Johnstown Independent

'Columbus Military All-Stars'

WWII veteran Jakeway honored with own trading card

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KEVIN CORVO/THISWEEKNEWS
Family friend Sandra Henson receives a hug from Johnstown resident Don Jakeway during a July 5 ceremony at Huntington Park to honor America's veterans.

Don Jakeway is a household name in Johnstown.

Now the 91-year-old World War II veteran is on a baseball card.

Jakeway joined 49 other veterans who were part of two "Columbus Military All-Stars" baseball-card sets the Columbus Clippers commissioned and gave to fans as a promotion recently.

Each set of cards featured 25 central Ohio veterans, some living and some deceased, as well as dual-player cards of the current Clippers roster.

The card sets were issued at the gate as promotional giveaways July 4 and 5. Veterans pictured on the cards and veterans' surviving families were invited to participate in a pregame ceremony on the diamond.

For the first time since Huntington Park opened in 2009, the Clippers played at home July 4, and the team wanted an appropriate way to recognize Independence Day and America's veterans, said Mark Galuska, the Clippers' director of marketing and sales.

"We took it to a new level and had a set of baseball cards made to honor our local veterans," Galuska said.

Jakeway's card shows him in his WWII uniform as a U.S. Army sergeant. He was a paratrooper and part of the Allied Forces' assault on Normandy. He survived an enemy sniper's rifle fire and an accident in which all of the other occupants inside an ambulance were killed.

The back of the card summarizes Jakeway's service in France and Germany and some of the 21 medals bestowed upon him for his service. They include four Bronze Stars, a Combat Infantryman badge, four campaign medals, a Presidential Unit citation, a Purple Heart with oak-leaf cluster and the highest medals of honor from France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

A 1942 graduate of Johnstown High School, Jakeway enlisted in the U.S. Army that year and became a member of the 508th Parachute Infantry of the 82nd Airborne Division.

Jakeway said he remembers the words of U.S. Army Gen. Matthew Ridgway, the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, prior to the Normandy landings June 6, 1944.

"You boys are getting into something that won't be easy," Jakeway said, recalling the words of Ridgway, who predicted an 85-percent mortality rate in the planned attack on the beachhead in Normandy, France, for what became known as D-Day.

"It was supposed to happen (on the morning of) June 5, but it was raining, so it was put off until the next morning," Jakeway said. "We boarded a plane about 9:45 p.m. (June 5) at (former) Folkingham (Royal Air Force Base) and flew across (the English) channel. I got airsick on the ride."

It wasn't raining, Jakeway recalled, but a dense cloud cover, he believes, contributed to an inaccurate deployment of paratroopers.

"We jumped at 1 a.m.," he said, almost six hours before the ground assault on the beaches. "But the clouds caused some of the planes to scatter, (and) none of us landed where we were supposed to land. We had pathfinders (those who jump in advance of paratroopers to establish drop zones and supply lines), but even they got lost."

Jakeway landed in a tree near a church building, he said, about 15 miles from Utah Beach. It took 10 days to find anyone else from the 82nd Airborne Division, he said.

On Sept. 21, 1944, Jakeway was injured and another paratrooper killed from German artillery.

"We were getting hit by 88 (millimeter rounds) and jumped in a trench," said Jakeway, who was injured from shrapnel and hospitalized until early December.

He returned to combat Dec. 15 as a sergeant and was engaged in the Battle of the Bulge. On Jan. 31, 1945, Jakeway sustained a sniper shot that pierced a lung, he said.

"That was my trip home," said Jakeway, who wasn't out of harm's way yet.

While strapped onto a gurney and riding with two wounded German soldiers and another American serviceman, the ambulance rolled off the soft shoulder of a washed-out road and landed upside down in a shallow creek.

"It rolled about 10 times, side over side. Everyone was killed except me," said Jakeway, who was discovered in the early morning hours of Feb. 1.

The temperature was 23 degrees below zero, Jakeway said, and it prevented him from bleeding to death that night.

The lower lobe of his left lung was removed, and he was discharged Aug. 23, 1945, from Memphis General Hospital in Tennessee.

Jakeway returned to Johnstown, where he took a job earning $25 a week at a Shell gasoline station, he said. He later worked for a steel company and retired as director of international operations for EPCO, a manufacturer of drinking fountains.

In 1963, he built a baseball field for children in Johnstown and coached youth teams for more than 20 years.

He and his wife, Roselyn, celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary June 9. They have three sons, one daughter, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Johnstown resident David Corbi, 46, a chief warrant officer 4 in the Ohio Army National Guard, also was honored with his own trading card.

Corbi served in Ohio's 1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Regiment.

Corbi, an Alliance native, said he joined the Ohio National Guard to carry on a family tradition of military service and to pay for college.

He has been a helicopter pilot for 19 of his 27 years of service and currently pilots UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters.

He has been deployed three times: to Kosovo, Bosnia and Iraq.

As a civilian, he is an EMS pilot for MedFlight of Ohio.

He and his wife, Janet, have two children: David, 16, and Hannah, 14.

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