A Clandestine Army: A Book Review

Book Cover

I was excited to obtain a copy of SOG: Team History and Insignia of a Clandestine Army, the much-anticipated book written by SOG authority Jason Hardy (www.thedogtag.com) with help from author/dealer Mike Tucker (www.authenticmilitaria.com). Jason is well known in the militaria collecting community as a specialty dealer focused on SOG and Special Forces memorabilia from the Vietnam War. In fact, several of my favorite SOG pieces in my collection have come from Jason. Mike Tucker is known for his excellent self-published books on Third Reich insignia, but he is also an advanced Special Forces collector.

For those not familiar, SOG (Studies and Observations Group) was an elite Special Forces unit during the Vietnam War created for the purpose of reconnaissance. SOG teams were inserted into denied areas (primarily Laos) to monitor enemy activity along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. This small unit reported directly to the White House and their activities remained classified until recently.

SOG teams varied in size, but were typically comprised of three US members and three indigenous members. The indigenous members came from various groups including Chinese Nungs, Cambodes, Montagnards, Ex North Vietnamese Soldiers (Chieu Hoi’s), or South Vietnamese personnel. Positions on a SOG team were experience-based, not rank-based. A team leader was called a “1-0” (One Zero). Assistant team members were 1-1, and 1-2 respectively. Indigenous team members were the inverse (0-1, 0-2, 0-3, etc).

This book focuses on the history of seven SOG Recon Teams from CCN (Command and Control North) and CCC (Command and Control Central). The authors intend to cover additional teams in subsequent volumes. The recon teams in this volume include:

1. RT Asp
2. RT Colorado
3. RT Hawaii
4. RT Idaho
5. RT Indigo
6. RT Montana
7. RT Rattler

Each chapter provides a chart containing names of the American recon team members in chronological order along with their position. The pages of the book are comprised of never published SOG images from each team along with brief captions. The photo quality is superior to all other SOG books and the book itself is well made with high quality pages and binding.

There are many beautiful scans of authentic SOG recon patches. Many of the pieces are directly attributed to the vet with solid provenance. These insignia images are superior quality to all preexisting SOG and Special Forces books. Additional highlights include an appendix in the back providing a reference section of all the recon team patch variations from Vietnam, Thailand, Okinawa, and elsewhere. There is also a chapter explaining the history of the notorious “Cheap Charlie” patches. This information has never been published before and is a real asset to Vietnam insignia collectors. The book is on par with Shelby Stanton’s long out of print Special Forces at War: An Illustrated History, Southeast Asia 1957-1975, in that the images are so amazing, you can pick this book up 1000 times and discover something new in a photo that you overlooked before.

The only disappointment I have with this book is that it lacks images of the amazing uniforms and equipment Jason Hardy has collected directly from SOG vets. I hope he will consider including these in his next book. Overall, SOG: Team History and Insignia of a Clandestine Army is a must have for any military historian or collectors’ library.

Chris Hughes is a WorthPoint Worthologist specializing in 20th century militaria and the owner of Rally Point Militaria and Vietnam Uniform – Military Collectibles sites.

Read Chris’s WorthPoint articles.