Special operations missions are the stuff of legend. Shrouded in secrecy, these dangerous assignments are fit to be undertaken only by warriors who have proved they can excel at what others find impossible. Sometimes secrecy can give rise to myths. But there are no myths in John L. Plaster’s fine book, SOG: A Photo History of the Secret Wars—the incredible stories of heroism, sacrifice, and daring are all based firmly on fact and enriched with source materials provided by the men themselves.
Consisting of volunteers from elite special operations units across the spectrum of the U.S. military—such as the Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and Marine recon units—the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group (known by its acronym SOG) was an ultra-secret force that was practically invisible to all.
Reporting directly to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and even at times the president, SOG left zero public footprint and performed clandestine missions that remain unknown to many today. Despite the challenges of chronicling the history of this unit, Plaster’s book provides a wealth of information about the SOG experience during the Vietnam War, using more than 700 photos snapped “in wartime by the very men who performed SOG’s amazing missions.” This portfolio contains a selection of those rare images, which Vietnam magazine is pleased to share with readers courtesy of Casemate Publishers.
The book features an array of remarkable and striking images. No less striking and remarkable are the stories of personal bravery that accompany them. “I’ve sought to humanize and make real these phenomenally courageous men, to help readers understand in our image-conscious era that it’s what’s inside such extraordinary warriors that makes them special,” writes Plaster in his introduction. It is a noble mission and one that the author has accomplished with excellence.
This story appeared in the 2023 Summer issue of Vietnam magazine.
this article first appeared in vietnam magazine
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