John W. Martin was born in Columbus, Ohio on 12 May 1922, and he worked as a railroad worker before volunteering for the US Army paratroopers at the start of World War II. Martin was known to be reclusive, but his comrade William Guarnere would serve as the best man at his wedding. He made his first combat jump over Normandy in 1944, and he feared that he would not survive the war after discovering that half of his platoon was lost. During Operation Market Garden, he attempted to warn a British tank about the location of German tanks, but his warning was ignored, and the tank was destroyed. He later fought in the Battle of the Bulge and took part in the occupation of Germany and Austria, and he decided to inform the medics that he had a trick knee so that he could be discharged, as he was unhappy about a lack of promotion from Staff Sergeant. He attended Ohio State University after the war and returned to his railroad job, and he later became a millionaire after opening his own apartment construction business. He died in 2005 at the age of 82.