Jack H. Jacobs
U.S. Army officer; Medal of Honor recipient; businessman; author
Born: August 2, 1945, in Brooklyn, New York
Grew Up In: Woodbridge Township, New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2015: Public Service
Jack Howard Jacobs is no ordinary hero. He spent two tours of duty in Vietnam and was awarded the Medal of Honor. He also received two Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts for his service, and ultimately rose to the rank of colonel in an exemplary military career.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in Woodbridge, Jacobs graduated from Woodbridge High School and went on to earn B.A. and M.A. degrees at Rutgers University. He attended the school’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program and entered the military in 1966 as a second lieutenant.
On March 9, 1968, during his first deployment to Vietnam, Jacobs, by then a first lieutenant, was serving as an advisor to a Vietnamese infantry battalion when the battalion came under intense enemy fire. Jacobs called in air support and, when his company commander was disabled, took command and reorganized the company in a defensive position.
Although wounded with mortar fragments, Jacobs repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to evacuate more than a dozen fellow combatants, including the company commander. Three times during these forays, he encountered enemy squads, which he fought off single-handedly. As stated in in his Medal of Honor citation: “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.”
Over the course of his long military career, Jacobs 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 also was a faculty member at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, teaching international relations and comparative politics, and at the National War College in Washington, DC.
After his military retirement in 1987, Jacobs began a career in investment banking, serving at one point as a managing director of Bankers Trust, and later as a principal in the Fitzroy Group, an investment and residential real estate development organization.
In 2008, the Penguin Group published Jacobs’ memoir, If Not Now, When?: Duty and Sacrifice In America’s Time of Need. Jacobs has also served as a military analyst for NBC/MSNBC.
At his New Jersey Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Jacobs accepted the recognition in the name of his comrades-in-arms: “We always fight for the country,” said Jacobs, “and we fight to accomplish the mission. But we always fight for each other.”