97-year-old veteran recreates D-Day drop with today's paratroopers
United States war veteran Tom Rice parachuted into the French region of Normandy on June 6, 1944, aka D-Day. In that amphibious invasion, which was the largest of its kind, tens of thousands of troops from the US, the UK, France and Canada landed on five stretches of the coastline. The Allied forces went on to secure strongholds, leading to the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War 2.
On the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Rice joined another paratroopers to recreate his historic D-Day drop. The 97-year-old said the original jump was "the worst" he ever had. "I got my left armpit caught in the lower left-hand corner of the door," he recalled, per The Associated Press. "So I swung out, came back and hit the side of the aircraft, swung out again and came back, and I just tried to straighten my arm out and I got free."
After preparing for six months for a trainer, Rice recreated the historic moment by jumping in tandem with another parachuter. Fortunately, the second drop into Normandy was a better experience - so good that yelled "Woo-hoo!" upon landing. "It went perfect, perfect jump," Rice told the outlet, after he caught his breath. "I feel great. I'd go up and do it all again."
Rice served with the 101st airborne when he was a fresh-faced young man. Now he's a grizzled senior, and the generation of World War 2 survivors is sadly dwindling. "I represent a whole generation," he reflected. "Some [my comrades] couldn’t handle it. Many of them are deceased. We had 38% casualties."
To young people, World War 2 is ancient history, but to Rice and other veterans, it's a harbinger of painful memories. "All the GIs suffer from same blame and shame," Rice said. "It bothers us all the time for what we did. We did a lot of destruction, damage. And we chased the Germans out, and coming back here is a matter of closure. You can close the issue now."