Erick W. Miller
Fire base duty was a welcome relief to armed hide and seek in the jungle. In that game, losing can be fatal. We in the infantry thought of the fire bases as ‘the rear’. Lots of truck traffic, helicopters coming and going all day, plus all the big guns and people. So many people. We operated in platoon size and smaller.
The next assurances that we were in the rear were; hot chow daily, real live showers, bunkers to sleep in, a chaplain, lifers to salute, and flak jackets for everyone. Now if that ain’t ‘the rear”, lm hallucinating.
Leave it to the NVA to screw up this safe, tranquil scene. One day in April of 1970, (it probably happened a lot more often,) right at lunch time with the chow line strung outside, the enemy dropped several mortar rounds through the tin roof of the artillery mess hall on Bastogne. Oh, they scattered a few more rounds around to see if they might get lucky, but they started with the mess hall. Seven KlA and countless wounded. One platoon of infantry split into squads is not enough to cover all the ,jungle surrounding any fire base. That’s what “Vietnamization” did to troop strength. One thing that came out of that experience for me was that I realized that artillery was combat duty even if they operated from ‘the rear’. This would be a good time for me to thank all the artillery men who gave us protective fire and saved our butts whenever we needed it any time, day or night. Thank you!
Erick W. Miller 17 Nov. 1997 Rewritten and revised 5 July 2002