During 2019, Freedoms Foundation and the Friends of the Medal of Honor Grove are paying tribute to the living recipients of the Medal of Honor on the anniversary of the actions for which they earned the nation’s highest award for valor. The series continues with a look at March 9, 1968, when a South Vietnamese battalion advised by First Lt. Jack Jacobs came under attack from the Vietcong in Kien Phong Province, South Vietnam.
Jack Jacobs’ Medal of Honor citation reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Capt. Jacobs (then 1st Lt.), Infantry, distinguished himself while serving as assistant battalion advisor, 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division, Army of the Republic of Vietnam.
“The 2d Battalion was advancing to contact when it came under intense heavy machine gun and mortar fire from a Viet Cong battalion positioned in well fortified bunkers. As the 2d Battalion deployed into attack formation its advance was halted by devastating fire. Capt. Jacobs, with the command element of the lead company, called for and directed air strikes on the enemy positions to facilitate a renewed attack.
“Due to the intensity of the enemy fire and heavy casualties to the command group, including the company commander, the attack stopped and the friendly troops became disorganized. Although wounded by mortar fragments, Capt. Jacobs assumed command of the allied company, ordered a withdrawal from the exposed position and established a defensive perimeter. Despite profuse bleeding from head wounds which impaired his vision, Capt. Jacobs, with complete disregard for his safety, returned under intense fire to evacuate a seriously wounded advisor to the safety of a wooded area where he administered lifesaving first aid. He then returned through heavy automatic weapons fire to evacuate the wounded company commander.
“Capt. Jacobs made repeated trips across the fire-swept open rice paddies evacuating wounded and their weapons. On 3 separate occasions, Capt. Jacobs contacted and drove off Viet Cong squads who were searching for allied wounded and weapons, single-handedly killing 3 and wounding several others. His gallant actions and extraordinary heroism saved the lives of 1 U.S. advisor and 13 allied soldiers. Through his effort the allied company was restored to an effective fighting unit and prevented defeat of the friendly forces by a strong and determined enemy.
“Capt. Jacobs, by his gallantry and bravery in action in the highest traditions of the military service, has reflected great credit upon himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.”
Peter Collier adds to the story in Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty:
“Despite being weak from blood loss, he went back time and again, bringing to safety 13 fellow soldiers before he tried to take a brief rest — and discovered he couldn’t get up again.
“During the helicopter ride to the field hospital, he lost consciousness several times. Days later at another hospital, doctors pieced his skull and face together. Though he would undergo more than a dozen surgical operations, he never regained his sense of taste and smell. …
“After completing graduate school at Rutgers University, where he earned an M.A. in international relations, Jacobs asked to return to Vietnam. The Army granted his request on the condition that he remain out of harm’s way. When he returned to Vietnam in July 1972, though, he immediately got himself assigned to the Vietnamese Airborne Division in the thick of the fighting in Quang Tri. He walked away unscathed when the helicopter taking him to his unit was shot down, but he was subsequently wounded again.”