Submitted by Larry Letzer Sr.

The 1st Military Intelligence battalion had the HQ Company and the four detachments (A-D) the entire time I was with MIBARS. I had spent a year with them at Fort Bragg and in the Dominican Republic before we went to Vietnam. At that time, I was with Detachment D.
We did a lot of work getting everything ready to ship to Vietnam. We were the first Military Intelligence ARS battalion to be deployed to Vietnam so we were working with the assumption to take everything and double up on it. We were part of the 525 Military Intelligence Group with the HQ, 519th MI Bn and us and maybe some other smaller units as well. We spent weeks loading and reloading equipment and vehicles. Then we were put on standby. This was the second week of November, 1965. Many of the families had left Bragg for their homes, leaving service members (even officers) to find billets in the barracks. My wife stayed there and we had something like 20 people for Thanksgiving dinner while our status was totally in Limbo.
Someone at Battalion came up with a code word which when received meant you had to get to your unit right away. Code word: Groceries.
I remember getting the call about 5:30 one morning and, of course, everything I could carry was in my already packed duffel bag. Bernie, my wife called our (still great friends to today) next door neighbor to come watch our kids while Bernie drove me to post.
We put our duffel bags, completely adorned with our names, service numbers stenciled in white paint and anything we could think of to be able to spot our individual bag amongst hundreds on a 2 1/2 ton truck, wondering if we would ever see the bag again. No problem, it went beautifully.
Then, not unlike the Army of today, we sat and waited and waited. The rumor was repeated constantly "We are leaving within the next hour" and the hour came and went several times. Finally, we actually got on buses and went to Pope Air Force Base right next to Fort Bragg. Although it was a secret, we all knew where we were going: Ton Son Nhut right outside of Saigon. But that's all we knew. We flew on commercial airplanes to Long Beach, California and almost immediately boarded the ship. Sorry, I do not remember its name. (I have crossed the Pacific three times by ship and none of them have been enjoyable). We arrived at the dock and believe it or not we were reunited with our duffel bags.
We sailed on 2 December arriving in country on 23 December 1965.
The trip was boring and uneventful until we actually docked in Guam and got off the boat for a couple of hours. That was enjoyable. Then we got back on the ship and sailed for a few more days, still boring until we got to Vung Tau. (on my second tour, I spent a week one night in Vung Tau, but that’s a story for another time)
We were the first troop ship to ever sail the Saigon River and someone was afraid the bad guys had seal–sappers. A former grunt and I were chosen to drop M-26 hand grenades over the side every few minutes to ward off any bad guys trying to attach explosives to our ship.
Thank God we survived, as we had no seal-sappers attack the ship.
It took us a few hours to get from Vung Tau to the Saigon harbor. What a remarkable event that arrival would prove to be. We finally docked and with full packs we were immediately told to take up a defensive position on the docks. I can't remember to this day if we had ammunition in our rifles or not, but here we were securing the perimeter of the ship while the regular dock workers went around and through our formation with fork lifts, looking at us like we were crazy. One guy operating a fork lift could not get around our perimeter of people, not having a single idea what we were doing, so he just sat on the fork lift and waited for us to realize there was no attack going on. His boss, a small Vietnamese man came out of the office and started yelling at the troop commander to get off of his docks so his workers could get our ship unloaded. Of course, in their eyes we were Americans and this defensive position on secured docks only reinforced that all Americans are crazy. After about a half hour someone made the decision that the dock area was indeed secure and we were allowed to stand down from our tactics.
After standing down from our defensive position we were trucked to Tent City Bravo which housed hundreds of GP Medium tents. We were assigned a bunk, which was a cot and hopefully our mattress held air, as we lived in the tents for about two or three weeks. It was during these two weeks that the battalion deployed to outlying areas. Det A moved to Ben Hua, Det B to DaNang (Phu Binh), C to Can Tho and D to the Central Highlands in Quin Nhon. Headquarters Company, which I had been transferred to stayed in Saigon, so for my first tour I was indeed a Saigon Warrior.
It was forbidden for our MI officers to wear AIS brass or insignia so the enemy would not know we were so-called spooks. However, the 525 MI Group occupied a villa on Chi Lang Street and one of the first things they did was to erect a sign proclaiming it the home of the 525 Military Intelligence Group. So much for secrecy. They actually wondered why that got fragged twice in one month. This actually did happen. They decided that they maybe should move out of Saigon and got a larger villa on the Saigon River. Of course, they decided to give their old villa to the 1st MI and we moved our HQ there and took down the stupid sign.
We officers moved into a very spacious villa near Ho Tum Chi Lang, which is Vietnamese for swimming pool. No, there was no water in the pool. This villa was beautiful. We lieutenants had to share a room with one other LT. The villa had three bathrooms and we had to endure sharing a latrine with hot water most of the time with one third of the other officers. It was located a few hundred meters from the headquarters and a little over a mile from our work site on Ton Son Nhut. The NCOs and Enlisted men moved into a barracks complex on Ton Son Nhut. I made good friends with a man named Trinh Ba Cam who was the 2nd Vietnamese in charge of Shell Oil Company in Vietnam. He with his seven kids lived right near our villa. More about him later in the story.
I was in charge of the Reproduction (photography) Section and we had our ES 38 photo van and an expandable van (with a great air conditioner) for creature comfort. Generators were a problem at first until we latched onto a 60 KW for our photo operations. After that, we were home free.
The serial # on my ES 38 was 7 and being so new we had a lot of break downs. The company that supplied the vans sent a technician and he kept busy.
About half way through the year tour we got a Tyler mount system. This was two Nikon cameras, one with a 50mm lens and the other with a very high powered telephoto lens which shot in the optical center of the area covered by the 50mm normal lens. This Tyler mount was a very stabilized seat and mount system to reduce 90% of the vibration and made the photographs especially the telephoto images clear. Although we did a bunch of testing with different types of film I do not recall this being used on an actual mission while I was with the 1st MI.
After we were in our villa for three months or so the owners got greedy and wanted to raise our rent. We refused to pay and moved into a couple of apartment houses near the 3d field hospital about 200 meters from Ton Son Nhut. The new villa owner was a deposed Vietnam Lieutenant General who was Vietnam's former Ambassador to Thailand. He and his wife were very gracious and we became good friends. They had two daughters going to college in Virginia. They lived in a very spacious home in Saigon and out of boredom they raised chickens, thousands of chickens. I ate with them many times and the dining room had a 20 foot long table. He ate at the head of the table and his wife ate 20 feet away at the other end. This always cracked me up.
I personally only got to Det B once during this tour as I had to deliver some parts up there. However, on my second tour I managed to get to Da Nang three times as Mr. Cam (the executive with Shell Oil) was in charge of the Shell operations on Da Nang Air Base. I would visit Phu Bai a couple of more times in 69-70. I made it once more to Det B and spent a few hours visiting with the guys there. I remember sitting in a shack which was across from the 502 Infantry Regiment staging area.
One time the Cams wanted me to visit Hue about two hours north of Da Nang. We went with their seven kids in their Citroen and I was relegated to the back floorboards where they placed a blanket over me so I would not been seen in the bad lands between Da Nang and Hue. We traveled over the Hi Vinh Pass. After spending most of the day with them, I decided I did not want to go back through the Hi Vinh Pass so I hopped a C-130 and made my way back to Saigon where I was stationed. At that time, I had about two weeks left in country on my 2nd tour.


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