Title: Shadow Commander: The Epic Story of Donald D. Blackburn
Author: Mike Guardia
Genre: Non-Fiction Biography
Reviewer: Bob Doerr
ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store)1612000657: ISBN / E
The fires on Bataan burned with a primitive fury on the evening of April 9, 1942 - illuminating the white flags of surrender against the nighttime sky. Woefully outnumbered, outgunned, and ill-equipped, the battered remnants of the American-Philippine army surrendered to the forces of the Rising Sun. Yet amongst the chaos and devastation of the American defeat, Army Captain Donald D. Blackburn refused to lay down his arms.
With future SF legend Russell Volckmann, Blackburn escaped from Bataan and fled to the mountainous jungles of North Luzon, where they raised a private army of over 22,000 men against the Japanese. Once there, Blackburn organized a guerrilla regiment from among the native tribes in the Cagayan Valley. "Blackburn's Headhunters," as they came to be known, devastated the Japanese 14th Army within the eastern provinces of North Luzon and destroyed the Japanese naval base at Aparri.
After the war, Blackburn remained on active duty and played a key role in initiating Special Forces operations in Southeast Asia. In 1959, as commander of the 77th Special Forces Group, he spearheaded Operation White Star in Laos. Seven years later, Blackburn took command of the highly classified Studies and Observations Group (SOG), charged with performing secret missions now that main-force Communist incursions were on the rise.
In the wake of the CIA's disastrous Leaping Lena program, Blackburn revitalized the Special Operations campaign in South Vietnam. Sending cross-border reconnaissance teams into Laos, he discovered the clandestine networks and supply nodes of the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail. Taking this information directly to General Westmoreland, Blackburn received authorization to conduct full-scale operations against the NVA and Viet Cong operating along the Trail. In combats large and small, the Communists realized they had met a master of insurgent tactics - and he was on the US side.
Following his return to the United States, Blackburn was appointed "Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities," where he was the architect of the infamous Son Tay Prison Raid. Officially termed Operation Ivory Coast (and later, Operation Kingpin), the Son Tay raid was the largest POW rescue mission - and indeed, the largest Special Forces operation - of the Vietnam War.
During a period when United States troops in Southeast Asia faced guerrilla armies on every side, it has seldom been recognized today that America had a superb covert commander of its own, his guerrilla skills honed in resistance against Japan. This book follows Donald D. Blackburn from his youthful days in combat against an Empire, through his days as a senior commander, imparting his lessons to the newly-realized ranks of America's own Special Forces.