Story provided by Paul "Hungry" Marquis

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A fire mission started with a call on the radio, picking up the receiver, the battery exec heard the
words that never fail to excite an artilleryman: "contact fire mission, battery adjust" the exec
repeated the order to the guns, which prompted the crew to start a sequence of carefully
rehearsed moves. Bravo battery had to make do with four or five men to a gun, while two men
can operate the gun, five seasoned artillerymen could maintain peak performance over an
extended period. A typical gun crew consisted of a Section Chief, an Assistant Section Chief,
Gunner and an "A" gunner, loader, and powder man, which in most cases the loader did both
"load and powder". Meanwhile the exec, using an aiming circle, which is an instrument, much like
an engineers transit equipped with a scope capable of both day and night viewing, with this
instrument the exec "survey in" each gun. During this procedure, each gunner pointed a telescope
at the aiming circle. Using the aiming circle as a reference point, the gunner made sure his gun tube
was pointed in the right direction. By this time Fire Direction Control,(FDC) should have made all
the calculations, determining the range, deflection, elevation, and other firing data, to let the guns
know what powder charge to use, what angle to level the guns at, direction, and type of round and
fuse to use. The call for artillery started as an infantry company advances through the jungle in
single file, twenty meters behind the point man, in the middle of the column near the company
commander, marches the Forward Observer (FO), and he follows behind his radioman, why?
because if a bullet hits his radioman it has to go through his chest and the radio before it hits the
FO, the FO is an extremely valuable member of the company. The dense jungle makes heavy
going for the company. They stay off the trails to avoid ambushes and booby traps. The FO's
concern is to keep track of the units position and to stay in contact with the distant battery of 105
howitzers. From in front of the company a burst of small arms fire breaks the stillness, as the
Marines hit the ground, someone yells...... sniper! The company commander checks out the
situation, and decides to have the FO call for artillery, the FO anticipated the request, and as soon
as he hit the ground he radioed the battery, "contact fire mission" and gave the location, a six place
map grid designation indicating a point on the ground to within 100 meters and asked for "Willie
Peter" (white phosphorous) shell with a mechanical time fuse. As the company commander asks
for the fire, the radioman says...shot, which means the shell is on its way and will explode in five
seconds. The shell detonates in the air, motting the sky with white smoke above the jungle canopy,
the FO lines up his compass in the direction of the burst, the aim must be adjusted to the right
toward the front of the column and toward the sniper, he radios correction:...danger close...(the
artillery is being asked to fire within 600 meters of the Marine position). right 200, drop 200
shell...HE.. High explosive shells will now be fired by two of the guns in the battery, they are fused
with a point detonating fuse to explode upon impact. Again the radioman says...shot, and five
seconds later the shells explode, but the shells are two distant, the FO orders the battery to drop
another 100 meters, the next explosions are just right, as the shells fall through there high trajectory
and explode in front of the Marine positions, most of the resulting fragmentation fans outaway from
the Marines. A backwash of pebbles, wood fragments, and occasional piece of metal pelts the
helmets of the front rank, as they hug the ground. This is what close artillery support means. The
company commander, the FO, point platoon leader and the artillery battery have thought and
fought as one. Only a little ammunition was expended, seven rounds in all. Best of all no Marine
lives were lost. Given the difficulty of target acquisition, and the need for duplicate safety checks,
many artillery batteries averaged about five minutes response time, some batteries responded in
under two minutes and the Marines at Khe Sanh managed to reduce this to an incredible forty
seconds. Bravo Battery never stayed in anyone place for any length of time, moving from Da
Nang to Khe Sanh with many stops in between. Bravo Battery had to stay in range of 2/3/3 at alltimes. Bravo Battery was on the float with 2/3/3 and fought in the hill fights, with the guns
positioned at Khe Sanh. Bravo fired in excess of 13000 rounds on hills 881 & 861. Bravo was
over ran by Sappers on August 28th 68, with four Marines receiving Stateside wounds. Bravo lost
three men (KIA) in an ambush, on April 18th 68, and mourns the lost of a number of Forward
Observers. See Bravos KIA's