Mike Guardia.
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
The epic story of Donald D Blackburn guerrilla leader and special forces hero is the subtitle to this book. An Infantry officer assigned to train the fledgling Philippines Army at the cusp of America’s entry into the Second World War Blackburn emerged from the disaster at Bataan to become an important leader in the armed resistance on the island of Luzon. Hollywood even made a film about him.

Like me those of you that have read Spencer Chapmans The Jungle is Neutral may draw a few interesting parallels with Blackburn’s experiences. Though perhaps he had more of a leadership influence than Chapman who was more hampered by the attitude of the Chinese co-belligerents.

This is the second of Mike Guardia’s books that I’ve been asked to review and I feel comfortable with his style. One word of caution that I would add to this review is that he writes very much from a level above the tactical battle. If you are looking for a tale of bayonets and gunsmoke then this may not be the book for you.

Putting that aside it offers a fascinating insight into a man who was at the the very heart of the developing American Special Forces establishment. Quite by accident he found himself performing the leadership, mentoring, and training role that they came to encompass. His resume is peppered with names that will be familiar to even the most casual military buff. Laos, Vietnam, MAAG which became the more familiar MACV, and SOG. Blackburn quite literally wrote the book on the covert cross border infiltration of the Ho Chi Minh trail.

As he rose through the ranks he occupied increasingly senior positions within the Special Forces community. It speaks volumes of the high regard in which he was held that he was chosen to command the famous but ultimately futile Son Tay raid. He only reluctantly accepted that he would not, due to his high rank be allowed to lead from the front.

This is a fine book and neatly compliments other wider histories of the campaigns in which Blackburn fought.

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