1st MIBARS 45th MID

45th MID.jpg
2013 Reunion - Las Vegas
Historical Overview of the 45th Military Intelligence Detachment

Fort Bragg, NC
The 45th MID was activated in xxxx at yyyy. The 45th MID at Fort Bragg spent much of its time helping elements of the 525th MI Bn in its effort to prepare for deployment to the Republic of South Vietnam and ultimately we saw them off, all with a lot of good luck and best wishes and not without some apprehension and a great deal of anticipation as our turned loomed before us.

Soon it became our turn turn to deploy and we left North Carolina on a chartered commercial airliner, complete with stewardesses, as we sat in standard seats in full field gear with helmets, packs and an M-16 between our knees.

We arrived in California and went to the Oakland Terminal, where we boarded the USS Gen John Pope, along with about 1500 Marines and sailed out of the harbor under the Golden Gate Bridge and into the adventure of our lives.

We were put in the bow of the ship and had an open space in between the vertical racks stacked one upon the other and if you had a lard ass above you, it could definitely cramp your space. We were also in the bowels of the ship, with the next level down being the cavernous hold, which was filled with sand bags, as I found out on one of my adventures.

I remember hearing a muffled sound one evening and decided to go find out where it was coming from. Turning one way and then another, I was echo-locating when I passed an open bulkhead which led downward to the to the hold where the muffled sounds turned to muted music and as I crept closer through the labyrinth the sound became more melodic. Opening the last door, I was looking down on the belly of the ship covered with sandbags and approximately 50-60 Marines laying around with a few candles burning and a small group in the middle singing... "The Duke of Earl"... Duke, Duke, Duke - Duke of Earl...! I will never forget that scene!

We played a lot of cards and shot some craps on the Pope, and there were a couple of fights along the way. SSG Moses and Cahoon got into it one day, one picking at the other, until it got pretty serious. Moses had a 9 mm and Cahoon had a Bowie knife and they both got tangled up on the bunk where I was lying and reading at the time. It got pretty tense and Cahoon was saying drop the gun or I'll cut your hand off, holding the huge custom made knife across Moses wrist as it grasped Cahoons shirt. Moses was holding the cocked pistol against Cahoon's jaw bone and was telling him to drop the knife or he would shoot him in the head, as they squirmed and wiggled closer and closer to me.

Finally, I folded my book and said "Damn, would you just shoot the son-of-a-bitch and get off my bunk!", which seemed to break the deadlock and everybody standing around started laughing. Moses uncocked the 9 mm and Cahoon withdrew the knife and they went back to doing something less dramatic.

Mostly we ate and read and slept and went up on deck to try to see something. Occasionally, I would catch a school of flying fish leap from the water getting away from some predator and gliding on their "wings" for a considerable distance before disappearing in the ocean again, awaiting the next time when their luck would run out.

It kind of made me think of what was ahead of us all and how we were not much different than those fish.

One day, I remember seeing a ship way off in the distance and I mentioned it to another guy and he to another and another... and before you know it... there must have been a couple of hundred people all staring at the horizon at this ship... hoping it would come closer... something to see besides the vast openness of the sea.

Finally, we began to realize we were parallel and as he skirted our view on the distant horizon, the strained eyes watched as the evening air and the distance started to play their tricks and the ship began to blink against our retinas, until it disappeared from sight altogether. This fact produce one audible sigh as we all realized it was gone and people focused for quite some time, in the quiet unison of hope... we all disbanded and went our separate ways.

After about 18 days at sea, we finally entered the harbor at Okinawa and disembarked for a short six to eight hours, where a unit party was held in a WW II Quonset hut and everyone got pretty well sloshed. Music, good food, booze and finally a "steady deck" under our feet, we immediately did everything in our power to make the deck "unsteady" again.

We boarded the Gen Pope again and cleared the harbor just in time to run right in to a horrific cyclone. After several hours of enormous waves and tremendous winds, we cleared the storm and were happy to be in the clear. Needless to say there was a price to pay for all that partying and most of it wound up on the floor between the bulk heads.

The next three days took us through some of the most beautiful scenery anyone could ever imagine... the South China Sea and presumably amongst the Paracel Islands, a group of about 130 small coral islands and reefs, east of central Vietnam and southeast of the famous Hainan Island, China. Everyday was a new possibility, after nearly three weeks of a seemingly endless 360° horizon of featureless water.

Pristine islands punctuating the waves and yielding long, curved, white sandy beaches, nestled against the lush greenery and the occasional view of a single sloop anchored in a private lagoon with its proud mast pointing to the azure sky like a personal chapel, made one wonder what it would be like!

The 45th MID continued its steadfast journey and suddenly the monotony of the original journey, which had begun to grate on our nerves, was going much to fast as these mysterious treats passed, starboard and port, into the history of our minds.

Qui Nhon, Vietnam
Suddenly, the mood aboard changed and seemed to run through the ship in a scurry of deliberate activity. We had entered the sphere that influenced our future so dramatically, Qui Nhon harbor and the smokey haze was penatrated by steep tropical embankments that rose above the ship as we passed.

A hundred shades of green foliage was cast before our eyes and as we approached, the bright flecks of red and yellow, blue and black, flitted and disappeared as if they were little sparkles welcoming us to this strange and foreign land. Nearing the coastline it became obvious that the welcoming committee was composed of macaws and parrots and similar flights of fancy unknown to us.

As we neared the docks, an alert went out to get all your field gear together and that there was a serious problem, which may require us to go over the side in the cargo nets and disembark on a beach. Apparently, that was some John Wayne rumor passed out through the "cherry jarheads", by their totally unsympathetic Senior NCO's.

The fact of the matter is that the Pilot eased the ship up to the pier and we got off the same way we got on, but this time, we were walking on the ground in the coastal city of Qhi Nhon, in the Republic of South Vietnam and the adventure began to feel real.

Struggling with field equipment, weapons and duffel bags, we made our way to a staging area, where we were loaded onto a couple of olive drab school buses with steel mesh welded across the windows to protect against grenades. The anticipation was clearly building as the new sights, strange sounds and pungent smells began to overwhelm our senses and the nervous smiles and ad hoc jokes began to spread as the banter attempted to push aside the vulnerability we all began to feel.

Gear stowed away, we were quickly transported through the busy streets of down town Qui Nhon, like kids in a bus, going to a new school for the first time... little did we all know what awaited us. The buses entered a secure compound and we fell out into a courtyard and after being shown our "barracks" for the night, we secured our gear and got ready for some well deserved sleep after a long day.

Apparently, Charlie had other plans for us, as he lobbed some mortars right in our compound about two hours after we had passed out.

Our welcome in-country by our adversary's had to have been planned in advance. Fortunately, their accuracy was not as good as they may have wished and the closet hit was probably about eight feet away from the outside wall of the concrete barracks and one could see the flash of light through the high windows that ran along the entire length of the room.

With not much to do and not knowing any better anyway, we simply went back to sleep. The rest of the night was uneventful.
Phu Cat, Vietnam
The next morning we boarded up again and were told that the next stop was Phu Cat, our permanent base of operations.

Phu Cat was situated about 10 miles North West of Qui Nhon and had originally been a designated training area for the Viet Cong. The area had been cleared of the VC originally, by the Republic of Korea's (ROK) Tiger Division who had built a base camp there, prior to the Air Force moving in to begin building an airstrip.

By the time that the 45th MID arrived, the flight strip and several of the buildings had been in place, but the Chapel and several buildings were still being built. One of the priorities, apparently was the stage, and for good reason, we came to find out.

As the complex grew, so did Victor Charlies interest and there were several attempts to destroy the airplanes and the bombs that were laid out in between deflectors. (NOTE: I will figure out the proper terminology and come back to edit this stuff.)

Originally, the primary defense was the South Korean ROK's and the Air Police. The AP's used a quarter-ton Jeep with a M-60 mounted on a firing stand in the rear of the vehicle and the interior perimeter was patrolled by these airmen. The airmen assigned to the aircraft, ordanance and support were generally not issued weapons and were primarily restricted to the compound.

There are always exceptions and I know that many of the individuals worked their way into the "strip" or even Qui Nhon and they loved to get hold of personal weapons, especially hand guns, which were easily "secreted" away!

Fortunately, I could pretty much go and come without question and at the same time, it was certainly important not to get into trouble. Valley 'A', Cherang Valley, An Khe, Long My, Dap To, LZ Uplift

Unfortunately, I did not stay in any one place long enough to make any close friends other than a couple of guys that I had known the entire trip from Fort Bragg. I have no idea what happened to the Image Interpreters (II) and we never had a photo lab as far as I know.

I know we had a van, but I don't remember where it was, nor where the II vans where located at Phu Cat.

I don't ever remember where the CO, the XO and the First Sergeant hung out... probably in the Phu Cat AF Officers and Senior NCO areas. The CO was a Captain from Brooklyn, named Thompson and the First Sergeant was originally from Germany by the name of Gerhardt, I think and I remember a SSG Moses and SSG Stevens (The names keep popping into my head, but I have no physical confirmation.)

(Editors Note: If anyone shows up that knows anything about the II Section, feel free to include that history.)

One of the most intriguing episodes that I have found out in researching this era, was the incredible story about MISTY, of which I hope to include here when I have the time, not that it has anything to do with my experience, but I am sure that 1st MIBARS and the 45th MID must have had something to do with their missions.

(Editors Note: I would like to bookmark this space for expansion, as we find out more and others can fill in the blanks. I hope that we can even influence some positive cross-pollination from the Air Force and maybe even the South Koreans.)

We formed a "Quick Reaction Team" and I did a lot of "freelance" work around the area, while some of my more experienced "team" got into some of the more local color. Several of the Senior NCO's had obviously "been around" and "knew the ropes" pretty well, but I will hold off on some of those story's, until someone wanders through here that can collaborate the events.

I have some pictures that I would like to share for historical purposes, but I would not necessarily want to discuss the details now.

The highlight of my memory at Phu Cat was the time I spent with the Tiger Division and visiting some of the "gang" in the area.

My "guys" were honored to be chosen to drive and ride shotgun for the 1967 Bob Hope Show from the airstrip to the stage and back for the Phu Cat show and they were thrilled. I only have one picture of the event, but I do remember specific aspects of it.

Our little group went over to the stage the day before and "camped out" dead center with all our field equipment. That evening the AP's came by and asked if I would hold them a spot in the morning when they got off-shift and they brought us some how chow from their mess hall around midnight.

We ate pretty well that night and since I felt relatively secure, we had some Vodka and Grape Kool-Aid, which I mixed to produce some Purple Passion. OK, it wasn't quite like you may have had at Daytona, during Spring Break, but one had to use their imagination and plan carefully.

That morning the AP's brought their buddies and we all got along great... then the sun started coming out... and I wasn't sure I gave a damn about Bob Hope one way or the other!

I got my second wind by the time they arrived, however, and I remember quite a bit of the show.

I am sure Bob Hope was there and I definitely remember Rachel Welch, especially that little number she did in the go-go boots, White crocheted top, Blue mini skirt and Red panties... very Patriotic and there were a lot of "salutes".

Barbara McNair was there and my friend Robert Presley must have thought he had died and went to Heaven because he got to escort her. Both Robert and Barbara were Black and I was not sure what she did, I was pretty sure she was a singer. I don't think Robert picked up any lyrics from her, but his general demeanor was elevated for a few hours and I think he may have fallen in love!

Another walk-on was Miss World, but I don't really remember her. I don't think she was a major part of the show, but it could just be that I took a nap when she came out!

After the Tet Offensive, the 45th MID was alerted that it would be making another unit movement. We weren't sure exactly where we would be going or who we may be attached too and I knew we were not prepared to be on our own very long with the equipment we had, so I went on a forage operation, which led me back to the Quartermaster in Qui Nhon and an ammo dump nearby, where I was able to acquire basic equipment and ammunition.

I hit the jackpot with the ammunition acquisition, as the guy I talked to understood my need and was about to DROS in a week, so he could care less. I got all the stuff I wanted, seemingly much more than we needed and shared the bounty with my ROK associates before leaving the Central Highlands for the last time.

Phu Bai, Vietnam
The unit split up and I am not sure about how the rest of the group went to Hue-Phu Bai. Presumably, they went to the flight line and boarded an airplane to fly up to Danang. Hopefully I will get someone to join us here that can elaborate on that.

I went up with a couple of other Sergeants on some kind of Naval ship, with all the equipment and trucks. I assume it was run by Merchant Marines or private contractor, as the crew seemed to be Chinese and played mahjong all day.

I do not remember much about the trip, except that it was boring as Hell and since we were eating three times a day seemed like we did nothing else. We slept on deck, which was covered by a make-shift roof and I think it took about three to four days to get where ever we went.

I don't remember anything else, but I have to assume we went to Danang harbor and off-loaded there, but I have no memory whatsoever, which pretty much somes up the repressive mechanism for my entire year, punctuated by some very specific memories and some memories that have been recalled, triggered by some of the pictures.

The 45th MID (unit photos) at Hue-Phu Bai was divided into two camps. The residential space, which was at Camp Hochmuth, a base camp for the USMC III MAF in Phu Bai and the operations space, near the flightline which was roughly attached to the outer perimeter and was pretty much a stand alone compound, although it was surrounded by large units that protected the autonomous combat support units represented there.

Camp Hochmuth was named after Major General Bruno A. Hochmuth who was killed with five other Marines in a helicopter crash north of Hue on 14 November 1967, ironically about the time the 45th MID had originally arrived in Vietnam.

I went to Hue a few times and the Battle of Hue had taken its toll on the city. Hue was located in I Corp, the northern part of South Vietnam on the banks of the Sông Hương (Perfume River), just a few miles west of the South China Sea. It was about 540 km south of Hanoi and about 644 km north of Saigon. The Cidadel and the Imperial Palace in the center of this historic city, showed the signs of a chapter in its history, I am sure they would rather forget today.

Not well discussed, the the retaking of this city was a brutal affair and it is a shame that the heroism of the United States troops and the brutality of the communist troops have been pretty much forgotten.

Battleship USS New Jersey B-52 Strike

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