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. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-81105-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?