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Jim 'Pee Wee' Martin, 93-year-old US D-Day paratrooper, to jump again for anniversary

(Reuters) - Seventy years ago, Jim "Pee Wee" Martin parachuted into France, behind German enemy lines, ahead of the D-Day invasion.

This week, at the age of 93, the Ohio World War Two veteran is jumping into Normandy again to mark the anniversary of the June 6, 1944, sea-borne landings by Allied troops, although this time he will not be making the leap alone.

"They are making me do a tandem," Martin said in a telephone interview. "They are worried about me getting hurt. I said, 'Don't worry about it. If I get hurt or I get killed, what is the difference? I've lived 93 years. I've had a good life.'"

Martin said he was jumping now because he may be the last man from his unit of the 101st Airborne Division to ever do it again.

Martin, who lives near Dayton, said he will use a round canopy parachute like those in World War Two, which drop more quickly than modern parachutes. He is also taking one of his jump jackets from the war to France to display.

After the war, he worked in a tool shop until age 65.

A U.S. Veterans Affairs doctor cleared him to make the jump physically and pronounced him mentally fit, he said.

"You might ask some of my friends around here if they believe in that," Martin said. "Some of them think that I'm crazy."

Martin recalled that on the first night as Allied troops parachuted in for the D-Day invasion, local people thanked them for coming even as their houses were burning, and he has since received a warm reception in France.

"Some people will come up to you and cry and say, 'I was a little girl back then and I remember what happened, and you gave us our freedom,'" Martin said.

Martin, who was a private in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was among the first Americans in combat in Europe. After Normandy, where his unit fought to capture key bridges, he parachuted into Holland in "Operation Market Garden" and fought at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.

As a defense industry worker, he had a deferment from military service, but Martin said he saw that France and Britain could not win the war in Europe on their own and that men with families were joining the service and being drafted. He enlisted at age 21 and was later awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

"The one thing I want to emphasize is that we were not heroes. A hero is someone not expected to do something," he said.

"When you volunteer, and you get trained for it and get paid for it, you may be brave as hell but you are not a hero."

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gmartin997 June 06 2014 at 6:16 AM

Here's a real hero, not one of the artificial kind we like to make today. In those days "heroes" like Edward Snowden and that little queen, Bradley Manning, would have still been called traitors and shot. Soldiers like Bowe Bengdahl would have been shot for leaving his post without authorization. They're an insult to this hero and to every other American soldier who has ever fought for his country.

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9 replies
JOSEPH G MATTERA June 06 2014 at 5:39 AM


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Bob Ulrich Sr. June 06 2014 at 6:07 AM

GOD BLESS YOU SIR. In my eyes you are a hero along with all of the brave men who were there that day.

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Banzijack June 06 2014 at 5:44 AM

God Bless You

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1 reply
pianomanjames Banzijack June 06 2014 at 5:52 AM

and bless God for the war

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5 replies
Frank June 06 2014 at 6:55 AM

I can't begin to understand what those men went through. They had time to see and think about where they were heading and being able to see the carnage that was taking place on the beach where they were about to disembark. Being a Vietnam Vet, we were loaded in helicopters and were dropped off without time to think about what we were about to undertake. I salute all the men and woman who are serving now and who have served.

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3 replies
savvy6541 June 06 2014 at 6:00 AM

You indeed are the hero

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Lori R June 06 2014 at 5:43 AM

God bless you Sir, and thank you for your service! You may not think you're a hero, but you ARE, to the people of France, and to millions of others!

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1 reply
gmartin997 Lori R June 06 2014 at 6:21 AM

I've often wondered how many soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy actually made it through the war without being wounded. They're heroes all, and they deserve our most heartfelt admiration and gratitude.

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4 replies
tone856 June 06 2014 at 6:22 AM

Thank you Sir for fighting for our freedom. God Bless You and have a nice trip. Thank you again.

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dwtomczyk June 06 2014 at 5:43 AM

a friend of the family was with the 101. wonder if he jumped with pee wee on june 6th

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1 reply
bd64kcmo dwtomczyk June 06 2014 at 7:35 AM

Pee Wee was in the 82nd, according to CBS and NBC, which both did stories on Pee Wee and Whisky 7, the C-47 which was restored in upstate New York, repainted in her original livery, and apparently just in time to join the ceremonies. It was a thrill to see all that. I bet Pee Wee is around to see the 75th anniversary.

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2 replies
tangledweb1027 bd64kcmo June 06 2014 at 8:08 AM

82nd is the division my Dad was in the XVII corp, 82nd airborne, 508 regiment. The 506 was also 82nd airborne division. The 101 was a different division under XVII airborne corp. Pee Wee WAS 82nd airborne. Judging from my dad and his friends, America really misses this generation raised in the depression, maturing during the war and building the American economic boom. We'll never see their like again. Iron men and women.

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brave1b3 bd64kcmo June 06 2014 at 8:53 AM

He wa in the 506th of the 101st..the unit made famous by the book and Miini series "Band Of Brothers"

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Russelldonnielee June 06 2014 at 8:29 AM

Pee Wee has got that right. Just because you wear a uniform does not make you a hero, it makes you an average Amerrfican citizen like me. A hero is an average person forced by circumstance to take a stand and perform exceptionally even when scared to death and knowing they may die in the process..

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1 reply
brave1b3 Russelldonnielee June 06 2014 at 8:54 AM

He is being humble....

"A hero is an average person forced by circumstance to take a stand and perform exceptionally even when scared to death and knowing they may die in the process.."...that is EXACTLY what he did and what he was...A HERO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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