If 18-year-old Donald Jakeway had known what a paratrooper
was the day he enlisted in the U.S. Army, almost 75 years ago, he might
not have volunteered.
But the Marines and the Navy had already rejected
him, so when he got the chance to apply for paratrooper training, he
didn’t think twice. He trained at Fort Benning, he shipped out to England
and he jumped with the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment into Normandy
on June 6, 1944.
Jakeway, now 94 years old, originally from Johnstown,
spoke Tuesday morning about his enlistment and service in World War
II to Dustin Milliner’s recent American history class at Mid-East Career
and Technology Center.
“With more and more veterans passing away each
day, we’re losing these stories,” Milliner said.
accounts of World War II is also important for the students in Milliner’s
class. There is only so much that can be learned from a textbook, he
“I think it gives them a perspective of the cost of freedom,”
he said. “Freedom’s not free.”
Jakeway’s story began with his enlistment
in 1942, right after he graduated from high school. He trained at Camp
Mackall in North Carolina, and then at Fort Benning in Georgia, where
he made the jumps that qualified him as a paratrooper.
He shipped to
England in December 1943, on a trip across the Atlantic that lasted
The night of June 5, 1944, his regiment loaded their planes
and took off for France. While in the air, Jakeway became airsick
and moved to the front of the plane, where he could see the size of
“You could see thousands of ships crossing the channel,
heading for Normandy,” he said.
When he jumped, he dropped nearly 500
feet and landed in a tree. It was 1:15 a.m.
“When you’re a paratrooper...
you’re in a battle every day,” Jakeway said.
He stayed on the ground
until July 13. Few of the men he knew made it back to England.
of my men in my squad were killed,” he said.
Jakeway was wounded twice
in the war, the second time in France [sic] during the Battle of the Bulge,
when a sniper shot him through the chest.
“I’ve been a lucky, lucky
man,” he said.
Married for 71 years, with three sons and one daughter,
Jakeway said he agrees to speak at schools and events because it keeps
him active, but also because he wants people to understand what would
have happened if the Allies had lost the war.
The world, he told Milliner’s
class, would be very different. “You wouldn’t be here,” he said. “I
wouldn’t be here.” firstname.lastname@example.org
[[The Newark Advocate, Newark, OH, 09 Feb 2017, Thu Page A3]