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. He lost almost every single one of his extended family members. 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. 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. 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 and being promoted to Captain and assigned as Commander of Detachment A-121, his group 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.
Shachnow would rise to the rank of Major General and help lay the foundation for modern day Special Forces.