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Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow, USA
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1955-1994|
|Commands held||U.S. Army Berlin
John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School
|Awards||Combat Infantryman Badge
Surviving the concentration camp
Sid Shachnow was born in Kaunas, Lithuania in 1934. At the age of seven, Shachnow was imprisoned in the brutal 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, young 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 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 grueling 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 pantyhose and chocolate.
A new life in the new world
In 1950, Shachnow finally obtained a visa and immigrated to Salem, Massachusetts where he attended school for the first time in his life. After working his way through high school he enlisted in the U.S. Army. As a Sergeant First Class he entered Officer Candidate School and received his commission in the U.S. Infantry.
In 1962 he volunteered for the United States Army Special Forces, also known as the "Green Berets" where he served for the next thirty-two 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 later, many of its members went on to help form Delta Force (Det A did not itself become Delta Force). 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.
Maj. Gen. Shachnow is the author of Hope and Honor, an autobiographical account of his childhood experience in the Nazi Kovno concentration camp of Lithuania, his immigration and assimilation to the United States and his 40 year career in the U.S. Army, Special Forces.
Assignments and Commands
Maj. Gen. Shachnow's past assignments have been as commander or staff officer with Infantry, Mechanized Infantry, Airmobile, Airborne and Special Forces units. Gen. Shachnow's most recent assignments include:
- Commanding General, John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, Airborne, Fort Bragg (1992–1994)
- Commanding General, United States Army Special Forces Command, Airborne, Fort Bragg
- Commanding General, U.S. Army-Berlin; Director, Washington Office, United States Special Operations Command, Airborne
- Deputy Commanding General, 1st Special Operations of Command, Airborne, Fort Bragg
- Chief of Staff, 1st Special Operations Command, Airborne, Fort Bragg
Awards and honors
Maj. Gen. Shachnow is the recipient of:
- Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster
- Silver Star with Oak Leaf Clusters
- Defense Superior Service Medal
- Legion of Merit
- Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Clusters and Valor Device
- Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster
- Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf clusters
- Air Medal with the numeral "12"
- Army Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf clusters and Valor Device
- Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow, USA (ret.) Biography at Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs website.