borne operations throughout the width and breath of the division area.*
A central component of the new tactical mode was the artillery fire base." Where the infantry went, the artillery followed, thus always keeping the maneuver elements within a protective fire fan. Typically blasted out of jungle-covered hill tops, the new artillery fire bases were mutually supporting as well as providing supporting fires to the infantry units. By the end of the year, the 12th Marines artillery, with 13 fewer firing units, was operating out of 12 more "firebases" than in January. Of the 21 artillery sites, 7 contained 10 of the 22 firing units, and were accessible only by helicopter.42***
The dispersion of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Scoppa, Jr.'s 2d Battalion, 12th Marines in December was typical of the deployment of the 3d Division's artillery. In support of the 9th Marines Operation Dawson River in and west of the Ba Long Valley, Scoppa established his battalion command post on Fire Base Dick, about 5,000 meters south of Ba Long. Collocated with the 9th Marines command post, the artillery battalion kept in addition to its headquarters at Dick, one of its 105mm howitzer batteries, Battery E. At Firebase Barnett, about 5,000 meters southeast of Dick was another 105mm battery, Battery F. Then to the southwest and about 8,000 meters south of Dick, was Firebase Shiloh with two artillery batteries. Battery D, a 105mm howitzer battery, and the 1st Provisional 155mm Howitzer Battery equipped with three 155mm towed howitzers.**** Scoppa's 4.2-inch mortar or Whiskey Battery was with the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines at the forward edge of the Battery D artillery fan. This in effect permitted the infantry battalion "to maneuver slightly further than the eight clicks [8,000 meters] that would normally govern the outer limits of its movement."'"
In the selection of the fire bases. Lieutenant Colonel Scoppa explained that the site must be within a specified range from other artillery positions for mutual support and consistent with "the scheme of maneuver of the infantry unit . . . ."In addition, the battalion commander stated that there were three other prerequisites: "the piece of ground must be of adequate size" to accommodate a battery of artillery; "it must be defensible by a platoon [of infantry]" or at most a reinforced platoon; and finally "capable of construction within 24 to 36 hours." He observed that the Marines were now capable of placing a 105mm battery in an "area as narrow as 15-20 meters wide and 75 meters long." Other fire bases such as Shiloh were large enough to hold both a 105mm battery and three additional 155mm towed howitzers.44
The artillery battalion commander provided the following description of Fire Base Dick. He stated that the Marines in November carved the base out in 24 hours on the "very crest of a 618-meter-high
*See Chapters 16, 18, 20 and 22 for a description of the 3d Marine Division mobile operations during the latter part of 1968.
**Colonel Edwin S. Schick.Jr., the former 12th Marines commander, remembered that sometime in May before he relinquished command of the regiment, he made a reconnaissance and plans for an artillery fire base. He briefed Major General Rathvon McC. Tompkins, then commanding the 3d Marine Division, who approved the concept as long as General Davis concurred. Schick Comments.
***The establishment of these fire bases was a learning process for both the infantry and artillery units involved. Captain Matthew G. McTiernan, commander of Company I, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, related some of the difficulties he encountered in late July 1968 when his company helped in the preparation of a landing zone for one of the bases. He recounted that the artillerymen were used to "large, well defended positions, [and] had some difficulty understanding why their infantry brothers were so exercised by their behavior. Their artillery SOP for establishing firing positions seemed, to the average Marine infantryman, to border on lunacy. It seemed the artillery lacked a certain appreciation for the fact that we were the middle of Indian country, on the outer edge of the Camp Carroll fire fan, with no nearby friendly units to call for assistance. The din was unnerving, shouts, loud banging, screaming, and other seemingly amplified noise carrying over the surrounding jungle in all directions. First the Company Gunnery Sergeant made contact with his counterpart, this effort lasting less than thirty minutes. Next the Company XO [executive officer] contacted his counterpart, again no relief from the din. Night was fast approaching, and India Company was convinced Ho himself knew of our location and strength. Finally, I called on the Battery Commander. This had the most promising, if not lasting effect. Not that the battery lacked discipline. Far from it, this was a proud, highly motivated unit. They simply did not appreciate the situation as we did. Night was almost upon us and it seemed evident that any NVA in the area probably knew we were up to something. It is my contention that if in fact there were NVA units in our area they were as astonished as we were about the unusual activity and probably thought it some kind of trick on our part. In any case, I instructed one of our LP's (listening post] to toss a couple of grenades. This action had an equally astonishing effect. It was as if someone had turned off a loud radio. Complete, and from our point of view, blessed silence. Silence which descended over the position as did the night." Capt Matthew G. McTiernan, Comments on draft, n.d. [Dec94] (Vietnam Comment File).
****Major General Hoffman observed rhat in Task Force Hotel and 3d Marine Division offensive operations, "We favored the rowed 155's over the self-propelled 155's because the former were helo-trans-portable and therefore could be employed in places and circumstances where the self-propelled models could not." Hoffman Comments.