SOG by John L. Plaster

SOG

The Secret Wars of America's Commandos in Vietnam
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 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. (Military Book Club main selection)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-684-81105-7
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1996