Story by Spc. Andrea Notter and Spc. John Simpson, 40th Public Affairs Detachment
Photos by Greg Morehead and Ron Kaplan
World War II veteran Jim “Pee Wee” Martin celebrated his 100th birthday near his home in Xenia, Ohio, with distinguished leaders, his family, and multiple generations of his friends. Events during the festivities April 23-25 featured a jump fest with historically accurate reenactors to honor Pee Wee, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and the Army’s history as a whole.
In addition to celebrating Martin, the 100th Birthday Jump Fest honored all members of the Screaming Eagles there, who are known best for fighting in Nazi Germany during World War II. Fellow 101st veterans Vince Speranza, former 501st, Bob Izumi, former 506th, Tom Rice, former 501st, and Dan McBride, former 502nd, who are all older than 90, also attended the celebration to show their comradery with their fellow WWII brother and celebrate Martin’s centennial milestone.
Martin was a paratrooper with G Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He received the nickname “Pee Wee” during training due to his small stature. He fought at D-Day, Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge. His awards for service include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and European African Middle Eastern Service Medal. In previous years, he has jumped during D-Day anniversary celebrations, even into his 90s.
The Commemorative Air Force (CAF), which owns and operated the aircraft used, conducted the flyover and mass parachute drop using three restored and preserved aircraft: C-47 “That’s All Brother,” C-47 “Placid Lassie” of the Tunison Foundation, and C-53 “D-Day Doll.” In addition, tandem parachuting was opened to the public on all three days after the initial drops were completed.
Jim “Pee Wee” Martin has become a national hero, and it shows from all the support he received during his birthday celebration. People traveled hundreds of miles just to wish him a happy birthday and honored him by listening to his story and sharing the history of the 101st with everyone there. The same support was extended to the other veterans in attendance, who were more than happy to share their stories as well.
The evening of April 24, Martin was presented with multiple gifts and awards, to include the city of Xenia dedicating his birthday, April 29, as Jim “Pee Wee” Martin Day, to commemorate everything he did during his time in World War II.
Other accolades were bestowed and presented by Governor Mike DeWine, the governor of the state of Ohio, Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Engler, the command sergeant major of 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, and state and local leaders. The evening concluded with a firework demonstration in honor of the veterans.
Though the party is for him, Martin remains humble. He says that his accomplishments during the war were unit accomplishments, not something he did personally.
“The Airborne, that patch got you any place you wanted to go and you didn’t have to lie or anything like that,” said Martin. “All you had to do is see that patch and people knew what you’d been doing. I’m very proud of the service that we did, and it’s not an individual thing about me; it’s what the unit did. I don’t go off of individuals.”
Martin had some advice to give to the new generations of Screaming Eagles.
“My advice is,” Martin said, “go in there, work hard, do everything right, don’t make any missteps, and remember this: all of us older guys are looking to you.”
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