What country first introduced the use of fire support bases (FSB) as seen, for example, during the Vietnam War? Is this a uniquely U.S. military doctrine that developed out of that specific war?

The U.S. Military has continued to use this tactic to some extent in Afghanistan; but where did the use of FSB's originate in the first place?

  • Can you offer a more precise definition of "this tactic? What you said "(temporary defenses / artillery)" feels quite vague. – Semaphore Oct 15 '15 at 17:28
  • @Semaphore Suggestions on better ways to ask are welcome. What I want to know is who in the 20th century first started using these bases composed of artillery, light fortification, and infantry in efforts to simply "hold" territory as was seen in Vietnam; contrasting to say... supporting a "front" in the traditional sense. – Courtny Oct 15 '15 at 17:36
  • @Semaphore Just edited, any clearer? – Courtny Oct 15 '15 at 18:05

No, there was at least one pre-Vietnam precedent for FSBs. During the Chindit campaign in 1944 the British used fortified bases that were FSBs in all but name. These were established behind Japanese lines and had landing strips, artillery, anti-aircraft etc etc to facilitate attacks on Japanese rear areas.


Yes, it is a uniquely American development created during the war in Viet Nam.

(background info) A fire support base is sort of mobile artillery encampment. It is set up to provide temporary fire power in a local area where fighting (usually of an insurgency character) is occurring. It differs from normal warfare in that there is no front. The FSB is presumably surrounded by the enemy or by places from which the enemy could operate.

The applicability to Viet Nam is obvious: in Viet Nam, the VC used tunnels and secret supply routes to fight in wide ranging areas, conducting a guerilla war which could flare up into significant local conflicts involving artillery. The FSB was a response to this, allowing the US Army to place fire power in hotspots where NVA activity was occurring.

The general concept of a strong point is, of course, not new. Roman legions operated in a similar way, setting up fortified camps deep in enemy territory and operating out of those camps. Also, to take an example from medieval times, after the Normans invaded Britain they were faced with trying to control a large, hostile country. They set up castles, strongpoints, throughout the country from which they could exert control and launch military operations.

FSBs are a little different in that they are artillery focused, the infantry is usually based elsewhere in many different smaller camps. The centralized FSB allows a single artillery center to support numerous smaller infantry strong points scattered around. This is possible because a 155mm gun can easily fire 10-12 miles away, so a single FSB can be used across a wide area.

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    I'd argue that the concept is fundamentally identical to the Roman Legion's overnight camp which you mention, and thus pre-dates Julius Caesar. Roman Legions used a surprisingly large number and variety of artillery - but their range was much less than a modern howitzer or mortar. – Pieter Geerkens Oct 15 '15 at 22:54
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    You could also say the Normans' motte and bailey castles were used as a similar way to put small but potent military forces out in the backcountry to control a region with reasonable security. Same for Edward and the castles in Wales. – Oldcat Oct 15 '15 at 23:53
  • In the discussion page of the wikipedia article on FSB they talk about the South Korean marines that might have been the first to use this in Viet-nam. Also wasn't it also one of the tactics of the french army in the Indochina War (and Dien Bien Phu one badly executed FSB?) – Nikko Oct 16 '15 at 19:08

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