Firebase design

Discussion in 'OFF-Topic / Misc.' started by dutchman, Aug 26, 2013.

  1. dutchman

    dutchman Member

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    Folks, I need help understanding this????
    I watched the news tonight and saw the awarding of the C.M.H. to a US serviceman. This was for action in Afganistan. Actually 2 were earned in this action. I want to take nothing away from the brave deeds these men preformed.

    I watched the layout of the firebase. It was surrounded on all 4 sides by high rugged ground which offered plenty of cover and better angles of attack for the enemy. Now the guys put up a heck of fight and they heldout. But what idiot builds a firebase on the lowest point avalible??? It was like a tiny version of Dien Bien Phu.

    I've never claimed to be a military expert but even I know enough to take the high ground!!!
     
  2. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    was wondering the same thing, but not sure it was a firebase, thought it was an outpost of some sort. Anyway, the military is a mystery to me, but maybe they put it there so it would be easy to supply buy road? Anyway, like you I thought it was a place that was hard to defend, with plunging fire from all sides.
     
  3. razor1uk

    razor1uk Well-Known Member

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    Possibly apart from some supply needs, that being a valley itself brings you closer to the/a people, to idealistically, make it easier for hearts minds humanitarian benefits to be spread to the locals (assuming that any better and more needed than those before are actually provided), showing your with them against the deluded fachist-a-like insurgents. Something that AFAIK, the Soviets kept mostly to the high ground and didn't mix as much. Well that's my guesstimate.
     
  4. dutchman

    dutchman Member

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    I think you're right "outpost" would be the correct phrase. And perhaps the hearts and mind thing does come into play. If it were a larger outpost them hard points on all sides on the top of the high ground would have helped. But I'd of placed my people up and then lugged the supplies up the hills if I had to. To win the hearst and minds is the most important thing right after keeping my people as safe as I can!!
     
  5. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    Yes, hearts and minds, a tricky concept.
     
  6. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    wasnt Khe Sanh situated in a basin like Dien Bien Phu??
     
  7. dutchman

    dutchman Member

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    You are right, Khe Sanh was surrounded by higher hilltops. But we had hard points on those elevations. Much of the fighting at Khe Sanh took part around those hilltops. 77 days in 1968. Not a good time.

    But the field of fire was much larger at Khe Sanh then it was at this little outpost in Afganistan. The battle in 68 made clear yet again the value of air support. I have to question if the thought was that air support would be the answer for the little outpost?

    I understand that we love out technology and we think it can do anything. I can count the number of pilots that think they can "thread a needle" with ordinance at 300 mph. The funny part is when you're on the ground, you figure it must be a really big needle!!!

    I don't want to see us change out basic military tactics because we think our high tech toys are so effective that we don't have to take every precaution. It's not like we all haven't had computers crash. This weekend I programmed my Garmin with an address and it got me within 4 miles of the destination. I'm glad that's not directing a "smart bomb"!

    The toys are great, but when it goes bad it's you and your buddies, your weapons skills and courage. We must never loose sight of that.

    Guess I'm showing my age! I use to have a friend, he was a Green Beret in Nam. He always said "depend on yourself, your God and those of your kind". And that wasn't a racist remark. "Of your kind" refered to people with the same values, duty, honor, intergity and courage. Words to live by, not punch lines for some comedians jokes. Oh well, I'm just getting old!
     
  8. razor1uk

    razor1uk Well-Known Member

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    Well said Dutchman, I can't say I find anything you just said I don't agree with, and I'm in my mid 30's.
    If and when the power(s) could go out, you can only do with what's still working around you and those available whom understand it :salute:
     
  9. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    No matter where a firebase is it has to be supplied.
    If you build it on a hilltop, you've just automatically limited yourself to being supplied by helicopters only. You can't build a usable runway on many of the mountaintops in Afghanistan, nor will you have the time, or resources to build a road to the top of that mountain.
    With all the high elevations in Afghanistan, any helicopter is operating at a much reduced performance, much less load lifting ability, so supplying by chopper alone becomes pretty difficult.
    Any firebase's failure or success is determined greatly on it ability to keep itself supplied. Put it on a mountain top, may be easier to defend, but harder to supply.

    Khe Sahn's main base was in a valley because the roads that kept it supplied came up that valley, and so was the runway that was used to supply them when the roads were blocked.
     
  10. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    the big savior of khe sanh as i remember was a tremendous amount of air power being brought to bear on the nva. they even developed an on the deck fly-by way to drop supplies because when planes landed they were immediately targeted by mortars and large guns. it was the us air capabilities... with out all those b 52 stikes....lower lever jet strikes with bombs and napalm...etc..without which we would have probably suffered the fate as the french. in fact gen giap had high hopes of taking khe sanh and winning the war because the scenario was so close.
     
  11. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    #11 tyrodtom, Aug 28, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2013
    IMO Khe Sanh's Marines were the bait on a trap. Nobody is ever going to know how many NVA were killed in the siege, but I've seen figures as high a 15,000. Though the NVA only admit to about 2500.
    I was at NKP, Thailand at the time, putting every kind of cluster bomb we had on A1s, and made so much napalm, we ran out of the usual 80 octane mogas we made it out of. So we made it out of 115/145 aviation gas.
    The pilots didn't like the high octane napalm, the fireball was noticeably smaller from the high lead in the fuel. They didn't like risking their life to drop a less effective weapon.
    When they dropped something that didn't work well, or was a complete dud, we were the guys that got raked over the coals.
    I can remember more than one 24 hr shift, where we had to download big truck convoys, so they could go back to Sattahip and load up for another trip back.
    During the Khe Sanh siege and Tet, we BB stackers were like the walking dead.
     
  12. dutchman

    dutchman Member

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    #12 dutchman, Aug 28, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2013
    I have no doubt Air Power saved alot of lives in the battle of Khe sanh. I remember a gunship had tried to bring in the miniguns and the weather was so bad they couldn't see anything. They were restricted to stay 2000 feet above the ground. After they had made seveal tries. The pilot couldn't listen to the pleas from the base radio any longer, they finally threw the book out the window and came in less the 1000 feet off the deck. They broke through the clouds and beat back the the enemy in the wire. Sometimes you just gotta do the right thing no matter what the regs say!

    Letting a supply road dictate your position doesn't make sense. If you can't control the high ground you don't want to be in the killing box. Roads running through winding mountain valleys are a nightmare to protect. Air supply is always an option as long as the birds can fly. Any long term outpost should have enough supplies for a prolonged seige. As a tired old man I can tell you I would still lug supplies up the hill all day long rather then have someone up their shooting down at me. It's amazing with only a few degrees of elevation, your cover on the low ground gets a lot smaller. If your based in the low area you have to own the perimeter and the high spots. No other option works.
     
  13. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    What was also an aid to the defenders of Khe San was fore kknowledge of the attack and a laying out of fields of sensors to create "Kill Boxes" that decimated the NVA who were unlucky enough to be detected in them. I believe they also had B-52 strikes in and around the area.
     
  14. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    You might be in that valley because it's your mission to protect that road or village.
    Most of the smaller firebases I remember in Vietnam were on hilltops when in mountainous territory. But most could be reached by road, until the NVA decided to put them under heavy attack, then being on that mountaintop meant they could only be supplied by chopper when under seige, and that limited their size.
    Bigger bases were in the valleys.

    The service ceiling of both the Blackhawk and Chinook is less than 20,000 feet, there are mountain ranges higher than that in Afghanistan, and it has a central plateau of around 6000 feet. I'm not sure what the hover ceiling of either chopper is, but I do know both operate at reduced loads in Afghanistan, and that limits our ability to keep isolated outpost supplied.
     
  15. dutchman

    dutchman Member

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    #15 dutchman, Aug 30, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2013
    I was doing more research into the outpost design and found in this case 4 officers faced charges for not doing it well. Poor position and inadaquate defences. The had the manpower down to less then 70 troops, They were unable to go out and patrol in force. There was a fast moving river to their back and and very high slopes all around. I tried to imagaine and escape route as a back up. There isn't much chance anywhere. I have a photo of it and a report I'll try to post them up but this may not work?

    This is looking down into the Keating outpost from the enemy held elevation. God Bless the folks that defended it. There is nothing about this that looks like a good idea. You gotta have courage to stand your ground there. Oh and to make it even better, any chopper support, resuply or evac was 40 minutes away. 40 minutes down there had to seem like forever once the attack started.
    keating.jpg
     
  16. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    A word about Dien Bien Phu. Its purpose was to cut off Viet Minh supply lines into the neighboring Kingdom of Laos, a French ally, and tactically draw the Viet Minh into a major confrontation that would cripple them. It was an “airhead”, that is a fortified position supplied by air. As such its position at the bottom of a valley surrounded by high hills was not considered a problem by the French commanders. The establishment of such “airheads” was based upon the French experience at Na San in Nov – Dec 1952. The Na San airhead had been repeatedly attacked by the Viet Minh forces who had suffered very heavy losses inflicted by superior French artillery, armor, and air support.
    However at Dien, the French had made three serious errors: One, at Na San the French artillery had full control of the high ground with overwhelming force. None of the French commanders believed that the Viet Minh had heavy artillery let alone a 4:1 advantage nor that it was possible to move and emplace such artillery through the heavy jungle. Two, the Viet Minh had not been prepared to attack a fortified base like Na San and simply used “human wave” tactics. At Dien Bien Phu they (Viet Minh) spent months preparing. They stockpiled ammo and food, emplaced heavy artillery and anti-aircraft guns on the hilltops around Dien, Viet Minh spies had entered the French camp and located all of its gun emplacements. The French on the other hand knew nothing about the Viet Minh emplacements or even how many. Third, at Na San, the Viet Minh had few anti-aircraft guns and air re-supply had not been interdicted. At Dien, massed anti-aircraft fire quickly shut down the airfield and made re-supply almost impossible.
    In short, the French superiority complex had led them into the always fatal mistake of underestimating your enemy
     
  17. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    good stuff mike....never ran into that in my readings about dien. mostly of them centered around the outlying fortifications ( with women's names ) and the failure of the french to reach dien by air or road.
     
  18. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    Bobby, much the same is true about Khe Sanh. The 5th SF had established a base at Khe Sanh back in 1962. When the marines were ordered to Khe Sanh in ’66 SF established a new base about 6 klicks SW near the village of Lang Vei. That base was hit by the NVA in ’67. Though the attack failed the NVA did so much damage to the base that it was abandoned and a new base about a klick west was established. The new camp had better observation ability and more extensive fields of fire. Now our recon teams had been seeing tank tracks for over a month when reported we were told that it was impossible and these were just bulldozers tracks. On 7 Feb 2 NVA battalions and 12 Soviet amphibious tanks hit the SF camp. The camps main defenses were over run in about 15 min though fighting continued for many hours. When the Lang Vei SF camp had been established, the SF and Marine commander at Khe Sanh (Lownds) had agreed upon a ground relief plan wherein the Marines would move out in support if the camp were ever in danger of being overrun. That night despite 3 calls for help by the SF commander, Lownds refused any aid. Col Ladd, commander of all 5th SF forces in Vietnam flew to Khe Sanh in the early AM to intercede but Lownds continued to refuse to send help. Ladd wrote that he was “astounded that the Marines, who prided themselves on leaving no man behind, were willing to write off all of the Green Berets and simply ignore the fall of Lang Vei." Ladd then contacted the commander of a special SF recon group stationed within Khe Sanh. All the recon troopers volunteered to go to the aid of their fellow SF troopers at Lang Vei. The recon teams however did not have their own helos thus the Marines would have to supply the helos. Lownds again refused to release Marine helos. It was not until Westmoreland himself ordered the relief mission that Lownds relented and allowed the SF staffed mission to proceed. When the survivors, their families, civilian refugees, and Laotian survivors arrived at the base, Lownds ordered them disarmed and forced them to sit in bomb craters without food or water. Ladd reported that Lowands stated that he “couldn't trust any gooks in their damn camp”
    Westmoreland insisted all through the 1968 Tet offensive that it was a feint to draw forces away from Khe Sanh. In fact Westmoreland had even gone so far as to request tatical nukes. He almost got them.
     
  19. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    i remember reading an account about lang vei written by one of the sf survivors. to say he was mad and bitter would be a gross understatement. when they called and reported the nva using of tanks no one believed them...the situation went down hill from there. that any survived is amazing.... i just did a quick look and came across this site with lots of good info....

    Lang Vei
     
  20. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    Bobby, Good site, brings back memories. I had spent some time at the old Lang Vei as we infiltrated into Laos. The John Wayne movie "The Green Berets" scene where ite sppecial forces camp is hit was patterned after the old Lanf Vei. Co Roc was dug out like a piece of swiss cheese and loaded with artillery. James Holt was a good friend and fellow medic
     
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