Witch Doctor
Verified SOF
Feb 17, 2009
An American Hero Passes into History
Col. Jack Jessup was a legend known by few outside the military.

By Mark Corallo

The newspaper obituary started with an interesting line: “He was a Frogman in the Navy during WWII.” Jack Jessup — Col. John E. Jessup — was indeed a Navy Frogman in WWII. And he was born in 1927, which means he was 18 when the war ended. Jack Jessup lied about his age when he enlisted in the Navy. He was 15 or 16 years old, and he decided to go off to war to defend freedom and liberate the world from tyranny. Well, he was a big kid, and the recruiters weren’t too worried about birth certificates — especially when it came to a street tough from Queens who had already had a few run-ins with the law.

The next line in the obit noted that he retired as a colonel after 30 years in the Army Special Forces, serving in both Korea and Vietnam. That’s still not an unusual story; plenty of guys lied about their ages to get into WWII and then made a career out of the armed services. The bit about SF, however, is a clue.

Fifteen years ago, when one of my buddies from Officer Candidate School saw my wedding picture, the one where Jack is standing next to me in his dress blues, he was temporarily speechless. He instantly recognized the Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Hearts, the Silver and Bronze Stars with V devices. He saw the Ranger Tab, the SF crest, the Pathfinder badge, the Combat Diver badge, Master Blaster wings and combat jump wings, Combat Infantryman Badge, underwater demolitions badge, I could go on. Officers don’t wear the badges earned for rating “expert” on a weapon, but if they did, Jack’s would have formed a ladder from his chest to his knees.

Jack received the Distinguished Service Cross in Korea. The DSC is second only to the Congressional Medal of Honor. At lunch one day when I was visiting on Christmas leave, I asked him to tell me the story behind that medal. I knew that before receiving the DSC, he had already been shot in the stomach and awarded the Silver Star in another engagement with his first unit in Korea. He was truly reluctant, but I pressed. I wanted to hear it from him.

He began slowly and seemed pained by the memory. He was a first lieutenant in command of a Ranger company. On a routine mission, they came under heavy fire from high ground to their front. Two machine-gun positions were dug in at the top of the hill. They had to take out those positions. Jack led his men up the hill. They were being cut to shreds by the heavy fire. There was little cover. They didn’t stop. They were going down by the dozen. Jack got hit. But he kept going.

He emptied his rifle. Out of ammunition and severely wounded, he began to crawl up the hill toward the first machine-gun position. He affixed his bayonet, crawled in the growing darkness around the pill box, rolled in, and killed the two North Koreans manning the weapon. He climbed out and began low crawling toward the second position. Same thing — same result. Mission accomplished, hill taken, bad guys all dead. The remnants of his company found him on the side of the second position, bleeding badly. They field-dressed his wound and began the bumpy ride to the hospital. Jack joked to me that as he was being wheeled into the operating room, his regimental commander promised him the Congressional Medal of Honor if he didn’t survive.

Jack always referred to his four Purple Hearts as “Enemy Marksmanship Badges.”

Jack Jessup was a scholar too. He admired Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, and other Army officers who had the intelligence and intellectual sophistication to which he aspired. When WWII ended, he decided the Navy wasn’t for him, so he went to the University of Maryland on the GI Bill. After graduating and attending OCS, was commissioned as an Army infantry lieutenant. When he came to Georgetown University in the 1960s to serve as ROTC commander, he pursued a Ph.D. in Russian history, and he went on to become one of the leading Sovietologists of his time. When he went for his dissertation board exam, the examiners had to admit that no one was qualified to test him. His manual on military history was long used in all officer training; as far as I know, it is still in use. Of all of the titles he earned, he was most proud of the Ph.D. He grinned like the cat that ate the canary every time someone called him “Doctor Jessup.”

When I applied for OCS, at Jack’s urging, in November 1993, I had to go through a series of pre-selection interviews. The last round was held at Fort Meade — the home of the National Security Agency — and conducted by a panel of officers (a captain, two majors, a lieutenant colonel, and a full bird). As they questioned me, they began to peruse my dossier. As the young captain came to Jack’s letter of recommendation, his eyes opened wide and his jaw dropped. He quickly handed it to the first major, who had the same reaction. By the time it reached the colonel, the rest were just staring at me, saying nothing. I thought I had done something wrong (I didn’t know what they were looking at, or that Jack’s signature on a letter could cause such a reaction). The colonel asked me to step outside the room. After about five minutes, the captain came out, pulled me into another room and asked, “How well do you know Colonel Jessup? Do you know what he does?” I said that I knew him well enough, considered him my mentor, and was sure that whatever Jack had ever told me about his career was unclassified. The captain just looked at me, got this enormous grin and said, “This is SO-O-O COOL!” I was brought back into the room to find all of the officers standing, waiting to shake my hand and thank me for wanting to serve America as an Army officer. Interview over.

Before being sent to my first unit, I was diagnosed with a fairly debilitating but treatable thyroid disease. When I reported to Fort Stewart, the battalion adjutant told me that it was unlikely I would be accepted into the battalion: “The Old Man doesn’t want any broke [expletive] lieutenants.” He told me to go home for the weekend and report on Monday morning. I called Jack and told him what had happened. His first concern was for my health. Then he told me to relax and report on Monday morning as ordered. When I walked into the personnel office at 0700, the officer said, “I don’t know who you are, where you came from or who you know, but the Commanding General called and ordered us to accept you into the Battalion. Apparently, the Army Chief of Staff called him. Who are you?” I just smiled and knew that Jack had picked up the phone. I have even better stories that I’ll keep to myself.

None of us in the younger generation who had been befriended and mentored by Jack knew a fraction of the details of his life. His life was classified. He did things, faced danger, made sacrifices, and stormed the gates of Hell on more occasions than any of us could imagine. In hot wars from WWII at age 16 to Desert Storm at age 64, and a very long cold war in between, Jack Jessup was the living definition of selfless service.

What we did know, we loved and wanted to emulate, though we knew we could only fall short. He was the last of a rare breed. He was a hard-drinking, hard-living, tough-as-nails, loyal-to-the-end American hero that Hollywood couldn’t dream up. He was a devout Catholic who prayed the Rosary and attended daily Mass whenever he could. James Bond, Jack Bauer, and Rambo combined couldn’t measure up to the real-life Jack Jessup. His exploits as a Ranger in Korea, as a Green Beret in Vietnam, as one of the founding leaders of Special Detachment Delta (more commonly known as Delta Force), and as a Cold Warrior are legendary with soldiers of a certain age. And while he was heavily decorated for his valor in battle, he received no medals for being in places like Budapest in 1956 or Tehran in 1980.

Only God and America could make a man like this. He stands shoulder to shoulder with a long line of heroes stretching from Lexington and Concord to Baghdad and beyond. His life is a reminder to us that to this day, some Americans choose a life of sacrifice and danger to save the rest of us from having that choice made for us.

On March 12, at Arlington National Cemetery, seven riflemen will fire three volleys, a bugler will play Taps, and an Army officer will present a folded flag to Jack’s widow, Jean, and whisper in her ear, “Please accept this flag on behalf of a grateful nation.”

If the American people knew the full story, I believe they truly would be grateful.

— Mark Corallo is a principal at Corallo Comstock, Inc.
That's amazing. America has lost a true hero and patriot.

RIP, COL. Jessup. I can't thank you enough for your service.
There's some chatter across the street that this guy, Col Jessup, never recieved the DSC or that he served as a Korean War Ranger.

Any links ??

TW, didn't you check a roster for Korean DSC recipients ?
There's some chatter across the street that this guy, Col Jessup, never recieved the DSC or that he served as a Korean War Ranger.

Any links ??

TW, didn't you check a roster for Korean DSC recipients ?

No, not on his DSC but someone did. They didn't find it.

I did check at RICA and didn't find his name in any of the Companies rosters that fought as Ranger Companies in Korea. An article has since been posted on PS that he wrote when he was a platoon leader in the 5th Regiment, 24th ID. I commented on the article at PS.

I really doubt that he served in a Korean War Airborne Ranger Infantry Co., since his name didn't show up on the rosters. Given his supposed background. IMO he would have been a candidate for the Ranger Hall of Fame had he been a Ranger and all this stuff was true.
COL Jessup's Article on the Korean War as a Plt. Leader

COL John F.Jessup received his commission as a regular army officer almost at the very moment the North Koreans invaded South Korea. He was stationed at Fort Knox Kentucky, as a first lieutenant in an armored infantry company.

He was 23 years old. He volunteered to go to Korea and was soon instructed to report to a port of aerial embarkation in California. The first leg of the trip, to Japan, was uneventful. My stay at Camp Drake, outside Tokyo, was equally, so except for the fact that I was getting the uncomfortable feeling that things were not going well in Korea.

This feeling was based more on rumors than on anything we were told by the army. Indeed, we were told very little, and what we did hear only tended to confuse the picture that much more.

Thus, with a minimum of fanfare and very little orientation, Iwas ordered to assemble a draft of personnel and to travel by train to Fukuoka, on the island of Kyushu, where we were to be embarked for Korea. There were roughly 150 officers and men in the movement package and I, as a first lieutenant, was in charge. Of the officers on the train, I was the only one who had had any prior service. Furthermore, most of the enlisted men in that group were administrative personnel who had magically become infantrymen because of the inability to get qualified replacements. Thus, clerks and supply personnel in the various headquarters of the occupation forces inJapan found themselves on their way to war as riflemen.

If our trip to Fukuoka could beclassified as having been without incident, no similar claim could be made for the shipboard crossing of the Korea Strait between Kyushu and Pusan, South Korea. First of all, the ship we were loaded aboard was a disreputable coaster that flew the Japanese flag, appeared ready to sink at the slightest provocation and was, as it turned out, manned by a crew thatmight have been recruited by Blackbeard the Pirate. We were aboard that wretched ship for about 36 hours, during which time one soldier was knocked unconscious by a female coal stoker in the crew and three men suffered temporary blindness from imbibing some foul smelling concoction that had been peddled by another, more enterprising, member of the ship’s company. All of these men had recovered by the time we landed at Pusan. At that point, the packet was split up.

One ofthe officers and several of the enlisted men accompanied me to RCT5, the Fifth Regimental Combat Team, and at least one of them — one of those who had drunk the bad booze—was killed within the first week. As I had served in combat in World War II, and also was relatively senior, I was appointed executive officer of Company E, RCT-5. I was also given the additional duty of platoon leader of the second platoon. The job of leading a platoon was, obviously, more important at this critical time, so! put aside my XO hat—indeed, I never got a chance to try it on and, with great delight, prepared to join my platoon.

We arrived in the platoon position on a small hill just before dusk. A mountain called Papasan lay before us and was held by the enemy. The nearest friendly unit was perched atop its own hill some 1500 meters (about a mile) away to our right and was beyond support range. In the other direction there was nothing but the East China Sea. We were the south anchor of the Pusan perimeter. I had come near to collapse climbing the trail to the position so no one thought to wake me at dawn the next morning to tell me that we were about to be attacked.

Everyone else in the platoon was alerted, but not me. My first indication that I was in a war came when a mortar round wentoff about 1.5 m (5 feet) from the hole in which I lay asleep. Someone shouted ‘Keep your head down lieutenant, its only a small attack.’ At the time I thought how nice it was that they were saving me for bigger things.The last week of July and the first of August are a collage of memories. We got mortared a lot, especially whenever we were trying to eat one of our infrequent hot meals. We all had
dysentery. For better or for worse, the men soon came to realizethat I was there, that I was in charge, and that I was just as much involved in our welfare as they were. I began to understand their individual strengths and weaknesses and, for the first time in my life, my own as well.

Before long we were acting collectively and as a unit. It was great! In mid- September my regiment was moved north to the vicinity of Waegwan to pass through the 1st Cavalry Division and break out of the perimeter in conjunction with the Inchon landings. My mission was to secure Hill 301 which intelligence said was held by only a handful of enemy troops. The handful turned out to be about a battalion and we were in serious
trouble from the beginning. Nothing worked right.

Ammunition we received at the height of the battle proved to be mislabeled and recoilless rifle rounds turned out to be 3.5 inch rockets when unpacked. Even more damaging was my inability to establish radio communications, as most of the channels were blocked by commanders complimenting each other on their great successes. I needed ammunition and firesupport; we had been stopped dead in our tracks and were taking heavy casualties. We finally had to be withdrawn and the job of taking Hill 301 given to another battalion from the 1st Cavalry. All of Company E had suffered because of poor intelligence we had received. By dusk on 16 September 1950 more than three-quarters of my platoon were dead or seriously wounded, and more than half of the seriously wounded dead by morning, primarily because the medical evacuation system was inefficient.

When we withdrew, there were only seven of us who could still function, and all seven of us had been wounded, some several times. We were heavily mortared that night, however, and two of the seven were killed. For all intents and purposes, the second platoon had ceased to exist. Of those killed earlier on the hill, two were the victims of friendly fire when a soldier from our own tank company opened up on us with a .50 caliber machine gun. We had to fire back at him to finally get the shooting stopped.

Some of us who had been wounded were able to return to the platoon and help in trying to rebuild it, but it was never the same. One by one the old hands who had survived Hill 301 became casualties until, at the beginning of October, I was hurt seriously enough to be evacuated to Japan. Ieventually went back to Korea for another combat tour and subsequently, over the next 30 years, served in numerous other infantry units. But none of these, in any way, ever measured up to those few months in 1950 when I was a rifle platoon leader, and no part of my life is so vividly etched in my memory. COL John F.Jessup, USA (Ret)

Link: Call/Nov 06 OC.pdf