WWII veteran and paratrooper Jim ‘Pee Wee’ Martin dies at 101

Sugarcreek Twp. resident fought on D-Day, in Battle of the Bulge and more

James “Pee Wee” Martin — a locally celebrated and much-loved World War II veteran who parachuted into France with Allied troops on D-Day — died Sunday, Patriot Day, according to his family. He was 101 years old.

Martin, a Sugarcreek Twp. resident, parachuted into Normandy near Saint-Come-du-Mont behind Utah Beach at 12:30 a.m. on D-Day.

Martin later fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and he received a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and European African Middle Eastern Service Medal for his service. Martin earned the nickname “Pee Wee” by being the lightest paratrooper in his regiment.

He celebrated his 100th birthday on April 29, 2021.

As a member of the 101st Airborne Division, known as the “Screaming Eagles,” he parachuted into Normandy on June 5, 1944, one of the first American forces to land.

ExploreA 2014 interview: Humble yet historic: Local soldier helped win war at D-Day and beyond

Four months later, he and his unit were part of the British-led Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands and Germany, and was part of the 101st-led defense of Bastogne, Belgium, stopping the German army’s last-ditch attempt to split Allied forces in the Battle of the Bulge.

He also saw action in Germany, helping to liberate a concentration camp and helping to seize Adolph Hitler’s Bavarian home, known as the Berghof, in April 1945.

When Martin came home at the end his tour of duty, his goal was to settle down and live a quiet life, he told this newspaper in a 2014 interview.

“I’ve been there and I’ve done that,” Martin said. “All I cared about was getting a job to take care of my family and building a house on 50 acres and forgetting the world.”

Martin told the Dayton Daily News that he had been privileged to know “people in high places” — generals, French military officials and many others.”

“The things and the places don’t impress me,” he said. “What impresses me, what I like, are the people that I know.”

ExplorePHOTOS: Remembering Jim "Pee Wee" Martin

Martin lived in Sugarcreek Twp. from the late 1940′s until his death, said Doug Barber, a retired Centerville teacher who knew Martin since 2010.

Martin was married to Donna (Ververka) for nearly 73 years before her passing in early 2019, Barber said in a written recollection shared with the Dayton Daily News.

“‘Original’ is the best one word description for Jim Martin,” Barber wrote. “Jim was a tough and sometimes mischievous kid from north Dayton (now Old North Dayton). He was a child of the 20′s and a teenager during much of the Great Depression. His experiences in combat as a member of the newly formed 101st Airborne Division in WWII shaped his outlook and character for the remainder of his life.”

Added Barber: “Jim carried a stoicism that helped him deal with personal tragedy, involvement in local politics for many years and wide acclaim in later life.”

Jim was surprised by his own longevity, Barber also recalled.

“As with any person who lives to an extreme old age, Jim was saddened by the passing of so many and so much of what he knew,” he said.

Jodi Martin, Martin’s granddaughter, said the family planned to meet Monday afternoon with a funeral home to make arrangements. Arrangements would likely take place sometime in the next month, she said. “We have a lot to do.”

“He was at home,” she said of her grandfather. “He had a very peaceful passing. ... He died in his sleep.”

“We have lost a great American and friend with the passing of Jim Martin,” Gov. Mike DeWine said on Twitter Monday.

Martin enjoyed teaching younger generations about WWII.

“My interactions with those who view this page and with many others who I have met in person over these last years has brightened my later life more than I can tell you,” Martin wrote in a social media message in March 2019. “The level of interest shown by younger generations in our wartime service has gladdened the heart of my WWII generation. So many of you have worked in a variety of ways to ensure that the legacy and lessons of World War Two will not be forgotten. We old veterans are aware of it and we appreciate it.”

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