The true story of the US Army legend who organized “Blackburn’s Headhunters” against Japan in WWII and went on to initiate Special Forces operations in Vietnam.
The fires on Bataan burned on the evening of April 9, 1942—illuminating the white flags of surrender against the dark sky. Outnumbered and outgunned, remnants of the American-Philippine army surrendered to the forces of the Rising Sun. Yet US Army Captain Donald D. Blackburn refused to lay down his arms. With future Special Forces legend Russell Volckmann, Blackburn escaped to the jungles of North Luzon, where they raised a private army of 22,000 men against the Japanese. His organization of native tribes into guerrilla fighters would lead to the destruction of the enemy’s naval base at Aparri.
But Blackburn’s amazing accomplishments would not end with the victory in the Pacific. He would go on to play a key role in initiating Army Special Forces operations in Southeast Asia, spearheading Operation White Star in Laos as commander of the 77th Special Forces Group and eventually taking 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 reconnaissance teams into Cambodia and North Vietnam, he discovered the clandestine networks and supply nodes of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Taking the information directly to General Westmoreland, Blackburn was authorized to conduct full-scale operations against the NVA and Viet Cong 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 US, Blackburn was the architect of the infamous Son Tay Prison Raid, officially termed Operation Ivory Coast, the largest prisoner-of-war rescue mission—and, indeed, the largest Army Special Forces operation—of the Vietnam War.
During a period when US troops in Southeast Asia faced guerrilla armies on every side, America had a superb covert commander of its own. This book follows Blackburn through both his youthful days of desperate combat and his time as a commander, imparting his lessons to the new ranks of Army Special Forces.