Military History/Vietnam war query


Hello Marc

I hope this finds you well.

I wanted to see if you could help me with an query I have regarding the Vietnam war. It is my understanding that around 1963 the U.S were training Green Berets in remote locations, the South China Sea for example. I believe that there was a unit referred to as, The Studies and Observation Group. From what I have heard there were radar sites set up in the china sea to assist the green berets who were readying themselves for special missions.

Are you able to confirm my thoughts? If so, would you be able to let me know a bit more information about this and how it affected the overall wear effort?

Many thanks



Happy to shed some light on this.

Yes, the U.S. sent the Army Special Forces (the Green Berets) in to Vietnam early in the war. In fact, the first SF troops, first SF troops, twelve members of the 14th Special Forces Detachment, arrived in
Nha Trang in 1957 to train a group of South Vietnamese Army Rangers.

From there, the Special Forces mission expanded and concentrated on organizing minority groups-—primarily the dozens of indigenous tribal peoples known as Montagnards in the Central Highlands—-into paramilitary units under the guidance of SF teams. Those units were known as the CIDG (Civilian Irregular Defense Group).

The Studies and Observation Group (SOG), was a separate entity. It came under the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV), and was formally known as MACV-SOG. It was a covert operation that ran from 1964-72, and included different U.S. and South Vietnamese special operations units, including the Green Berets.They did cross-border operations into North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.They did undercover ops such as capturing enemy prisoners, rescuing downed pilots, and engaging in psychological operations.

It's an open question whether these operations (at least some of which were technically illegal) had much of an impact on the war effort. They did save some American lives--and took more than a few enemy lives.

Hope this helps.

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Marc Leepson


I can answer most questions dealing with all aspects of U.S. military history. My expertise is the Vietnam War. I also have written extensively about the U.S. Civil War, World War II, World War I, The Philippine War, and the American Revolution. My books include a concise biography of the Marquis de Lafayette, the history of the American Flag, and the post-Jefferson history of Monticello, and therefore know a great deal about those specific subjects. I specialize in writing about matters of strategy--not tactics. And I also am interested in personalities. I have very little knowledge about ordnance or the value of old military memorabilia. Nor do I know a lot about uniforms and insignia--except about the Vietnam War. To repeat: I have no expertise in assessing the value of ordnance or uniforms or any type of military equipment. And my knowledge about military uniforms is only limited to those of the Vietnam War era. If you have questions on these topics, I recommend contacting an antiques dealer in your area who specializes in military uniforms, ordnance, etc.


Author and journalist with more than 35 years' experience.

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New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribute, New York Newsday, the Arizona Republic, St. Petersburg Times, Detroit News. Magazines: Smithsonian, Preservation, The VVA Veteran, Vietnam, Civil War Times, America's Civil War, Military History, World War II. Editor: The Webster's New World Dictionary of the Vietnam War

BA, 1967, George Washington University, History MA, 1971, George Washington University, European History

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Vietnam Veterans of America Excellence in the Arts Award, 2011

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Vietnam Veterans of America

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