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Vietnam War Question-How Does Digging in Protect Artillerymen and ammunition?

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  • Vietnam War Question-How Does Digging in Protect Artillerymen and ammunition?

    I remember reading from Bernard Fall's Hell In a Very Small Place that one of the reason why so much Artillery ammunition was destroyed and why so much of the Elite Artillerymen were killed early in the battle was because the troops did not dig in the artillery and the artillery ammunition.

    Fall, the book's author, stated had the De Castries, the Commander of the Garrison, ordered Artillery to be dug in, the Artillerymen and Artillary ammunitions would have been greatly protected during the battle and so much of the Artillery Battalion's overall strength would not have been greatly Diminished during the initial Bombardment by the VietMinh that shattered so much of the French Artillery units.

    I am curious,how does digging Artillery in protect the men manning the Artillery and the Artillery Ammo from Enemy Battery?

    Fall states that had the French dug in the Artillery during the weeks prior to the Battle, even provided all the other defects on the French side(occupying low ground, improperly built Entrenchment Fortifications with the wrong material,improperly designed Trenches,lack of Logistical Base once Airfield was destroyed,etc.), the French would have had a much better chance of at least lasting the battle until the Geneva Conference and possibly turning the battle into a stalemate as the French Artillery Ammo and Units would have survived the initial bombardment and continuous battery throughout the battle to have been in good enough condition to perform aggressive counterbattery and even may have enabled failed counterattacks that almost succeeded(but failed due to lack of Ammunition for the counterattacking Paratroopers and for the Artillery units for counter bombardment) in taking back lost positions to actually be successes.

    With these lost positions retaken and held(assuming the Artillerymen and their ammo had been properly dug in) Fall states there is a good chance of the French holding long enough for the inaccurate Parachute Drops to have landed in these retaken positions when they're in French handeds(in the actual battle since the Paradropped supplies clumsily landed in enemy hands, often in positions that the French lost to the VietMinh), the French would have been able to continue the battle and actually have inflicted a stalemate since even in the actual doomed battle, the French had inflicted such heavy casualties they almost won the battle and caused panic in the VietMinh (and these positions lost to the VM were essential that the Paratroop Mafia who took command from De Castries and took command for themselves felt the battle would be doomed without these lost positions).

    In fact I read that digging in was also standard in the American War especially during the Artillery Duels between the American and NVA.Any commander who didn't do this was insane in the head.

    Whats the reason for doing this?

  • #2
    The guns on US firebases were generally enclosed in earthen berms to protect the crew from direct (horizontal) fire and shell fragments.


    • #3
      It's simple protection. Mother Earth is capable of either escaping or reducing the damage of incoming artillery rounds. Not only that, but in the case of a direct hit, it can help keep the damage local to just that place. Not digging in, whether by artillery, infantry or any other branch is inviting maximum damage is a position is shelled.
      No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends John 15:13


      • #4
        Also... one puts ones projectiles in one pit & containers of propellants in another, and fuzes in a third.

        Last year in the Marine Corps Gazette some old Korean war vet had his reminences of artillery ops published. One paragraph described how it was when a Turkish battery got caught by counter fires with excess ammo exposed in the gun positions. The author claimed the propellant fires and projo. detonations were visible five kilometers distant


        • #5
          When a cannon shell hits, the fragments go up and outwards. Anything on this level can and does get hit. A direct hit means you are dead, but anything to the side can be withstood. A problem the French had with Viet Minh artillery was they controlled the heights and when they dug in right behind the crest, it was almost impossible for the French to hit these positions.

          Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

          Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

          by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"


          • #6
            Whether you dig in or bund-up really depends on where the water table is. Of course during the monsoon pits turn into ponds if they don't have good drainage.

            Either way it protects the men (and ammo) from small arms fire and from shell fragments. Of course if you fire enough shells and they're are reasonably accurate then sooner or later there's high probability of a shell into the gun pit. However, anything less than a direct hit on the gun itelf is unlikely to do destructive damage, although you may need new tyres.


            • #7
              While I'm taking a liberty with the topic, watch this Mythbusters episode for some interesting ideas related to entrenching and even the shape of the trenches.


              It covers how entrenching is both good and bad and how shock waves can cause damage in the trenches.
              "War is sorrowful, but there is one thing infinitely more horrible than the worst horrors of war, and that is the feeling that nothing is worth fighting for..."
              -- Harper's Weekly, December 31, 1864


              • #8
                It covers how entrenching is both good and bad and how shock waves can cause damage in the trenches.
                Shock waves have absolutely no effect if shells are airburst, very little effect if fuzed SQ (Having seen 500lb bomb craters touching the edge of pits I'm fairly confident of this). You might have a bit of effect with delay fuzes and impacts close to the trench. Of course it also depends on the nature of the 'soil' and the trench construction - notably whether or not it's competantly revetted.


                • #9
                  As I recall, our round of choice for a trenchline was airburst in hope of doing some personell damage. Still, pretty much needed to make a direct hit to accomplish anything.

                  Direct hits with HC would normally give us something like "50M trenchline destroyed" and direct hits with airburst would result in "probable KIA" reports.

                  All in all, we didn't feel trenchline targets did much more good than firing H&I...or a waste of ammo unless we got the occasional direct hit.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by skiplc View Post
                    All in all, we didn't feel trenchline targets did much more good than firing H&I...or a waste of ammo unless we got the occasional direct hit.
                    Keeps heads down, which the assault boys always appreciate.


                    • #11
                      Carl's post is right on the money - the earth berms protected the soldiers from counter-battery fire. In the event that the enemy attacked the fire base, gun crews could continue to fire in support of a unit while base defenders dealt with the enemy. In the cases of a large enemy action, the guns could be levelled down to fire directly into the attacking units, firing beehive rounds at the enemy trying to overrun the base. The berms were simply protection.
                      "War is hell, but actual combat is a motherf#cker"
                      - Col. David Hackworth


                      • #12
                        "Direct hits with HC would normally give us something like "50M trenchline destroyed"

                        A commendable sense of humour, but extreme wishful thinking.


                        • #13
                          What humor? What wishful thinking? 20 or 50 rounds on target and somebody is gonna do a lot of shovel work...1 or 2 rounds on target and they can fix it with a rice bowl.

                          Most trench targets were to give a HMG a bad time or otherwise focus on whatever particular problem was at hand.


                          • #14
                            The chance of the mpi being spot on a trenchline is remote, even if a correction of 25 mtres was ordered, although I do agree it could depend on the axis of the trenchline and the line of fire.

                            Having had some experience of firing at VC bunkers and examining the results I can safely say any bunker that was hit was extremely unlucky. And I'm talking about a lot more than 20 - 50 rds.


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