May 24, 1919|
Maysville, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Died||January 21, 2013
Chatham, Illinois, U.S.
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1942–1946|
|Unit||506th Parachute Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards|| Bronze Star (4)
Purple Heart (2)
Legion of Honour
Acting Sergeant James Elbert "Jake" McNiece (May 24, 1919 – January 21, 2013) was a US Army paratrooper in World War II. He was the leader of the Filthy Thirteen, an elite demolition unit whose exploits inspired the novel and movie The Dirty Dozen.
James McNiece was born on May 24, 1919 in Maysville, Oklahoma, the ninth of ten siblings born to Eli Hugh and Rebecca (née Ring) McNiece, and of partial Choctaw descent. The family moved to Ponca City, Oklahoma in 1931. In 1939, he graduated from Ponca City High School and went to work in road construction, and then at the Pine Bluff Arsenal, where he gained experience in the use of explosives.
McNiece enlisted for military service on September 1, 1942. He was assigned to the demolition saboteur section of what was then the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. This section would become the Filthy Thirteen, with McNiece as its sergeant and leader.
McNiece went on to make a total of four wartime combat jumps, the first as part of the Invasion of Normandy in 1944. In the same year he jumped as part of Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands, which was featured in the book (and subsequent film), A Bridge Too Far, and at the Siege of Bastogne, part of the larger Battle of the Bulge. His last jump was in 1945, near Prüm in Germany. He was discharged from the military in February 1946.
After World War II
In 1949, McNiece returned to live in Ponca City. He began a 28-year career with the United States Postal Service. His first wife Rosita died in 1952 and, a year later, he married Martha Beam Wonders. They had two sons and a daughter and remained married until his death. He and Martha had recently moved to Chatham, Illinois, to be closer to one of their sons in nearby Springfield.
McNiece was an inductee in the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame, and an Honorary Colonel of the 95th Victory Division. He was the recipient of an Honorary master’s degree in Military Science from Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee. He had participated in military maneuvers there in 1943. In 2010, an action figure of McNiece, the last surviving member of the Filthy Thirteen, was released.
- "James Elbert McNiece obituary". The Ponca City News. 23 January 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
- "World War II vet is Filthy Thirteen's last man". WSBT.com. November 9, 2010. Retrieved January 31, 2013.
- "'Dirty Dozen' hero from Oklahoma has died". Stars and Stripes. January 22, 2013. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
- "Oklahoma World War II veteran receives France's highest decoration". Stars and Stripes. September 27, 2012. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
- "WWII War Hero Jake McNiece, Last of The Filthy Thirteen Dies". Country Courier Magazine. January 25, 2012. Retrieved January 31, 2013.
- Jake McNiece at the Internet Movie Database
- Jake McNiece at libertyjumpteam.org
- Jake McNiece at usairborne.be