A Greene County veteran who parachuted into Normandy on D-Day and fought in the Battle of the Bulge was honored Saturday with the first leadership award by the World War II Foundation at National Museum of the United States Air Force.
“I’m not sure I deserve it, but I’ll take it anyway,” Jim Martin joked as he accepted the award at the Air Force Museum in Dayton.
Martin, a 97-year-old World War II veteran, has dedicated years of his life to educating people across the world about the war that changed the course of his life forever.
In World War II, Martin served in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment’s E-Company, which inspired the 2004 HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers.”
His longtime friend and 506th comrade Robert Izumi of Barstow, Calif., attended the event. Izumi said Martin deserved all the recognition he’s gotten.
“I’ll never forget this guy,” Izumi, who served in both World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, said. “He’s a wonderful man.”
Izumi credited Martin with teaching him to survive in the cold and welcoming him into the 506th regiment. The two have been close friends since 1944.
The two don’t talk much about the war, Martin said. They prefer to talk about current events.
Up until 20 years ago, Martin didn’t speak about the war. Doug Barber, a Centerville history teacher and a member of the World War II Foundation’s Board of Directors, said that Martin has since taken great strides to educate the public about the war.
“He really puts himself out there,” Barber said. “He spends a lot of time to educate the public.”
That education has included overseas trips and speaking to groups across both Europe and the United States, Barber said.
Martin said he also played a roll on getting the Memphis Belle, an iconic plane from World War II, restored and on display at the museum. The plane sat decaying for years in Tennessee before it was eventually brought to Dayton.
His thoughts on the old planes are unique from most — he’s seen them in combat. While he likes the B-17 and C-47 planes, he dislikes the B-24s.
Martin says they’re too easy to shoot down.
“The B-24 is a little different, and I’m not a fan of it,” Martin said. “It went down too easy. I’ve seen B-17s come back with 10feet off the wing. I’ve seen them come back with a tail shot off.”
Martin cherishes the experiences and the friendships he made in the war. With the experience he’s had, he said he doesn’t need any awards,
“No money, no recognition can take away that experience,” Martin said. “Would I do it again? Absolutely. Not one of us would ever say we wouldn’t do again.”
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