Letter from Tony Matta

Det B Commander
Battalion XO
Battalion Commander
10/66 – 3/68

Tony does not do computers so correspondence is by telephone or letter. Rather than bombard him with questions on the phone I decided it would be best to write and ask some specific questions about MIBARS. -Don Skinner

June 2, 2008
Dear Don,

My assignment as CO of the 1st MIBARS ended over forty years ago. I had been the detachment CO in Danang (Det B) and then Battalion XO under Col. Kelley. Upon his transfer I assumed command. I believe that took place in October, 1967 but I cannot be sure of that date. In the absence of documentation my memories are vague at best. As an example, the roster you provided triggered only two familiar names. The earlier CO, Col. Tymchak and Major General McChristian. (The McChristinan on the roster I sent is the son of Major General McChristinan and I did not note this on the roster. Major General McChristian is no longer with us. -Don)

Our basic mission was to interpret Air Force imagery and convey our findings in a timely fashion to the appropriate Corps Tactical Zone. Since the vast majority of our target areas were under heavy foliage the results of our efforts were not of great value. We felt it was imperative that a way be found to improve our photo coverage. This need led to the development of "hand-held" missions. My staff christened our effort as the "LATTA" program for Low Altitude Tactical Acquisition. One wise guy suggested that we deem it Medium altitude but was voted down.

My memory fails when I try to determine how we came to have the necessary camera equipment and the helicopter that would provide the stable platform needed to get the imagery we had to have. Fortunately, we did have a qualified chopper pilot in our unit which helped. I suspect that General McChristian had a lot to do with our success in getting what was necessary. He was a first class supporter of any effort to improve the intel product.

Operation Cedar Falls and Junction City may have taken place after my departure for I have no specific recollection of either. Of course we would have provided data to each Corps Tactical Zone as it became available. One significant result was our being able to alert the appropriate command to the fact that a proposed jump site had to be changed. Punji stakes had been planted throughout the site and it was surely under observation. Appropriate action had to have avoided many casualties. Unfortunately, findings such as this were the exception rather than the rule. We could tell where Charlie had been, we could identify his probable landing sites and storage areas and we got that info out in as timely a fashion as possible. Our personnel did a great job under difficult conditions and as their CO, I reaped the benefits. I was awarded the Legion of Merit and was granted constructive credit for the Command and General Staff College. My voluntary tour extension enabled my return to HQ USAREUR from which assignment I retired in 1971.

I apologize for the limited information I have given you and wish that I could be more specific. Two of my officers attained Flag rank and perhaps could help. Major General Charles Scanlon and Brigadier General Gerald Walker proved to be prime examples of the quality, spirit and dedication displayed by many MIBARS personnel. (Major General Charles Scanlon, retired is one of our MIBARS alumni. Brigadier General George Gerald Walker is no longer with us. -Don)

We did accomplish our goal of becoming more than simply a delivery service of intelligence data that was of questionable value to our combat units. The environment in Viet Nam limited our effectiveness though the LATTA program certainly improved our capability.

It is obvious that equipment available today provides real time data to the tactical commander and creates a more direct roll for MIBARS personnel. I feel certain that efforts to improve timely intelligence have accomplished a great deal in the past 37 years and I would, no doubt, be amazed at what could be done today.

Again, I apologize for the limited data I have been able to give you but the time frame involved played a major role. My successors in command of MIBARS surely could be of far greater value to you. Unfortunately, I did not serve with or correspond with those gentlemen.

I wish you good luck in your efforts to secure more detailed information.

Very Truly Yours,
Tony Matta

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