Best Defense

The day in 1965 when I mistakenly gave a ride in my boat to a bunch of Viet Cong

By Ron Rogers Best Defense department of odd war stories I forgot to mention a unique story about an experience enjoyed by no other soldier in Republic of Vietnam (RVN). There came a day when I gave a nice Viet Cong (VC) platoon a ride down the canal separating RVN from Cambodia and they asked ...

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Wikimedia

By Ron Rogers

Best Defense department of odd war stories

I forgot to mention a unique story about an experience enjoyed by no other soldier in Republic of Vietnam (RVN). There came a day when I gave a nice Viet Cong (VC) platoon a ride down the canal separating RVN from Cambodia and they asked to be dropped off on the VC side and disappeared into the high grass as they walked to their R&R leave, 1 kilometer away in Cambodia. They were so grateful for the ride that they didn’t shoot me! 

When the platoon leader waved me down, I thought that I was giving a Popular Force platoon a ride. As I continued down the canal to my temporary duty at A-424, it dawned on me that they had gotten off on the wrong side! I pushed the throttle as far as it would go and raced along close to the bank so the VC would have a harder time tracking me with a weapon. Their nice platoon leader wore an NVA pith helmet without the star and he spoke French with me. I think they would have ridden further, but their crisp khaki uniforms were getting wet and the men got upset. Their leader wore shorts and high socks and didn’t care, but he didn’t want their uniforms messed-up or their AKs (very few of the South Vietnamese Popular Force had that weapon!) to get rusty. They didn’t try to take the 2 M1s lying in the bottom of the boat. They belonged to the two VN SF assholes who ignored my orders to get underway and went to eat and take Pak. The chain didn’t know what to say to me and I told them I didn’t appreciate being fucked with. We had a schedule and they were violating it. Boy, were they pissed when they were handed back their rusted rifles.

We radioed around when my commander thought it was weird to find a wandering PF unit wanting to cross the canal. Well, there were no PF in that sector that day — just me and a VC platoon. I held that throttle so hard that the web of my thumb was bleeding badly. So I stopped at a fort and a Vietnamese medic bandaged it and spoke French with me. (Can you get a Purple Heart for a self-inflicted wound?) They thought that I was French! In 1965, a decent number of rural folks thought that we beret wearers were French. I guess they hadn’t read the papers nor watched TV. 

Sometimes you can get scared without being shot at. Of course, that platoon commander was awfully nice.

Ron Rogers was a Special Forces soldier once, and young.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. @tomricks1

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