Jim Hackett, recipient of two Purple Hearts, has led an amazing life from combat service to his acting profession to his lengthy law enforcement career.
Jim was born Oct. 9, 1947 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, graduating from Mamaroneck High School, New York. Jim received a two-year scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, a famous acting school in Manhattan where he studied.
Going into acting aggravated his disciplined father, a grizzled WWII veteran, who joined the Marine Corps right after Japan’s Pearl Harbor attack. Jim was raised to be a Marine, and his father thought Jim had gone soft. Jim loved acting and he was impressed with classmates Danny DeVito (Taxi) and Cleavon Little (Blazing Saddles), but he realized his acting skills were lacking.
In spring 1967, Jim received his draft notice from Uncle Sam. “Greetings you are hereby ordered to report for induction into the Armed Forces of United States…” Jim’s father challenged him to be a Marine, and to prove his mettle, Jim signed up for a four-year stint and reported for boot camp at Parris Island, North Carolina on April 14, 1967.
Following boot camp, Jim received an MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) of 5900 — Electronics, which infuriated his cantankerous drill sergeant as every other trainee went 0311 — Infantry Rifleman. Jim was sent to 29 Palms Marine Corps Base for “Radar Fundamentals Class.”
Jim graduated top in his class, qualifying him for “Secret School” which sent him to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, an army field artillery post. During this 12-week course, Jim was introduced to the AN/PPS-6 Battlefield Surveillance Radar, nicknamed the “People Finder,” with an effective range of about 100 feet, which he found scary and a bit ridiculous.
In July 1968, Jim arrived at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, assigned to an infantry company’s radio section. Jim volunteered for a 13-month tour of duty in Vietnam in September 1968, earning him an immediate 30-day leave to see his family.
Afterwards, he traveled to Camp Pendleton for additional combat training. The camp exchanged his beloved M-14 for an M-16, which he despised.
He arrived at Danang Air Base on Thanksgiving Day assigned to the 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. He joined a “counter mortar radar” section connected to an artillery unit.
Jim’s task was detecting enemy mortar teams. Jim comically described their frustrations with their Korean War-era radar equipment when they simultaneously learned America just landed a man on the moon.
During Jim’s tour of duty, he experienced occasional combat action, and when asked to extend six more months, he signed right up. This earned him an immediate 30-day leave and promotion to sergeant.
Shortly after Jim returned to Danang, President Nixon ordered the 3rd Marine Division back from Vietnam and in July 1969, Jim’s unit was sent to cover their withdrawal. This took them to the treacherous mountains of the Rockpile, Con Thien and right into harms way.
In the early hours of Jan. 6, 1970, under the cover of monsoon rains, the Vietcong 409th Battalion attacked Jim’s fire base LZ Ross with mortars and sappers, penetrating their concertina wire. The attack was repulsed by 4 a.m. resulting in 13 Marines and 38 Vietcong killed.
Jim received his first Purple Heart when a VC Sapper threw a satchel charge wounding seven in his squad. Jim’s legs, back and arms were peppered with shrapnel and he was evacuated to a nearby hospital, but he was soon back in the field.
On March 6, 1970 during a patrol searching for NVA troops, a firefight broke out and Jim was shot in his lower left leg earning a second Purple Heart. By August 1970, Jim’s tour ended sending him back to San Diego where he was discharged eight months early.
Jim’s awards: two Purple Hearts, two Navy Commendation Medals with V Device, Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with three bronze stars, Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Citation, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, New York State Conspicuous Service Cross, and the American Spirit Honor Medal.
Arriving home in Larchmont, New York, Jim’s first order of business was purchasing a 1967 Corvette and quickly acclimate himself back into civilian life. His new Corvette certainly paved the way with young ladies.
Soon, he was back to acting, notably in Joe Papp’s “Public Theater,” but his biggest parts came in landing roles on Dick Van Patten’s “Eight is Enough” and in Robert Mitchum’s “A Family for Joe” TV series. For a short stint, Jim was the voice of “The Amazing Spiderman” Saturday mornings on NBC.
While a stage manager on a play, “The Sound of Music” in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he met a beautiful actress, Jill Dooley, and they promptly began seeing each other. They were married Oct. 21, 1978 in Santa Barbara. Jill Hackett co-founded the Santa Clarita Master Chorale in June 1999.
In 1982, Jim joined the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department as a reserve deputy. He worked patrol, detective and vice functions in West Hollywood, Marina del Rey and Pico Rivera before transferring to the Santa Clarita Valley Station in 1992.
Jim retired from the Sheriff’s Department in 2014 with the rank of reserve captain and is now enjoying his newly created business, “Digital Factory Studios,” where he narrates and produces audio books for Amazon and Audible. Jim is loving life, and he loves America.
“Once a Marine, always a Marine, not as lean, not as mean, but still a Marine,” Jim said.