James "Jake" McNiece
French Legion of Honor Awarded to WW II Veteran
On Wednesday, at 11:00 a.m. on September 26, 2012, in the Blue Room of the State Capitol, Mr. James “Jake” McNiece of Ponca City, OK was presented with the medal of Knight in the French Order of the Legion of Honor by Mr. Frédéric Bontems, Consul General of France, based in Houston. Among the dignitaries attending the ceremony will be Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and representatives from the offices of Oklahoma’s State and Congressional Delegations. The public is invited and a reception will follow on the rotunda.
The Legion of Honor is the most prestigious French national order. It was created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, who was then the First Consul of the First French Republic, and wanted to reward civilians and soldiers who had achieved great things in the service of France.
A few years ago, France decided to follow a more active policy of awarding this medal to the American veterans of WWII. Mr. McNiece will receive this high honor in recognition of his heroic actions in the European Theater in World War II and, in particular, for his contribution to the liberation of France and for the cause of Freedom.
As a member of the 101st Airborne, Jake made a total of four combat jumps, including his first into France early on the morning of June 6th. During the war he served as both a demolitions (sappers) platoon leader for the Headquarters Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment and later on in the war as a leader of a group of Pathfinders for the 101st Airborne Division.
Upon entering the military, Jake McNiece volunteered for the U.S. Army paratrooper duty on September 1, 1942. He was assigned to the 506th Paratroop Infantry Regiment (PIR) which was the first Paratrooper Regiment formed whose enlisted men were trained as paratroopers from their first day of basic training at Camp Toccoa, GA, which became known as Col. Sink’s "Muscle College."
As a Demolition – Saboteur (Demo-Sabo), Jake was Sgt. of a stick of paratroopers known as 'The Filthy Thirteen'. The film "The Dirty Dozen" is loosely based on Jake's group of men and like their leader, these men were a well-trained and finely tuned group of soldiers.
Mr. McNiece is the recipient of awards such as the World War II Victory Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, American Theatre Ribbon, EAME Theatre Ribbon with 4 Bronze Stars and 2 Bronze Arrowheads, Presidential Unit Citation for Normandy, for Holland and 2 for Bastogne (1 for being a Pathfinder and one because he was part of 101st AB); Bronze Star Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters, Combat Infantry Badge, Jump wings with 4 Bronze Stars, Army Of Occupation Medal, Cold War Victory Medal, Overseas Service Medal, 5 hash marks left sleeve, each hash mark signifies he served all or part of six months overseas, and the Army Service Ribbon. Jake McNiece is also entitled to wear the Airborne Pathfinder Insignia and of course the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster.