Iakov Pinkhasov was born in 1926 (according to his interview given in Israel) or in 1925 (according to his military documents) in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Before the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, his family was affluent, but the Bolsheviks nationalized their lands and factories. His grandfather Pinhas was arrested by the Soviet political police and died during "investigation." In the 1920s Iakov's father Shmuel was a textile worker.
In the summer of 1941, when Operation Barbarossa started, Iakov was studying at a teachers' institute and intended to be a schoolteacher of mathematics and physics. In February 1943, he was drafted into the Red Army and sent to a military school in Mary, Turkmenistan, in Soviet Central Asia. After general military training, Yakov completed a course to train paratrooper scouts. His future military task was to be parachuted behind enemy lines to gather information, to prepare a route map of the enemy front units, and in some cases — to capture a German officer and to bring him back to the Soviet headquarters for interrogation. Such assignments obviously entailed the risk of being captured by the enemy. In May 1944, Pinkhasov was sent to the front with the 18th Guards Rifle Division, operating on the 3rd Belorussian Front. He fought in northern Belorussia, in Lithuania, and in 1945 – in Eastern Prussia. It was there that Iakov Pinkhasov was awarded the medal For Courage in January 1945.
In the winter of 1945 Iakov was seriously wounded (previously he had only light wounds, from which he recovered within days). In the hospital, having learned that his arm was going to be amputated, he raised a scandal and demanded that his arm be treated instead. In this he was supported by his comrades, who found a surgeon to treat the arm.
Pinkhasov recalled that during the first stage of the war he tried to continue observing Jewish law; in particular, he refrained from eating non-kosher food despite his intense hunger. Later, feeling that he was losing his strength, he began to eat non-kosher food. He says that the situation of the Jews in Europe was unknown to him until his unit reached those locations where the Nazis had destroyed the Jewish population. He was shocked when their unit passed through the village where his commander, who was also a Jew, had lived before the war and the commander discovered that his family had been murdered and the village destroyed.
Iakov's father Shmuel Pinkhasov was killed at the front at the end of 1943, during the second defense of Kiev (November-December 1943).
After the war, Iakov Pinkhasov returned to Bukhara and married. He and his wife had six children. In 1979 Iakov Pinkhasov and his family immigrated to Israel.