Colonel Jack H. Jacobs

by Nicholas from San Diego

Colonel Jack H. Jacobs was awarded three Bronze Stars, two Silver Stars, two Purple Hearts, and the Medal of Honor for his exemplary service in the Vietnam War.

Ambushed: Colonel Jack H. Jacobs' Extraordinary Actions

            "In the last second before the round disintegrates, before the explosive in the shell shatters the steel casing into thousands of jagged, knife-sharp shards, I can hear it whooshing through the air.  After the whoosh comes an explosion so loud it overloads my hearing and seems silent.  A quiet, warm, gentle rush of air lifts me, and then I am on all fours, looking at the ground and the widening lake of my blood" (Jacobs 5). When a mortar lands just a few feet away from a soldier, the last thing one expects is for that person to get back up.  However, in the case of Colonel Jack H. Jacobs, the need to save his company when nobody else could was an indomitable force.  Born into a New York Family of Jewish faith, Jacobs later entered the army in 1966 as a lieutenant. He then advanced to the rank of colonel.  It was two years following his induction to the army that the army deployed him in Vietnam.  While on a mission through the rice paddies of the Kien Phong Province, Vietcong soldiers attacked his company.  Jacobs then left a protected position in order to fight off the enemy forces and protect his own.  Thus, his willingness to be brave in the face of danger established Jacobs' valiance.  Also exposing himself to enemy fire repeatedly, Jacobs demonstrates true selflessness by putting others' lives ahead of his own; saving 14 of his men.    Possibly the most important of all, Jacobs persevered in his efforts though he realized that the chances of saving his company were next to none.  Through his outstanding valiance, exceptional selflessness, and unparalleled perseverance, Colonel Jack H. Jacobs became a hero by rescuing his company from certain death.


Jacobs demonstrated valiance during the ambush on his company as if fear was a foreign concept to him. Ignoring personal injury, he chose to stand up for his troops when nobody else could: "Although wounded himself, Lieutenant Jacobs assumed command of the allied company, ordered a withdrawal from the exposed position and established a defensive perimeter" (Center of Military History)Showing the fearlessness of a true hero, Jacobs chose to undertake the formidable task of becoming his company's leader; which forced him to take responsibility for any events that may have proceeded.  Jacobs risked leaving his troops leaderless if was he to die, but because of his valiance, this was a risk he was willing to take.  Yet after having made that same bunker, Jacobs chose to leave the safety it offered and instead fought off the Vietcong:  "Colonel JACK JACOBS (Army Veteran; Author, "If Not Now, When?"): I throw a hand grenade into the [enemy] bunker and scramble back across the open area, chased by snapping bullets until the grenade explodes" ("Medal of Honor Recipient Asks: 'If Not Now, When?'.").  Realizing that the safety his bunker provided could only become reality if he neutralized the cause of danger, Colonel Jacobs brought the fight to the Vietcong.  This demonstrates remarkable bravery because he was willing to leave the safe haven he had just made and put himself at risk in order to fend off those who attacked his company. Colonel Jack H. Jacobs' incredible valiance allowed him to put fear aside and accomplish great things, such as fighting for his troops.


Further demonstrating his heroic qualities, Colonel Jacobs exhibited exceptional selflessness while in battle.  Putting himself in harm's way countless times to save the lives of others, he rescued a total of 14 people:  "CHADWICK: How many men did you pull back? Col. JACOBS: I don't know. I didn't count. The citation says 13 or 14 or so. That's probably about right" (Madeline Brand)Rather than accept the comfort his makeshift base had to offer, Jacobs chose to put himself at risk several times to rescue his fellow troops.  This evidences his true selflessness because it shows he values others' lives over his own.  The Center of Military History describes a specific instance of such actions: "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(Center of Military History).  Saving those that cannot save themselves, Colonel Jacobs demonstrates his extraordinary altruistic nature.  This is a vital characteristic for heroes to possess because they would not rescue others from harm if they were more concerned with protecting themselves.  Without a thought for his own safety, Colonel Jack H. Jacobs was able to save the lives of 14 people.

Possibly the most important of all, Colonel Jacobs' amazing perseverance is what truly saved his company.  While it is a feat to save lives and fight off enemy troops once, doing so multiple times ushers in a new meaning of the word "hero."  By supporting his valiant and selfless traits with incredible perseverance, Colonel Jack H. Jacobs made himself a true hero: "We do this over and over, inching forward, rifles spitting, hauling wounded friends back" ("Medal of Honor Recipient Asks: 'If Not Now, When?'.").  Anybody can go beyond what may be required of them once, but it takes a real hero to do so many times.  By exceeding his call of duty on countless instances, Jacobs persevered until his company was safe.  But not only was the physical aspect of saving his troops a daunting task, so were the mental challenges.  Yet even though he knew the Vietcong vastly outgunned and outnumbered him, Jacobs remained undiscouraged: "CHADWICK: You know that the military units you were facing that day, they could've been Vietcong regulars, they could've been in that particular place and at that time; that could've been a North Vietnamese unit. In any case, these are very often skilled and experienced enemy soldiers that you're facing.Col. JACOBS: Yeah, they're good. They were good. It turns out that they were North Vietnamese regulars" (Madeline Brand).  Had Colonel Jacobs been disheartened by the skill of his opponents and the odds of him failing, he may never have survived; leaving his troops leaderless to fend for themselves.  But through his perseverance Jacobs was undaunted by his foes and was able to overcome the obstacles they presented.  In summary, Colonel Jack H. Jacobs' heroic acts were driven by his unparalleled perseverance.

Colonel Jacobs says it best "It does go through your mind that if you don't do it, who's going to?" (Madeline Brand).  In order to do something when no one else can or will, a hero must have the valiance to do what is right, the selflessness to put others ahead of himself, and the perseverance vital to drive this cause.  When these three things come together, something momentous is sure to ensue.  In the case of Colonel Jack H. Jacobs, that something was saving the lives of 14 men. Since I first heard of this, I now refuse to let obstacles get in the way of my success.  As of April 9, 2013, I have zero-tolerance for bullying now, and have already stood up to those who do so.  This same principle applies to anybody; if an obstacle is in the way of your success, give it your all at overcoming that obstacle.  Colonel Jack H. Jacobs was able to save his company and fight off troops that drastically outnumbered his, moments after a mortar struck him within a few feet.  This serves as a reminder that the everyday challenges people face are actually smaller than they seem.  No legitimate hero ever reaches their status by doing nothing in the face of danger, lacking something to devote himself to, or quitting.  They have to display fortitude that overcomes any fear held; the selflessness to assist whatever they see needs help, and the drive to do their best despite hardships they face.


Works Cited

Center of Military History. "Medal of Honor Recipients - Vietnam (A-L)." Medal of Honor Recipients - Vietnam (A-L). U.S. Army Center of Military History, 26 June 2011. Web. 01 Apr. 2013. <>.

Day To Day (NPR) (n.d.): Newspaper Source. Web. 1 Apr. 2013.

"Chapter 131: Colonel Jack H. Jacobs." Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America (2004): 268.

            Biography Reference Center. Web. 1 Apr. 2013.

Congressional Medal of Honor Society. "Jack H. Jacobs." Jack H. Jacobs. TriWest Healthcare

   Alliance, 2010. Web. 19 Mar. 2013 <>.

Jacobs, Jack H. If Not Now, When? By Jack H. Jacobs. New York: Penguin Group, 2008. 5-9. Print.

MADELEINE, BRAND. "Interview: Colonel Jack Jacobs Discusses Winning The Medal Of Honor."

"Medal of Honor Recipient Asks: 'If Not Now, When?'." Weekend Edition Sunday 26 Oct. 2008 Biography In Context. Web. 1 Apr. 2013.

Page created on 4/20/2013 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 4/18/2024 5:57:02 AM

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Related Links

Medal of Honor: Speak Out! Save Lives! - Made by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Gives recognition to heroes and tells of their acts of valor.
Medal of Honor Recipients A-L. - Made by the Center of Military History. This acknowledges Medal of Honor recipients and tells of what they did to get their Medal of Honor.
Jewish Heroes and Heroines in America - Part of Florida Atlantic University Libraries. This website gives recognition to Jewish heroes residing in America, and also provides some background information on Col. Jacobs
PBS: American Valor - Citing Jacob's heroic actions, this website also gives information about what Jacobs does after retirement. This website is intended to give credit to Americans who acted in valor.
Executive People Biography: Jack H. Jacobs - Executive People Biography informs the reader of Jacob's business background.