Memorial set for World War II hero who led 'Dirty Dozen'

A memorial service for James “Jake” McNiece is Saturday in Ponca City.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: January 23, 2013 at 9:59 pm •  Published: January 24, 2013
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A memorial service is scheduled Saturday for James “Jake” McNiece, the leader of a World War II group that came to be known as the “Dirty Dozen.”

McNiece, a retired Ponca City postal worker, died Monday. He was 93.

The service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Hartford Avenue Church of Christ. A reception will be held after the service. Visitation is set from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday at Trout Funeral Home.

In lieu of flowers the family suggests a memorial contribution be made in honor of McNiece to a veterans organization, a food bank or any other charity.

McNiece commanded a group of rough men nicknamed “The Filthy 13,” who served as the inspiration for the 1967 movie “The Dirty Dozen.” 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.

The D-Day jump was the first of four jumps McNiece made behind enemy lines.

In September, he was presented France's most prestigious decoration, the Legion of Honor medal, in a ceremony at the state Capitol.

In 2002, McNiece was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame.