The Order for the invasion of Normandy written to all soldiers, sailors, and airmen was clear – “Your enemy is well-trained, well-equipped, and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.” For DDay Veterans like Tom Rice, 97, jumping into the conflagration on June 6, 1944 was life and death on all sides. But now, in 2019, he and about 200 others, three in their 90’s, jumped again in commemoration of that day.
According to accounts, over 13,000 American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions made night parachute drops early June 6. Tom Rice was among them.
“The eyes of the world are upon you…”
This was Gen. Eisenhower’s message to the Allied service members who were invading France on D-Day, 75 years ago today. pic.twitter.com/BPp3jhsw7A
— NBC News (@NBCNews) June 6, 2019
Tom Rice, 97, (101st Airborne veteran), Harry Read, 95, and John Hutton, 94, (both British army) were among the men who tandem-jumped to commemorate D-Day, 1944. Their jump this time was met, not with enemy fire, but cheering crowds.
Rice said his DDay jump in 1944 was the worst he’d ever had:
“I got my left armpit caught in the lower left-hand corner of the door 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.” Tom Rice (via NPR)
There were no such problems this time. The jump went smooth, and the people who watched were excited to see them.
A group of veterans in their 90s parachuted into Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
“I feel great,” said 97-year-old Tom Rice. “I’d go up and do it all again.” https://t.co/uMJ6vYNbco
— NPR (@NPR) June 6, 2019
WATCH: 97-year-old US paratrooper veteran Tom Rice, who served with the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, recreates his D-Day jump in Normandy 75 years later. pic.twitter.com/qAth429XCA
— NBC News (@NBCNews) June 5, 2019
“It went perfect, perfect jump. I feel great. I’d go up and do it all again.” Tom Rice
“I thought the jump was brilliant. The jump was wonderful in every way. I feel good. My health is good and my mind is still ticking away.” Harry Read to the Guardian
Meanwhile, Mr. Hutton wondered why he didn’t have “more sense at 94.”
The British Ministry of Defence tweeted, “On this day, 75 years ago, thousands of brave souls stormed the beaches of Normandy to break the German defences and liberate Europe.”
And liberate Europe they did. There were so many frightened, young troops in all the armies that invaded Normandy that day. But those were died did not die in vain. the ultimate consequence of D-Day was to break the back of the German army and set Europe free. It was not an easy task, nor was it without bloodshed. But men like Tom Rice, along with thousands of others made it happen.
The “Greatest Generation,” D-Day Veterans and all who fought in WWII were and are men of courage, deserving of honor.
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