Travis Frankln

Special to the Grove Sun

He was a private for 5 years, 6 months and 21 days.

According to stories, when going into combat he was always promoted to sergeant, but as soon as combat was over, he would usually do something crazy and get busted back down to private.

That is just part of the fame of Jake McNiece, WWII veteran and member of the famous Filthy 13 who turned 91 years old recently.

A birthday party was given for him Wednesday evening at the D-Day Paintball event near Wyandotte complete with a cake and a USO type show featuring the Andrew Sisters singing Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.

The event, which is the largest paintball scenario game in the world, is attended by players from all over the world.

McNiece was not shy about sharing some of his “war stories” with the group of paint ballers who, for some, had no idea who Jake McNiece is.

McNiece was accompanied by his 88-year-old wife who helped him off with hat and replaced it with a glued-on Mohawk hairstyle.

Prior to boarding the plane to fly across the channel to jump into Normandy, Jake began shaving his head.

When all of his buddies asked what he was doing he replied, "Those Germans have lice!” so all of his buddies decided they would do the same.

The Filthy 13 all jumped into Europe with Native American-inspired mohawks. This moment was recorded famously in the photograph of paratroopers, their plane in the background, finishing each others’ hair and applying "war-paint" to eachothers’ faces. The paint was acquired from the freshly painted wings of the planes.

At Camp Tocoa, Georgia, where Jake and other paratroopers trained before going to Normandy, there is now a bust of Jake along with other WWII soldiers, all of who are officers including Major Winters of HBO's Band of Brothers fame.

On a recent trip to Taccoa, Jake's wife said she commented, "Look, they found a way to bust you permanently!"

In reference to the things Jake and others of the "Filthy 13" did during WWII, he stated simply, "We don’t brag about it, but we don't apologize for it either.”

Referring to Wednesday’s birthday celebration, McNiece said, "This is embarrassing to be treated to all this!”

A member of the crowd shouted in reply "You deserve it Jake!"

Another member of the crowd asked McNiece, "What do you think of all this silliness Jake, of us getting together to play paintball with a D-Day theme?"

“It’s great,” McNiece replied. “It’s great to see you guys honoring all of the men of World War Two like this. But remember, us that are here are not heroes, we're just survivors. The heroes are the guys that are over there pushing up daisies. They're the heroes."

As a testament to the job the paratroopers did in disrupting German re-enforcements, artillery, and communication, it is estimated that for every paratrooper that lost his life during D-Day, the lives of up to ten men were saved on the beaches.

“Any activities not directly concerned with killing the enemy were irrelevant,” McNiece said.