Fire Mission

The 1/92nd Field Artillery
Association - Vietnam

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Common Mission Types
By David Powell

"FIRE MISSION!!!" To this day, more than thirty years later, the words stir some pretty vivid memories. Every self respecting Redleg (cannon-cocker, lanyard-puller, ammo-humper, gun-bunny) loved the sound of those words. Now, with that said, there were times when we could have done without hearing themÉ 0100-0200 hrs and you weren't "hot gun", when you were taking "incoming" or when you are firing "Killer Junior" comes to mind. But if it's a contact fire mission, you can count us there in a heartbeat. All Arty units fired the basic fire missions:

: after a move to make sure you and everyone around you were on the same page and make sure nothing was damaged in transit. Also known as marking rounds.

Defensive Target (DT's) zeroing for the friendly forces within your range protection. DT's could be fired day or night and often when Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRP's) and Special Forces were within range we would plot DT''s around them, and shoot them on call. At night, your location was generally set until morning and you did not want to move without telling Artillery... otherwise, you were dead meat.

Harassment and Interdiction (H&I's) missions fired on suspect and known areas where the enemy was known to hide, set up ambushes, set up rockets, infiltration and escape routes. Used to keep them from getting too comfortable. This was the job of "Hot Gun" in our unit.

Contact fire missions were used when any friendly came in contact with the enemy and needed support.

Time on Target (TOT) missions were used to surprise and devastate an area almost instantaneously. Used if an area was suspect of being a VC/NVA hotspot, or if an LZ needed to be prepped prior to inserting assault forces. A typical TOT might involve 4 or more batteries of different calibers. With rounds fused for point detonation (fuse Quick) as well as fused for airburst (fuse VT) the Arty units could deliver over 1 ton of High Explosive (HE) to one point at one time. You do not want to be here.

Illumination ("Illum") missions were typically employed when the enemy was too close to the friendly forces to successfully support them with HE or when they wanted to check an area close to their perimeter when a guard hears a noise or a trip flare goes off.

Killer Junior missions were developed out of the need to protect ones self from ground attacks and since the Artillery Gods didn't design a "Beehive" round for the 155 mm Howitzer. Killer Juniors were perfected by Lt. Colonel Robert Dean the CO of 1/8th Field Artillery, 25th Infantry Division Artillery. The technique called for firing HE Projectiles with Time Fuses set at 2 seconds or greater to burst approximately 30 feet off the ground at ranges of 200 to 1,000 meters. Killer Juniors (and the 8" Killer Senior) proved to be more effective than Beehive for antipersonnel because the enemy could not crawl under the burst as they could the fan of the Beehive pattern.

Radioed in by a Forward Observer (FO) traveling with ground troops. The ground troops may have observed from a distance or be "In Contact" with the enemy at the time of the mission. Radioed in by a Forward Air Controller (FAC) from a spotter plane (AO-1 Bird-dog) or from a helicopter on a recon or support mission. Fire missions were obtained by FDC from a variety of sources, some of which included: As explained earlier, H&I's were fired on predetermined targets, the data for which were maintained in FDC.

With the exception of Killer Junior missions, all fire missions were phoned into the gun crews from the Fire Direction Center (FDC). FDC would tell the gun crews the Azimuth, Projectile type, Fuse, Fuse setting (where applicable), Powder Charge (green bag or white bag), the Quadrant and Deflection settings. When the Pig was laid, the gun would generally fire one round and adjust if needed before they would fire additional rounds. Typically, the howitzer closest to the Battery Center also called the Base Piece fired the first round. After the proper range and other data were corrected from the Base Piece, the Battery might fire one round or multiple rounds depending on what the Forward Observer has requested. Called in by another Firebase within range that may be under attack. The data for these firebases was also maintained in FDC.

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