☂ [PDF / Epub] ☁ SOG: The Secret Wars of America's Commandos in Vietnam By John L. Plaster ✐ – Peakpopa.info
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Have you ever heard of a Special Operations group called MACV SOG? If not, it might be because this is one of the most secretive group during the Vietname War since it operatives had to agree not to talk about their experience for twenty years. Yet much of today’s Special operations group and capabilities in the modern US military owe its tactics and capabilities to this covert group. If you are interested in US special operations forces, military history and also the military side to the Vietnam War this book is a mustread.
The author John Plaster himself is a three tour veteran of MACV SOG which stands for Miliary Assistance Command Vietnam, Studies and Observation Group. Often it was called SOG. This book isn’t really a war memoir or a biography but a fascinating history book of the US’ special operations history in Vietnam and into Vietnam’s neighboring countries (although the author at times gives his personal account when it is appropriate). I was blown away at the amount of details the book provide especially with the early days in the 1950s and early 1960s of US military effort and assistance to antiCommunists. In addition the book tells us of the men who were instrumental in leading that effort whether in the early days or towards the end of the Vietnam War. And these leading men weren’t just high ranking officials but the author gives important operators their credit too. Much of SOG’s secret war didn’t take place in Vietnam but in neighboring Laos and Cambodia where they fought the North Vietnamese who supposedly weren’t suppose to there either but they were secretly sneaking into South Vietnam using the Ho Chi Minh trail.
I read this book and couldn’t put it down. There’s books on the conventional military which already fascinates me enough. Then there’s books on special operations unit and elite outfit and those are especially of interests to me. But this unit SOG and their stories is at a totally different level in terms of what these guys accomplished and the terrible situation they faced where often in small groups of two or three Americans and a few ethnic minority tribal soldiers they fought against hundreds of regular North Vietnamese forces. Outnumbered and outgun these men were daring and ferocious. It might sound cheesy but these guys were like real life Rambo and Jason Borne all roll into one. But this book isn’t just telling exaggerated stories in case some might be doubtful; some of these stories and heroism of men in the unit have received the Medal of Honor and there’s official citation of what happened.
Even for those who are familiar with other military reading when it comes to SOG there’s a totally different lingo and even method of operations. The author does a good job describing that to the readers for their understanding. The seventeen chapters in the book is a rich survey of various types of operations SOG conduced but also various point in their history and also accomplishments. For instance there’s a chapter titled “Bloody ’68” which tells us the difficulties the group faced that year. The group’s casualties exceeded 100 percent the highest rate since the Civil War. Every single operator was wounded at least once and half of the men died. Overall over three hundred SOG operators were lost and 57 of them as MIAs. Yet the causality ratio to enemies killed were astounding and unprecedented.
This is the first book I read about MACV SOG but it definitely won’t be my last. SOG is the amazing accounts of some of our best soldiers from the Vietnam war era, dying in places where they were not officially operating. SOG is the Special Operations Group that tangled with the NVA while learning what was happening in places outside the Vietnam border. Cross border actions into Laos & Cambodia are here, tracking the movement of men and materials via the Ho Chi Minh trail.
This is a hard book to read at times. I had to put it down for a few days and come back to it with a clear head. The author, as someone who operated within SOG & lead his own missions, knows many of the men involved. A number of them did not come back. He lists out the missions and the names of the Americans involved, providing detail when possible on how they died. Some of the accounts are not for the squeamish. There is a reason why SOG had the highest number of Medal of Honor recipients.
I had uncles over there, one a Marine that saw a lot of action in the center of the country. The author points out how the small band of SOG operators were able to tie down a large number of NVA units & destroy caches. Not enough to turn the tide of the war, but enough to keep many in the front line units alive. SOG went in after aircrews who were operating outside of official boundaries, as the US didn't have any SAR groups that could go there. SOG went back for their dead, sometimes right back into the teeth of a reinforced NVA. The other side had no qualms using SOG prisoners and dead to lure teams in, as they knew SOG never wanted to leave anyone behind.
The 160th SOAR is an outgrowth of one of the last SOG missions. The SOG unit was keeping an NSA site online at the top of a mountain. They were to stay there until it became untenable. SOG had to borrow helicopters to move its units around. One unnamed REMF thought he'd play with lives by threatening the careers of any aircrew who heard the call to pull them out. Americans on a hill that was about to be captured & an American high ranking officer said no. That simply burns raw that we could do that to ourselves.
In reading other accounts of the smaller units in Vietnam, they did the best they could with the resources given. But they really shouldn't have been there. With no real plan from the top, all units like SOG could do was get the intelligence & report it up the chain. Nothing was really done with what they learned. What the leadership didn't realize or wanted to admit was just how prepared and patient the other side was with their goal, that of unifying the two halves of the country.
Read the book to learn about a less known, but no less important part, of the American war effort in Vietnam. Know that these men were over there doing the job given them. They fought and died where the US government said they were not. The author has done a tremendous service to bring their stories to light. Writing about the classified and the denied is always hard. Plaster does his best to produce a systemic account of SOG, the elite crossboarder recon force in the Vietnam War, but at the end of the day, he is a soldier, not a historian. When this book sticks to what Plaster knows, his own war stories and those of his friends, it is very good. When it moves to a different subject, the politics of the war or the broader military impact of SOG, it loses touch.
SOG was composed of courageous men and skilled fighters, and we should be honored that Plaster and his comrades chose to share their stories with us. While this is a good secondary source for the Vietnam War buff, it's not quite literary or insightful enough to recommend to a broader audience.