History

The 1/92nd Field Artillery
Association - Vietnam


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Saga of Firebase 6*

Firebase 6 (FB6) is one of the most storied firebases in our unit history. It is at the northwest end of Rocket Ridge overlooking the invasion route into the Central Highlands from the Tri Border area along highway 512. Its location made it a prized piece of terrain for both sides in the war. We had batteries on FB6 continuously for 31 months.

Contributed by Bo Prehar


1967

Operation MacArthur extended to Dak To by the 4 th ID in Nov 1967. The 1 st BDE, 4 th ID deployed to Dak To in October to establish firebases. Hill 1001 is chosen because it provided direct line of sight communication with its units, it had a commanding view of the AO, and artillery there could range much of the area. Hill 1001 was designated Firebase 6 (FB6).

The 3/8 Inf. cleared Hill 1001 in two days with help from organic engineers using a D-4 bulldozer. The area around FB6 had steep ridges covered with dense jungle cover. Avenues of approach were from the south and north. Charlie Battery 6/29, direct support 105mm, was the first artillery unit to occupy FB6.

Intelligence reports showed that the NVA's B-3 Front was moving units from its sanctuary, Base Area 609, with the intent to seize Dak To. The 1 st BDE began operations to secure Rocket Ridge. This offensive expanded west from Rocket Ridge to what is now known as the Battle of Dak To. The 173 rd ABN BDE reinforced the 1 st BDE from Ben Het and fought a major battle for Hill 875. The Battle of Dak To lasted from November 3, to November 22, 1967.




1968

Alpha Battery occupied FB6 from May 1968 thru December 1968. The infantry needed artillery that could pierce dense jungle cover, destroy bunkers, and that was airmobile so it could provide close in fire support. The tactic in use by US ground forces was to find/fix the NVA and then rely on firepower to defeat them. Our howitzers were key to this.

Firebase 6 was small. Our sections were crammed tight to allow the 24' x 8' howitzers to be rotated 360 degrees. The close-in conditions created safety issues especially at night and during bad weather. The 3/12 infantry provided local security and their perimeter was only a few meters from the artillery. A grunt wrote, I walked by the 155 with my meal when it went off causing me to dive and lose my food. The noise was the loudest bang I ever heard .

Operations Task Force Winner and Mathews by the 4 th ID focused on stopping enemy infiltration into the Dak To AO. Howitzer sections were often air lifted to remote areas to support these operations for days, weeks, and even months as in the case of Firebase 31 and Dak Pek.




1969-1970

Bravo Battery occupied FB6 from January 1969 to December 1970. The 4 th ID pulled out of Dak To in January 1969 so security for FB6 was then shifted to a CIDG from Ben Het. In turn, two of our howitzer sections displaced to Ben Het in a counter-battery role. Bravo battery's missions were in support of ARVN and local indigenous forces advised by US Special Forces.

Enemy activity increased these two years. The 66 th and 28 th NVA Regiments supported by PT 76 Tanks and 130mm artillery were detected moving towards Dak To from Base Area 609 in early 1969. Ben Het was struck in early March. The assault with tanks was the first of its kind in the war. Firebase 6 provided a wall of steel around Ben Het to help repel the attack.

Bravo Battery's fires were so effective that the NVA launched an attack against FB6 June 11, 1969. Sappers penetrated the perimeter but were ultimately, driven back with heavy losses thanks to the courageous CIDG defenders. This occurred during the Siege of Dak To/Ben Het.




1971

Bravo Battery's departure from FB6 was the result of Vietnamization where South Vietnam was expected to assume greater responsibility for fighting the war. The 24 th STZ realized FB6's importance and deployed the 4/42 nd Infantry, 1/71 Ranger Company, 42 nd Recon Company, and a 105mm battery to hold it. The 1/92 sent an Integrated Observation System team to FB6 to help the ARVN pinpoint enemy targets.

The 66 th NVA Regiment attacked FB6 March 31, 1971. A battalion size force overran FB6 in a daylong battle of intense fighting. Defenders on FB6 had no choice but to escape and evade. The five man IOS team had three killed, one MIA, and one survivor. Philip Terrill and James Salley, an advisor, were taken prisoners and died in captivity. Their remains are still missing. Brian Thacker, the lone survivor, crawled back onto FB6 days later when the firebase was recaptured. He received the MOH for his actions on FB6.

Daisy Cutter bombs dropped by the US Air Force were used against the NVA as they were forced off FB6. This was their first use in the war.




1972

A string of ARVN firebases along Rocket Ridge were defended by the elite 2 nd Airborne Brigade The B-3 Front with its 28 th , 66 th , 958 th Infantry Regiments and the 40 th Artillery Regiment hit the firebases on Rocket Ridge and Ben Het in April 1972. This was the start of their Easter Offensive.

Firebase 6 was the first attacked and the first to fall. Fighting on FB6 was so fierce that American advisors were told to leave. When they refused, a helicopter came to pick them up. The ARVN retreated to nearby firebases and in the process left the 105mm howitzers intact. The NVA used them against retreating soldiers and to shell Dak To.

By the end of April, the NVA had destroyed the ARVN armor at Ben Het and Tan Cahn using Soviet Sagger anti-tank missiles. The 22 nd ARVN Division was in full retreat. Among the captured weapons were several 155mm howitzers with their ammunition. This victory opened the Dak To corridor and enabled the B3-Front to move towards Kontum. Firebase 6 remained in enemy hands for the remainder of the war.




TODAY

Today the jungle has reclaimed FB6 hiding its role in the Central Highlands and in the Vietnam War. But, to those of us who fought there it is still fresh in our minds. Veterans who travel there today can only view the firebase from afar.

The old Dak To airfield is used to dry cassava for export. The area still has remnants from the war, monuments to the fighting, and there are cemeteries. Highway 512 is now Ho Chi Minh Highway.



*All Photographs are in the public domain and where restrictions existed, permission was obtained for their use.
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