By Jim Tortolano/Orange County Tribune
“We should have done it before, but it’s never too late.”
Councilmember Kimberly Ho said that before the Westminster City Council voted 5-0 to approve the installation of a plaque in the Sid Goldstein Freedom Park honoring U.S. Navy Capt. Paul Jacobs for his actions in helping refugees to evacuate Vietnam as North Vietnamese forces completed their conquest in April 1975.
The 18 inch by 14 inch plaque will honor Capt. Jacobs, who commanded the USS Kirk, part of a flotilla stationed off the coast of Vietnam to rescue American and South Vietnamese personnel. A relatively small ship, the Kirk was a destroyer escort that was headed away from the coastline, the war being over.
According to National Public Radio, Jacoba was ordered to return to the island of Con Son.”We’re going to have to send you back to rescue the Vietnamese Navy,” he was told. “We forgot ‘em. And if we don’t get them or any part of them, they’re all probably going to be killed.”
The mission ended up being not just escorting the remainder of the South Vietnamese Navy. Crews from those ships brought their families, and dozens of naval and other ships – packed with refugees – were loaded onto U.S. Navy ships. As many as 30,000 people may have been rescued.
Among the most iconic images of the rescue was the Kirk serving as a landing pad for 14 South Vietnamese helicopters fleeing with families and friends on board. As each chopper landed and its occupants exited, the helicopter was pushed overboard.
The Kirk and the rest of the Navy flotilla escorted the South Vietnamese Navy ships to the Philippines and took thousands of civilians to safety there. Many of them settled in the United States, one of them being Kimberly Ho, then an infant.
Jacobs died at the age of 94 in 2021, but the Kirk goes on. After being decommissioned by the Navy it was loaned and then sold to Taiwan and is now serving as ROCS Fen Yang.