1st MIBARS In Vietnam!

Witness II

More Recollections By the Men Who Were There

Photo: grave markers at the Quantico National Cemetery decorated with wreaths and red ribbon for Christmas, 2009

Photograph Courtesy of Mr. Kris Shacklette

Above:  The Quantico National Cemetery, United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Triangle, Virginia

Remembering Those Who Died In the Vietnam War -- On Both Sides

“During wartime I witnessed a lot of American deaths, but most of their bodies were recovered.  The Americans cared deeply about their dead and were very successful recovering their casualties.  Of course, in some cases their soldiers were killed alone in isolated places, especially pilots who crashed in the jungle or at sea and it was almost impossible to reclaim their bodies.  However, during the war whenever we found Americans who had been killed, we buried them properly.  After the war I showed the American MIA teams these burial sites so they could repatriate the remains.  Let me say why I did it.  Many times I witnessed wounded American soldiers screaming and crying for their parents.  That was our experience as well.  And when we came home after the war we saw many parents crying for their lost children.  We realized American parents also grieved for their children.

Nurse Edna's Prayer . . . 

"Oh Lord, support us all the day long [of this troublous life], until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done.  Then, in Thy mercy grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last."

John Irving, The Cider House Rules, (screen play), 1999; originally by John Henry Newman for the Anglican Liturgy.

   . . . [of recovered Vietnamese war dead] We always wash the bones we find.  Then we wrap them in a white cloth and put them inside a plastic bag along with whatever information, if any, we might have about the person.  We never seek perfection.  Even when we find only a piece of bone we consider that good enough and treat it as if it were the full remains of one of our comrades.  If we don’t know the identity we still have a solemn memorial service.  We devote a lot of attention to the funeral oration in which we enumerate the achievements and sacrifices of the fallen soldiers and express our gratitude for their contribution.  We must always urge the living to remember those who died for them.”

Tran Van Ban, a physician who works to recover the remains of Vietnamese killed during the Vietnam War, focusing on the Iron Triangle, site of extensive firefights and bombing during the Vietnam War, as quoted in: Christian G. Appy's Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered From All Sides, Viking, 2003.

Roger Dearth, B Detachment
Photo: "B" Detachment personnel on the I Corps Compound

Photo Credit: Roger Dearth "B" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation Section, 1968-1970


Individuals Pictured Above -- Not In Any Particular Order:

David Thompson

Phil Cumber

 Lt. Steimke

Mark Mason

Donny Wainscott

Willard "Lucky" Gant


Jerry Wright

Sgt Valdez

Burny McGinley

Ron Berryman

David "Krash" Klosouski

Bill Goree

Gene Weed

John Hare

Don Skinner

Sgt Kelly

Bobby Joe Hendrickson

SSGT Shaffer

Mike Garemko

Roger "RA" Dearth

MAJ Tobias


SGT "Z" Gene Zwarycz

Ronnie Cyrus

Bobby Dean

Mr. (WO) Mathews

Roy Maple

CPT Allari

Steve "Willie" Williamson

SSGT Proctor

Cpt. Wilson

Mel Horn

Mr. (WO) O’Connel

This Spot Not Used

Mr. (WO) Thompson

Imagery Interpretation Specialist, "A" Detachment, Bien Hoa, 1967-1968

"Detachment A was based in Bien Hoa City.  We worked out of an ARVN artillery compound.  Not to bad mouth the ARVN, but they would come in at 8:00 A.M. and leave at 5:00 P.M.  In my 15 months there, I think they fired off about 10 rounds.  I asked them about it, and they said they have been fighting this war for the past 20 years and it had become a job for them."

Paul Guinta, "A" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation Section, 1966-1970


Photo: MIBARS veteran participates in the annual Ride To the Wall in Washington, DC

Photo Credit: Paul Guinta

Photo: annotated aerial photograph showing "A" Detachment's location at Bien Hoa Airbase

Photo Credit: Paul Guinta

"When Detachment A first arrived, it did mainly map updates, then moved on to field intelligence.  The first group may have been based at Long Bien, which was a Army equipment depot, not an air base.  We were first housed at the end of Bien Hoa air base in tents with no running water.  We improvised on showers and latrine facilities. It was still was better that going out in the field.

After six months in tents, we moved to the northern side of the city of Bien Hoa.  Our quarters were located on the Song Dong Nai River. We were right down the road from a ARVN swift boat company.  I had the pleasure of meeting these guys.  They took their duty seriously, and they earned our respect.  It was nice having them there as security for our unit.  There also was a fuel depot across the street from our compound.  They did try and mortar it once while I was there.  Luckily they had bad aim.  I had heard that during the first Tet offensive in 1968 the compound was hit with mortar fire.  They blew the roof off.  Only one guy was injured.  His name was Nelson.  I heard he got a Purple Heart out of it, but I have never been able to verify the facts."

Paul Guinta

Hue and Phu Bai -- The Location of "E" Detachment, 1st MIBARS

Hue (pronounced "Way") is a city located in central Vietnam on the banks of the Perfume River, just a few miles inland from the South China Sea. It is about 700 km (430 mi) south of Hanoi and about 1,100 km (680 mi) north of Ho Chí Minh City (formerly Saigon). During the Vietnam War, Hue’s central location near the border between the North and South put it in a vulnerable position. In the Tet Offensive of 1968, during the Battle of Hue, the city suffered considerable damage not only to its physical features, but its reputation as well, due to a combination of the American military bombing of historic buildings held by the North Vietnamese, as well as the massacre at Hue committed by the communist forces. The second half of Stanley Kubrick's film "Full Metal Jacket" is placed to a great extent in and around the bombed-out ruins of the city of Hue, although the scenes were actually filmed in the disused Beckton Gas Works a few miles from central London, UK.

Photo Credit: Terry Wheeler, 45th Military Intelligence Detachment and "E" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation Section, 1967-1968

Photo Credit: Terry Wheeler

"It became necessary to destroy the village to save it . . . "


Photo Credit: Daryl Tucker, "B" Detachment, Reproduction Section, 1957-1968

"It became necessary to destroy the town to save it", a United States major said today. He was talking about the decision by allied commanders to bomb and shell the town regardless of civilian casualties, to rout the Vietcong.  The quote became distorted in subsequent publications, eventually becoming the more familiar, "We had to destroy the village in order to save it."  The quote was a statement attributed to an unnamed U.S. officer by Associated Press correspondent Peter Arnett in his writing about Bến Tre city on 7 February 1968

Account Adapted From en.wikipedia.org

Above, Left:  Scene of the hustle and bustle along the streets of Hue, Republic of South Vietnam, in 1967.  The neat pile of masonry suggests construction activity, not battle damage, behind these two Vietnamese women who are wearing the traditional non la and ao daiAbove, Right:  A view of the road leading to an entrance to the Citadel, a fortress protected by a two kilometer wall -- two meters thick -- and a moat, constructed early in the 19th Century.  Inside the Citadel were the Forbidden City and the Emperor's Palace.   On the morning of January 31, 1968 – as part of the Tet Offensive – a Division-sized force of North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong guerrillas launched an attack on Hue and seized most of the city. Initially, because of religious and cultural concerns, Allied forces were ordered not to bomb or shell the city, for fear of destroying historic structures. However, as casualties mounted in house-to-house fighting, these restrictions were lifted and the fighting caused substantial damage to the Imperial City. Out of 160 buildings, only 10 major sites remain because of the Battle of Hue. The buildings that still remain are being restored and preserved. Left: Photograph showing the widespread damage inside the walls of the city of Hue in February 1968.


Discussion Adapted From en.wikipedia.org


Photo Credit: Terry Wheeler

Above:  What appears to be a personal services establishment located at a roadside in the Cherang Valley in 1968.  Note the motorbike -- perhaps an indication that home delivery was available.

Phu Bai (pronounced "foo bye") was a village in Vietnam that was also the location of a large military base – Camp Hochmuth, named after US Marine Major General Bruno A. Hochmuth killed in combat just north of Hue. In 1968, it was the location of the headquarters, Provisional Corps Vietnam (POV). It later became the headquarters of the XXIV Corps which was responsible for all of the units in the northern two provinces of the I Corps Tactical Zone. XXIV Corps was under the command of the III Marine Amphibious Force headquartered in Da Nang. It was located next to the Hue-Phu Bai airport just south of the City of Hue where the old imperial palace is located at the Citadel. Under XXIV Corps were the 1st Air Cavalry Division, 101st Airborne Division, the 3rd Marine Division and the 1st Army of the Republic of Vietnam, as well as many subordinate units such as aviation, artillery, SOG (special operations group) units, signal, medical and operational control infantry units. Towards the end of the war, the headquarters of the XXIV Corps was relocated to Da Nang, and eventually stood down.


Discussion Adapted From answers.com

Ron Berryman, "B" Detachment

Photo: "B" Detachment imagery interpretation team in an imagery interpretation van with a canine mascot.

Photo Credit: Don Skinner, "B" Detachment, Reproduction Section, 1968-1969


Left:  Some of those pictured in this "Night Crew" photograph -- Not In Any Particular Order: Rich Munio, Jerry Wright, Joe Buessing, Peter Mulveigh, Doug Perry, Gene Weed, Ron Berryman, Bernie McGinley, Rodger Dearth, Ron Farmer, and Detachment Mascot -- SGT. Sh*thead.

The Monsoon Season

Photo: five "B" Detachment troopers standing near-waist deep in rain water on the parking stand on the I Corps Compound during monsoon season

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

Above:  "B" Detachment troopers employ this unique way of demonstrating the depth of ground water in portions of the I Corps Compound in 1968.  The Orderly Room door is behind the truck in the background.

Christmas In the Combat Zone

"I remember both Christmas 1968 and Christmas 1969 vividly. I was "low man" in ‘68 and had guard duty on 12/25/1969 while everyone else went to the Bob Hope Show. I was NOT "low man" on 12/25/1969 and did get to the Bob Hope Christmas Show. The show included Bob Hope (naturally), Neil Armstrong, Connie Stevens (?), Theresa Graves, the God Diggers (from the Dean Martin Show), Les Brown and the Band Renown and Miss Universe. I took a lot of slides that day . . . I treasure that memory of that show to this day."

Dave Thompson, "B" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation Section, 1968-1970

". . . I too often think back on Christmas to that show on Christmas day in 1969. It was as close as I got to being in the Boonies! We were just outside the inner fence line up on the hillside. We were all packing 100 or 200 MM lenses and taking pictures of the round eyed girls with the beautiful legs. I recall having a slide show in the vans when we got our slides back from Palo Alto. . . . The Gold Diggers were unbelievable! Bob Hope was just great. I remember when Neil Armstrong was answering questions the producer was urging Hope to move on and keep to the schedule (they were about 2-3 hours late getting to us as I recall) he sternly replied . . . "we aren’t going until these guys questions are all answered." I didn’t agree with him politically but he was a guy who really supported the troops. . . . Do you remember the party on Christmas Eve the night before in the bar we made down by the Hotel Courtyard (with the purloined mahogany plywood or did we trade a truck for it?)? We were all drinking and singing Christmas carols and then at Midnight we heard the voices of the choir from the cathedral and it was like the angels were answering us in Vietnamese. I remember Phil Cumber was especially broken up and missing his wife and that got us all crying in our beer! We were all doing fine until one of us cracked. It was the loneliest Christmas of my life and I often say that there would have been no hope without Bob Hope that Christmas."

Mike Garemko, "B" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation Section, 1969-1970

Mike Davis, "B" Detachment

"When I first got to B Detachment in June of 1967, the 1st MI was attached to 525th MI Group.  The REPRO Section had a LT from Indiana or Chicago who worked for Osco drugstores.  I ran the ES-38, plus I maintained it with a civilian contractor.  I was there during Tet, and the I Corps Compound was attacked but not close to the area we were, in the back corner.  I left my first tour in June of 1968 but came back in-country in January 1969.  I stayed at the 1st MIBARS headquarters in Saigon until spring when they finally moved me to B Detachment in DaNang.  I cannot remember much, as I spent 18 months there that time.  I went back stateside, and I finally did another tour which took me up until April 1972.  I think we were living down by the boat area, that was across from the DaNang hotel.  It was Army-style living, and I remember that we had a full field inspection just like basic training.  I can’t recall whatever happened to our dog, Didi, but I know that she had pups a couple of times.

When E Detachment was formed [in Hue], it’s Repro Section was made up of the REPRO Section personnel in DaNang who the REPRO lieutenant didn't like.  I went there many times to work on the ES-38 and get out of DaNang.  We drove a deuce-and-a-half up there and back.  One night they got hit with rockets and several guys got purple hearts.

During my last tour we were down to a unit of six guys.  1st MIBARS had a female major at the headquarters who was a real pain in the ass.  She came to DaNang and visited for a few days.  I picked her up at the airport, and she said I needed a haircut and my sideburns were too long.  And I'll never forget – she ask me why I did not salute her.  I said "Ma’am, snipers are all around this airbase," and she said maybe she should cover her gold leaves.  I said, I think they think you’re a Donut Dolly.  What a great day that was!"

The 45th Military Intelligence Detachment, XXIV Army Corps
 -- Became "E" Detachment, 1st MIBARS, In 1968

Photo: 45th Military Intelligence Detachment group in the detachment areas in Phu Bai on 30 May 1968

Photo Credit: Terry Wheeler

Left:  Men of "E" Detachment, 1st MIBARS, in May 1968.  "E" Detachment was located in Phu Bai, near the old imperial city of Hue, north of DaNang and still in the I Corps Tactical Zone.  The large boxes lined up behind the truck in the background are "Conex" boxes -- air and sea freight shipping containers.  Scattered throughout Vietnam, Conex boxes were convenient and sought-after storage units when their role as a shipping container was completed.




Photo: 45th Military Intelligence Detachment trooper talks with Vietnamese youngsters in Phu Bai, 1968

Photo Credit: Terry Wheeler

Left: Curious and laughing children gather in front of this "E" Detachment trooper in Phu Bai.  In the center of this picture are two children holding younger and nearly similar-sized children straddled on their hips.  Children attentively taking care of younger siblings was a common sight in wartime Vietnam.

Remembering the Non-Combatants

"Part of my tour I worked in the Vietnamese ward.  Mostly we had women and children and elderly men.  They were country people – fishermen or rice farmers – who came in with amputations, abdominal wounds, head wounds, pneumonia, infections, everything.  Some of the children came in with napalm burns.  Most of them were burned pretty badly and when you touched them a white, powdery dust would come off their skin.  It was like their skin was evaporating.  It had a really pungent odor of burned flesh and chemicals.  Their beautiful county and their homes and families were torn apart and yet they managed to survive.  They took care of one another and would absorb people from other families who weren’t even blood relatives.  They were warm and caring.  Family members were always in the hospital.  They’d sleep under the beds or on the floor."

Sylvia Lutz Holland, 312th Evacuation Hospital, U.S. Army, Chu Lai, Quang Ngai Province, Republic of Vietnam, 1968-1969, as quoted in Christian G. Appy, Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered, The Penguin Group, 2003

Witness I: By the Men Who Were There

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