Tom Rice, a San Diego native was part of the vanguard that was sent to prevent the German attack on the Normandy coastline. Despite his age, Rice's jump that was part of the D-Day celebrations on Thursday was near perfect. He flashed a victory sign and said he could do all over again
On June 6, 1944, Tom Rice was one of the 18,000 paratroopers who were part of the D-Day vanguard dropped on the northern part of France in Normandy behind enemy lines. His and the other soldiers' mission then was to do whatever it takes to prevent German reinforcements from reaching the front of the coastline as the main invasion force of the allied powers stormed the beaches. Speaking with CBS, Rice said he was told to, "Chase 'em out, run 'em across fields, through cemeteries, jumping over tombstones, chase 'em all the way back to the German border as fast as we can." At the ripe age of 97 years of age now, Rice got a chance to relieve that moment again during the D-Day celebrations on Thursday. Despite his age, Rice climbed on to the C-47 aircraft that flew over the Normandy fields where he first saw action 75 years ago. Along with another parachutist he once again leaped from the aircraft. Back then he leaped into the unknown but on Thursday there were a throng of people and journalist who were waiting for him anxiously on the ground.
Rice dangled beneath a red, white and blue canopy, and had an American flag attached that swayed as he made his descent. It was a sight to remember for the ages. Coasting through the sky, he finally landed rather perfectly if it had not been for the slight stumble on impact. Rice flashed the victory sign as soon as he landed and said he felt "great" according to a CNN report. In fact, he was still so hyped that he was ready to do it once again. Wearing his 101st Airborne baseball cap, he said he could "go back up and do it again."
Tom Rice at 97 got a personal trainer to be able to jump into Normandy one more time for the 75th Anniversary of D Day.— U.S Army WTF! Moments (@TheWTFNation) June 5, 2019
He served in the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, @101stAASLTDIV
He landed safely!! AIRBORNE!!!! pic.twitter.com/ugTsGWnCBO
On D-Day, Tom Rice parachuted into a hail of gunfire. For the 75th anniversary, the now 97-year-old jumped into Normandy again, and loved it. #DDay75 @johnleicester reports. https://t.co/TVikdgcKfh pic.twitter.com/JSrm24iawm— AP Europe (@AP_Europe) June 5, 2019
Although its been ages since the day, Rice clearly recalls his experiences. He was 22 years old and was a member of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division's 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. He was hardly even briefed about his mission and was first in line to jump off from the aircraft. However, things started to go wrong from the beginning itself. He said, "I was thinking, 'let's get the hell out of here,' because we were under fire." All the thoughts about what we're going to do, how we're going to do it just passed through my mind so quickly and I was so focused on getting out of that aircraft."
On WWII’s D-Day, paratrooper Tom Rice was among the vanguard of the invasion, dropped into enemy fire in Normandy, France.— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) June 5, 2019
Rice, now 97, jumped from the sky again on Wednesday -- this time, on his own terms and with no one shooting.
Here’s Mark Phillips https://t.co/gmVoHYGWCs pic.twitter.com/tbdL6PrS4k
The C-47 was taking heavy fire from German guns. To avoid the fire, the pilot accelerated to 165 miles per hour, way beyond the safe drop speed of 105 mph. He, however, had to jump by any means. His arm got trapped in the doorway. While several of his fellow comrades jumped past him, he finally freed himself and jumped out. However, he had overshot his drop zone by quite a distance and landed into an unknown part of Normandy Recalling the night of the landing according to the CBS report, he said, "It was dark, dark, dark. Apart from all the hurricane of all that fire coming up real bad. I'm glad they moved away from that," he said.
You have to salute this 97-year-old World War II veteran, Tom Rice. Today, he parachuted into France, 75-years after he did it on D-Day.https://t.co/uYfUJ0foZg— Jeff Fisher (@CoachJeffFisher) June 5, 2019
Amazing, Via @WSJ: U.S. World War II paratrooper veteran Tom Rice, 97, who served with the 101st Airborne, makes a commemorative parachute jump over Carentan on the Normandy coast. photo by Pascal Rossignol/REUTERS— Carol Roth (@caroljsroth) June 6, 2019
I'd call this- "Handle with Care: Precious Cargo"! pic.twitter.com/EKYHhuUjNJ
Rice could have just accepted the thanks of the French nation here and he could have just watched the celebrations from the stand. However, he thought the best way to remember the memory of those who laid their lives to recreate that moment. So he came back to jump again. "I got a replacement left knee and the right knee is a little sore. But we're going to ignore that. I do this because I like to and it's an extended dimension of maybe my personality," he said.