For the 75th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, 97-year-old D-Day veteran Tom Rice returned to the battlefield where thousands of his comrades laid down their lives all those years ago.
On June 6, 1944, thousands of brave men invaded the beaches of Nazi-occupied, Normandy, France. The invasion reigned victorious for the allies, ultimately paving the way for the Allied forces to take the Western front, but the victory came with the high cost of human lives. It is estimated that more than 4,000 Allied troops were killed in the Normandy landings on that fateful day.
Rice, however, escaped death’s grip, and for the first time in 75 years, the airborne soldier returned to the battlefield this week.
Just outside of Carentan, in a tandem jump, Rice, surrounded by hundreds of fellow parachutists, jumped out of a C-47 transport plane and landed in a field of wildflowers, the Associated Press reports.
“Beautiful drive, beautiful jump, beautiful flight. Everything was perfect,” the D-Day veteran told camera crews at the jump.
Rice recalled that the day of his jump during combat did not go as smoothly. He told the AP that it was “the worst jump I ever had.”
He added, “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.” Eventually, the then 20-something army man landed safely on the ground.
The AP reports that the parachutists were jumping in honor of the airborne soldiers who descended onto the battlefield ahead of the June 6, seaborne invasion.
Rice recalled landing in roughly the same area, but unlike Wednesday’s sunlit jump, he jumped in the cover of night.
“I honor those who didn’t come back, who were wounded, who walked away from it, who are deceased,” Rice told Time Magazine.
“Those are the guys who are the heroes,” he asserted.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Leon Neal/Staff
Video courtesy: Time Magainze