FROM PRIVATE TO MAJOR – Major Douglas T. Jacobson, USMC, WW II, Medal of Honor (1925-2000)

Major Douglas T. Jacobson, USMC, WWII, Medal of Honor
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Major Douglas T. Jacobson, USMC, WWII, Medal of Honor

BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D. Douglas Thomas Jacobson was born in Rochester, New York on November 25, 1925. Jacobson went to elementary and high school in Port Washington, New York. Until he was 17, Jacobson worked for his father as a draftsman. As well as working for his dad he also worked partime  as a lifeguard and swimming instructor. On January 28, 1943, at the age of 17, he enlisted in the Marine Corps

Jacobson did his initial training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. After boot camp Jacobson was assigned to the 23rd Marine Regiment at Camp Lejeune, New River, North Carolina, where he was promoted to private first class. As a member of the 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marines, 4th Marine Division, Jacobson was sent overseas in December 1943, and participated in the campaigns for Tinian, Marianas Islands, Marshall Islands, and Iwo Jima.


On February 26, 1945, during the Battle of  Iwo Jima,  Jacobson destroyed a total of sixteen enemy positions and annihilated approximately seventy-five Japanese.  His actions had a great impact, thereby contributing essentially to the success of his division’s operations.

Three days after the now famous flag-raising on Iwo Jima, Jacobson  carried out one of the war’s most extraordinary feats in the assault on Hill 382. This was the highest point on northern Iwo Jima, at a sector so violent it was called ”the meat grinder”.

When the advance of 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 75 Japanese 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.

Jacobson left the Marines as a sergeant in April 1949, but he found civilian life did not suit him.  He re-enlisted in 1953. Subsequently he was sent to Officer Training Corps School.  He was promoted to major on July 1, 1964. He retired in 1967 and moved to Port Charlotte, Florida. He died there in 2000.

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.”

At the time of death Jacobson was survived by his wife Joan, and three daughters, Katherine Cheeseman and Joanne Jacobson of Punta Gorda, Florida, and Barbara Bernard of Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

                               Medal of Honor citation                              

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to


for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the Third Battalion, Twenty-Third Marines, Fourth Marine Division, in combat against enemy Japanese forces during the seizure of Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, February 26, 1945. Promptly destroying a stubborn 20-mm. antiaircraft gun and its crew after assuming the duties of a bazooka man who had been killed, Private First Class Jacobson waged a relentless battle as his unit fought desperately toward the summit of Hill 382 in an effort to penetrate the heart of Japanese cross-island defenses. Employing his weapon with ready accuracy when his platoon was halted by overwhelming enemy fire on February 26, he first destroyed two hostile machine-gun positions, then attacked a large blockhouse, completely neutralizing the fortification before dispatching the five-man crew of a pillbox and exploding the installation with a terrific demolitions blast. Moving steadily forward, he wiped out an earth-covered rifle emplacement and, confronted by a cluster of similar emplacements which constituted the perimeter of enemy defenses in his assigned sector, fearlessly advanced, quickly reduced all six positions to a shambles, killed ten of the enemy and enabled our forces to occupy the strong point. Determined to widen the breach thus forced, he volunteered his services to an adjacent assault company, neutralized a pillbox holding up its advance, opened fire on a Japanese tank pouring a steady stream of bullets on one of our supporting tanks and smashed the enemy tank’s gun turret in a brief but furious action culminating in a single-handed assault against still another blockhouse and the subsequent neutralization of its firepower. By his dauntless skill and valor, Private First Class Jacobson destroyed a total of sixteen enemy positions and annihilated approximately seventy-five Japanese, thereby contributing essentially to the success of his division’s operations against the fanatically defended outpost of the Japanese Empire. His gallant conduct in the face of tremendous odds enhanced and sustained the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.



Major Douglas T. Jacobson is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. His grave can be found in Court 5, Section H, Stack 17, niche 3, of the columbarium map grid NN 19.5.


The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external. Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.





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