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War Stories

Fire Mission

The call any artilleryman knows as his call to action.

Rolland "Fletch" Fletcher

Artillery Forward Observer 1968

At my desk in the D Troop command hut I get a message the Scouts had found a NVA company hiding in a grove of trees East of Trang Bang. You grab your map and mark the coordinates of the target on your map, the adrenalin rush has to be set aside as you gather up you radio, helmet, flak jacket you even feel on the left side of body to be sure the 9 millimeter is hanging under your arm.

FletchInFltAs you rush pass the counter in the front of building you find out which pilot is up next for a mission. You run out onto the tarmac of ‘Delta’ Troop. The Centaur (call sign for Delta) is at his helicopter (LOH-6 Scout) getting ready to start the bird for battle. He is fighting his own nerves to finish the checklist of readiness for battle. He jumps in the left side and I load into the right side. As we left off running nose down lending forward all of sudden you are shooting right up into the air. The chopper rises quickly and off north along Rt. 22. I am already on my radio calling A & B batteries. A is a drag 105 unit and B is a 155 unit. That is a lot of firepower for a target.

At the fire base the gunners and fire direction tent is busy with activity. Rounds are being stacked at the end of the guns, in the direction tent the two map-readers are marking the target and the computer is bringing up the range and direction the guns are going to set to fire. Extra men jump into the tent as my call sign: ‘this is Vindicator 32 I will be over the target in 3 minutes’ rings out on the radio hanging over the map table.

I arrive over the target and the Scout drops colored smoke flairs on the target. The first marking round is east of trees so just over the target. The guns are almost directly West of target. So ‘drop 100’ and fire for effect. The six 105 guns go into action. Next I order a marking round from B Battery….this one hits right in the middle of the trees. ‘Fire for effect’ and six big 155 rounds of hot lead and fire scream into the trees. I move the rounds left/right 100 (100 meters) then up and down. For an hour the artillery rounds tear into the grove of trees. Most of the trees are now down or at least the tops are all blow off. Fire and smoke cover the area, I saw one man run from the cover of the trees and jump into a hole about 20 meters outside the trees. I drop the 155 battery rounds right on the area where he just dropped out of sight; then move them back to pound grove of trees.

My helicopter is running out of gas so I call for a backup chopper.

It arrives in 5 minutes and we land in the open field to the East for me to change choppers. Back up it the air I continue the battle.

Then I call the 25th Headquarters to bring out ground troops to inspect and take the site on the ground. The infantry commander comes up and I report what was spotted by the Scouts and he decided to land two companies of infantry about a mile South and move up from there. The 25th Infantry Air Observer takes control of the artillery.

I return to base camp to prepare for the next “Fire Mission,”

The Division AO called me three days later to tell me results of our finding and destroying the NVA that day. The after action report showed a company of NVA were destroyed without the lost of any Americans. The body count war continued.