Major John L. Plaster recalls his remarkable covert activities as a member of a special operations team during the Vietnam War in a “comprehensive, informative, and often exciting…account of an important part of the overall Vietnam tragedy” (The New York Times).
Before there were Navy SEALs, there was SOG. Short for “Studies and Operations Group,” it was a secret operations force in Vietnam, the most highly decorated unit in the war. Although their chief mission was disrupting the main North Vietnamese supply route into South Vietnam, SOG commandos also rescued downed helicopter pilots and fellow soldiers, and infiltrated deep into Laos and Cambodia to identify bombing targets, conduct ambushes, mine roads, and capture North Vietnamese soldiers for intelligence purposes.
Always outnumbered, they matched wits in the most dangerous environments with an unrelenting foe that hunted them with trackers and dogs. Ten entire teams disappeared and another fourteen were annihilated. This is the dramatic, page-turning true story of that team’s dedication, sacrifice, and constant fight for survival. In the “gripping” (Publishers Weekly) Secret Commandos, John Plaster vividly describes these unique warriors who gave everything fighting for their country—and for each other.
Despite the many special-ops chronicles of recent"walk-overs" in the Middle East, the Vietnam war is still the mythic heartland of great commando literature. A case in point is this gripping memoir of the Studies and Observations Group, a Green Beret unit specializing in secret reconnaissance forays into Laos and Cambodia. Plaster, author of SOG, recounts his own and his comrades' exploits leading eight-man teams of indigenous mercenaries behind North Vietnamese lines to scout targets, sabotage trucks, take prisoners and generally maraud those along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Lavish with the details of weaponry, training, commando procedures and sheer gore ("Belletire's fingers felt for the wound, touched his exposed brain and induced a convulsion"), he serves up countless nerve-wracking war-stories, as the SOG soldiers stalk and are stalked by their more numerous adversaries. Nor does he stint on the romance of warrior bonding, regaling readers with his buddies' hard-partying hijinks, their solidarity against stuffed-shirt officers, and their somber mourning rituals singing the memory of comrades fallen in wild fire-fights. Clearly enthralled with the commando war, Plaster inadvertently conveys its problems. In many cases, the SOG reconnaissance teams were quickly found and attacked by the North Vietnamese and had to be choppered out under massive air strikes, with few results to show for their efforts (and casualties). Even as it celebrates one of the more heroic sideshows in the American war in Vietnam, Plaster's vivid combat memoir is a microcosm of what can be its tragic futility.
Stunning. Authentic. In its own class. Plaster is the quintessential historian of special ops in Southeast Asia, particularly during the critical last years of our efforts.
A fine account of SOG special forces in Vietnam
Well written, detailed and thoroughly researched. Also provides valuable historical and political perspective on the war.