SOG: The Secret Wars of America's Commandos in Vietnam

SOG: The Secret Wars of America's Commandos in Vietnam

3.8 6
by John L. Plaster
     
 

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SOG was the most secret elite U.S. military unit to serve in the war in Vietnam, so secret it was "black"-meaning its very existence was carefully concealed, even denied by the government. Innocuously codenamed the Studies and Observations Group, SOG contained only volunteers from such units as the Army Green Berets, USAF Air Commandos, and Navy SEALs, and answered

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Overview

SOG was the most secret elite U.S. military unit to serve in the war in Vietnam, so secret it was "black"-meaning its very existence was carefully concealed, even denied by the government. Innocuously codenamed the Studies and Observations Group, SOG contained only volunteers from such units as the Army Green Berets, USAF Air Commandos, and Navy SEALs, and answered directly to the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs, with some missions requiring approval from the White House. Inside Vietnam, only General William West-moreland and a few senior non-SOG officers were briefed on SOG activities. Now Major John L. Plaster, a three-tour SOG veteran, vividly recounts the never-before-revealed exploits.

SOG took on the most dangerous assignments, going behind enemy lines to penetrate North Vietnamese military facilities in Laos and Cambodia and along the heavily defended Ho Chi Minh Trail, where only air support-and sometimes no support at all-was available. As colorful as they were heroic, the men of SOG were bound together by their dedication. Though few in number, they were awarded ten Medals of Honor and hundreds of Purple Hearts. Their ranks included the war's most highly decorated unit, as well as the most highly decorated American soldier. Their storles, among the most extraordinary to come out of the Vietnam War, can now at last be told.

This Paladin reprint contains an exclusive new foreword by General John Singlaub, who served as Chief SOG from 1966 to 1968.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Plaster (The Ultimate Sniper), a retired Army major, served three tours with the secretive "Studies and Observation Group," aka SOG, during the Vietnam War-a background he has put to good use in this authoritative and insightful look at the now defunct commando unit. Plaster does much to illuminate both this frequently misunderstood group and its extraordinary participants. Made up entirely of volunteers, SOG tackled a wide range of vital and dangerous duties, including missions deep into enemy territory and rescues of downed American pilots. Special Forces veterans in particular will delight in the descriptions of America's old tribal allies, the Montagnards of Vietnam. Specialists in poison-arrow warfare, the primitive "'Yards," Plaster explains, were both fierce fighters and a constant source of wonderment to the Americans. Plaster reveals the core of the relationship between 'Yards and Yanks in a telling anecdote in which two Green Berets win over a village chieftain with the help of some pipes and two cans of Prince Albert tobacco. Elsewhere, on a more somber note, Plaster sheds light on part of the ongoing mystery of POWs and MIAs in Southeast Asia. The secretive nature of SOG, he writes, was such that its members were accounted for via a "double bookkeeping" system. The method "proved so confounding that the Pentagon had understated casualties, a fact that became evident when families of MIAs demanded more information." A true insider's account, this eye-opening report will leave readers feeling as if they've been given a hot scoop on a highly classified project. Photos not seen by PW. Military Book Club main selection. (Jan.)
Library Journal
For all the negative imagery attached to Americans who served in Vietnam, an unbiased and sober review of the historical accounts reveals an astonishing record of valor and sacrifice. Largely unknown outside of military circles, the Studies and Observation Group (SOG) was a U.S. Special Forces detachment formed to penetrate the Ho Chi Minh Trail and to rescue downed airmen. Plaster (Ultimate Sniper, Paladin, 1993), a veteran of three tours of duty with SOG, has written the most complete account of the missions to date. Together with their Montagnard and Nung allies, these small-raiding, observation, and rescue parties were inserted within enemy strongholds on uniformly perilous missions. Always outnumbered, SOG volunteers suffered catastrophic casualty rates. They also earned ten Congressional Medals of Honor. Written as a tribute to the memory of fallen comrades, Plaster's narrative is an engrossing and thoroughly exciting account of this unknown aspect of the Vietnam War. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries.-John R. Vallely, Siena Coll. Lib., Loudonville, N.Y.
Kirkus Reviews
A heavily anecdotal recounting of the covert, behind-enemy- lines operations undertaken by American special forces during the height of the war in Vietnam.

Retired US Army Maj. Plaster served for three years as a Studies and Observation Group (SOG) commando in Southeast Asia. His book is a combat-heavy, laudatory accounting of the SOG's little- known role in the Vietnam War. From 1964 to 1971, SOG teams, made up of specially trained American volunteers (mainly Green Berets) and South Vietnamese hill tribesmen (known as Montagnards), took part in hundreds of combat, reconnaissance, and rescue missions in North and South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Plaster tells this story with a minimal amount of historical background, relying heavily on detailed recreation of individual SOG missions. Those action-filled accounts are based on the author's personal war-zone experiences and on interviews he conducted with dozens of former SOG operatives. Plaster writes about successful and failed missions, but accentuates the positive in assessing SOG's impact on the war. SOG "logged a combat record unequaled in U.S. history," Plaster claims. He cites the number of medals the SOG units earned; the vast amount of North Vietnamese Army (NVA) arms and materiel the teams captured or destroyed; the valuable information they provided on NVA troop locations and movements; the courageous rescues of downed American pilots; and the large number of NVA soldiers killed by the teams and by American bombers using information provided by SOG. The teams' ratio of 150:1 enemy kills, Plaster says, "was the highest documented kill ratio of any American unit in the war, exceeding the average by a factor of ten, and quite likely is the highest such ratio in U.S. history."

Although short on documentation, this is the most comprehensive examination of widespread covert American actions during the Vietnam War.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780684811055
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
12/03/1996
Pages:
367
Product dimensions:
6.43(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.08(d)

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