'Woo-Hoo!' D-Day Vet, 97, Parachutes Over Normandy 75 years Later: I 'Represent' a 'Generation'
The 97-year-old WWII veteran made the jump over Normandy for the second time since originally touching down 75 years ago on D-Day
A 97-year-old WWII veteran parachuted into Normandy on Wednesday, making the very same jump he experienced 75 years ago during the D-Day invasion.
Tom Rice took the plunge with about 200 other parachutists in honor of the airborne soldiers in the June 6, 1944 allied invasion.
“It went perfect, perfect jump,” Rice said, according to the Associated Press. “I feel great. I’d go up and do it all again.”
The San Diego native parachuted from the same type of C-47 military transport plane used in WWII into the very same landing zone he jumped into on that fateful day 75 years ago, according to ABC affiliate WJXX.
He jumped in tandem with a trainer as an attached American flag waved, prompting applause from the crowd watching below. The parachute itself was red, white, and blue as well.
Rice — a former paratrooper with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, known as the “Screaming Eagles” — trained six months for the opportunity to make the jump over Normandy one last time. The near-centenarian requested to pull the handle that released the giant American flag himself, according to WJXX.
More than 13,000 U.S. paratroopers left England and descended upon the beaches of Normandy on D-Day to liberate Germany-occupied France. The Normandy landings are considered a pivotal turning point for the Allies’ eventual victory in WWII.
Rice told the Associated Press that a bullet struck his parachute that day and it was “the worst jump I 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,” he recalled to the AP.
Rice is the author of 2004’s Trial by Combat, a personal account of his experience as a paratrooper during the battle for Normandy.
“Woo-hoo!” Rice said after reaching the ground, according to the AP. “I represent a whole generation.”
The vet was full of energy following the jump — enough to clarify his age with gusto.
“I’m 97 and 8/12,” he quipped.