SOG Chronicles, Vol. I by John Stryker Meyer

The Studies and Observations Group (SOG) was one of the most misidentified and misnamed special operations units in the American war in Vietnam. With his 2017 book, SOG Chronicles, Volume I (SOG Publishing, 210 pp. $14.95, paper; $3.99, Kindle), former Army Green Beret John Meyer gives us the first of a series telling the stories of the men who took part in the secret SOG actions.

Changing some names “to protect those involved,” Meyer tells us of the birth and mission of SOG, which was in place under MACV from 1964-72. He also includes some of the history that drove its inception and goals.

The Special Forces troops of SOG and their Vietnamese comrades, including Montagnards, went where they weren’t supposed to go and did what they weren’t supposed to do with the knowledge that the U.S. government would disavow their existence and missions into Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam if they were discovered.

SOG Chronicles focuses on the 1970 Operation Tailwind, in which 16 Green Berets and some 120 Montagnard fighters went deep into western Laos to draw the NVA’s attention away from another operation being run by CIA forces in eastern Laos.

This operation turned into a four-day fight, a greater-than-expected engagement with more than a few casualties. The men were finally extracted with 60 wounded, all of whom were kept alive by the sole medic in the unit, Gary Mike Rose, with the help of an indigenous assistant. In 2017, Rose belatedly received the Medal of Honor for those beyond-the-call-of duty actions.  

Meyer also includes a rundown of other SOG operations, as well as details about some of the minutia and high jinx that took place in camps and on the trail. He heaps great praise on the airborne assets assigned to SOG, those who transported the men out and back and provided air support.

This is a well-written, well-edited, and informative book and a tribute the men of SOG.

The author’s website is www.sogchronicles.com

–Tom Werzyn

Across The Fence by John Stryker Meyer

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“Across the Fence” refers to secret recon missions run by the SOG (Studies and Observations Group) in Vietnam.  The “fence” is the Vietnam border. SOG teams went out on missions across the border into Laos and Cambodia when U.S. forces were not supposed to be in these neutral countries. Across the Fence: The Secret War in Vietnam (SOG Publishing, 334 pp., $24.95, paper; $3.29, Kindle) is a memoir by  John Stryker Meyer, who was in the Army Special Forces assigned to SOG from April 1968 to April 1970.

Members of the SOG group wore sterile fatigues and carried no IDs or dog tags. The government never admitted they were active-duty troops. If captured or killed, they were spies. They were all known by code names. Meyer’s was “tilt.”

Specials Forces members of SOG were sworn to secrecy. They could not tell their parents, girlfriends, or buddies what they were doing, and they agreed to keep quiet for twenty years. The recon teams consisted of six-to-eight men, and each team had several South Vietnamese Army members. The 219th Vietnamese Air Force transported the recon teams using H-34 helicopters nicknamed “kingbees.” They could take more enemy fire than any other helicopter and still fly.

Stryker’s writing gives vivid accounts of the secret missions into Laos and Cambodia. His description of being plucked from a landing zone in Laos and dangling by a rope under a speeding Kingbee moments before the LZ was overrun by North Vietnamese troops was breathtaking. The NVA knew that these missions were operating across the fence, and a large bounty was placed on SOG heads.

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Meyer (right) in country

 

Most striking about the book is the high volume of photos and the information on what happened to SOG veterans Stryker chronicles. He includes a conversation that took place 31 years later between SOG member Lynne Black and the NVA general his team encountered.

This book gives an excellent first-hand account of little-known Vietnam War operations and the people who carried them out. It’s a great read.

The author’s website is www.sogchronicles.com

—Mark S. Miller