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Major John L. Plaster is a national authority on sniping, firearms, and special operations, as well as the author of Secret Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines With the Elite Warriors of SOG and SOG: The Secret Wars of America's Commandos in Vietnam. He served three tours in the top-secret unconventional warfare group, Studies and Observations Group, in Vietnam. As a long-range reconnaissance leader, he led tiny intelligence-gathering teams behind enemy lines in Laos and Cambodia before leaving SOG in late 1971. He was decorated for heroism four times and retired from the U.S. Army as a major.


Plaster (The Ultimate Sniper), a retired Army major, served three tours with the secretive "Studies and Observation Group," aka SOG, during the Vietnam War-a background he has put to good use in this authoritative and insightful look at the now defunct commando unit. Plaster does much to illuminate both this frequently misunderstood group and its extraordinary participants. Made up entirely of volunteers, SOG tackled a wide range of vital and dangerous duties, including missions deep into enemy territory and rescues of downed American pilots. Special Forces veterans in particular will delight in the descriptions of America's old tribal allies, the Montagnards of Vietnam. Specialists in poison-arrow warfare, the primitive "'Yards," Plaster explains, were both fierce fighters and a constant source of wonderment to the Americans. Plaster reveals the core of the relationship between 'Yards and Yanks in a telling anecdote in which two Green Berets win over a village chieftain with the help of some pipes and two cans of Prince Albert tobacco. Elsewhere, on a more somber note, Plaster sheds light on part of the ongoing mystery of POWs and MIAs in Southeast Asia. The secretive nature of SOG, he writes, was such that its members were accounted for via a "double bookkeeping" system. The method "proved so confounding that the Pentagon had understated casualties, a fact that became evident when families of MIAs demanded more information." A true insider's account, this eye-opening report will leave readers feeling as if they've been given a hot scoop on a highly classified project. Photos not seen by PW. Military Book Club main selection. (Jan.)

For all the negative imagery attached to Americans who served in Vietnam, an unbiased and sober review of the historical accounts reveals an astonishing record of valor and sacrifice. Largely unknown outside of military circles, the Studies and Observation Group (SOG) was a U.S. Special Forces detachment formed to penetrate the Ho Chi Minh Trail and to rescue downed airmen. Plaster (Ultimate Sniper, Paladin, 1993), a veteran of three tours of duty with SOG, has written the most complete account of the missions to date. Together with their Montagnard and Nung allies, these small-raiding, observation, and rescue parties were inserted within enemy strongholds on uniformly perilous missions. Always outnumbered, SOG volunteers suffered catastrophic casualty rates. They also earned ten Congressional Medals of Honor. Written as a tribute to the memory of fallen comrades, Plaster's narrative is an engrossing and thoroughly exciting account of this unknown aspect of the Vietnam War. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries.‘John R. Vallely, Siena Coll. Lib., Loudonville, N.Y.

Praise for SOG

"Exciting [and] hair-raising...a detailed history of this little-known aspect of the Vietnam War."--The New York Times "Superb and compelling."--Gen. William C. Westmoreland, U.S. Army (ret.) "A magnificent book of enormous power and a milestone in the literature of special operations."--Col. Robert Howard, Medal of Honor winner, the Vietnam War's most highly decorated soldier "Authoritative and insightful...a true insider's account."--Publishers Weekly "Indispensable."--Booklist

"Engrossing and thoroughly exciting."--Library Journal

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