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Excerpts from the book "Not A Hero" by Ron Fitts, LT.

Excerpt from Chapter One: AP Bac

We had been patrolling and setting up night ambushes along a canal that was running close to the Cambodian border for about a month and a half. We were learning about setting up ambushes by the trial and error method. One of our patrol officers usually got stuck with day patrols riding the slow heavy easy targets of the Mobile Riverine Force. Those boats usually pulled a heavy wire cable with a sharp hook attached to it. This was to cut any wires that might be attached to mines in the canal. These boats were only able to go about eight or nine knots and were not very maneuverable.

Ap Bac was a large village with a large Vietnamese Popular Forces (VPF) contingent and 400 or so people. But there was also an Ap Bac II, about four miles away. These were families whose husbands or brothers were Viet Cong. Many of these were relatives of people in the larger village. No male over about twelve years old would be seen in Ap Bac II. Along the canal on both sides were rice fields that went back about two and a half miles. At the southeastern edge of the rice fields was a very thickly wooded area of a few miles square. This area was controlled by a large contingent of heavily armed Viet Cong. The VC brought reinforcements of men and supplies to this area for safe keeping or distribution. U.S. Army troops had attacked this area on more than one occasion and had suffered heavy losses. I had heard that many of the outposts had verbal agreements (don't bother us and we will not bother you) with some Viet Cong groups, but I was not sure that I believed that.

Our commanding officer would decide where he wanted us to patrol and set up ambush for the night. We would leave the base camp about forty five minutes before dark in order to be at the ambush area at blackest dark. Then we would slowly pull up to the bank and tie the boat to a tree limb. A patrol officer was usually in charge of two boats, with four men on each in addition to me. We would do our best to keep every one awake and alert until about 1 or 1:30 a.m. Then we would return to our base and get some sleep.

There was a sixty feet wide canal that crossed the 120 feet wide main canal on the north side of Ap Bac. It runs back along the north side of the heavily wooded Viet Cong controlled area for a total length of about six miles. There were two small villages along this canal. The one farther back was composed of Viet Cong families. The plan was to drop our CO off at the outpost in Ap Bac and pick up about twenty VPF troops and split them between four boats, and supposedly the VPF troops would help us attack any enemy that we found. We were supposed to ride slowly down the canal to the end and turn around and come back slowly so that we would not swamp any sampans. That would be bad public relations. We were late getting started and we didn't get to the dead end area until it was black dark.

All of a sudden; it seemed like all hell broke loose. I was looking directly at the muzzle flash from the first rifleman in the gauntlet. About twelve gunners opened fire on us and they were spaced out about twenty yards apart for the next 250 yards. Tracers are placed in the ammunition belt about every five or six bullets apart. They look like red roman candles being shot in the air and are far more deadly. The tracers are to help you in adjusting your firing in order to hit your target in the dark. You also know that there are four or five more bullets coming toward you for each one of the tracers that you see.

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