By JOHN GORALSKI
It wasn’t long after his 17th birthday that Carl Robert Jacobs woke up under the stars in Korea to the sound of gunshots.
“We were caught in our sleeping bags. The Chinese came over after a guy fell asleep, and it was boom, boom, boom,” Jacobs told a small assembly of local and state officials, family, friends, and press at the town hall assembly room last Wednesday. “I looked down the barrel of the gun and watched him pull the trigger.”
Five bullets tore into Jacob’s shoulder, and at least two others ripped into his neck. The Southington veteran said that he “played dead,” lying in a pool of his own blood alongside his fallen companions as the Chinese soldiers moved on from the slaughter.
“I was the only one that came out alive out of 30 men,” he told the group.
“I don’t know about most of you, but think about what you were doing when you were 17 years old. Then, think about being in combat,” Congressman John B. Larson said as he introduced Jacobs to the group for a Korean War medal presentation. “When I say ‘in combat’ I mean under fire, and the Bronze Star that he’s receiving is an indication of the campaigns that he was involved in. This wasn’t just a tour of duty. He was in actual combat.”
It’s been almost 70 years since Jacobs joined the military at 16 years old, received his basic training at Fort Dix, N.J., and was shipped overseas to the front lines of the Korean Conflict. It’s been 67 years since that fateful night when Jacobs was the only survivor from his 30-man contingent.
From the field of battle, Jacobs was rushed to a M.A.S.H. unit with life-threatening injuries before landing in a U.S. military hospital in Osaka, Japan for seven months of recuperation. He was finally discharged from the military in 1953 and returned home to Connecticut. He found work at Woolworth’s department store, met his wife, Denise, and married on Sept. 22, 1956.
Jacobs never complained despite the toll that his war time injuries took on his body. After Woolworth’s, he worked for his brother-in-law for a number of years as a builder and plumber, but he was ultimately forced to retire almost 25 years ago as a result of the injuries he suffered during his service.
It was about time that Jacobs was finally honored for his sacrifice.
“Carl was shot up by the Chinese and left for dead, but he made it through,” said Southington veterans committee member John DeMello. “But there were some awards and medals that he never received.”
Jacobs is the latest in a line of veterans that have finally gotten recognition for their military service thanks to the Southington veterans committee. Over recent months, the group has been working with Larson’s office to secure missing recognition and medals for Southington’s veterans.
Last May, Larson made his first visit to Southington to present a posthumous Bronze Star and POW medal to the family of the late Joseph Clements. In July of this year, the committee presented posthumous medals to the families of Luther Cuffee (U.S. Air Force), William Wiech (U.S. Army) and George Simone Jr. (U.S. Army), along with two Medal of Peace honors to Carl Jacobs (U.S. Army) and Don Egidio (U.S. Army).
Jacobs was the latest to receive his outstanding medals and awards.
“This is one of the most delightful things we get to do, and frankly one of the most emotional things that we get to do,” said Larson. “These are people that have served our country with distinction and valor…More often than not, people who serve speak so little. They’re so humble about their accomplishments and what they’ve done. Oftentimes, they go unrecognized.”
For his service, Jacobs was presented with the Purple Heart, A National Defense Service Medal, a Korean Service Medal with four Bronze Star attachments to signify his tour of duty and combat missions, a Combat Infantryman Badge, and the United Nations Service Medal.
Larson also presented Jacobs with the Korean Medal of Gratitude, a medal awarded on behalf of the Korean ambassador in recognition of those Americans that sacrificed in defense of South Korea so that they were able to flourish as an independent democratic nation.
“When you scroll through those medals that Carl received, it’s really a tour de force of history and what he experienced,” said Larson. “Imagine being 17 years old and on the front lines of Korea, fighting on behalf of your country. I think it’s so important that stories like Carl’s are told over and over and over again, so that we can drive the point home to never forget.”
DeMello urged Southington veterans and their families to contact the Southington veterans committee to assist veterans in receiving the proper recognition. The committee can be reached at (860) 276-6299 or during office hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to noon; Thursdays, 2 to 7 p.m.; or by appointment.
Also, on the first Wednesday of the month, Military JAG Officer Alex Ricciardone is available for military legal assistance. He is available from 8 to 10 a.m. at the commission’s office on the second floor of town hall.
“I’d like to thank everybody for coming here and helping us honor a very important individual, a veteran of the Korean War,” said DeMello. “It’s an amazing time here in the Town of Southington. We’ve been working with Congressman Larson’s office for veterans, and his office has been a great help.”
The committee also organizes a monthly coffee hour at the library for local veterans. The next coffee hour is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 28, from 10 a.m. to noon.
For more information, visit their website at www.southington.org/content/17214/25378/default.aspx