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Shadow Commander: The Epic Story of Donald D. Blackburn-Guerrilla Leader and Special Forces Hero [Kindle Edition]

Mike Guardia
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The fires on Bataan burned on the evening of April 9, 1942 — illuminating the white flags of surrender against the nighttime sky. Woefully outnumbered, outgunned, and ill-equipped, 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 western provinces of North Luzon and destroyed the Japanese naval base at Aparri — the largest enemy anchorage in the Philippines.

After the war, Blackburn remained on active duty and played a key role in initiating Special Forces operations in Southeast Asia. In 1958, as commander of the 77th Special Forces Group, he spearheaded Operation White Star in Laos — the first major deployment of American Special Forces to a country with an active insurgency. 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, in 1964 Blackburn revitalized the Special Operations campaign in South Vietnam. Sending cross-border reconnaissance teams into Cambodia and North Vietnam, 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 in Laos and Cambodia. 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, 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 been little 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 through both his youthful days of desperate combat against an Empire, and through his days as a commander, imparting his lessons to the newly-realized ranks of America’s own Special Forces.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2105 KB
  • Print Length: 196 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1612000657
  • Publisher: Casemate Publishing (November 10, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0065OCM6K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #313,302 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An American Hero December 6, 2011
This is a very informative and well-written biography. Most of the book covers Donald Blackburn's WWII service in the Philippines. It's an exciting story and the author tells it well. I especially like how the author included entries from Blackburn's WWII diary. The last three chapters of the book discuss Blackburn's tour of duty in Vietnam (first as an American advisor in the Mekong Delta, then as the chief of SOG), his deployment to Laos as commander of the 77th Special Forces Group, and his organization of the Son Tay Prison Raid.

This country has too many unsung and underappreciated war veterans. Books like this need to be written so that their stories don't die with them. Overall, this book was a very satisfying read. I recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the leaders of our early Special Forces.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Still in the shadows March 12, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Reads like a bus timetable. On (date) Blackburn was in (location) on his way to (another location). The author gives no sense of how Blackburn's efforts fit into the wider war in the Philippines. In fact, he doesn't give much of a sense of Blackburn's piece of the Philippines action or how successful it was, leaving the impression results were limited. This, of course, does not diminish Blackburn's heroism. His career after the Philippines is continues the travelogue-like narrative.

Uninspired writing, no historical perspective. Save your money.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Book: Shadow Commander January 10, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Interesting story about a young Army officer in 1941 in the Phillipines islands after the invasion of the Japanese. He organizes Filipinos to fight the Japanese when General MacArthur comes back to take the Islands back from the enemy. Its told from both the American perpective as well as from the Japanese side. The Japanese soldiers terrorized the civilian population, this one reason they lost, because the Filipinos sided with American forces. It goes on to tell about Donald Blackburn's career after WWII, and how he organized special forces in Vietnam.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars a most boring narrative April 13, 2012
By rocky
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I found that the subject of the book was most interesting as i love to read WW11 non-fiction
However this book is just an accumulation of meetings
in many remote towns in the Philippenes with references
to names that were constantly repeated and had little
reference to the total story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Chris
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
While the actions of a small number of Americans who refused to surrender to the Japanese after the fall of the Philippines may not fit in as nicely as OSS OG's in the lineage and origins of US Army Special Forces, some of those who fought in the Philippines as guerillas who learned on the job went on to play significant roles in the formation of US Army Special Forces.

One of those men who went on to become giants in the US Army SF community include Donald Blackburn.

I cannot recommend this book any higher for those wishing to learn about the little known guerilla operations against the Japanese during the dark days of WWII.

I only hope that someday the story of Blackburn's career post WWII reaches open source mass media.

A great resource of ad hoc American guerilla warfare operations in WWII.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't expect adventure. February 5, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I went into this expecting much more. I don't think it's the fault of the author, men of Blackburn's era typically didn't embellish their stories much; so a harrowing night escape from half the Japanese Army comes out, "We ran through the woods and hid out in the ditches until morning and it was over...". Blackburn is a true American hero. I did gain a perspective on the lives of our "greatest generation".
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shadow Commander March 16, 2012
By Roger A
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This could have been a great historical piece but was poorly written. There were a lot more people involved other than Donald Blackburn, perhaps if this had been a biography or had a ghost writer it may have been a lot better. Not worth buying!!!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shadow Review March 20, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Great and exciting read, brings to light those unknown hardships and valiant efforts that our fathers and grandfathers did when the odds were so much against them in WWII. Honor and duty shone brightly through Donald Blackburn in that war and the conflicts to follow. His clear vision was muddled only by the bureaucrats of the military and civilian bodies.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Randal LeBlanc
This is an "Outstanding" book to read. This is truly an amazing officer and a great American hero who served his country and our allies with great pride.
Published 5 months ago by Randal LeBlanc
3.0 out of 5 stars A good account
Worth the read but dragged on a little in the middle of the story. Enjoyed the account of his later life.
Published 6 months ago by Victor
5.0 out of 5 stars Blackburn's Headhunters
This is a great account of a commander leading guerrilla warfare in the Philippines, that later was the head of SOG in Vietnam.
Published 8 months ago by James Pence
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Biography
This isn't the best-written book I've ever read, but the story of Donald Blackburn is an interesting one and worth reading. Read more
Published 8 months ago by P. Minch
4.0 out of 5 stars Shadow Commander
Don's contribution to our Nation span from WWII to post Vietnam. We all owe him our gratitude and appreciation for the courage and dedication he gave in defending our Nation and... Read more
Published 13 months ago by william gentner
1.0 out of 5 stars not received sfter being paid for
This item was paid for by credit card,but never received!! Please send the book or refund my money. Thanks Don Weichold SGM (ret) US Army
Published 14 months ago by donald weichold
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting history of behind enemy lines warfare in the Philippines
This was a well written account of Donald Blackburn's service behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Read more
Published 17 months ago by tom
3.0 out of 5 stars Complex Subject Matter Made Boring
The author should have backed away from history for a moment, and used more maps and researched why someone would want to read this part of history. Read more
Published 19 months ago by DL Perritt
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read.
History is usually presented in terse, time limited, segments. This biography transcends a career that deserves celebration. Read more
Published 19 months ago by James L. Mason
5.0 out of 5 stars Real
I am not sure I would have survived. Our military must function it in many climates all over the world at any point in time and there is no preparation for the reality of war but... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Pamela
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