Fire Support Base in Vietnam

Firebase Alpha

The Fire Support Base in Vietnam


During the Vietnam War there were times when enemy action was likely to occur outside the range of the artillery from the permanent established bases in the interior. So what the military did was build a series of smaller, cookie cutter bases that became known as a Fire Support Base.

These bases were basically smaller versions of the full size bases, but could be placed quickly and anywhere that helicopters could reach. The general make up of a base would include a battery of six 105 or 155 millimeter howitzers (like those in the photo above), at least two helicopter landing pads, a platoon of engineers and troops to support and defend the installation.

Originally the fire base design was to be highly mobile and moved every couple of days as a security feature. Towards the end of the war however they became very reminiscent of the frontier forts becoming permanent installations.

The main purpose of these bases came down to providing artillery support to the soldiers in the field. This was one of the major advantages that the US had in the war and proved to be the turning pint of many battles. As such these bases were constantly under attack. Click Here to see actual footage of an attack on Firebase Jerry. The attack occurred while the press were on location doing interviews. Thanks to the user who posted it.

The following is a recollection from William Hatfield who also provided the picture above. “After being out in the bush for a long period of time, finding your way back to a fire base was something of a mixed blessing. Hot food, a place to sleep and some big guns that could really pack a punch. On the other hand you were walking into a target, someplace that was almost guaranteed to be hit at least once while you were there. It was a trade-off.”