Rafeeq O.'s Reviews > Secret Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines with the Elite Warriors of SOG

Secret Commandos by John L. Plaster
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it was amazing

John L. Plater's 2004 Secret Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines with the Elite Warriors of SOG is a gripping 5-star account of formerly highly secret Special Forces action deep in enemy-controlled Vietnam and even Laos and Cambodia. Plaster takes us from the grueling Stateside training to the still-steep learning curve in the hinterlands of the 'Nam, to the escapades of anything-goes Saigon and the perilous small-team missions in the field--some across the border, with only "sanitized" non-U.S. weapons carried and all IDs left locked back in the base's safe--as friend after friend is killed in a war America is already beginning to abandon. The men believe in their mission, truly believe, even as Plaster points out the slipperiness and corruption endemic in the South Vietnamese government, for the Communists were no angels. Some of the Green Beret missions are almost literally incredible. But they are true, for Plaster was there.

Plaster has many firsthand stories to tell, whether harrowing or chuckle-worthy, but he also relates many incidents recounted to him by other fellow soldiers of the innocuously named Studies and Observations Group, thus giving a much more well rounded view than any single person's memoir ever could. Aside from the bravery and determination, one thing that really struck me was the sense of loss felt by these warriors as U.S. commitment waned and it became clear that the final withdrawal was coming. In 1970 one of Plaster's buddies, "who quoted Davy Crockett and lived selflessly and fought bravely, at last confront[ed] what was ailing him. 'Back in '64 I told the [Montagnards], "We ain't the French. America doesn't run off and leave people."' Lowell shook his head. 'I promised 'em. I promised the Yards,' he sobbed. 'My God, don't they know, I promised the Yards'" (2018 Simon & Schuster paperback, page 336).

Secret Commandos is by turns funny and sad and thrilling. Illustrated with 16 pages of black-and-white photos, most taken in the field by the author and his comrades, the book also concludes with an Afterword sketching the disposition of 39 of Plaster's teammates 30-odd years later, and it contains a very serviceable index as well.

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Reading Progress

December 4, 2020 – Started Reading
December 16, 2020 – Finished Reading
December 26, 2020 – Shelved

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