Service & Sacrifice

Daniel Jackovich: ‘Around the clock work’


Journal City Editor

MARQUETTE — When Dan Jackovich went in to the military in November of 1965, the Navy was not his first choice. He had been working at Cliffs Dow for a few months, had attended classes at Northern Michigan University for a year and wasn’t planning to go back.

So he and a friend decided to go to the post office, which also served at the draft office at the time, to check whether their draft lottery number had been called. The K.I.. Sawyer Air Force Base was a fixture in the area, so that branch of the militaryseemed like a good choice just because it was top of mind.

“The lady says there is a good chance that we could both get drafted that year sometime. “Well, the Navy recruiter was right next door and happened to see us, and he said, ‘boy have I got a deal for you guys.’” Jackovich said. “I had no intention of going in the Navy. With the air force and the air base here, I kind of liked the Air Force in those days.”

Jackovich served four years in the Navy, which is a different experience than most other branches of the service for one main reason. Soldiers can be confined with more than 320 peoples on a 376-foot-long Fletcher-class destroyer for on and off for 6 weeks at a time in the Tonkin Gulf.

“The Navy is a little bit different than say the Army or the Marines. We had a lot of mental discipline, because living on a ship is a different life. You’re cramped, you’re crowded and it can really get to you after a while,” Jackovich said. They really pushed you through everything. ‘Hurry up this, and hurry up that.’ Push, push push. They tried to get you to break down mentally — not overly hard, but just so they could see if you could handle the rest of your career in there.”

Jackovich’s service as an electrician’s mate meant he was well-known across the ship.

“From the top of the mast, to down in the bilges, to the stateroom. You got to know the barber and the cook and everybody. You knew everybody because you got around a lot,” he said.

And because the ship was over 20 years old when he served, some amenities that sailors have now, just weren’t available.

“Being an older ship… it was a lot smaller than the ones you see today. There was no air conditioning — no inboard passageway.” he said. “If you were in rough weather you had to go topside to go fore and aft and hang on for dear life sometimes with the waves crashing over. But after a while you get used to it and you adapt. That’s where that mental toughness in boot camp comes in.”

He said time for socializing with shipmates was limited while aboard the Uhlmann, because there was often activity both day and night.

The destroyer was responsible for gunfire support of land action, which could be coordinated either by an airborne spotter or personnel on the ground. The ship’s crew was also tasked with illumination mission and routine bombardment assignments.

The ships actually had some computers in those days,” Jackovich chuckled. “They could fire the guns from below-ship, they actually had a trigger.

He said sometimes spotters would identify enemy camps or storage areas and we would fire and knock them out. “You’d see the secondary explosions from fuel tanks and ammunition areas, stuff like that,” he said. (And) we would stop these fishing boats — the junks they were called — and we would search them to make sure they weren’t transporting ammunition and stuff like that for the Viet Cong. So, it kept you busy. We could have fire missions both day and night. You would just get secured from one and a half hour later you would get called back in. It was basically around-the-clock work in those days and very hot. But you kept so busy you didn’t have time to think of other things much, very little down time. ”

And although coming home from Vietnam was not a traumatic experience for Jackovich, he noted it was a difficult experience for many of the soldiers he served with.

“The Navy turned out to be good. What do they say? It’s good to go in and good to go out. I did enjoy my time in there for the most part. I had some friends who went through some bad times and got spit on and they were told they had to change into civilian clothes. My last year in the Navy I spent around the city of D’nang in-country with security police. I came home, our plane landed in an air base in California at night. So, being at an air base, you didn’t have the civilian people there. So I didn’t have to go through that.”

Like many veterans, Jackovich takes satisfaction in giving back to others who have served.

He and his wife have been volunteering at the Jacobetti Home for Veterans for about 30 years.

“When you start spending time with them, and sitting down and talking with them – a lot of time you hear that a veteran won’t talk about their experiences at home with their families – but when they sit down with another veteran, they will open up. You just ask them, what branch were you in, where did you serve, what was your job?

“And then they enjoy sitting down and talking, and it’s such a good experience. Listening to others and what they did from other eras. Knowing that you made the day a little bit better for them is what really counts, and they enjoy it. You have fun with them. But also, listening to some of the things that those veterans went through in World War I and Korea is amazing.”

Jackovich said veterans have a certain comradery especially in the Upper Peninsula, and he should know. He was recently named the 2023 Marquette County Veteran of the Year.

“Marquette County is very blessed with a lot of helping, caring veterans,” he said. We have a lot of veterans doing a lot of things in the Marquette County area here. And approximately 6% of the U.P. are veterans. We have a larger percentage of veterans than any other area of the state, and that tells you a little bit right there.”