Sidney Shachnow

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Sidney Shachnow
Sidney Shachnow.jpg
Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow, USA
Born(1934-11-23)November 23, 1934
Kaunas, Lithuania
DiedSeptember 27, 2018(2018-09-27) (aged 83)
Southern Pines, North Carolina, U.S.
Arlington National Cemetery
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1952–1994
RankMajor General
Commands heldJohn F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School
U.S. Army Berlin
Battles/warsVietnam War
AwardsCombat Infantryman Badge
Silver Star (2)
Bronze Star Medal (3)
Purple Heart (2)

Sidney Shachnow ((1934-11-23)November 23, 1934 – (2018-09-27)September 27, 2018) was a Jewish American Holocaust survivor who attained the rank of Major General in United States Army.[1] He retired in 1994, after over 42 years of active service.


Surviving the Holocaust, a concentration camp, and anti-Semitism[edit]

Sid Shachnow was born in Kaunas, Lithuania on November 23, 1934. At the age of seven, Shachnow was imprisoned in the Kovno Ghetto during World War II because his family was Jewish. For three years, he endured brutalities and lost almost every single one of his extended family members. 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 escaping the ghetto, Shachnow lived in hiding for months, almost dying 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. It was during this time that he learned to speak German.

Visa and Immigration[edit]

In 1950, Shachnow obtained a visa and immigrated to Salem, Massachusetts where he attended school for the first time in his life. He took English lessons and worked in the evenings after school to help support the family financially. Just before graduation, 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. Army Infantry.

Special Forces and Vietnam[edit]

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, his group was deployed to Vietnam's An Long Camp near the Cambodian border along the Mekong River.

Shachnow earned his first Silver Star for combat action there as well as a Purple Heart. He was shot in the leg and the arm simultaneously. After being shot, he applied a tourniquet to his leg and continued to fight, lead and care for his men in battle. He recovered from his wounds and returned home only to be diagnosed with the tuberculosis, typhoid fever and several other illnesses from which he eventually recovered.

After recovering, he earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska, and the Army promoted him to Major. He couldn't attend the graduation ceremonies; he received deployment orders for his second tour to Vietnam. The Army assigned Shachnow to the 101st Airborne Division, the Screaming Eagles, where he earned his second Silver Star for gallantry in action after escaping death several times.

Cold War, Berlin, Delta Force[edit]

In the 1970s he served as Commander of Det-A (Detachment A...a detachment being the basic SF operational unit), 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. Within Special Forces, they were referred to as "Stay Behind" Teams, the detachments that would stay behind if the Soviet Union ever attacked the West. Their mission was the traditional SF mission, that of Unconventional Warfare (UW), to aid those who were subjugated by an occupying force, and assist those who would rebel against the Soviets ( teach indigenous people basic warfare tactics and weapons use, and lead them in operations against the enemy, conducting guerrilla warfare). Many of its members later 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.


Shachnow attended the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology in Boston. While in the Army, he earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Nebraska, a Master of Science in public administration from Shippensburg State College in Pennsylvania. He also graduated from the Executive Management Program at Harvard University.


Shachnow retired from the Army in 1994, at the age of 60, after 40 years of active-duty service.

Sidney Shachnow has been an honorary member of Rotary Club Berlin-Luftbruecke (Berlin-Airlift) since March 13, 1990.

Shachnow was inducted as a Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment in 2007.[2]

Autobiography "Hope and Honor"[edit]

In 2004, Shachnow authored 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.


On September 6, 2016 he endorsed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump,[3] though he was publicly critical of some of Trump's foreign policy proposals.[4]


Shachnow, who lived in Southern Pines, North Carolina, died on September 28, 2018. He is survived by his loving wife of 63 years, Arlene, his 4 daughters, 14 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren.[2]

Service history[edit]

Assignments and commands[edit]

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:

Awards and decorations[edit]

Combat Infantryman Badge
Einzelbild Special Forces (Special Forces Insignia).svg Special Forces Tab
Ranger Tab
Master Parachutist badge (United States).svg Master Parachutist Badge
ExpertBadgeRP.jpg Expert Marksmanship Badge with Rifle and Pistol bars
ViPaBa.jpg Vietnam Parachutist Badge
Fallschirmspringerabzeichen der Bundeswehr in Bronze.jpg Silver German Parachutist Badge
JFKSWCS SSI.gif John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School Combat Service Identification Badge
SpecialForces Badge.svg 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) Distinctive Unit Insignia
ArmyOSB.svg ? Overseas Service Bars
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Distinguished Service Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Silver Star with oak leaf cluster
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit
"V" device, brass.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svg Bronze Star Medal with Valor device and two oak leaf clusters
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Purple Heart with oak leaf cluster
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svg Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters
Award numeral 1.pngAward numeral 2.svg Air Medal with bronze award numeral 12
"V" device, brass.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svg Army Commendation Medal with Valor device and oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Presidential Unit Citation with oak leaf cluster
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svg Valorous Unit Award with two oak leaf clusters
Meritorious Unit Commendation
Army Good Conduct Medal
Army of Occupation ribbon.svg Army of Occupation Medal
Bronze-service-star-3d-vector.svgBronze-service-star-3d-vector.svg National Defense Service Medal with two bronze service stars
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Bronze-service-star-3d-vector.svgBronze-service-star-3d-vector.svgBronze-service-star-3d-vector.svgBronze-service-star-3d-vector.svg Vietnam Service Medal with four service stars
Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon
Army Service Ribbon
Award numeral 3.svg Army Overseas Service Ribbon with award numeral 3
Bronze-service-star-3d-vector.svgBronze-service-star-3d-vector.svgBronze-service-star-3d-vector.svg Vietnam Gallantry Cross with three bronze stars
Presidential Unit Citation Vietnam (Army sized).pngUK MID 1920-94.svg Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation, 2 awards
Gallantry Cross Unit Citation.png Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation, 2 awards (Back then, two or more of these awards were worn as fourragère.)
Civil Action Unit Citation.png Vietnam Civil Actions Medal Unit Citation, 2 awards
Vietnam Campaign Medal


  1. ^ Goleman, Daniel (1992-10-06). "Holocaust Survivors Had Skills To Prosper". New York Times. Retrieved 23 January 2010.
  2. ^ a b Brooks, Drew (October 2, 2018). "Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow, Special Forces legend, Holocaust survivor, has died". Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  3. ^ Reinhard, beth (2016-09-06). "Donald Trump Receives Endorsement of 88 Military Leaders". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  4. ^ Caldwell, Leigh Ann. "Trump Said 'Take the Oil' From Iraq. Can He?". NBC News. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  5. ^ "U.S. Department Of Defense General/Flag Officer Worldwide Roster, p.34, September 1992, AD-A256887, DIOR/M13-92/04" (PDF). U.S. Defense Technical Information Center At Fort Belvoir, VA. Retrieved 16 October 2018.