John D. Jacobs

1898 - 1980


Their Story

John D. Jacobs was born in Chicago, Illinois, on January 31, 1898, to John M. and Adele E. Breuer Jacobs. His mother was born in Germany, immigrating in 1887.1 They had 14 children. The last child born in 1918, was either stillborn or died the same day she was born,2 due to being premature.3 In 1900, they had two servants living with them. In 1910, his father was a farmer.4 Jacobs only completed schooling up to 8th grade.5

Jacobs married Rachel Bradner on July 31, 1930. They had one daughter, Constance, in 1932. Jacobs served 31 years in the United States Navy and was a Navy Veteran of four wars. He served during World War I; the Chinese 100-Year War, in which he served in the Navy’s Yangtze Patrol; the Greek-Turkish War, in which he served in the Navy’s evacuation of Asia Minor; and World War II.6

Jacobs enlisted in the Navy on March 20, 1916, and completed boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Training Station and then joined the fleet as a fireman.7 He then was in European waters on a minesweeper during the First World War. Between the two world wars he was in Smyrna Minor in 1922 where he later stated he observed the most vicious and disastrous conflict on land he ever witnessed.8 He also served in China in 1925 and 1927.

In 1935, he and Rachel were in Norfolk, Virginia, and in 1940 they were living in Moline, Illinois.9 Jacobs had been out of the Navy for two years working at the Rock Island Arsenal as a machinist when he was called back into service in July 1941. He was stationed on an Atlantic patrol unit before he was transferred to the Pacific aboard a destroyer as an engineering officer. During his time in the Pacific, he saw action in all the major battles which occurred in this area. These conflicts included Midway, Coral Sea, and the Solomon Islands.10 Jacobs also witnessed the sinking of the Lexington and Yorktown carriers. He later took part in the occupation of Japan.

In an interview after the war, Jacobs felt “that World War I was a kindergarten compared to the last one and estimated that 12 minutes of action in the past war would have been the equivalent of two months of fighting in the first war.”11

He suffered a concussion during the Coral Sea Battle from a nearby Japanese bomb. During his last year of service, Jacobs was stationed aboard the amphibious vessel the AK-38 and served at the Naval Pier in Chicago. Jacobs retired from the U.S. Navy as a lieutenant on December 3, 1946. He said at the time of his retirement if he had to do it all over again, he would choose the Navy as a career.12

After retiring from the Navy, Jacobs was a self-employed contractor in Moline, Illinois. He was a member of American Legion Post 246. In 1977, he had the opportunity to go back to Great Lakes Naval Training Station to see his grandson graduate from there. He died on January 7, 1980, in Moline. He was survived by his wife Rachel, a daughter, Constance Allen, three grandchildren and a great grandchild. 13

John Jacobs and his Grandson.


1 Sheet 13B Census – US Federal 1900 – Fold3

2 Adele Jacobs (1918-1918) – Find a Grave Memorial

3 Adele Jacobs – Facts (

4 1910 United States Federal Census –

5 1940 United States Federal Census –

6 “John D. Jacobs,” The Dispatch, January 8, 1980, 5 Obituary for John D. Jacobs (Aged 81) –

7 30 Jan 1977, 3 – The Dispatch at

8 “Navy Veteran Looks Back on Active Career,” The Rock Island Argus, December 6, 1980, 28

9 1940 United States Federal Census –

10 “Area Men in Various Units of Service,” The Dispatch, September 11, 1942, 12 11 Sep 1942, 12 – The Dispatch at

11 “John D. Jacobs Is Out of Navy After 30 Years,” The Daily Times, December 5, 1946, 29 05 Dec 1946, 29 – The Daily Times at

12 “John D. Jacobs Is Out of Navy After 30 Years,” The Daily Times, December 5, 1946, 29

13 “John D. Jacobs,” The Dispatch, January 8, 1980, 5