11/12/07 — Veteran remembers victories, sadness from his World War II service

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Veteran remembers victories, sadness from his World War II service

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on November 12, 2007 1:45 PM

Chuck Jacobi was in a town in Sicily in a valley with a wooded area.

It was wartime and he was scouting ahead for signs of the enemy.

Suddenly he heard a boom. Next thing he knew, a shell flew past his shoulder, hitting the wall behind him.

Then he saw a piglet close to him, running around screaming.

Jacobi bolted to a nearby door, opened it and saw that the room was solid black with no windows. His moment's hesitation gave the piglet enough time to scurry past him and into the room -- where it immediately disappeared down into the darkness.

That's when Jacobi realized that there was no floor in the room. He stiffened his outstretched arm on the doorknob as the door began swinging open and managed to stop himself from falling in.

That was only one of the many narrow escapes Jacobi had as a field artillery observer with the First Division of the 5th Artillery Regiment during his five years of combat during World War II.

He recalls some of the other harrowing experiences he had while in the Army and is thankful to even be alive.

The 87-year-old Goldsboro man's job was to go through the front lines of the American forces and into enemy territory to find targets.

"It was so nerve-racking all the time because we always had to be on the lookout for an enemy patrol," Jacobi said. "We never had assigned periods to sleep, either. I'd go days without sleep."

Jacobi has the distinction of fighting in nine campaigns (battles) during his time in the Army.

He recalls the time he was captured near the town of Gangi in Sicily. He and his best friend, Albert Capone, were putting up their scope, a device by which they could spot targets without being seen. They were setting it up in an abandoned house when two Italian soldiers came out from hiding with their rifles pointed at Jacobi.

"I tried to talk to them in the little Italian I knew," he said. "I lit up and gave them the rest of the cigarettes I had in my pocket to ease their fears.

"I was trying to tell them that the Germans were fleeing and sooner or later, they would have to give up, too. Then Capone came in and he talked them into going outside with us. Of course they still had their rifles on us.

"I opened the door and there was a bunch of American GIs. When the Italian soldiers were convinced they wouldn't be harmed, they finally gave up their guns."

Another narrow escape for Jacobi.

Then there was the time in Africa when Jacobi had gone out alone to check the perimeter of the American lines. He was walking up a road when two horsemen came toward him. They were military, he said, and their uniforms were long gowns with black and white stripes.

"I didn't know who they were so I didn't shoot at them," he said.

Instead, Jacobi ran and hid in some bushes. The horsemen stopped and looked around.

"One looked right at me and I lined my rifle up on his chest," he said. "Then they rode off. But I didn't get up. After a while, I saw a head pop up. They were trying to trick me into giving my hiding place away."

One of the worst times for Jacobi was in Italy in 1944. He and some men from his unit had a blanket spread on the ground and were playing poker. Jacobi had to go to the bathroom in an area away from the group.

Suddenly he heard machine gun fire over by where he had been playing poker.

"The guys were calling me back," Jacobi said. "Then I saw an enemy plane but couldn't shoot it. I heard a boom and thought maybe it crashed."

He went back to the group, but the men were gone. Then everything got quiet.

Jacobi hopped a ride in a jeep with another group of men. They were rounding a curve when he saw a truck just like his blazing with fire.

Then Jacobi saw something that will haunt him forever. On the back of that burning jeep was the 1st Field Artillery insignia. It was the truck he was supposed to have been on with the group he had been playing cards with.

Jacobi received several military awards for his time in combat. He now realizes how lucky he was to have come home alive when so many of his fellow soldiers and friends didn't.