1st MIBARS In Vietnam!


Witness I


Recollections of the 1st MIBARS In Vietnam By the Men Who Were There


Looking Back

"Years later I'd reflect on the fact that there were guys I should have said good-bye to, but didn't have the chance.  There were guys whose home addresses I should have gotten, but never did.  There were people I had grown closer to than my own family, but I would never write to them, never see them again.  Unlike veterans from World War II, who went home as a unit on board troop ships where they could decompress together, who stayed in touch, who joined VFW and Legion posts so keep the connection, Vietnam vets rarely did and we were the worse for it.  Maybe we thought that when our war was over, we really wanted it to be over, with all ties to it severed.  Or, if we didn't consciously think it, we acted as though we did.  What I had no way of knowing as I rushed to get the chopper for the first leg of the journey home was that while I may have been finished with the war, it wasn't finished with me.  By the time I realized that it might help if I could find the guys who lived through it with me, they weren't there to be found, and I had no idea how to find them."

Gary D. Mitchell, with Michael Hirsh, "A Sniper's Journey: The Truth About the Man Behind the Rifle," 2006, Penguin Group, New York, New York


Crew Chief, Delivery Platoon, Assigned To Detachment B,  July 1967 - July 1968

Photo: current-day photograph of a "B" Detachment veteran

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

Bob Crowell, "B" Detachment

"I remember a story of a Bird Dog [0-1] pilot telling of seeing pink elephants in the mountains.  As he was a drinker, nobody believed him.  Somebody from our unit went back out and photographed them.  Seems there were pink elephants.  The NVA were using them as pack animals and the mountain streams were running muddy red from the monsoon rains.  This was in 1967, I think."

 

Bob Crowell, "B" Detachment

"My MOS [military occupational specialty] was 67B20, or, "Single Engine Utility Aircraft Mechanic" . . . crew chief by default, so to speak [since I was the only member of the maintenance crew].  I was responsible for the airworthiness of the bird and usually flew in the copilot seat on missions. One airplane, one pilot, one crew chief --- that was [the] 'B' Detachment Delivery Platoon, until sometime after TET [Tet Offensive, January 1968], when there was enough work for another aircrew.  For awhile we had two aircraft, two pilots, two crew chiefs.  Also, sometime in 1968 we moved the Delivery aircraft to DaNang Main [airbase].  Marble [Marble Mountain Air Facility] got really big and busy after TET and I guess they needed the space for combat aircraft.  Or maybe we just couldn't pay the rent.  Or buy more birds.  The helo pad was getting mortared on a regular basis.  A real war [as opposed to the uneventful months that preceded Tet]!  [I remember that] a 707 almost touched down at Marble [ possibly a commercial airliner chartered by the Department of Defense to transport troops, a common practice, with potentially disastrous results since Marble Mountain Air Facility  was not a jet airfield, and that a] B-52 crashed at DaNang Main."

Daryl Tucker, "B" Detachment, Reproduction Section, 1967-1968

"Bob Crowell mentioned the pink elephants.  John Ripper photographed them and I made the prints.  Elephants were carrying large beams around to construct deep bunkers. . .   The photos were among the most dramatic taken during our time there, or any time, in Vietnam."

Photo: "B" Detachment Delivery Platoon crew chief posing with Good Guy 182 on the apron at Marble Mountain Air Facility

Photo Credit: Bob Crowell

Photo: Good Guy 182, a port side view through the pilot's access door

Photo Credit: Bob Crowell

Photo: Good Guy 182 at its tie-down at Marble Mountain Air Facility

Photo Credit: Bob Crowell

Above Right:  Good Guy 182 on the PSP hardstand at Marble Mountain Air Base in 1967.  Left:  A wingtip view of the U6A deHavilland Beaver, with open pilot's door, showing the sturdy undercarriage and high ground clearance characteristic of an aircraft designed for carrying cargo into unimproved landing sites.

Don Skinner, "B" Detachment, Reproduction Section, 1969-1970
"Here is the group picture and all the names I could come up with at the time the picture was taken.  Please excuse any misspellings.  I know a few people were missing for the photo but I can't remember who they were.  I remember Ron Berryman being quite grumpy.  Probably because he was out of his routine for the night shift that day.  The picture is a little fuzzy because SGT Broa took it."  Circa 1969. 

Photo: Group photo of "B" Detachment personnel taken in 1969

Photo Credit: Don Skinner, "B" Detachment, Reproduction Section, 1969-1970

CPT Allari Berryman
Blanchard Cumber
Cyrus Dean
Dearth Durkin
Garamenko Goree
Grant Hare
Hendrickson Horn
Kelly Maple
Mason WO Matthews
WO O’Connel SSG Proctor
SSG Shaffer LT Steimke
MAJ Tobias D. Thompson
WO Thompson McGinley
Klosouski Skinner
SGT Valdez Wainscott
Weed Williamson
CPT Wilson Wright
SSG Zwarycz
An impromptu "B" Detachment gathering at the Modern Hotel in DaNang, RVN, c. 1968.  Troopers assembled here include S. Williamson, R. Berryman, P. Cumber and, perhaps, Shaugnessy.

Photo: Seven members of "B" Detachment enjoying cold cans of beer at the Modern Hotel

Photo Credit: Don Skinner

"About once a month we would have a water fight at our hotel.  This was a great way to blow off a little steam and have some fun. It usually started with someone on the roof with some water and someone down in the courtyard getting wet.  We had these fire extinguishers that probably held 2 gallons of water stationed around the hotel.  They had to be pumped by the handle to emit a stream of water out the short hose that was attached.  Someone would take one or two of these up to the roof and start squirting those people who were exposed down in the courtyard.  These fire extinguishers worked well from a high vantage point but not very well for an assault up the stairs as you’d have to stop the assault to pump the extinguisher.  Heavier firepower was required, so some brave soul would fill a wastebasket with water and run head long up the stairs to drench the instigators.  After that the water fight usually turned into a free for all.  One day we were sitting around in the courtyard minding our own business when a secret weapon was revealed.  A lone water balloon was launched from the roof down upon us.  We started our assault on the roof but we were pushed back by a saturation bombing of water balloons.  We were defeated before we got started.  This person, I wish I could remember his name, had written home and asked for some balloons . . .  The next day we headed over to China Beach PX to see if we could acquire any water balloons, er, balloons.  We looked everywhere and even had to resort to asking but there were no balloons to be had.  I don’t understand why the PX didn’t have balloons in a combat zone.  The next best thing to balloons that we found were prophylactics [condoms], so we loaded up on them and headed back home to the hotel.  That evening a horrendous battle took place at the hotel.  Water balloons and water prophylactics flew and we all had a grand time.  The next morning I awoke to much Vietnamese chattering coming from the courtyard, so I got up to see what the commotion was all about.  Down below in the courtyard were all the Vietnamese "maids" that took care of our rooms squatting around in a circle pointing at the walls and talking.  They must have thought we had one hell of an orgy that night as all the water had dried up leaving the burst prophylactics stuck all over the walls."

"With DaNang off limits to military personnel, you had to plan on using one of the unit vehicles and get a group together for an event such as going to the PX or the Air Force Theater at the air base.  You could also call for a free taxi.  This involved a working telephone and a taxi that was freed up to come and get you.  Taxies were gray Navy International 4-door pickups driven by Navy personnel and you usually got tired of waiting for one to show up so hitchhiking was in order.  There were always or almost always military vehicles going by so it was easy to get a ride.  Hitching a ride sometimes turned out to be quite an adventure, especially if you got picked up by a jeep load of Aussies.  For some reason the Australian Army guys really liked us and would go out of their way to give us a ride to where we wanted to go.  Of course they had a bottle of whisky under the seat and picking up an American was cause to celebrate.  You had to be very careful not to get too sloppy before they poured you out at your destination with a friendly "take care mate" and "g’day mate" before they took off in a raucous departure."


And Another Ally In the Fight

Army of the Republic of South Korea

Photo Credit: Terry Wheeler, 45th MID, "E" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation, 1969-1970

Left: This 1st MIBARS trooper, assigned to "E" Detachment in Phu Bai, just north of DaNang, takes a look at a Browning air-cooled .30 caliber light machine gun during a visit to a unit of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Tiger Division.  The ROKs, are not recalled as being particularly active in Saigon and DaNang, but they were elsewhere and did enjoy a reputation as being fearsome soldiers.  Stories abounded of the heads of dispatched Viet Cong guerrillas -- skewered on poles and mounted around ROK jungle encampments -- as a "don't mess with me" type of warning for hostiles to stay away.  In Saigon, they were particularly noted for their reconnaissance abilities.  In particular, it was said that ROK troops -- whose pay was subsidized by the US Government -- dispatched radio-equipped vehicles to post exchanges every morning to determine the availability of highly desirable consumer merchandize such as reel-to-reel tape decks, turntables, speakers, amplifiers and cameras.  The list of available brands was legendary -- Teac, Akai, Sansui, Panasonic, Sony, JVC, Kenwood, BSR, Technics and Pioneer stereo equipment, as well as Nikon, Pentax and Topcon cameras.  Reports on the availability of merchandise were then broadcast to ROK units in the area using tactical radios and command net frequencies.  Shortly thereafter, hordes of ROK soldiers were said to arrive in jeeps and trucks and clean out stocks of desirable items in the PXs.    

A Word On the Combat Efficiency of the South Koreans

"The strategy and tactics of the Korean Tiger Division were a marked contrast to the American [s] . . . The Koreans were fighting a war of territorial occupation, a more classic war scheme. Performance measurement, either at the individual or unit level, or whether it be attributed to plan or execution, was more finite, more concrete. Whereas the Koreans took longer to prepare and launch an operation, their results were more permanent. They pushed out the VC by killing and capturing, then occupied the territory, fighting for it only once. The Korean forces maintained a presence in the pacified territory, working with the local villagers and farmers. Seized rice was directed into the open market, as were the subsequent harvests. They were products of a common culture and identified with the people. The VC were reluctant to return to, or challenge, the ROKs.

. . . [T]echnical and logistical support for the Koreans was limited. They relied on he weapons they used in the Korean War, thirteen years prior. Helicopter support was rationed and prioritized, requiring more emphasis on conventional infantry tactics. The Koreans practiced detailed and systematic planning. Reflecting their Oriental culture, they were patient, foregoing the short-term opportunity to achieve longer-term results. They were masters of small-unit tactics – by the book with reliance on unit integrity and the chain of command. Whereas the [American forces] used helicopters and distant fire bases to prove and fix the enemy, the Koreans stole out of camp prior to sunset to stealthily patrol and set up ambushes. Tac air [tactical air] support was available, but on a lesser scale. Coordination was difficult at the squad or platoon level, due to the language differences. But they were tenacious fighters, schooled in discipline, and accustomed to hardship."

John F. Flanagan, Vietnam Above the Treetops: A Forward Air Controller Reports, Praeger Publishers, New York, NY, 1992 


Gene Zwarycz, B Detachment
"I don't have the dates but [this] company photo is at the compound.  [SGT] Sh*thead [the dog, cradled in the arm of the trooper, first row, third from right] is visible, also Lt. Pastore, Fanning, Joel Wilson, Lenhart and Boggs."  

Photo: group photograph of "B" Detachment complement in 1968, 1969 or 1970

Photo Credit: Gene Zwarycz, "B" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation Section, 1968-1970


Remembering

"For most people, their military service, especially if it involved participation in war, is remembered as a defining moment in their lives.  Many of those people who fought in the Vietnam War were in the military for only two years and in the war itself for only twelve months.  Yet those months dominate their memories and their lives in a manner all out of proportion to their brevity.  . . . their brief exposure to the warrior culture remained a unique experience in their lives."  

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


Witness II: By the Men Who Were There

Witness: Postings From the World Wide Web


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