|The Doug Jacobson Residents Fund's Historical Legacy
The Douglas Jacobson State Veterans Nursing Home in Port Charlotte, FL is named for
WWII Medal of Honor Recipient Douglas T. Jacobson.
PFC DOUGLAS T. JACOBSON
Medal of Honor
Iwo Jima is often remembered for the photograph of five marines and a Navy combat medic
raising the American flag over Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945. But the carnage on Iwo
Jima, an eight-square-mile speck of volcanic ash, continued for 31 more days in what Lt.
Gen. Holland M. Smith, the top Marine commander in the Pacific theater, would call "the
most savage and the most costly battle in the history of the Marine Corps."
Private Jacobson, assigned to the Fourth Marine Division, had come ashore on Feb. 19 in an
invasion by 75,000 marines ordered to seize Iwo Jima, which had immense strategic value.
Iwo Jima, halfway between Tokyo and the Mariana Islands, held two airfields needed as
bases for short- range American fighter planes escorting B-29 bombers in raids over Japan
and as emergency airstrips for crippled bombers unable to return from Japan to their
bases in the Marianas. Defending Iwo Jima, about 700 miles south of Tokyo, were more
than 20,000 Japanese in caves and concrete blockhouses.
Three days after the flag-raising, Private Jacobson, a 19-year-old from Long Island, carried
out one of the war's most extraordinary feats in the assault on Hill 382, the highest point on
northern Iwo Jima, at a sector so violent it was called "the meat grinder."
When the advance of Private Jacobson's platoon was halted on the hill, he grabbed a
bazooka and a satchel of explosives from a fallen marine. The bazooka was designed to be
wielded by two men, but he carried it alone. First, he destroyed a 20-millimeter aircraft gun
and wiped out its crew. Then he knocked out two machine-gun positions, two large
blockhouses and seven rifle emplacements. After that, he destroyed a tank and continued
his attack on blockhouses.
When Private Jacobson had finished his foray, 16 enemy fortifications had been destroyed,
and hundreds of enemy soldiers had been killed. But it would take four more days before Hill 382
was captured. On Oct. 5, 1945, Private Jacobson received the Medal of Honor from
President Harry S. Truman.
"I don't know how I did it," he said later. "I had one thing in mind - getting off that hill."
Douglas Thomas Jacobson was born in Rochester, N.Y., and raised in Port Washington on
Long Island, the son of a carpenter. He left high school at age 17 to join the Marines and
fought on Tinian and Saipan before the Iwo Jima invasion.
He came home to a hero's parade, but found that receiving the nation's highest award for
valor did not necessarily bring a smooth transition to civilian life.
"The jobs turned out to be either $20-a-week office-boy jobs or being a salesman in order
to wave the medal in a customer's face and dare him not to buy the product," he told a
He re-enlisted in the Marines in April 1946, graduated from officer candidate school after
serving in China, saw duty aboard helicopters in the Vietnam War and rose to the rank of
When Major Jacobson was preparing to retire, his commanding officer decided there was
unfinished business at hand.
"During my last month in the service, in 1967, the old man told me I was among the few
majors in the Marines who did not have a high-school diploma and asked me to consider
taking the general equivalency diploma test," Major Jacobson remembered. "After seeking
the help of two of my captains, I returned the test and got my diploma."
After retiring from the military, Major Jacobson lived in Marlton, N.J., and Willingboro, N.J.,
and sold real estate. He moved to Florida in 1987.
On the 50th anniversary of the Iwo Jima battle, Major Jacobson joined President Clinton
and other Medal of Honor recipients in ceremonies at the Marine Corps Memorial.
On the 40th anniversary, he had spoken at the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San
Bruno, Calif. He reflected on a 36-day battle in which almost 7,000 marines died and all but
1,000 Japanese defenders were killed.
"Those were the days when men were men and proud of it," he said. "They never asked if
this island was needed, or if the war was just. When they were called to do their duty, they
stood up and were counted."
Douglas T. Jacobson retired from the United States Marine Corps as a Major after serving his country for 27 years.