When Damian attended the ceremonies for the 70th Anniversary of D-Day on Utah Beach back in 2014, he met the WWII veteran Jim “Pee Wee” Martin. A member of the 101st Airborne Division, Martin got his nickname because he was the lightest man in his regiment. He parachuted into Normandy on D-Day and was also a part of the ill-fated “Operation Market Garden” and the Ardenne Forest Offensive aka “Battle of the Bulge” during the WWII. He was 93 years old on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day but this did not hold him back from parachuting into Normandy to re-live that day all over again! And he did it again, in Holland this time, on the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden. He was 98.
Jim “Pee Wee” Martin passed away on September 11, 2022 at the age of 101. His family and friends escorted him yesterday to his final resting place at Dayton National Cemetery.
We salute the rank and the man. And we celebrate Martin’s life and his service with this story from the 70th Anniversary of D-Day ceremonies. Currahee!
There is no way I can comprehend the mind set of a soldier who is on a boat approaching to the shores of Normandy or who is about to embark from an airplane with a parachute like Dick Winters. You may just wanna see the para-drop scene from Band of Brothers one more time below and good luck with comprehending it all.
In Episode 2 Day of Days, Winters successfully parachutes into Normandy, but realizes that he’s missing his weapons as well as his leg bag, in fact, all except for his knife. He meets one PFC John D. Hall from “Able Company” and the two walk together as they try to find their respective units.
PFC Hall: “I wonder if everybody else is as lost as we are.”
Winters: “We’re not lost, Private. We’re in Normandy.”
They are exactly where they are supposed to be.
We are also in Normandy today as Throwback Thursday takes us to six years ago, to the 70th Anniversary of D-Day events organized by the WWII Foundation.
The WWII Foundation is a leading American non-profit organization committed to educating young people about the enormous sacrifices and achievements of sixteen million Americans that served in WWII.
According to their website “The World War II Foundation has produced eleven documentary films to date on the personal stories of the World War II generation and was recently awarded one of only five National Programming Excellence Awards by American Public Television for its World War II Preservation Series, airing nationally on PBS stations around the country. The foundation also raised money for the building and dedication of the Richard D. Winters Leadership monument in Normandy, France in 2012. The 13’ high statue is located near Utah Beach and represents all who led the way on June 6, 1944 (D-Day).”
Damian Lewis, whose brilliant portrayal of Major Dick Winters immortalized this great American hero in Band of Brothers, is the Global Speaker for the Foundation.
The Foundation Chairman Tim Gray says: “Damian has been a great supporter of the WWII Foundation’s efforts to chronicle the stories of the entire World War II generation. Damian’s work is recognized around the world and I could not be happier to have someone of his talent and graciousness represent our foundation.”
The Foundation hosted a reunion in Normandy, France on June 6, 2014 for the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, with actors from Band of Brothers and real-life veterans of WWII. The event was held at the Utah Beach Museum, with a wreath laying at the Richard D. Winters Leadership monument the following morning with Damian Lewis and several of the other actors.
Here is a minute long WWII Foundation clip summarizing the weekend’s events:
And, here is Damian chatting with WWII veteran Jim “Pee Wee” Martin, 93, who earlier in the week jumped from a plane to re-live the D-Day! Lewis and Martin laid a wreath on the Major Winters monument in Sainte-Marie du Mont.
Felicity Thistlewaite from Sunday Express reports Damian’s visit:
“He’s best known for portraying Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody in hit TV series Homeland, and it would seem his interest in the military and history extends much further than a Hollywood TV show.
World War II veteran James H. Martin, 93, who landed with the 101st Airborne, on Utah Beach, chatted away to actor Damian as they took in the sight. The pair stood tall during a wreath laying ceremony at the Major Richard Winters monument, in Sainte-Marie du Mont, France.
The ceremony was part of the D-Day commemorations that took place around Europe, marking 70 years since the fateful moment Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy.”
I highly recommend everyone see this clip in which Damian chats with Jim “Pee Wee” Martin. The clip is fun because Damian, is telling a bit about his experience on Band of Brothers “boot camp” — in case you missed it, we published Damian’s “boot camp” diary here. And it is very moving to see how respectful and affectionate Damian is with this real life hero. It brings tears to my eyes.
You can find more pics from Band of Brothers actors reunion here.