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Jack Jacobs

Recipient of Congressional Medal of Honor, NBC On-Air Military Analyst

Jack Jacobs is a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and is among the most highly decorated soldiers from the Vietnam era, having earned three Bronze Stars and two Silver Stars in addition to the nation’s highest combat decoration. Currently MSNBC’s military analyst, he is also the spokesperson for MEDAL OF HONOR: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty, the third edition of which was published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the medal’s establishment by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861.

First published on Veterans Day 2003 to glowing reviews and instant bestseller status, Medal of Honor, with photographs by Nick Del Calzo and text by Peter Collier, offers moving profiles of the 85 living recipients of this highest decoration for valor and now has over 330,000 copies in print. “They will tell you they wear the medal for their fellow soldiers, and for those who didn’t come home,” says Brian Williams in his foreword to the book. “Their modesty and humility are breathtaking. They are living reminders that our culture of self-celebration has not yet affected everyone.”

Lieutenant Jack Jacobs came to Vietnam as an adviser to a Vietnamese infantry battalion in the Mekong Delta. On March 8, l968, searching for Vietcong, they encountered a large enemy force hidden in bunkers. With no place to hide, many South Vietnamese soldiers were instantly killed, and Jacobs himself suffered serious mortar wounds to his head, which broke most of the bones in his face and impaired his vision.

Jacobs assessed the situation and realized that if somebody didn’t act quickly, everyone would be killed. The words of the great Jewish philosopher Hillel jumped into his mind: “If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” When the company commander was disabled, he assumed command and, ignoring profuse bleeding from his wounds, ran back and forth across fire-swept rice paddies to save the lives of one U.S. adviser and 13 allied soldiers. He was promoted to captain and awarded the Medal of Honor in 1969 “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life.”

Captain Jacobs asked to return to Vietnam, and despite Army orders to remain out of combat, got himself assigned to the Vietnamese Airborne Division in the thick of fighting in Quang Tri. He walked away unscathed when his helicopter was shot down, but was subsequently wounded again. He retired as a colonel in 1987 after twenty years on active duty.

In civilian life, he was founder and COO of AutoFinance Group, Inc., a firm that pioneered the securitization of debt instruments. He was a managing director of Bankers Trust, where he ran foreign exchange options worldwide and was a partner in the institutional hedge fund business, and he founded a similar business for Lehman Brothers.

He is currently a principal of the Fitzroy Group, which develops residential real estate in London, and holds the McDermott Chair of Humanities and Public Affairs at the U.S. Military Academy, where he taught international relations and comparative politics for three years. He has also taught at the National War College. He is Co-Chairman of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, an on-air analyst for NBC News, and the author of the Colby Award–winning memoir If Not Now, When? and, most recently, Basic.

Speaking Topics

  • MEDAL OF HONOR: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty
  • If Not Now, When? How Heroes Emerge
  • Global and National Security: Current Threats to American and Allied Security and Our Response to Them
  • The Business of Business: The Imperatives of Business Success
  • American Politics: The American Political System, the Candidates, and Government


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