Synopses & Reviews
The leading historian of SOG, the elite commando unit in Vietnam, tells the astonishing story of the SOG warriors who penetrated enemy lines in operations directed at the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The warriors of SOG -- code-named the Studies and Observations Group -- were a secret operations force in Vietnam, the forerunner of today's Delta Force and SEALs. Highly skilled Green Berets, they were the bravest of the brave, the most highly decorated unit in the war. Chief among their activities was observing the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the main North Vietnamese supply route into South Vietnam, and disrupting its operations. SOG warriors secretly penetrated deep into Laos and Cambodia to identify bombing targets, destroy troops, ambush trucks, mine roads, and, in their most difficult assignment, capture North Vietnamese soldiers for intelligence purposes.
Operating in the most dangerous conditions imaginable -- always outnumbered, often by as much as 100 to 1 -- SOG commandos matched wits with an un-relenting foe that hunted them with trackers and dogs. They suffered an extraordinarily high casualty rate. Ten entire teams disappeared and another fourteen were overrun and annihilated. Many of the missions run by SOG fighters were rescues and attempted rescues
of fellow soldiers and downed helicopter pilots who supported SOG missions.
In Secret Commandos, a riveting account of his years in SOG from 1969 to 1971, John Plaster describes his own remarkable covert missions as well as those of dozens of his comrades. He takes readers from his grueling training for SOG to his heart-stopping first assignments to his experiences as a SOG veteran and team leader. Even as SOG's field of operations became more limited late in the war, these accomplished warriors continued to give their all, fighting 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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The Studies and Observations Group--or SOG--was a top-secret group of elite warriors who operated behind enemy lines in Vietnam. Besides covertly gathering intelligence, SOG was also responsible for rescuing downed American pilots. In this riveting first-person account, a sequel to his highly successful SOC, John Plaster reveals the elite group's daring operations against the heavily defended Ho Chi Minh Trail. Always outnumbered and in great peril, these SOG teams--generally fewer than a dozen men--operated beyond radio and artillery range, pursued by trackers, dogs, and enemy troops. Plaster's gripping narrative follows his own and other SOG teams as they identify bombing targets, kidnap enemy officers, wiretap phone lines, ambush convoys, mine the Ho Chi Minh trail, rescue pilots, and collect critical intelligence. The SOG teams paid a terrible price for their accomplishments--they were both the most highly decorated unit and the one with the heaviest casualties during the Vietnam War. Ten teams vanished entirely behind enemy lines; another fourteen were overrun, including one of Plaster's own teams. This superb account of their crucial top-secret operations does justice to a covert and astonishingly courageous unit and makes, an important contribution to American military history.
Plaster gives a riveting first-person account of The Studies and Observations Group--or SOG--a top-secret group of elite warriors which was both the most highly-decorated unit and the one with the heaviest casualties during the Vietnam War.
About the Author
John I. Plaster, U.S.A.R. (Ret.)
served three one-year tours in SOG, eventually retiring as a major. He has instructed military snipers and has taught police SWAT officers sharpshooting techniques. Major Plaster has been honored by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., for his contributions to recording the history of Special Forces. His book SOG
won the Bernal Diaz award for military history. He lives in Iron River, Wisconsin.
Table of Contents
Part One: Fort Bragg
Part Two: Recon
Part Three: Covey