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By Doug Hendrixson

ARTILLERY IN THE MOUNTAINS:  One former Tall Comanche FO was with the unit while they were stationed in I Corps.  The war fought there was much different from what I experienced.  But I do know from having written to that FO that the mountains were tough... up one side, down the other, up the next and down again and again and again.  Sometimes fire missions had to be fired by two or three different artillery batteries because of ridgelines.  Because of mountains blocking the flight path of rounds being fired at normal firing angle, the artillery used a lot of “High Angle Fire” while in I Corps.  The problem with High Angle Fire was that the projectile was in the air for so long that weather conditions could have even greater effects on the projectile’s flight path; therefore, the artillery was less accurate.  Terrain and gun-target azimuth were very important in the mountains, and height of burst was pretty much a guessing game.  FO’s operating in the mountains found altimeters to be beneficial (both for determining location of themselves and the target). 

THINGS MOST GRUNTS DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE ARTILLERY:  Did you know on the battery side of the fight, we had to compensate for weather (including wind, air pressure and humidity), temperature (including powder temperature),  projectile weight, time of flight, type of fuse, drift, terrain, etc?  It was pretty complicated stuff but the guys in the Fire Direction Center (FDC) had it down to a split-second science.

Did you know that the FDC’s used the first ever artillery “automated computers” in ‘Nam?  Called the Field Artillery Digital Automatic Computer (FADAC), it was extremely accurate (assuming the operator knew how to correctly plug the raw data into it), but was very slow in spitting out the final firing data.  I don’t know what computers are used today, but I can guarantee that the FADAC is obsolete ten times over.  We toyed with the FADAC and sometimes used it to check data, but fire missions were slowed severely when we depended on it as our primary source of data.  Even when we did use it, we still had to run manual checks of the data for safety purposes.  It would overheat in the hot ‘Nam climate, and we had to have fans cooling it whenever it was turned on.  For its time, however, FADAC was “state-of-the-art.”

Did you know that the 8” howitzer had nuclear ammo?  Obviously, it has never been used in a war, but if it ever is – it will be akin to a “kamikaze” mission.  The range of the 8” (about 15 miles) is such that the gun and crew firing the nuke would most likely be vaporized or exposed to deadly radiation!  (I do believe that they now have a remote firing device in today’s improved Army!)  (Webmaster note:  The Army no longer has any nuclear capability.)

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Updated May 11, 2002