3:59 | 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.
Keywords : Paul Jacobs Vietnam USS Kirk (FF-1087) humanitarian Vietnamese Navy Subic Bay Philippines pregnant Guam Law of the Sea 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.
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.
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 in April of 1975 and people began to flee. Enlisting a tanker to clear the way into Saigon, they 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.
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.
Before the Tet offensive began, there were reports of enemy movements and infiltration, but no one expected the size or scope of the attacks. For Mike Morris, it was the beginning of three months of chasing the Communist forces away from Saigon and back to the north and west.
His company command at the Cua Viet River was just the way Richard Jackson liked it. He was given free reign to take care of his area. He describes the tactics he used to fight the enemy and recalls one memorable fight in which his men and an NVA unit charged at each other in darkness.
It was the most intense action he saw during the war. Mike Morris describes the hour long battle with an NVA unit that made an unusual frontal assault. When daylight came, it was a grim scene, with hundreds of enemy dead.
One night, while Laurie was eating dinner, the USS Sanctuary got a call about a plane crash. She vividly remembers the patients coming aboard, and the aftermath of this incident, including one boy who was MIA. However, as difficult as this experience was, this was nothing compared to the Tet Offensive. They had new wounded coming in constantly, and trying to care for all of them at once was emotionally exhausting. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the Military Heritage Museum- https://freedomisntfree.org/.)
It was hard to find the enemy. Charlie would disappear into his holes and only come out once the Marines of Mike company had left. Richard Jackson's men tried probing the ground with sharp sticks, but they broke too easily. What they needed was steel. Thus was born the "Mike Spike." Part 1 of 2.
After the column was devastated by an NVA ambush, wounded Americans were scattered in the darkness. After his captain heard one such group calling for help on the radio, Freddie Owens joined a patrol to find them, guided by a gunshot every few minutes. Once there, medic Daniel Torres volunteered to stay with those who couldn't move and protected them through the night with medicine and a machine gun.
In a letter home, Tommy Clack expressed his worry that something bad was going to happen and it did when his unit engaged the NVA near the Cambodian border. He saw the enemy soldier stand and fire the RPG that changed his life forever.
Mike Morris thought the Vietnam War would go on forever. After serving there, he just didn't see any way you could prevail. He resumed working for the Chicago White Sox, but eventually, he returned to the Army as a chaplain's assistant and then as a recruiter for chaplains.
The RPG that severed Joe McDonald’s foot didn’t kill him. The machine gun fire that hit him as he still tried to help others didn’t kill him. The grenade taped to his hand might have killed him if the VC had found his hiding place.
As Marine Captain Ron Christmas fought to regain the city of Hue, he found the enemy adept at concealment and surprise. Every soldier in a spider hole was armed with a rifle and a RPG launcher. His action during this time earned him the Navy Cross.
They were hunkered down after fierce fighting when the call came from "Ghost 4-6." It was a group of wounded men who had pulled themselves together after the ill fated march to LZ Albany and were lost in the dark. George Forrest sent a patrol to find them, and in an incredible act of bravery, medic Daniel Torres stayed through the night with them and saved many men. Captain Forrest still had to write a gut-wrenching letter to the mother of a missing soldier. Part 3 of 4.
You went unassigned to Vietnam, a roll of the dice. Sgt. Major Henry Rice joined the staff at 1st Brigade, 1st Division headquarters. That didn't sound like he would be in a chopper much, but he was. He was offered a prestigious assignment at MACV, but he was ready to retire after three wars.
Before Mike Morris got to Vietnam, he heard a lot about the booby traps. It was a terrible fear in the back of your mind. What if I fall into one of those pits? It was a very dangerous place where the people wanted you gone.
Newly minted Lieutenant Mike Paque was at Fort Polk, moving large numbers of draftees through training and on to Vietnam. It was not a satisfying job, so he volunteered to go ahead and go himself. He knew he would be going, anyway, so he might as well get out of that place.
It was a culture shock, arriving in Vietnam. Mike Morris remembers the wire mesh on the bus windows to keep out hand grenades. He was an NCO, but totally green, and the old hands began to groom the newbie. The first night, artillery shook him awake. Was it theirs or ours?
He was drafted, but with a college degree, he was eligible for Officer Candidate School. Mike Paque went through basic training and advanced infantry training, then it was off to Fort Benning for OCS. It was tough, maybe tougher than what was coming.
The base camp at Cu Chi was a huge sprawling complex that was home to many American units and to someone else as well. Underneath it was a Viet Cong tunnel system almost as large as the base itself. The men who went in after them were known as tunnel rats and it only took one turn at that to convince Mike Morris that this wasn't the job for him.
Al Stiles remembers that it seemed to take forever steaming into home port at Charleston. The USS Manley had returned from Vietnam and he was anxious to see his wife. He adapted his letters home to her, along with deck logs and other materials into a book.
The medics were respected and protected by the rest of the unit and given the title of "Doc" once they were in combat. The medic who treated Mike Morris the day he was wounded later died himself in the same battle.
The USS Manley was heading to Singapore for repairs when the route was adjusted slightly to make sure the ceremonies associated with crossing the equator could take place. Al Stiles provides a colorful description of the initiation of the Polliwogs.
When Mike Morris got to Vietnam, he was issued an M-16 rifle, which was new to him. His first mission ended with him covered in mud, but he still had access to a shower at this point. That wouldn't last. In his backpack you could find socks and candy, supplied by his mom, which was a big help.
When a ship pulled into Hong Kong for liberty, a call went out to a lady named Mary Sue, who had a big operation painting the sides of warships. The USS Manley had a lot of port visits there and elsewhere for repairs and refitting after she lost two gun mounts.
People were rotating in and out of Vietnam all the time. When you got close to the end of your twelve months, you started to duck for cover a little faster. While recovering from a wound, Mike Morris lucked into a clerk typist job, and with only a couple of months to go, it looked like he was going to make it through his tour.
Curtis James returned from Vietnam to an assignment as director of personnel at Parris Island. This was the last post for the Marine Corps staff officer. His favorite was the Pentagon, where he initiated a brand new office to coordinate military crisis response.
While transiting the Mediterranean, the USS Manley stopped in Crete, where the crew got some liberty and a taste of the local beverage, ouzo. Al Stiles recalls the potentially embarrassing departure from the port which became an apparently graceful bit of ship handling.
The airmen didn't like the infantry's dirty boots on their PX floor, but they changed their tune after a Viet Cong attack. Those infantry boys were welcome, after all. Mike Paque recalls that, after that incident, his entire division moved to the Cambodian border in a bid to clear out enemy refuges.
He was in the Marine Reserves, but in training, a doctor told him he needed hernia surgery and he was out. Mike Morris still had a military obligation, though, and the draft put him in the Army as soon as he was able. He did well because of his previous experience and was sent to NCO school.