Over the years, there has apparently been some discussion and debate in Special Forces circles regarding SF’s White Star operations in Laos during the early 1960s. Some argue they should be considered unconventional warfare or foreign internal defense (a term that was not commonly used in the early 1960s). Others disagree. It is not the purpose of this piece to strike an opinion either way.
Instead, this is a short review of a book that may make it easier for readers to make up their own mind on that issue, and at the same time enjoy an exciting story very well told. This is going to be a short review because Richard O. Sutton’s novel “Operation White Star” is so full of character, action, insights into SF history, and suspense, its delights are best left to the readers to discover on their own—and I hope that anyone who has a copy of this book will share it with friends who would be interested.
The most engaging and accurate historical reading is often found not in non-fiction history tomes, but rather in novels by people with an intimate acquaintance with the subject matter. I can think of no better example of this than “Operation White Star.”
Like the central character of his novel, Richard O. Sutton was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant upon graduation from West Point in the very early 1960s, and after Artillery Officers Basic Course, jump school, Ranger School, and the Special Forces Officers Course, he saw combat service in Laos with Operation White Star. After his initial military service, Sutton went to medical school, returned to active duty, and served as a surgeon with 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam at Bien Hoa, and then with Studies and Observation Group.