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

Excerpt from Chapter Nine: Lackadaisical Attitude

After about three months of ambushing on the canal at Tuyen Nhon, we were transferred to patrol out of a base at My Tho on the Mekong River. There were two boat divisions operating out of this base. The other division operated the TOC and none of ours worked in it.

When we were patrolling the Vinh Te Canal, our main base was a barge that had about three stories of sleeping quarters built on it, as well as a flight deck for helicopters on top. We got to come back to this barge about every two weeks for about three days. Since this barge was a Navy vessel, there was no alcohol allowed on it. But a much smaller navy barge was pulled up beside the sleeping barge and a metal shed was built on it. This barge was declared not a Navy vessel; therefore alcohol could be consumed on it. A wooden ramp was constructed to get to it. The shed became a bar room.

One afternoon I sat around with the men from my boat crews, while they had their beer and listened to music. There was more than one boat division attached to this barge and the place was crowded. After a few hours the men at one table next to us were very drunk and were getting rowdy. It was about suppertime, so I went to eat.

About an hour after supper, All of the patrol officers were called to the squadron commander's office. One of the divisions patrolled the area from our barge to the Cambodian border. One of their boats in ambush had reported seeing a river patrol boat going up the middle of the Mekong River, with its lights off, and continue on out of sight into Cambodia. This mystery boat refused to answer when called on the radio. We were all to check our boat crews and report back to him as soon as possible.

When we came back together, another boat division reported that one of its boat crews was missing and so was the boat, but none of his other men knew anything about the missing men. I knew some of the enlisted men from that division and felt sure it was the boat crew getting drunk and rowdy at the table next to ours.

I went to find one of my boat captains and his gunner's mate to see what they could tell me. I was sure that they knew this traitor boat crew. I told them that they knew I would not divulge who told me information and would keep their names a secret. I had kept a secret, when one of them shot the Americans on Halloween. We went into the bathroom and they told me that the boat crew had gone to Cambodia to turn themselves in and hopefully get sent back to the United States soon. They were tired of going into ambush. I reported this to the squadron commander, who became livid with anger.

The traitor boat crew happened to find a friendly Cambodian village, where they stopped their boat. They gave themselves up and were imprisoned. They were not treated very harshly and were repatriated in about a month.

Sadly we had just developed a method to talk on our radios and have the signal scrambled automatically and then another boat have a proper receiver on the other end to receive our message over the radio without having to encode and decode it. This was provided to the enemy, when they allowed themselves to be captured. It did not destroy our ability to continue to use this method of transmission, but it did give them a sample of the technology that we were using.

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