The United States Army met an unusually complex challenge in Southeast Asia. In conjunction with the other services, the Army fought in support of a national policy of assisting an emerging nation to develop governmental processes of its own choosing, free of outside coercion. In addition to the usual problems of waging armed conflict, the assignment in Southeast Asia required superimposing the immensely sophisticated tasks of a modern army upon an underdeveloped environment and adapting them to demands covering a wide spectrum. These involved helping to fulfill the basic needs of an agrarian population, dealing with the frustrations of antiguerrilla operations, and conducting conventional campaigns against well-trained and determined regular units.
It is still necessary for the Army to continue to prepare for other challenges that may lie ahead: While cognizant that history never repeats itself exactly and that no army ever profited from trying to meet a new challenge in terms of the old one, the Army nevertheless stands to benefit immensely from a study of its experience, its shortcomings no less than its achievements.
Aware that some years must elapse before the official histories will provide a detailed and objective analysis of the experience in Southeast Asia, we have sought a forum whereby some of the more salient aspects of that experience can be made available now. At the request of the Chief of Staff, a representative group of senior officers who served in important posts in Vietnam and who still carry a heavy burden of day-to-day responsibilities have prepared a series of monographs. These studies should be of great value in helping the Army develop future operational concepts while at the same time contributing to the historical record and providing the American public with an interim report on the performance of men and officers who have responded, as others have through our history, to exacting and trying demands.
The reader should be reminded that most of the writing was accomplished while the war in Vietnam was at its peak, and the monographs frequently refer to events of the past as if they were taking place in the present.
All monographs in the series are based primarily on official records, with additional material from published and unpublished
secondary works, from debriefing reports and interviews with key participants, and from the personal experience of the author. To facilitate security clearance, annotation and detailed bibliography have been omitted from the published version; a fully documented account with bibliography is filed with the U.S. Army Center of Military History.
The qualifications of Major General David Ewing Ott to write Field Artillery, 1954-1973, are considerable. He served in combat with field artillery units in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. In World War II he was a forward observer with the 868th Field Artillery Battalion of the 65th Infantry Division, and during the Korean War he was executive officer and operations officer of the 64th Field Artillery Battalion of the 25th Infantry Division. In Vietnam he served as executive officer of II Field Force Artillery in 1966 and as commander of the 25th Infantry Division Artillery in 1967. Other assignments that make him particularly qualified to write the monograph include instructor of field artillery gunnery at the Field Artillery School from 1948 to 1951; S-3, 82d Airborne Division Artillery, 1957 to 1959; commander of the 2d Howitzer Battalion of the 83d Artillery from 1959 to 1960; Chief, Artillery Branch, Officer Personnel Directorate, Office of Personnel Operations, Department of the Army; and Director, Vietnam Task Force, International Security Affairs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense. General Ott is presently the Commanding General, US Army Field Artillery Center, and Commandant, US Army Field Artillery School, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He is thus the Army's senior field artilleryman.
VERNE L. BOWERS
page created 13 March 2003
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