X-ray patrol is ordered on a suicide mission: two boats, ten men into a Viet Cong stronghold of battalion strength. Lieutenant Roarke is aware of the insanity of it all but there is nothing he can do short of disobeying orders. Roarke and his men are being used to satisfy a host of intertwined, self-serving political interests that have little to do with the mission of winning a war. The patrol’s own squadron commander, a powerful United States congressman, a Vietnamese province chief, and a Vietnamese district chief all conspire for different reasons to send the patrol on a mission they can’t possibly survive. A US Army general and a correspondent round out the forces at play that will determine the fate of X-ray patrol.
Roarke and his men proceed with the mission, hoping this will be another uneventful patrol based on Squadron’s near-perfect record of faulty intelligence. As they approach the area where the enemy is supposedly encamped, they discover through their own sources that this time, Squadron may be right. The patrol is committed; it’s too late to turn back. They proceed to the designated site and set up a water-borne ambush in a driving rain. As they wait through the night, it is they who feel like fish in a barrel.