Fire Support Bases Vietnam is a meticulous documentation of the construction, location and role of fire support bases during the Vietnam War, compiled by Vietnam veteran Bruce Picken. Often makeshift bases hacked out of primary jungle, these artillery gun areas provided essential support to infantry field units during operations in South Vietnam. In its simplest sense, a fire support base was an often hastily constructed fortified artillery base position, usually sited forward close to the centre of the area of operations in support of task force, battalion or company operations. The role of the fire support base was to bring artillery and mortar fire within range of friendly forces operating in depth. Artillery gun areas were not unique to the Vietnam conflict. In previous wars they were deployed in allied territory to cover the front lines and to support advancing troops. The concept was first applied in Vietnam by US forces and quickly adapted by Australian forces arriving in Phuoc Tuy Province in May 1966 to fight a new kind of war. This conflict was not like its predecessors and the fire support bases were now more usually sited in territory dominated by the enemy to provide much-needed protection for forces operating in bitterly contested areas. Fire Support Bases Vietnam is a detailed account that identifies every fire support base by date, location and role and provides an outline of the operations in which they participated. This is an essential reference book for those with a serious interest in the Vietnam War, and adds valuable detail to the study of a campaign that occupies a unique place in the Australian psyche.
Bruce Picken was born in Geelong, Victoria, in 1947 and educated at the Geelong College. He commenced a five year electrical apprenticeship which was completed in April 1970. Two days later, he was on a bus heading for Puckapunyal army camp – 2nd Recruit Training Battalion (2RTB) to commence his ten weeks of basic training. This was followed by ten weeks of Infantry Corps training at Singleton, NSW – 3rd Training Battalion (3TB). In September 1970, Bruce was posted to the 4th Battalion RAR stationed at Lavarack Barracks, Queensland. On 12 May 1971 the 4RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Battalion left for Vietnam on its shortened tour of duty. On joining 4RAR, Bruce was posted to the Assault Pioneer Platoon. The Pioneers were the CO’s combat engineers specialising in light engineering and demolition and mine warfare tasks. Their primary role was to assist in the establishment and support of FSB areas. The Assault Pioneer Platoon also conducted TAOR patrols around FSB areas (including the Horseshoe and Nui Dat), as well as ambush patrols and Ready Reaction tasks. Bruce left Vietnam in November 1971 and was discharged from the Army in December 1971, having completed his National Service commitment