TAPS—MG (R) Sidney Shachnow; 5 MAR 1934-28 SEP 2018
America Loses another true hero …
De Oppresso Liber
TAPS—MG (R) Sidney Shachnow; 5 MAR 1934-28 SEP 2018
General Shachnow, a Distinguished Member of the Regiment and former Honorary Colonel of the Special Forces Regiment was a Holocaust survivor who retired in 1994, after 40 years of active service.
Major General Sidney Shachnow was born March 5, 1934 in Kaunas, Lithuania. At the age of six, he was imprisoned in the German run Kovno Concentration Camp during World War II because his family was Jewish. For three years he endured countless brutalities in the camp and was forced to watch helplessly as almost every single one of his extended family were slaughtered. To increase his prospects of survival, the young General Shachnow performed heavy manual labor under harsh conditions. He narrowly escaped death only days before Kovno’s gruesome “Children’s Action”, of March 27–28, 1944, when Nazi troops rounded up all children in the camp and marched them to The “Ninth Fort” for execution or to Auschwitz to be gassed. After smuggling homself out of the camp, Shachnow lived in hiding for months, mostly in austere seclusion, where he nearly expired from starvation and malnutrition.
Shachnow fled west after the Soviets liberated Kovno from the Nazis and began to implement Communism. His 2,000 mile, six-month journey across Europe, mostly on foot, took him across Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria, and finally to American occupied Nuremberg, Germany where he hoped to obtain a visa to the United States. To make a living in war-torn Nuremberg, Shachnow resorted to pirating black market contraband such as nylon stockings and chocolate.
He lived in Europe until he immigrated to the United States in 1950. He immigrated to Salem, Massachusetts where he attended school for the first time in his life.
After working his way through high school General Shachnow enlisted in the Army as a private in the Infantry and later attended Officer Candidate School as a sergeant first class.
He was commissioned as a lieutenant in Infantry in 1960 and served as a rifle platoon leader, executive officer and company commander with the 50th Infantry, 4th Armored Division, in Europe. In 1962, he volunteered for Special Forces. His assignments during more than 34 years of commissioned service have been as a commander or staff officer with infantry, mechanized infantry, airmobile, airborne, and Special Forces units. He served as a Green Beret for 32 years.
After joining Special Forces, Shachnow was promoted to Captain and assigned as Commander of Detachment A-121, at Vietnam’s An Long Camp near the Cambodian border along the Mekong River. In the 1970s he served as Commander of Det-A, Berlin Brigade, a clandestine unit of Cold War* Green Beret commandos on high alert 24-hours a day. This covert unit was made up of selectively trained and language qualified members of Special Forces, as well as many Eastern European immigrants who brought much needed culture, geographical and language skills to the assignment. Their missions were classified; they dressed in civilian clothing made in East and West Germany, and carried appropriate non-American documentation and identification. Many of its members later went on to help form Delta Force (Det A did not itself become Delta Force).
General Shachnow’s status grew as Special Forces grew, rising to the rank of Major General, receiving both a masters and an honorary doctoral degree along the way. He traveled the world, from Vietnam to the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Korea and back to Germany for the fall of the Berlin Wall.
General Shachnow attended Franklin Technical Institute in Boston, Mass., and graduated from the University of Nebraska, where he majored in business administration. He also has earned a Master of Science degree in public administration from Shippensburg State College, Shippensburg, Pa. He has received an honorary doctorate and is a graduate of the Harvard Executive Management Program.
His military education includes the Infantry officer basic and advanced courses, the Special Forces Qualification Course, the Army Command and General Staff College and the Army War College. General Shachnow’s decorations and awards include: 2 Distinguished Service Medals, 2 Silver Stars for gallantry in ground combat, The Defense Superior Service Medal, The Legion of Merit, 3 Bronze Stars for heroism in ground combat, 2 Purple Hearts for wounds received in two separate ground combat actions, 3 Meritorious Service Medals, 12 Air Medals for meritorious achievement while in flight, 3 Army Commendation Medals with “V” device for valor while in ground combat, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Expert Infantry Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge, the Ranger Tab, the Special Forces Tab and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross for gallantry in combat.
Additionally, he was awarded the United States Special Operations Medal for outstanding contribution to Special Operations, and was also placed on the Honor Roll in the Infantry Officers” Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Ga. He is a Distinguished Member of the 1st Special Forces Regiment and a recipient of the prestigious “Colonel Aaron Bank Award” for dedication, excellence and heroism. General Shachnow was appointed as the “Honorary Colonel Of The Special Forces Regiment”–only three others held that position in the history of the Special Forces Regiment; and he also received: the National Defense Industrial Association Life Time Achievement Award and the President’s Medallion from the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute Of Religion.
General Shachnow retired after forty years of active service as a Paratrooper on 1 October 1994.
General Shachnow was the only Holocaust survivor to have achieved the rank of General in the history of the military. He was recently working as a consultant, senior mentor and was a member of the Editorial Board of the “Journal of International Security Affairs” publication. In 2004, he published the best seller Hope and Honor, which chronicles his dramatic upbringing in war-torn Lithuania through his many years of military service. In 2005, his book was awarded the prestigious Colby Award. On 11 October 2007 the Special Forces Regiment inducted him as a Distinguished Member of the Regiment.
General Shachnow is survived by his wife, the former Arlene Armstrong of Salem, Mass.; four married daughters and 14 grandchildren. He resided with his wife on a horse farm in Southern Pines, N.C.