Medal of Honor Monday; An Interview Col Jack Jacobs, US Army: Vietnam

Col Jack Jacobs, US Army (ret) was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in a March 1968 battle in Kien Phong Province, Vietnam. Born in New York City and raised in New Jersey, Col Jacobs joined Army ROTC at Rutgers University and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant upon graduation in 1966. He served two tours in Vietnam. After a successful career in business, Col Jacobs taught at West Point and the National Defense College. He's a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a director of the Medal of Honor Foundation, and is a military analyst for NBC-MSNBC

Joining ROTC was not a popular decision in the 1960's college environment; what made you sign up?

It was how I was raised. My father fought in the South Pacific in WW2; he joined the Army and fought in the Philippines. He believed - and I still believe - that you're both obligated and privileged to serve your country. And this was still a common attitude when I signed up in 1962, it wasn't until the mid-late 60's where the politics changed and the country became anti-war.

What happened in the fight at Kien Phong?

I was an advisor to the 2nd BN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) and we were moving-to-contact. We knew a VC unit was in our area, but didn't know their strength or location. Now remember, this was after the Tet Offensive, so we'd been whittled down by three months of fighting. We were attacked by intense mortar and machine gun fire, and had 50-100 killed or wounded in the first few minutes, and had to take command. We re-grouped our forces, called in air support, and I had to run out to rescue some soldiers who were wounded and trapped outside our lines.

(Col Jacob's Medal of Honor citation describes how he rescued the soldiers while wounded and bleeding profusely and driving off bands of VC who were searching for Allied wounded and weapons left on the battlefield)

See: Col Jacobs action at Kien Phong

There's a rule forbidding Medal of Honor Awardees from returning to combat, yet you did. Why?

Easy; it goes back to my enlisting in the first place. I felt a sense of obligation to return to help finish the job; my role was to train the South Vietnamese Army to be able to defend their country and it was important to me that I didn't quit with the job unfinished

People talk constantly about "Leadership;" what makes someone a leader?

It's a combination of factors, and there are lots of similarities in the military and business worlds. You need to know your stuff; you need to be both tactically and technically proficient. That's the first step to earning the respect of your subordinates. But personality and style is also important; you need to pass your order in a manner that's most effective in having it carried out - and screaming and shouting is usually not the way. And contrary to popular opinion, physical presence is the least important; I've known lots of physically imposing officers and executives who were weak leaders.

Today's military is all-volunteer; is this good for America?

No. The gap between those few who serve and those who don't grows wider daily. The typical American today - and that includes most in politics on both sides -has no military experience, knows no one serving, and knows no one who has been in combat. Forget combat - 99% of Americans don't know what military service is about. Not only is there no sense of obligation to serve, but most Americans don't even see a need to serve; they seem to think someone else will do so in their place. 9/11 was the perfect opportunity to introduce the concept of national service, that the country had been attacked (with a larger loss of life than Pearl Harbor) and everyone needed to respond. America has forgotten the concept of 'shared sacrifice' and I fear it won't be found until after our nation suffers an even greater tragedy.

Col Jacobs is active today speaking on behalf of America's veterans, including why it's to corporate America's benefit to actively hire those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Double medal of honor winners?

There have been nineteen (19) double MOH winners.
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