The 93-year-old skydiver Jim Martin is making headlines today after announcing he will be parachuting into Normandy, 70 years after his deadly World War II jump.
The first time Martin did it, he was at “the tip of the spear,” a term used to describe him and his fellow soldiers as the first Americans who saw combat in Europe.
According to CBS News, Jim was a private in the 101st Airborne, one of the paratroopers dropped behind German lines in the hours before the D-Day landings.
“We wanted to get out of the plane quickly, because it was hitting the plane,” he said. “Planes were blowing up, and we wanted to get the hell out of there.”
Responding to the question of what was going through his mind as he floated through clouds and into a firefight, Martin said, “Fascination, because of all of this fire coming up towards us…. It was absolutely fascinating to see all these various colored tracers coming up there.”
Jim Martin and his fellow soldiers were tasked with keeping the Germans from delivering troop reinforcements on the dunes. The paratroopers landed “right in the middle” of said reinforcements, he tells CBS.
“That was a slaughter house,” he said. “There was SS all over the place, and they just slaughtered us. My colonel was lost. My company commander was lost.”
The mission was only supposed to take three days, but Martin and the surviving men fought with German forces for 30 days before the violence subsided.
“That’s the way we were trained, we accepted that…. And no matter how many people are there against you, what the odds are doesn’t matter. We’re going to win,” he said.
Jim added that he thought he was “going to die every day.”
“You just have to accept it,” he said. “If you’re going to worry about dying all the time, you can’t fight.”
We highly recommend you read the full interview with Jim. He’s a fascinating character and one of the few survivors left who can talk about those events with a sound mind. (And he does.)
When the 93-year-old skydiver makes what is presumably his final jump — though it’s probably not a good idea to count him out, given his spirit — he will touch down on the same spot he did so long ago.
The “slaughter house.”
Only this time, Martin expects to get “a great deal of satisfaction.”
Amazing man, amazing generation.
Do you have any surviving family like this 93-year-old skydiver, or any fresh memories of the “Greatest Generation”? Share your experiences below, or just comment to wish Jim Martin well on his jump.
[Image via Flickr Creative Commons]