Book Review

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 with help from author/dealer Mike Tucker.

Jason Hardy 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.

SOG Team History and Insignia of a Clandestine Army

sogbook cover

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 of 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.

M-1 Helmet

M1 Helmet Book

I’ve been visiting Peter Oosterman’s site for a while because, in my opinion, it is the nicest looking militaria-related site on the web. When I heard he was publishing a book on M1 helmets, I was eager to purchase a copy. My expectations were high because the book costs above $100 (by the time writing this) but it ended up being money well spent.

M1 Helmets is hardcover with nice binding, excellent quality paper, and top-notch printing. The layout and photography are exceptional. It is written in French and English and easy to follow with 319 pages.

The first half of the book provides details and history about the M1 helmet shell, liner, and components without being text-heavy. The second half is called “museum” and features amazing examples of WWII M1 headgear. Most of the helmets are well researched with excellent provenance. I value this book because it is a go-to reference that consolidates details that have been discussed and published elsewhere. The museum portion of the book is a wonderful bonus in that you have multiple-view images of helmets most of us will never own in our collections. These are cream of the crop WWII M1 helmets including camos, unit marks, and airborne configurations.

Overall the book is excellent, but I was disappointed the author only discussed fixed bale helmets and left out swivel bales. He also did not weigh in on the ongoing front seam / rear seam debate regarding when the changeover took place, etc. The author did an excellent job verifying contract dates for many other helmet features that I assumed he would have the insight to provide for this. Hopefully, his book will be successful enough to merit a follow-up that includes these missing subjects and more.

M1 Helmet of the WW2 US GI is available for purchase at www.m-1helmet.com.