The occasion celebrated each year in France is the anniversary of the end of the war in Europe where hundreds of dignitaries and veterans gather in remembrance.
One of those veterans who returned to Normandy again this year was Sugarcreek Township resident, Jim Martin. He sure didn’t seem like a tourist as it looked like he had been there before…and he had, over 70 years ago!
World War II veteran Jim “Pee Wee” Martin, age 95 – enlisted in the US Army on July 21, 1942, and entered into service four days later. Standing at 5’7” tall and weighing in at 109 pounds, he was dubbed “Pee Wee,” a nickname that he respectfully answered to. At the age of 21, he became part of G Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
He became a qualified parachutist with the now famous Screaming Eagles. Private Martin parachuted into Normandy on D-day (June 6, 1944), jumped into Holland in the leading wave of “Operation Market Garden” (a daring daylight air assault in September 1944) and was part of the defensive position at the edge of the Bois Jacques Woods in Bastogne during the “Battle of the Bulge” (winter 1944-45). After participating in operations in Germany in early 1945, the 101st Airborne ended the war by occupying Adolph Hitler’s mountain home in Bavaria, known as the “Eagle’s Nest.”
Private Martin has been interviewed for numerous books documenting World War II. He was the only enlisted man to appear on a documentary that aired on the History Channel, and he has been honored at the World War II anniversary events in Europe for the past several years.
In fact, in 2013 he participated in a tandem jump over Normandy Beach just as he did in 1944.
Martin was quoted after landing in a French field, “This jump didn’t compare because there wasn’t anybody shooting at me.”
Pee Wee also recalled a time while holed up near Bastogne. “We dug into positions outside Bastogne. I remember the bitter cold and snow, there was no way of escaping it,” said Martin. “We were surrounded by Germans and I was sitting on a log when we received an unexpected mail drop. I recall getting a letter from the IRS stating I owed some taxes. I made note on the letter that I am in Bastogne, surrounded by Germans and up to my ass in snow…come and get me!” Martin never received another letter from the IRS again.
Last month Jim Martin attended the Wings Over Houston event at the request of his friend Lt. Col. Richard (Dick) Cole, the only living Doolittle Tokyo Raider. Dick was Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot flying a B-25 during the Doolittle Raid April 18, 1942. What most people don’t know is that Jim Martin and Dick Cole grew up in the same neighborhood in east Dayton. In fact, Dick and Jim (separately) frequented McCook Field where Jimmy Doolittle attended an Aeronautical Engineering Course.
Jim Martin travels to speaking events. He recently attended the All Airborne Trigger Time convention in Strongsville, Ohio. You can find him on the list of speakers at some of the local libraries. Jim said the reason he continues to do these events is for the young people. “It’s a joy to be able to meet them,” said Martin.
When referred to as a hero, Jim says, “I’m not a hero, we were just doing our job.” Great job Jim “Pee Wee” Martin!