprise.  Entities that could be entrusted with a 1st MIBARS collection might include the US Army's Center of Military History, Texas Tech University's Vietnam Center and Archive, and the developing Education Center At the Wall sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and to be constructed near the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington, D.C.  Other entities no doubt exist that could provide fine repositories for the 1st MIBARS wartime record and wait to be identified and considered.    

 

! The reality of our lives is that the fresh-faced young men pictured on these screens -- 1st MIBARS veterans of the Vietnam War -- are now the gray-beards of American society.  With service during wartime, working careers, peak earning years, continuing education, and forty-some years of subsequent life experience behind them -- not to mention the vantage point of having lived through recent decades where history sometimes seems to show definite signs of repeating itself -- are there not some beneficial contributions that 1st MIBARS veterans might make as a group to people or to institutions?  Opportunities to support worthy causes surely abound -- perhaps in areas such as health services, education, veteran and veteran family assistance, and civil development -- here and abroad. 

 
Robert McNamara and Agent Orange, April 12, 1961-January 1971

"Agent Orange was a herbicide developed in the 1940s and used extensively in agriculture in the United States, in the 1950s especially. It isn’t actually orange, but a colorless liquid; the barrels used to transport it sported an orange stripe. No particular problems were associated with its use during crop spraying in the United States. Some time early in the Vietnam War, a bright idea was hatched. The National Liberation Front, the North Vietnamese guerrilla movement, was hiding in the dense jungle, and tracking them from the air was near impossible. If pesticides were so good at clearing land for agribusiness, why not use them to clear the jungle? They turned out to be deadly to humans – not just Vietcong guerrillas, but the civilian population and American and Australian soldiers combing the jungle. . . . To this day, contamination remains, especially around Da Nang, and birth defects abound.  

"Agent Orange was a combination of two chemicals that destroyed plants by interfering with their metabolisms. One chemical also tended to produce high quantities of dioxin, which in high doses is deadly to humans and also causes birth defects by working itself into the food chain; and the half-life of dioxin within the soil is at least three years, maybe longer. A full 95 percent of the residents of Bi[e]n-[H]oa near Ho Chi Minh City [formerly Saigon] have 200 times the safe level of dioxin in their bloodstream today. Although attempts have been made to deny links between Agent Orange and the resulting damage, no other cause for this level of poisoning has ever been suggested. The United States government still denies any positive proof of a link, although the Veterans Administration guidelines on disability payments to veterans and their families take a very different line. The likelihood seems to be that only those veterans who came into direct contact with the chemical were affected. The actual spraying was not toxic, but the effect on the food chair continues through generations. It is conservatively estimated that 150,000 Vietnamese children have birth defects stemming from Agent Orange contamination."

Stephen Weir, History’s Worst Decisions: and the People Who Made Them, 2009, Metro Books, New York, New York
 

Groups of Vietnam War-era veterans are known to support organizations such as "The Vietnam Children's Fund", "The Friends of Da Nang","Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors (TAPS)", "Vets With A Mission" and undoubtedly many others, assisting veterans, their families and others in former war zones in building better life opportunities.  The Honor Flights program transports aged and infirm veterans across the country to memorials honoring their service.  Now known for bringing World War II veterans to Washington, Honor Flights is beginning to focus on veterans of the Korean War.  The Vietnam War generation is next  -- and our time is approaching rapidly.  Well, how about a 1st MIBARS service organization, perhaps an IRS-chartered 501 (C) (19) organization for veterans, with a layered governing board composed of a cross section of ranks, grades, specialties and service periods from the Vietnam era, with a widely agreed-upon mission statement having scheduled and measurable goals to ensure a sustainable, long-term organizational philosophy and appeal, and a unique and appropriately intriguing title?  Who wouldn't want to be a contributing member of the dedicated and mysterious "Legion of the Flying Eye," for example? 

! And then -- opening up an entirely new area of possibilities -- how about a research organization to afford the battalion its proper place with other intelligence-gathering services during the Vietnam War.  How about evaluating the feasibility of sponsoring a national technical conference on the production of aerial intelligence with a carefully-developed agenda featuring multi-service participation (Army, Air Force, USMC, Navy, ARVN, VNAF, RAAF [161 Reconnaissance Flight, Bien Hoa, Call Sign: Possum, for example!] and other Allied participants) with plenary sessions of broad interest and focused break-out discussion sessions using moderators and recorders to elicit, share and capture information?  A research organization could also sponsor periodic conferences near active military bases where MIBARS veterans, with the cooperation of post commanders, could present historical information on aerial surveillance operations in return for briefings on, and demonstrations of, today's state-of-the-art techniques.

Graphic: Uncle Sam Wants You poster

1st MIBARS Needs A History!

Options such as these for outreach and participation -- options that might be explored by veterans of the 1st MIBARS -- will only compliment any other initiatives now proposed or under way within the 1st MIBARS community.  If you've got the time and the interest in participating as a member of a research team to formulate and conduct feasibility studies and perhaps initiate some exploratory projects, now would be a good time to take one step forward and sound off!

It would be useful to share information on current city and state of residence; time period, location and duty assignment in Vietnam; interest in participating in a project, and skills in areas such as program planning, researching, writing, interviewing, transcription, desktop publishing, database construction and management, grant writing and non-profit organization management, or a willingness simply to roll up your sleeves and undertake whatever task needs to be done.  An attorney within the community, willing to provide pro-bono advice and services in support of initiatives undertaken by an organized group under the proposals suggested above, would be quite an asset.  Input from former officers and senior NCO's in imagery interpretation and military intelligence, particularly those who can provide information on notable projects and operations and who can identify other military organizations and persons that 1st MIBARS worked with during the Vietnam War would be invaluable.  Currently-employed individuals, with active security clearances, who could search military intelligence repositories of the armed services for retained documents generated by 1st MIBARS during the Vietnam War, and who could assist in preparing requests for interesting documents to be de-classified and released to the public, would be an unprecedented resource for 1stMIBARS in formulating its history.  Information on the availability of skills such as these would be most helpful in making a preliminary assessment of the nature and general location of a 1st MIBARS talent pool -- those individuals willing and available to work as a program development team to formulate and conduct feasibility studies and initiate exploratory projects.  Over the course of a couple of years, a dedicated platoon -- or even a reinforced squad -- of motivated 1st MIBARS "airborne rangers" could probably double-time it up, over and down that mythical hill from basic training to develop a splendid history and create a solid heritage for the old unit.  [By the way, I notice that some "B" Detachment prime movers from 1967 have not made their presence known on the Internet.  Santos, Hogan, Scallan, Mitchell, Dierks, Perrill, Mueller, Criss, Harris, Ayers, Wolfe, Pope, Patton, Shimazu -- where are you?  And Bird of the Forest, check in -- I need additional narratives on learning how to be a newbie interpreter at II school and how the training held up to examining actual tactical photography, and I think that you can help.  Also -- Mr. Sumits -- where are you and your (presumed) trunk full of photos from "A" Detachment and The APC taken with that Leica M-3 that I always assumed that your Dad gave you when you shipped out?]  Regardless of this aside to folks who are known to the Site Administrator, any and all interested 1st MIBARS veterans might also want to think about taking one step forward at this time.

The bottom line, however, is this . . .  If interest in activities such as these is insufficient or simply does not exist, then that's OK also.  Forty-five years was a long time ago, and perhaps the events of our lives over the past four decades have dwarfed the significance of the year(s) in Vietnam for many of us.  Maybe a bit of nostalgia on the World Wide Web is quite enough for most at this stage of life.  1st MIBARS, at least in 1967, and in my not-so-humble opinion, was an efficient military organization, and if most are content to leave their memories as they experienced them -- or as the passing years may have rendered those memories most comfortable by either bolstering them up or smoothing away the rough edges -- then so be it. 

Anyway, many thanks for visiting this web site -- most especially if you've made it through all of this verbiage.  I feel like I've put you through an experience akin to crawling through the infiltration course during basic training on a cold and rainy night -- with the incessant barking of that Browning light machine gun behind you and those .30 caliber tracers whizzing above your heads.  Well, in the spirit of 1967:  Back up on your feet Troopers!  Wipe that dirt off of the tip of your nose!  Scoop that wet sand out of the pockets of those fatigues!  Square that headgear!  Secure that weapon!  And move on with your life -- smartly!  Look back with pride -- you did good!  My regards and best wishes to all.

Site Administrator, 1stMIBARSInVietnam!

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