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Ohio WWII vet to parachute into former battleground at age 98

WWII paratrooper James H. “Pee Wee” Martin, one of the last remaining “Toccoa Originals” of 1942, talks with a soldier prior to his jump at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, March 11, 2017. Martin travels around as a representative of the veterans of the 101st Airborne Division who are no longer here and in an effort to promote and preserve the legacy and lessons of WWII. (U.S. Air Force photo by Wesley Farnsworth / Released)
September 15, 2019

A local World War II paratrooper will parachute into the Netherlands again at the site of a historic battle he took part in decades ago.

James “Pee Wee” Martin, 98, of Xenia, will jump from a plane into the Dutch city of Son on Sept. 17, according to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Martin, a member of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, parachuted into the village as part of the on Sept. 17, 1944 as part of Operation Market Garden. As a result of the mission, Allied forces liberated the central and southern portions of the Netherlands from Nazi occupation.

Martin had originally hoped to parachute into Normandy this past June on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in early June, but health issues at the time prevented him from participating. Martin will be able to make the jump into the Netherlands next week thanks to the help of his friend Kevin Price, a researcher for the Aerospace Systems Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

“I went to the Normandy commemoration in June,” Price said. “When I came back, I said [to Martin] ‘Hey, you couldn’t go to this, but what about the Netherlands in September?’ His response was, ‘Well, if they’ll let me jump.’”

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Price met Martin eight years ago and as an exchange pilot with the Dutch Air Force. He lived just a few miles from where the WWII paratrooper jumped nearly 75 years ago, according to Wright-Patt.

Martin was one of four Dayton-area D-Day veterans honored earlier this year through a number of events, including a ceremony in the theater at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force where he was inducted into the Ford Oval of Honor. David Eisenhower, the grandson of WWII general and president Dwight D. Eisenhower, spoke at the ceremony and met Martin and other vets.

Dutch authorities were at first worried about the 98-year-old Martin parachuting. But, Price and a letter from the Veterans Administration, was able to convince them, according to the base.

Martin said the jump is needed to bring attention to the region and its important place in WWII. Martin said he hopes the jump will help to “put them on the map” and make the location a destination for historical tourism.

Martin called the upcoming Netherlands jump a “capstone” to his military life, which began with his training at the famed Camp Toccoa in Georgia. The camp was profiled in a book and subsequent miniseries called “Band of Brothers,” according to the base.

“Everyone thinks of the war as Normandy, he said. “They forget about Holland.”

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© 2019 the Dayton Daily News