By: John Cuddy – 01-23
Little did I know that my previous story about US Army Medic Steve Bird from Groveland, and his brave efforts to treat the wounded on the battlefields of Vietnam in 1968, would lead me to this feature about Art Jacobs, who was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and grew up in Salem, New Hampshire, Hartford, Connecticut, and Springfield, Massachusetts. Art was a US Army helicopter pilot who served two one-year tours in Vietnam.
Steve sent Art a copy of the “The Valley Patriot” because Art was piloting the Medevac helicopter attempting to rescue the wounded from Steve’s unit one fateful day. It is indeed a small world. Art’s dad graduated from Lawrence High School with the class of 1944 and joined the US Army Air Force. Art was born in 1946 when his dad returned from Germany, heard all his father’s stories, and always wanted to be a military pilot. This story is best told in Art’s own words:
“It is true that Steve Bird’s life and mine crossed paths that day in July 1968, but in coincidental ways we had not imagined. The part of the story that is just as fascinating to me, and that Steve left out, is that although we were two young men some 9,000 miles away from Massachusetts, Steve was from Groveland and I was born in the neighboring City of Lawrence!
Until I was in the second grade, we lived in a cottage on Millville Pond in Salem Depot, New Hampshire. My dad took a job in Hartford, and two years after living in Connecticut, we moved to Springfield, where I graduated from high school in 1964. A funny sidelight; in the Summer of 1963, my uncle took me camping with him on Lake Winnipesaukee near Wolfeboro. I met a young lady there who was from Haverhill. Her name was Yvette
Nolin, she attended St. Joseph’s, and I took her to my senior prom the following June. (If Yvette is still in the area, I hope she knows that she was the first girl I ever fell in love with.) I joined the US Army out of high school, spent a year on the DMZ in Korea, and then applied and was accepted to flight school. I volunteered for Air Rescue training upon graduation, and was assigned to fly a UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” Helicopter as a Medevac pilot in Vietnam.”
Art’s first tour was with the 15th Medical Battalion of the First Air Cavalry, starting in December of 1967, serving first at LZ (Landing Zone) English, later at the 1st Cav base at Camp Evans, outside of Hue, Vietnam. He flew upwards of seven or eight Medevac missions a day for almost an entire year.
A moving experience, listening to Art, describe his first Purple Heart, a bullet came up through his boot, while he was piloting the helicopter, hit his co-pilot in the mouth, wounding the both of them.
His second Purple Heart was for a serious bullet wound, received on three attempts to rescue some wounded US Army soldiers from Steve Bird’s unit. On that third mission his aircraft was shot out of the sky and they crashed in the jungle mountains surrounded by the enemy, but were plucked out with only moments to spare.
While I was in the hospital in Japan after a follow-up operation, I was interviewed by a Special Forces Major stationed in Okinawa. They were looking for helicopter pilots with a “unique” set of combat credentials. He stood at the end of my hospital bed with a file folder (with what I assumed were some of my military records). He said, “Well, a Medevac pilot. Let me get this straight: You flew dangerous single ship rescue missions at night, in the mountains, across the border, and you’re here so you’ve obviously seen some action. You’re my guy.”
After recuperating in Japan, I was sent back to Vietnam to complete my tour. Three months later my orders came through. I was to report to the 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. It was a dream come true – not only did the Special Forces want me, but I would be living between Salem, NH, Lawrence, MA, and Springfield, MA.
In 1971, on his second tour in Vietnam, Art flew an attack helicopter, the Bell AH-1G Cobra. He certainly felt safer flying the Cobra, looking to engage the enemy, in a more offensive role, than he did rescuing wounded American soldiers on his first tour. It was on that second tour that he was awarded his third Purple Heart for a mission in Laos.
I went back to school after I got out of the Army and received my BS in Aviation Management & Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and an MBA in Marketing Management & Organizational Psychology from the University of Florida. Although in my business career I spent twenty years in Chicago, I have lived in Brentwood, Tennessee (just outside of Nashville), since 1997.
However, I am still a Boston boy through and through. The Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics, and Patriots have always been my teams! And whenever the Bruins come to Nashville to play the Predators, I am in the arena.
Steve and I re-connected at a 1st Cavalry reunion with his unit many years ago and have been good friends ever since. We were always comrades, but our brotherhood bond was even stronger being New England neighbors. We visit whenever I am back in the Boston area.
In fact, we’ve been to Fenway Park for a couple of games together.
Art was recently awarded the Order of Saint Michael from the Army Aviation Association of America. The award reads in part: “U.S. Army Captain Arthur Robert Jacobs served as a combat helicopter pilot during two tours in Vietnam. He accumulated an impressive record of combat awards and decorations for heroism, flying skills, and leadership. However, it has been his contributions representing the Army Aviation community since his military days that sets him apart.
He has been recognized by his peers in the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association by being elected and serving on its Executive Council for seven years, two of which as President during the challenging pandemic, maintaining the VHPA as a vibrant and robust associations for its over 13,000 active members.”
Art’s military decorations include the Silver Star for Gallantry in Action, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Soldiers Medal for Heroism, two Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts, twenty-eight Air Medals, three Army Commendation Medals (two for Valor), the Good Conduct Medal, the Korean National Defense Service Medal, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry (with Silver Star).
Art joined the business world as a salesperson in the computer industry in Washington, DC in 1975 and quickly rose through the ranks as a Marketing Manager, District Sales Manager, Director of Sales and Sales Management Training, General Sales Manager, Vice President of Sales, and Executive Vice President before starting his own company in 1990. That successful company was acquired by a Fortune 500 company in 1999. In 2001 he founded an international consulting firm (a SDVOSB – Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business) located in the United States, France, and Australia.
Mr. Jacobs has never lost his love and passion for his Army Aviation days. He has been invited as a guest lecturer at major universities to describe “Vietnam, The Helicopter War” – educating students and faculty alike on the capabilities, mission, dangers, and the unique role of the helicopter in combat. He has held these lectures for the History & Political Science Departments at Vanderbilt University, Northwestern University, Harvard University, and The University of Florida, as well as numerous local high schools in the Nashville, Tennessee area.
He has made multiple volunteer humanitarian trips to The Ukraine (building houses for couples adopting orphans), Cuba (installing water filtration systems in remote villages), and The Dominican Republic (funding rural schools). Since 2015, he has been invited by The University of Florida’s Veteran Entrepreneurship Program (VEP) to be a Platform Instructor and a Business Plan Judge for the over forty veterans each year attending this program as they transition to the civilian job market.
While serving on the VHPA Executive Council, he attended Congressional Hearings in Washington, DC as a witness during testimony and deliberations to establish The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots & Crewmember Monument that was dedicated in 2018 in The Arlington National Cemetery with MG Carl McNair, the Army’s first Aviation Branch Chief, as the keynote speaker. Additionally, during his VHPA Executive Council tenure as President he was responsible for overseeing the VHPA Scholarship Program with AAAA and voted to establish an endowment at The Texas Tech University Vietnam Center & Archives (VNCA) to preserve the history of Vietnam helicopter pilots. Art currently serves as the Chairman of the VHPA Legacy Committee.
Captain Jacobs is a Life Member of AAAA, the VHPA, the Distinguished Flying Cross Society, Disabled American Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Special Forces Association, the 160th Night Stalker Association, 1st Cavalry Division Association, Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), and the 15th Medical Battalion Association (where he served as President from 2012-13), and he is on the Advisory Council for the National Museum of the United Sates Army. Mr. Jacobs is also a local USO Volunteer at the Nashville Airport and Fort Campbell.
Art and Steve are two of the heroes from Vietnam. But as Paul Harvey used to say, “Now you know the rest of the story. Vietnam Veteran Art Jacobs,” Art was very quick to tell me that the hero of every infantry soldier that served in Vietnam are the Medics, like his lifelong friend and fellow Vietnam Veteran Steve Bird, men, who despite enemy fire, always advance toward the wounded, and always answers the call. With a Silver Star and three Purple Hearts, nevertheless, US Army pilot Art Jacobs is a “Hero in our Midst”.
This Valley Patriot journalist has been asked by several US Navy and US Marine Corp Veterans to caution Veterans when engaging a lawyer to “assist them” in obtaining Veteran’s Benefits, that they are entitled to be law. A wiser path is to engage your town’s Veteran’s agent, the American Legion, your local Congressman, the Disabled American Veterans, or the Veteran’s Administration. Numerous law firms are advertising looking to “assist Veterans”.
I remind my brother and sister Veterans, remember the signs outside the base, “military welcome” or “E-1 and above, no credit required”, did those business leaders have our best interest in mind? Make an appointment with your Town Hall’s Veteran’s Agent before you engage anyone for a fee.
The Dracut American Legion asks all World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War Veterans, to call (603) 518-5368 and sign up for an Honor Flight to the Memorials in Washington DC! Veterans of all eras are asked to go the American Legion’s Web site www.legion.org, and join the American Legion, our mission is working with Congress, Veterans, and the Community, preserving our Veteran’s Benefits for future generations and serving all Veterans and their families.
John Cuddy served in the US Navy’s Construction Battalions (also known as the Seabees) after retiring from the US Navy; he earned a bachelor’s in history and a master’s in economics from the University of Massachusetts on the Lowell Campus. He has been employed in Logistics at FedEx for the last 26 years. If you know a World War II, Korean War, or Vietnam War Veteran who would like their story told, please email him 2at John.Cuddy@Yahoo.com ◊