Australia and the Vietnam War

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Combat

Patrolling: Fire Support Bases

Gunners from 1st Field Regiment rebuild a command post at Fire Support Base Bruiser with some of the many sandbags filled during the years of the conflict, 1969. [Image courtesy of Arthur Burke]
Where possible, local people were employed to help fill the sandbags, 1968. [Image courtesy of John Siladi]

Battalion Headquarters could also be deployed into the field, either at a fixed location – a fire support base (FSB) – or in a more mobile form. FSBs, which were generally set up with the Battalion’s artillery battery, mortars and armour, enabled a more flexible rapid response with greater coverage for operations beyond the immediate vicinity of the main Task Force base. The FSBs, often named after wives or girlfriends such as Susan, Diane, Coral and Beth, could remain in position for months and as the war progressed they played an increasingly important supporting role for operations in outlying areas.

One permanent FSB was established on ‘the Horseshoe’, a circular hill about 8 kilometres southeast of Nui Dat and just north of Dat Do. It was constructed in March 1967 as a preliminary step in the building of the Dat Do to the sea barrier minefield. The base provided an extensive view of the surrounding countryside as well as an effective ready reaction force and so was retained despite the failure of the minefield. Australian troops maintained the Horseshoe FSB until June 1971, when the base was handed over to ARVN troops.

FSBs

  • Cavalry, engineers and gunners at FSB Base Coral, 1968. [Image courtesy of Fred Bowden]
  • Gunners of 105 Field Battery complete the construction of the command post at FSB Susan, 1969. [Image courtesy of Arthur Burke]
  • A well-defended fire support base, apart from the shower, 1969. [Image courtesy of Ted Robinson]
  • Land Rover drivers take laden trailers, 105 mm howitzers and gun detachments to Fire Support Base Diane with cavalry APCs riding shotgun, 1969.  [Image courtesy of Arthur Burke]
  • A Chinook helicopter resupplies 3 Cavalry Regiment at a fire support base alongside Route 2, 1971. [Image courtesy of Mick King]
  • A Huey patrol at a fire support base, 1969. [Image courtesy of Jock Harvey]
  • Radio watch at a fire support base. Lance-Corporal Anthony (Mooka) Jones, 12 Platoon 4RAR sits in the shadow of a Centurion Tank, 1968. [Image courtesy of Tony Jones]