Jack Howard Jacobs was a Jewish American soldier who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor during the Vietnam War.
Jacobs (born August 2, 1945) was born in Brooklyn to a Jewish family of Greek, Polish and Romanian descent. As a child he moved with his family to New Jersey and later graduated from Rutgers University with both a bachelor's and master's degree. A member of Rutgers' ROTC program, Jacobs entered military service in the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant in 1966.
In his first deployment to Vietnam, Jacobs served with Military Assistance Command in a region of the Mekong Delta. On March 9, 1968, his battalion came under intense fire from an entrenched Viet Cong force. As Jacobs called in air support, his company commander was disabled and the unit became disorganized from heavy casualties. Although wounded himself, Jacobs took command of the company and ordered a withdrawal and the establishment of a more secure, defensive line. Despite impaired vision caused by his injuries, Jacobs repeatedly ran across open rice paddies through heavy fire to evacuate the wounded, personally saving the company commander and twelve other allied soldiers. Three times during these trips he encountered Viet Cong squads, which he single-handedly dispersed. For this galantry, Jacobs was presented with the Medal of Honor, the United States' highest military decoration.
Over the course of his military career, Jacobs also served as a platoon leader in the 82nd Airborne Division, a battalion executive officer in the 7th Infantry Division and a battalion commander with the 10th Infantry Regiment in Panama. He spent two tours of duty in Vietnam.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Jacobs also received two Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts during his military career.
Jacobs retired at the rank of Colonel in 1987. He was founder and Chief Operating Officer of AutoFinance Group Inc, one of the firms to pioneer the securitization of debt instruments, and was later the Managing Director of Bankers Trust and of Lehman Brothers, retiring in 1996 to pursue investments.
Jacobs is married to Sue Jacobs, has a grown daughter and two sons, and lives in New Jersey.
The citation for Jacobs’ Medal of Honor:
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 adviser, 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 adviser 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 three separate occasions, Capt. Jacobs contacted and drove off Viet Cong squads who were searching for allied wounded and weapons, single-handedly killing three and wounding several others. His gallant actions and extraordinary heroism saved the lives of one U.S. adviser 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.
Sources: Jewish Recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor;
Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.