Those familiar with old Hollywood war movies may remember the heartbreaking story of the five Sullivan brothers, all of whom were killed in World War II. The “Fighting Sullivan Brothers” were national heroes and their lives as U.S. soldiers formed the basis for the 1944 movie, The Sullivans (later renamed The Fighting Sullivans). The movie and lives of the five Irish-American Catholic brothers also inspired, at least in part, the 1998 film, Saving Private Ryan.
Unbeknown to Hollywood there was another band of brothers who fought in World War II, all of whom survived their service overseas. The five Jacketti brothers — Frank, Jim, Pat, Bob, and Vic — all served their country in World War II.
Frank, the oldest son of Italian immigrant Pasquale Jacketti, and his wife, Lena, started in the U.S. Army Air Forces (a service that succeeded the U.S. Army Air Corps and was the direct predecessor of the U.S. Air Force). He soon was accompanied by his brother, Jim, who enlisted in the U.S. Navy Seabees. Pat, the middle brother, then enlisted in the U.S. Merchant Marines before joining the U.S. Army.
After Frank was honorably discharged, Bob Jacketti joined the Army during the U.S. occupation of Japan in the first phase of the Cold War. He became a platoon sergeant and soon was joined by his brother, Vic, the youngest of the five Jacketti boys, three of whom served their country at the same time.
“Frank, Pat and Jim all saw action, Frank in Europe, and Pat and Jim in the South Pacific,” says Vic, who today at 85 is the sole surviving brother. “Jim and Pat met in Okinawa and Iwo Jima. Bob and I were in the same outfit (24th Infantry Division) in Japan [for about six months].”
“The other four [brothers] were in,” he says, matter-of-factly. “I wasn’t going to be the only one left out.”
Vic started out as a cook in the outfit, and after a few months, he became a clerk in the medical department filing morning reports to Tokyo headquarters for the four companies of soldiers. His brother, Bob, drove an ambulance for Company C, supporting the G.I.s and civilians of Army personnel. Some of the G.I.s had Japanese wives and families in town.
Vic returned to his hometown of Stowe, Pa., when he was 20, and received his high school diploma. Even though he had left high school in the 12th grade to join the Army, Vic, like other returning veterans, was granted a diploma by the state of Pennsylvania for his service to his country. (It only makes sense considering the hard-knocks education he received overseas.)
A lot of Vic’s buddies from the 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions (Taro Leaf) weren’t so lucky. Many of them stayed on after Vic had left and were killed in the Korean War, he says.
Despite the bitter reality of war casualties, Vic believes the military remains a good option or career path for young adults who may not know what to do with their lives. It especially could help veterans who take advantage of the benefits afforded them, such as the GI Bill.
Before retiring 23 years ago, Vic worked for 39 years as a quality control inspector at Neapco Products in Pottstown. For him, joining the military in 1947 was a no-brainer. Of course, not everyone has four brothers to influence their crucial life decisions.
“No one was going to talk me out of it,” he says. “I was ready to go.”
Shortly after Vic returned to the states, he married Marge, the love of his life. They recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary, with their three daughters — Kathy, Vicki and Joan, three grandsons — Jason, Justin and Travis, and significant others.
You might call their blessed family life a beautiful Hollywood ending.