Jack Jacob, Indian Jewish war hero, dies at 92
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Developed close ties with Rabin, Peres, Mordechai Gur

Jack Jacob, Indian Jewish war hero, dies at 92

PM Modi says ‘India will always remain grateful’ to highest ever ranking Jewish member of Indian armed forces

Lt. Gen. Jack Jacob, shown sitting in his New Delhi home, likely saved hundreds of thousands of lives while serving as chief of staff of the Indian Eastern command during the 1971 Bangladesh war. (Ashish Sharma/Open/JTA)
Lt. Gen. Jack Jacob, shown sitting in his New Delhi home, likely saved hundreds of thousands of lives while serving as chief of staff of the Indian Eastern command during the 1971 Bangladesh war. (Ashish Sharma/Open/JTA)

Jack Jacob, a renowned Indian general, statesman and long-time prominent member of the country’s small Jewish community, died Wednesday in New Delhi. He was 92.

Jacob, who died of pneumonia at New Delhi’s Army Research & Referral Hospital, was the highest ranking military officer in the history of the Indian Jewish community and considered a national hero for his daring military campaigns.

The former chief of staff is best known for commanding India’s Eastern Army during the liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971 and negotiating the historic surrender of Pakistani troops after the war. His 1997 book “Surrender at Dacca: Birth of a Nation,” is considered the definitive account of the Bangladesh campaign.

Born in 1923 in Calcutta, British India, Jacob’s family hailed from a long line of Baghdadi Jews who moved to India from Iraq in the middle of the 18th century. Enlisting in the British Indian Army in 1942, Jacob continued to serve in the Indian Army after the country gained independence in 1947, rising in the ranks to the lieutenant general.

Maj Gen Jack Jacob (3rd from right) at the signing of the Instrument of Surrender between India and Pakistan, 1971. (Arr4/Wikipedia CC BY)
Maj Gen Jack Jacob (3rd from right) at the signing of the Instrument of Surrender between India and Pakistan, 1971. (Arr4/Wikipedia CC BY)

After his retirement from the military in 1978 Jacob served as the Governor of the Indian states of Goa and Punjab. He related his life story in the 2011 memoir, “An Odyssey in War and Peace.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted condolences for the famed war hero and said India “will always remain grateful to him for his impeccable service to the nation at the most crucial moments.”

In another tweet Modi posted a picture of Jacob presenting his autobiography to the Indian premier and said the two “interacted often.”

The American Jewish Committee released a statement mourning Jacob’s death.

“Jack Jacob’s contributions to peace and security in South Asia, as well as to the burgeoning and mutually beneficial relationship between India and Israel, are incalculable and enduring,” said Jason Isaacson, AJC Associate Executive Director for Policy. “A warrior, a man of peace, a patriot, a man of letters, and a committed Jew, he was a giant — and he will be missed.”

Jacob had been to Israel several times. He developed close friendships with Israeli leaders such as former prime ministers Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin. He is reported to have been particularly close with Mordechai Gur, the Israeli paratrooper commander whose forces captured the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967.

“Your military achievements were of much interest in my country,” Gur once wrote to Jacob in a letter delivered via a mutual friend in the days before Israel-India relations. “Your performance is, without a doubt, one of the best in modern warfare.”

Today, Jacob’s uniform hangs in the Israeli military museum at Latrun.

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