He told us that he ate a carrot out of the garden the prisoners had been forced to work on and was caught. The punishment was that they forced him to kneel on bamboo sticks and hold his shovel above his head for hours. What saved him from torture was that he got real sick, as he told us, and took all the morphine he had at once, which put him in a hospital, if you could call it that. He survived it all and has written a book in the year 2000 entitled: "To Japan with Encouragement and Hope".
The following article appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune on May 27, 2007:
Gene Jacobsen refused to die during the notorious Bataan Death March. Instead, the young soldier survived a 42-month captivity and returned home - free of contempt for his Japanese captors - to become a prominent Utah educator and author.
More than a half-century after his World War II imprisonment, Jacobsen died Friday at his St. George home of a war-related kidney problem. He was 85. He leaves behind the riveting personal history of his confinement in the Philippines and Japan, in which 70 percent of his fellow officers in the 20th Pursuit Squadron perished.
The account - which tells of his starvation, torture and ultimate forgiveness of the Japanese - earned him national recognition by the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge in 2005 and the respect of his peers.
"Gene was a powerful influence for compassion and understanding in our world," Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson said. "The stirring account of his experiences as a World War II prisoner reflects not only his heroism, but his incredible decency and grace as a human being."
Jacobsen returned from war in 1945 to marry his high school sweetheart, Barbara Perkins, who had served as a gunnery instructor in the U.S. Navy WAVES.
Jacobsen never shied from speaking about his imprisonment during World War II and ultimately published his memoirs in the book, "We Refused to Die: My Time as a Prisoner of War in Bataan and Japan, 1942-1945."
He wrote of the 60-mile death march to a Japanese prison camp, in which thousands of U.S. troops were fatally shot, bayoneted or beaten. He wrote of soldiers digging their own graves, of prisoners working in coal mines without shoes and of protracted starvation and abuse. Yet he also wrote of the day he forgave his captors-a moment that molded Jacobsen into a man who spoke ill of no one, his daughter said.
St. George, UT Dr. Gene Samuel Jacobsen, a prominent Utah educator and author, and World War II survivor, died peacefully at his home Friday, May 25, 2007, surrounded by his family. He was 85. Jacobsen was the author of "They Refused to Die", his inspirational, personal story of being a prisoner of war in the Philippines and Japan for 3-1/2 years, after surviving the infamous Bataan Death March. In recognition of his book, he was awarded the "Top National Honor, Public Communications Category" in 2005 by the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. He was born September 19, 1921, in Bloomington, ID, the son of Joseph Cowley Jacobsen and Ethel May Draney Jacobsen. Shortly after his 19th birthday, Jacobsen enlisted in the Army Air Force. After basic training at Hamilton Field, CA, he was sent to the Philippine Islands with the 20th Pursuit Squadron. He was with his squadron at Clark Field when World War II began in December 1941. With the American Forces, he moved to defend the Bataan Peninsula until the Philippines fell to the Japanese in April of 1942. Jacobsen survived the Bataan Death March, and from April, 1942, until July of 1944, he worked in several Japanese camps in the Philippines. He was then transferred to Kyshu, Japan, where he worked in a coal mine until the war ended in August 1945. Upon returning to the United States, he was reunited with his high school sweetheart, Barbara Perkins, who was a gunnery instructor in the U.S. Navy WAVES. The two married November 10, 1945, in Seattle, WA. The marriage was later solemnized in the Idaho Falls LDS Temple. After an honorable discharge from the service, Jacobsen received BS and MS Degrees at Utah State University, and a doctorate in educational administration from the University of California at Berkeley. He served on the faculty at University of California in Davis. At USU, he was the first Director of Edith Bowen Laboratory School, an assistant professor of Education, an associate director of the University Extension Service, director of summer school, and professor of educational administration. Then the couple's overseas' adventures began in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where Jacobsen was a member of a U of U team that established the faculty of education at the Haile Sellassie I University. He was a UNESCO expert with the Singapore Ministry of Education, and superintendent of the Saudi Arabian International School System in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. At the U of U, Jacobsen was an assistant dean of the Graduate School of Education and Chairman of the Department of Educational Administration. At the age of 60, Jacobsen was awarded the rank of professor emeritus. He did not retire. He became executive secretary of the Society of Utah School Superintendents and Associate Executive Director of the Utah School Boards Association. Among his many awards were the "Light of Learning Award" from the Utah State Board of Education, and two "Outstanding Service Awards" from the Utah School Boards Association. Throughout his life, he was a sought-after public speaker and consultant. He shared his war experiences with more than 100 different audiences. He authored To Japan With Encouragement and Hope, Jed Dawson (a novel), Santa's Dilemma, and co-authored A Christmas Gift of Poetry with his grandson, Sam Vicchrilli. He also wrote many songs and poems. A devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jacobsen served as a Sunday School teacher, High Councilman and member of two bishoprics. He and his wife served LDS missions in Zimbabwe, Africa, and in Tempe, AZ. Jacobsen found great joy in such diverse hobbies as hiking, fishing, gardening, cooking, singing and playing the guitar and banjo. He was a graduate of the Nashville Auction School. He and Barbara were best friends, constant and loving companions who traveled the world to share their educational expertise. Jacobsen was a strong advocate for the less fortunate, and always generous with his time and resources. He is survived by Barbara, his wife of 61 years; and their children, Dr. Michael (Pam) Jacobsen, Pleasant View; JoAnn Jacobsen-Wells (Joe Leverich), Murray; Sue (David) Vicchrilli, Murray; 12 grandchildren; brothers, Whitey, Forrest and Larry. He was preceded in death by his parents; brothers, Marsel and Darrell; and sister, Shirley Nate. The family extends heartfelt thanks to Dr. Roy and the staff at the Dixie Dialysis Clinic, and to Applegate Home Care and Hospice personnel. Funeral services will be held Wednesday, May 30, 2007, 12 noon, Southgate LDS Chapel, 3381 Mulberry Dr., St. George, UT. A graveside services with full military honors and interment will be Thursday, May 31st, 1:30 p.m., Murray City Cemetery, 5490 South Vine, Murray, UT. A visitation will be held Thursday, 12 noon-1 p.m. at the Murray LDS 24th Ward in Three Fountains. Arrangements are under the direction of Metcalf Mortuary