3:02 | Retired Captain Paul Jacobs still has a strong relationship with Vietnamese refugees and their descendants. As captain of the USS Kirk, he led the famous rescue of the Vietnamese Navy. Speaking to a group of them recently, he called out the hull number of his ship, "1087!" A cheer went up.
Keywords : Paul Jacobs Vietnam minesweeper Long Beach CA USS Kirk (FF-1087) Vietnamese Kimberly Mitchell Joe Galloway
Why did he join the Navy? Because he got a brown envelope from the Army. Paul Jacobs was already an engineer out of Maine Maritime Academy, so he was commissioned and made Chief Engineer on his first ship, at only twenty one years old. He saw action off the coast of Vietnam on several ships providing support and Naval gunfire.
Paul Jacobs took command of the USS Kirk late in 1974. Its deployment was rushed in order to provide humanitarian relief as the war effort crumbled in Vietnam and people began to flee. Enlisting a tanker to clear the way into Saigon, he transferred thousands of refugees to merchant ships and then began to take on helicopters, pushing them over the side after offloading the people.
During the evacuation of Vietnamese civilian refugees, a baby died on the USS Kirk despite the best efforts of the corpsman. Captain Paul Jacobs gave the baby a formal military burial at sea. Years later, he got a phone call from that baby's sister.
Paul Jacobs, who commanded several ships during the Vietnam War, muses over the need to kill the enemy in the course of his job, as well as the need to pivot towards humanitarian duties when required. The sorry spectacle of politicians managing wars when it should be left to the military is a sore point with him.
Captain Paul Jacobs served seven tours in Vietnam waters and the first time he returned home, he was welcomed. By the last time, he and his men were suffering the typical abusive homecoming remembered by veterans of that war. This despite the fact that they had just completed a miraculous refugee rescue operation which saved thousands.
The sailors of the USS Kirk knew that one of the Vietnamese women they had saved during the chaotic exodus of refugees had named a baby after the ship. Captain Paul Jacobs tracked her down and she came to the ship's crew reunion, along with Richard Armitage, a civilian official at the time who took charge of the largest rescue operation.
Despite the recent interest in the welfare of veterans, Paul Jacobs laments that the Veterans Administration still has not responded fully to the challenge. He worked in his home state of Maine to expand recognition of their plight in the run up to the 50th Anniversary program. He also has a thing or two to say about dilettante commanding officers.
If you send the military into a war, at least let them fight the war themselves, without micro-management from politicians. That's the lesson of Vietnam according to Paul Jacobs, who was an enthusiastic combatant but who also worked on a database of unexploded ordnance that was presented to the current government of his former foes.