Dan Newell SPC 5 II Det A 10/67 – 10/68
Dan_Newell_(22).JPG
Riding shotgun on a water skiing trip on the Song Dong Nai. The water skiing equipment included the carbine.

I wrote the following for my family so that they could view the MIBARS site and know where I fit in. I took the opportunity to add some of my Army memories. Please add corrections and comments.
Attached is a link to my Vietnam Battalion alumni association website. The following will help to see where I fit in. Also, I have provided some memories of my time in Vietnam. I hope you find it interesting.

1st Military Intelligence Battalion (Air Reconnaissance Support) Also known as 1st MIBARS or MIBARS
The 1st Military Intelligence Battalion
, “The Flying Eye Battalion”, was in Vietnam from Dec 1965 until April 1972. The battalion continues as an active unit in the Army and is currently headquartered in Germany with a Company in Afghanistan.

(Drill down on the links in the web site to see the Vietnam era photos and stories including a few that I added.)
http://military-intelligence.wikispaces.com/


My Army Timeline
I was drafted in the fall of 1966 and inducted into the Army on Dec. 2, 1966. My basic training was at Fort Jackson, SC. On Feb.18, 1967 I was assigned to the Military Intelligence School at Fort Holabird, MD. In the summer of 1967 I was assigned to the 45th Military Intelligence Detachment (45th MID) that was being formed at Fort Bragg, NC. On Oct. 28, 1967 the Detachment began the move to Vietnam by charter plane from Pope Air Force base, adjacent to Fort Bragg, to Oakland, CA. On arrival in Oakland, we boarded the USNS General John Pope troop transport ship for the 23 day voyage to Vietnam. We arrived on Nov. 23, 1967. On arrival, I was transferred to Det A of the 1st MIBARS. The time on the ship counted as time in Vietnam. I returned to Oakland CA on Oct. 30 1968 and was released from active duty, about 30 days less that the standard 2 year active duty commitment for draftees. I was assigned to the inactive Army Reserve until Dec. 1, 1972 when I received my Honorable Discharge.

Fort Holabird & 45th Military Intelligence Detachment
After completing basic training, I was assigned to the Military Intelligence school at Fort Holabird in Baltimore, MD. I had to wait about 4 or 5 weeks for my secret level security clearance before I could be assigned to a class. Imagery Interpretation (II) at the MI school was a 15 week course. Attached is a link to a blog concerning Fort Holabird. You don't need to read it all. The experiences of the guy that posted it were similar to my introduction to the good life at Fort Holabird. http://www.parkwayreststop.com/archives/000430.html

My MOS or job was Imagery Interpretation (II). That is analysis of imagery, primarily 9" x 18" areial photographs but also infrared and radar imagery taken primarily from Air Force reconnaissance planes. After completing the II course, I and many classmates, except the 4 or 5 Marines that took the course with us, were assigned to the 45th Military Intelligence Detachment (45th MID) that was being formed at Fort Bragg, NC for assignment to Vietnam as the 5th Detachment of the 1st MIBARS. See the web site for the section on the 45th MID. I was with the 45th MID until the ship landed at Qui Nhon Harbor. During the Vietnam War, units assigned to Vietnam did not return until the war was over. However, the standard tour of duty for the men was 12 months. That meant that the 45th MID personnel had to be broken up so that a whole Detachment did not leave for home on the same day. The day that ship landed in Qui Nohn, about 8 or 10 of us were taken to an airfield and got on a C-130 cargo plane for Saigon. We were met on the runway at Ton Son Nhut Air Force Base by a guy from battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) with an open truck. Driving through the streets of Saigon was very scary for a new guy. Drill down on the HHC site and you will see aerial photos of the HHC compound. This was a real nice place, 2 men to a room with a private bath. I have stayed at worse hotels. I was thinking that Vietnam may not be too bad. Then the truck arrived from Detachment A to take about 5 of us to Bien Hoa. Another scary truck ride for a new guy.

Detachment A
Other than the voyage over, my time in Vietnam was with Det A. We lived in the Saw Mill compound in Bien Hoa, although we never called it that during my time. It was just the “compound”. There are photos of the Saw Mill in several places in the web site. The web site states that our operations area was in the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) artillery compound. During my time this was the Vietnamese Army (ARVN) III Corp Headquarters. (See photos on the History of Det A); we just called the area “Ops”. Ops was located just outside the fence of the Bien Hoa Airbase. The helicopter landing site next to our ops area (see photo in the web site) was within the airbase perimeter.

The Compound (Saw Mill)

Detachments in the 1st MIBARS were made up of 42 officers and enlisted men (4 Officers, 2 Warrant Officers, 36 Enlisted men.) The battalion was made up of 5 detachments and a headquarters company.
The main functions or jobs in the detachment were Imagery Interpretation (II) and Reproduction of Imagery (Repro). All Detachments other than Det A had a Delivery Platoon (pilot, crew chief & a de Havilland Beaver aircraft) for delivery of photos to requesting units. Det A used the delivery guys from HHC.
Within the detachment there were about 6 men assigned to detachment administration, supply, motor pool etc. The enlisted men lived at the compound. The officers lived in a large compound (Honour Smith) on the road to the airbase, about a mile from the Saw Mill compound. There were approximately 30 of us living at the compound at any time, evenly split between IIs and Repros. When you view the Det A photos, look for a photo with the caption “Charlie Gaskins checks out front gate.......”. My bunk was located just inside the door on the second floor of the main building near the sand bags. The sand bags were added after the Tet offensive of Feb 1968. There are several stories in the History of Det A concerning rocket attacks on the fuel depot across the street. I was in bed one night when a rocket come through the roof over my bunk and hit the wall locker across from me. There was a lot of noise and sparks but it did not explode. My first thought? Where are my pants and boots? Boots neatly shined and placed under my bunk by the maid. Socks! Need socks. I ran out of the building carrying my stuff thinking that I am not ready yet. Nobody got hurt but it was a scary night.

Living conditions were good at the compound. We did not have private rooms like HHC but we did have maids. They were older Vietnamese women (As I look at photos today I realize that they were probably in their 40s but I was 21 and they looked old to me). They cleaned and ironed our clothes, shined our boots, made our beds and cleaned the sleeping area and latrine. We had to pay for these services and for the Vietnamese guards. The guards were at the front gate night & day and rear sentry tower on the river at night. They ran away the first night of the Tet offensive. I don't blame them. They were mainly disabled Vietnamese army veterans. We also had a kid that took care of our rifles until Tet. After Tet we kept our rifles with us at all times. Since I was one of the few in the Detachment with an M16 rifle, I had a locker full of ammo for it. I knew that if we got into a fight, it might be difficult to locate M16 ammo in a room full of guys with M14s. The thought of running out of ammo was one of my many anxieties. Hoarding ammo helped me to deal with it.
The cost for the maids and guard services wasn’t bad. I don't recall the amount. We did have free cash to pay for it. Since we did not have a mess hall, the Army provided a stipend of $1.25 a day to eat. This was enough to buy breakfast .25 cents, lunch .25 cents. and dinner .75 cents at any Army or Air Force mess hall. Frequently there was no one at the door of the mess hall to collect. We got double the per diem or $2.50 a day for most of my time in Vietnam since we were not assigned to a mess hall and therefore were thought to eat local food. We never did since the town was always off limits and you know that I would have to be near starvation to eat Vietnamese food cooked in river water. We would go to the airbase or the Trane Compound on the way to work for dinner or breakfast and hit it again on the way back. We worked 10 to 12 hour shifts, 6 days a week except in the rainy season. After Tet we would eat C rations often when working the night shift. (I learned at the 2008 reunion that our C rations were left over from the Korean War.) C rations weren't bad if you got the pork & beans, or the chicken. The green lima beans & ham was very bad. The meals came in a box, the main dish in a can. For some unknown reason every box did not come with a can opener. We kept one on our dog tag chain. The box also contained crackers or similar bread products, a candy bar, toilet paper and a box of 4 cigarettes and matches. You could not tell what was in the box from the outside. Once they were opened the trading would begin. My prok & beans with Salem's for your chicken and Winston's. We used "sterno" cans to heat the meal.

The extra cash mentioned above also allowed us to get something to eat at the club. The compound had a very nice club with wood paneling and a bar. The club had 2 Vietnamese girls who were the bartenders and they also made sandwiches when there was bread and lunch meat, canned deviled ham or spam. The club was run by a SPC 5. That was his only job plus he was paid about $50 a month from club proceeds. I don’t know what his real job was supposed to be with the Detachment. He would make trips with a jeep and trailer to the PX in Saigon about once a week to pick up supplies for the club including meat, bread, beer, soda and whiskey. The club had a record player and the guys supplied the albums. There was always a fight, Rock & Roll vs. Country. The bar was open from mid day until 9 or 10 at night seven days.
Prior to Tet we would come back to the compound at night after the last mission was finished. After Tet we would wait until almost dawn before heading back.

See my web entry on water skiing on the river, Det A Member Page. A few other guys have added their memories of water skiing in the Discussion page.


Imagery Interpretation
As an Imagery Interpreter my job was to analyze aerial photos and other imagery. Our unit did not initiate missions. They were requested by combat units. Our job was to look for and report on enemy activity. The requestors, intelligence sections in the combat unit, would use the photos for briefings, planning, landing zone selections etc. The missions were ordered using four map coordinates. The plane would fly back and forth across the area like mowing the lawn. There was no GPS then. The missions were usually ordered with some map feature at the four corners like a river or stream so that the II would know where to start. Half the time in reviewing a mission was plotting it on trace paper over the area map. The film was a positive negative format so that it could be reviewed over light tables. (See photo of Tactical Imagery Interpretation Facility (TIIF) . The photos were taken with a 60% overlap. This overlap allowed the II with the use of a stereoscope to view points on the photos in 3D. The left eye was focused on the trailing photo and the right eye was focused on the same point on the leading photo. Some guys could see the 3D effect without the stereoscope. The purpose of the 3D effect was to highlight a point of interest. For example, a foxhole may be missed due to the lack of definition but in 3D the depth of the hole was exaggerated and was easier to see. This 3D effect was particularly helpful in identifying enemy artillery guns, trucks, tanks etc. but we did not see many of those in my part of Vietnam.

During my time in Vietnam I can claim that I found two important items. The first was a very small vegetable patch in the jungle along the Cambodian border. It was an indicator that the active Ho Chi Minh trail ran right by that place. The VC or NVA soldiers were probably trying to add a little verity to their diet. The tip for me was that there were no farms in the area and there are no square features in the jungle. My other find was far more significant. I found a VC camp. I identified the formation of bunkers and trenches. It was fresh since there was no sunlight reflection from water that filled every hole after a rain which occurred almost daily. This find created a lot of excitement within the Detachment. Reports were made to the unit that ordered the mission. The Air Force was contacted and a Forward Air Controller (FAC) came to ops. They flew Piper Cub type planes. I briefed him on the finding, showed him the imagery, map coordinates etc. He then says, “OK let’s go take a closer look”. We had a few Nikon cameras with long lenses and lots of Kodachrome film. Guys were pulling the equipment together (camera, film, flak jacket, 45 caliber pistol) for me to use. Frankly, I was not interested in the mission since it was not part of my plan to get home from the war safely but I couldn’t see an easy way out. Then Skip Hurt, my buddy and an II began to plead with me to let him go in my stead. “Please, please let me go! I have to go! “OK Skip if it means that much to you go ahead. But you owe me”. Away he went. The pilot was to fly over the position. If they were shot at, he would call in an airstrike. The hand held photos were to give the unit that ordered the mission a better look at what they were facing. Fortunately for all involved, the VC was not there or did not shoot.

The Battle of Bien Hoa / Tet Offensive 1968

One of the major historical events of the Vietnam War occurred during my tour. That is the Tet Offensive of 1968. There were approximately 1,500 US personnel killed in action and approximately 7,800 were wounded during that time period. It is estimated that the NVA/VC army had 45,000 KIA with no estimateon the number wounded. By traditional military measures, this was a major victory for the US. However, it was a major defeat back in the US. It was assumed prior to Tet that the war was almost at an end but in view of the attack on such a large scale, it was obvious that it was nowhere near over.

The Tet Offensive did affect our unit. Fortunately no one from our unit was injured or killed. The links below are to sites posted by the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion and the 2nd Battalion (Mechanized), 47th Infantry (2-47), 9th Infantry Division, concerning the attack on the Bien Hoa Airbase and ARVN III Corp HQ the first night of the Tet Offensive Feb. 1968. Our Ops area was located in the ARVN III Corp compound. The helicopter battalion was located within the airbase, adjacent to our Ops area. If you drill down in the Det A Unit History you will see pictures of our Ops area, a helicopter landing pad and a water tower in the background that is featured in the helicopter battle story. The infantry perspective centers on the ARVN III Corp compound which includes our Ops area. The night of the attack I was at the Saw Mill Compound, the other end of town from the Ops. The helicopter story and the infantry story mention the explosion at the Long Binh Army base, about 5 miles from the Saw Mill compound. The explosion blew out many of our windows and probably most other windows in Bien Hoa. There was a mushroom cloud and first thought was a nuclear explosion. We quickly realized that it was the ammo dump. Nobody in the Ops area at III Corps from our unit was hurt although a lot of the action took place just outside the gate. Prior to Tet the night shift would return to the Saw Mill after the last mission was completed. I don’t recall that we had many, if any guys at Ops at 3:00
AM when the attacks began. At the Saw Mill, we were awoken by the sounds of gun fire and explosions. We got into defensive positions, lights out, being very quiet, hoping that NVA did not realize that we were there. The NVA controlled the town that night and most of the following day. We were cut off from Ops and the airbase for several days (We ran out of water and started drinking soda. Beer was going to be next until Jimmy Ray Nelson made a run to the airbase for water.). Fortunately, the NVA focus was on the airbase. We would have been in trouble if they were aware of our location. Our fear was that nobody at the airbase or Long Bien knew where our compound was located. Who would help us? After Tet, steps were taken to make sure that everyone knew where we were located. A practice landing of a hsilcopter on our helipad/vollyball court was done a few days later. A large tree that hung over part of the compound yard (see photos of the compound) made that tricky and a senior pilot said that he would be reluctant to do it at night. Another anxiety for me.

There is a tactical map attached to the end of this story. I added a few references. The Saw Mill compound is located near line 09 latitude and the 3rd longitude line. The Honour Smith Compound is shown on the map. After Tet, the Battalion provided an M60 machine gun, a couple of M79 grenade launchers and a few shotguns to improve the security of the compound. We gladly accepted all of it. After Tet we were much more prepared and a little more military in our approach to things.

**http://www.118ahc.org/Tet%20of%201968.htm**

**http://www.historynet.com/tet-offensive-the-battles-of-bien-hoa-and-long-binh.htm**

Conclusion
This year is the 40th anniversary of my time in Vietnam. We tend to remember or focus on the good times. Fortunately for me, my time in the Army was OK but I wouldn’t want to do it again. There were some dark and lonely days. Writing and receiving letters from your mother almost every day was a wonderful pick me up. Few guys got as much mail as I did. Feb 8, 2009 will be our 40th wedding anniversary. Beth will wear the string of pearls at her wedding that I bought at the Saigon PX just before I came home, AKA “the war pearls”. I hope you find this overview and the web sites interesting.


Attachment_Map.snag


Rocket Attacks
The following is a record of attacks on the Bein Hoa Airbase complied by the Air Force base security unit. The period covered coincides with my time in Vietnam. Our operations area was adjacent to the Airbase. Note that all of the attacks were at night or at dawn. When working the night shift at Ops we would listen to the Air Base FM radio station that played rock & roll music. It had a very short frequency radius. We could not hear it at the Saw Mill compound. The station must have been operated the AFB security unit that was monitoring radar. Many a night we heard the music stop and a calm voice state “incoming rockets”. We would grab our helmets and scramble out the door into our bunker. The falling rockets rarely hit close to our bunker but I remember one night when one landed very close. There was a large flash of light, loud explosion, the ground shook, the bunker filled with sand dust from our sand bags and it was difficult to breath. We all agreed that we wish we had spent more time and effort in building the bunker.
Bien Hoa Flight Line
VC/NVA Base Attacks



DATE

TIME

No. Of Rounds

TYPE Attack

05 Nov 67

2340

15

Mortar

31 Jan 68

0300

45

Rocket

31 Jan 68

0330

VC & NVA

Base Penetration

09 Feb 68

0025

12

Rocket

11 Feb 68

0003

20

Rocket

13 Feb 68

0257

15

Rocket

18 Feb 68

0100

21

Rocket

28 Feb 68

0100

30

Rocket

04 Mar 68

0200

20

Rocket

12 Mar 68

2250

12

Rocket

22 Mar 68

0138

12

Rocket

05 Apr 68

2217

30

Rocket

05 May 68

0304

35 / 60

Mortar / Rocket

05 May 68

0600

10

Rocket

07 May 68

0645

03

Rocket

07 May 68

1930

02

Rocket

09 May 68

2344

04

Rocket

10 May 68

0324

05

Rocket

14 May 68

2253

04

Rocket

20 May 68

1945

02

Rocket

26 May 68

0330

02

Rocket

29 May 68

2212

15

Rocket

09 Jun 68

2306

76

Mortar

15 Jun 68

0237

50

Rocket




Dan_Newell_(49).JPG
GI Joe! Left to right Skip Hurt, I believe Chad Cantrell with the Tommy gun, me and Wayne Sarles. Post Tet 1968. We needed to get reacquainted with our rifles. Ah, to be that thin again.


Return to Alumni Roster