‘Dirty Dozen’ WWII Hero Dies

James “Jake” McNiece / The Oklahoman

James “Jake” McNiece / The Oklahoman


James “Jake” McNiece, a World War II hero whose leadership inspired the 1967 film “The Dirty Dozen,” died Monday at the age of 93.

The Oklahoman reported:

Hours before the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion, McNiece led 18 paratroopers behind enemy lines to destroy two bridges and control a third to prevent German reinforcements from moving into Normandy and to cut off retreating German troops. Sixteen of his men were killed during the 36-day mission, in which they also cut enemy communications and supply lines.

France presented McNiece with the Legion of Honor Medal, France’s highest order, in September.

“War is hell,” McNiece said in September after receiving the French medal. “We do not brag about winning the war, and we do not apologize. It was a thing that needed to be done, and we did it and we’re glad.” […]

By dawn on June 6, McNiece and his squad had destroyed their two assigned bridges and had a third wired for detonation. Their orders were to hold the bridge over the Louvre River and save it if possible so advancing Allied troops and tanks could use it. His men held the bridge for three days until American warplanes swooped down and bombed the structure.

McNiece often criticized the movie for not being factual. Hollywood decided to portray all of his men as dangerous convicts. While the “Dirty Dozen” were often in trouble for violating military regulations, none of his men committed major crimes.

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