During the Vietnam War the US Field Artillery had to change their tactics and weaponry to fight an unconventional war that they were not used to. This was also the first war that the United States had fought where the terrain helped the enemy greatly which helped the change come even faster.
The NVA did not have a line of troops but instead operated in smaller groups all around the units. They could mass together and attack from any direction. In order to combat this, the Army split areas of operation between divisions. The divisions than divided it between brigades, brigades to battalions, and battalions to companies. This affected the Artillery in many ways. They could not mass their fires due to the size of the AO, Artillery was spread out over the AO to provide maximum coverage to the maneuver elements, Firing ...view middle of the document...
Some of the weapons had to change to fight this new enemy. One of the first pieces that were changed out was the M101A1 that had been in use since World War II. Its replacement was the M102 and arrived to the 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery in March of 1966. The M102 was by far the more superior weapon. What made such a superior weapon was that it was about 2000 lbs lighter which allowed them to carry more ammunition during heliborne operations. Another plus was that it could towed around with only a ¾ ton vehicle rather than a 2 ½ ton truck like the M101A1. The silhouette was also lower and it could traverse the entire 6400 mils on its carriage. This was huge advantage and time saver because you did not have to move the stabilizing legs.
With the use of helicopters during the Vietnam War came the Firebase. Helicopters would drop off infantry and artillery soldiers into an area that they would be maneuvering in. Artillery would set up and the Infantry would protect them. The Firebases allowed the artilleryman to shoot in any direction up to its maximum range and provide fire support to any element in its umbrella covering. This proved invaluable since the enemy could be and mass anywhere. Firebases where chosen by commanders to cover the area. Things that were taken into consideration was what type of soil was in that area ( had to be able to support all pieces of artillery), its location to other field artillery units to help support them if they came under attack, and whether it could cover all units maneuvering in that area. There was no set SOP to set up a firebase because each one was different due to space available, terrain, and numerous other variables. Setting these up showed the flexibility and ingenuity of the soldiers.