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Remembering one of the last World War II veterans, Jim “Pee-Wee” Martin

Kevin Price and Jim "Pee-Wee" Martin in 2020.
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Kevin Price and Jim "Pee-Wee" Martin in 2020.

A local veteran and one of the last few World War II veterans immortalized in the HBO miniseries 'Band of Brothers' died on September 11, 2022. Jim “Pee-Wee” Martin, who parachuted into Normandy in June 1944, lived in Greene County.

Jim “Pee-Wee” Martin, a local WWII veteran, passed away on Sunday, September 11, 2022. He was 101 years old.

Martin was a member of the 506th Parachute Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, known as the “Screaming Eagles.” The 101st was popularized in 2001 with the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers.

Martin was among the last of what are known as the “Toccoa originals,” the men who joined the 101st back in 1942 at its formation. He was with the division when they landed in Normandy on D-Day, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, liberated a concentration camp, and even helped seize Adolf Hitler’s Bavarian home.

While many would consider Martin and the 101st Airborne as heroes, he didn’t share this sentiment.

Veterans' Voices: A D-Day Veteran Reflects On His Service
Air Force veteran Kevin Price of Bellbrook talks to Martin, one of his heroes, whose fascination with the Navy and submarine service first lead him to the recruiting office.

“If you volunteer for something and you’re trained for it and you get paid for it, you’re not a hero,” Martin said in 2020 in an interview here on WYSO.
He shared similar thoughts in 2015 on Veterans Voices.

“I'm nothing special,” He told Veterans Voice’s Jeremy Dobbins. “I am a representative of our unit. I feel it was an obligation to go. I do not consider it a sacrifice. I considered it an honor and a privilege to have been a part of history. Look what I've gained and where I've been, what I have done. It's just phenomenal.”

Martin got the nickname “Pee-Wee” from his fellow paratroopers for being the lightest paratrooper in his division. He accepted the nickname as a badge of respect.

“I miss ‘em,” Martin said of his late comrades in an interview that aired on WHIO. “And for 50 years after the war or longer, we kept friendships. Now I’m probably one of the very last originals.”

At the end of the war, Martin returned to Ohio. His biggest priority was to settle down and live a quiet life, he told The Dayton Daily News in 2014.

He settled in Sugarcreek Township in Greene County and remained there for the rest of his days.

But in 2014, on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, Martin was back in Normandy jumping out of planes. He was 93 years old.

“People have the idea that just because you get old, you can't do anything,” Martin said in an interview on “Veteran of the Day,” a show put out by the VA. “And there's two elements to it. One: yeah, it's a little ego on my part to say, you know, hell yes, I can do it. And the other is to show people that just because you get old doesn't mean you have to sit around, die.”

You can learn more about Pee-Wee Martin on his YouTube channel or his public Facebook page.

Garrett is a WYSO intern and graduate of University of Dayton. He spent time covering the Dayton area with WDTN Channel 2 News after the 2019 Memorial Day Tornado outbreak. It was around this time that he began listening to NPR and fell in love with radio-based journalism. Garrett graduated from UD in May of 2021 with his Bachelor’s in Communications with a focus in journalism and graduated in May of 2022 with his Master’s. While not working at WYSO, Garrett is an avid reader, loves to play video games, and hanging out with his friends.