by Gary Shumaker

We were there at the same time, and Tinker's recollection is pretty good, probably better than mine.

Olga's speciality, by my recollection, was pizza.

Tinker and several of the others worked very hard to maintain the classified nature of the mission, even to the extent of developing a cover mission, about how they worked for a mess kit repair unit, with much detail.

The villa was, at least by reputation, a Chineese doctor's home before the war. It had one or more (I can't remember) hole-in-the-floor toilets, and a couple of American-style toilets. The one upstairs had a decal on it in Chinese, showning that men used it standing up and women used it sitting down.

We had two fifty-five gallon drums on the roof, and a cistern at ground level. If in the morning, someone remembered to turn on the pump, the city water that dribbled into the cistern was pumped up to the drums where it sat in the sun all day, which made for moderatelywarm showers in the evening. When the city water dried up, engineers came in and replenished the cistern from a water truck.

At the villa, we had a club that we operated outside the club system by pooling our ration cards. The club was adminstered by WO Ted Armstrong, a former Marine Gunny Sergeant on his first tour with the Army. Beer was a dime and premium liquor was $.25. We had a bar girl (my recollection was that her name was Bic Lei (we didn't write it down--who knows about spelling?) who kept track of bar bills in a notebook, and at the end of the month, Ted collected from everybody.

The recreation of choice at the club was mostly liars dice.

We had four Vietnamese nationals as guards, three who worked the shifts seven days a week at the front gate, and the fourth who spent the night on the roof of the read building in the rear. One of my jobs was to supervise the guards, and one night when I couldn't sleep, I went up on the roof to check on the guard. He was all wrapped up in his blanket, sound asleep. I thought I ought to have a witness, so I went back and woke up Ted Armstrong and took him up to the roof. Ted (to my mind, at least, the ex-Marine) grabbed the guard by the shirt collar and held him out at arm's length over the edge of the roof and lectured him about the errors of his ways. The guard's english was very limited, but we though he got the message. At least, untill I went back up a few nights later and found him wrapped up and asleep again. He wasn't with us long after that.

Mostly, the military intelligence officers wore anything else but MI branch brass (well, sew-on brass). There was a Signal Battalion in Can Tho, that had a reputation for great food. At one point, our commander (at that time, MAJ Ruthven (Hoyt) Chapman) had me go over and see if I could get them to feed our guys, since I had Signal brass. I failed, though--the S4 knew I couldn't possibly be Signal. The irony was, I was Signal.

Vietnam was a strange war. MAJ Chapman was stopped once by MPs and given a ticket for speeding. He gave himself a good stern talking to for that one.

One time our Beaver pilot (Terry something or other) managed to find himself a tarpaper shack to put in the rivetment at the airfield where his plane sat, so that he had someplace dry to sit while he waited for weather to clear. Out of boredom, I wrote a press release on the comletion of the MIBARS Aviation Complex in Can Tho. In my fantasy world, the "complex" consisted of the operations facility (the airplane), the logistics facility (the conex where he kept a few spare parts) and the adminstative facility (the tarpaper shack). The battalion XO was coming down for something, so I got him to cut a string of punched paper tape across the door. I sent the press release in to Army times, citing how the administrative facility was named after the current pilot's predecessor, WO Harold Polling, "a pioneer of MIBARs aviation in the Delta." I sent it to Army Times and forgot about it until a couple of months later when our detachment commander, MAJ Chapman, got a phone call from the Battalion commander, asking about the Aviation Complex. Army Time had accepted it at face value!

by F.Tinker

Detachment “ C” was located on the Eakin Compound (Can Tho Army Airfield), approximately ninety miles south of Saigon, between Bin Thuy and just a few miles north of downtown Can Tho.

The unit was made up of an Administration, Reproduction and Image Interpretation section. We were attached to and supported MACV J-2 IV Corp.

Our small detachment consisted of a photo lab ( both wet and an ES-38 portable unit), an image interpretation portable unit (TIFF?) ,a three quarter ton and deuce and half truck, supply trailer, a jeep or two, generator and our assigned “Good Guy” aircraft, which I believe was an U6 / L-20 Beaver.

The MIBARS operation building was located on the road leading to and from the main entrance of the compound. Heading into the compound from the main gate, it was situated on the left hand side of the street ( just opposite the PX across the street ) and also just prior to the first group of NCO barracks, on the same left side. Barbed wire separated the unit from our ARVN Special Forces neighbors, behind us.

Our officers and NCOs resided in town and enlisted personnel were housed in one half (upper) of a barrack, located on the airfield. During “Vietnameseation” in ‘70, the unit was downsized considerably and the remainder of our personnel were eventually moved to the villa in town, and commuted daily, to the base.

According to Court Bradbury (NCOIC of the repro section then), the ES-38 was intact and in use, when he arrived in December ‘67.Both he and a SFC Edward West spent the better part of three moths constructing an additional enclosure, prior to the removal of and relocation of the processing machine, for additional paper storage space. He recounted they had no sooner completed the new addition, when it took a couple of mortar rounds, shortly thereafter.

Meals were provided by the Can Tho Airfield NCO/EM Open Mess, on a regular schedule , including an early morning one for overnight shifts.

Our barrack contained a bar at one end, with a refrigerator ,which was supplied with various beverages and snacks provided by the “bar pool” and where you could help yourself, on the honor system. The barrack did employ a part time bar girl, and two women for cleaning and laundry.

If memory serves me well, other than an outdoor movie once a week and the occasional foreign traveling show, the base entertainment was limited to the NCO Club or you could treat yourself to a massage at a parlor, on the field. Most preferred the off base entertainment located in Ben Xe Moi, an alley of bars , situated just off a main crossroad, at the edge of the city.

There were a few restaurants in town, however, the most popular one I recall was “Olga’s”. There was also the USO just off base, which offered hamburgers (cheese) , hot dogs , fries, popcorn and ice cream.

Although the airfield no longer exists ( a government complex has replaced the compound ), it is possible to locate our area of operation from “Google Earth”. Even overgrown and rebuilt upon, the cultural features of the compound have not changed all that much. Some remains of the base are still visible as is the foundation, or the outline of the foundation , where the PX once stood. Four orange roofed buildings now occupy our former operations area. The swamp behind us , and where the Special Forces were located, has been filled in and a longer “barrack” length building and small outbuilding now occupy that space. Note the cemetery and POW camp now seems to be a neighborhood complete with a sports complex!

The above description of Detachment “C” and its physical whereabouts are as I recall them and may or may not be completely or even remotely, what others recall. For that I apologize and request that anyone from our detachment please feel free to correct and / or help fill in some of the “blanks” for me!

To be continued…( ? )