One lasting myth about Vietnam is the strength of the mighty Americans always outweighed that of the NVA. Absolutely not true. The number of American combat soldiers in Vietnam was always dwarfed by NVA manpower. The difference was firepower. Americans could draw on local artillery, the guns of the 7th Fleet, and seemingly endless Phantom and B52 strikes, not to mention helicopter gunships. The NVA’s answer to that overwhelming firepower was to fight, suffer, die, and wait. They could do this because of their vast manpower reserves. Time won the war for them.
As to your friend, as far as I could see, fire bases often had only 3 to 5 pieces at their disposal, and they were the quick reaction force for soldiers in the field. Division Artillery was larger, but farther away. So your friend is probably right.
To me the seminal fact of the war is that the US lost about 58,000 dead to the NVA’s 1,100,000. Every American death cost the NVA 20 deaths, and yet they could fight on. They won the war of attrition. The outcome was never in doubt.
I should say that many of these numbers are fuzzy and disputed. I used the best I could find.
And none of this speaks to the deaths of 2,000,000 civilians and 250,000 ARVN deaths.
All one can say for certain it that 1965 to 1972 was a bloody mess for all involved.
PS: I have gotten great care from the VA.
PPS: Mortars and rockets were the scariest weapons of all to the individual soldier.