93-year-old vet skydives in honor of D-Day

SAN DIEGO - Tom Rice still proudly wears his baseball cap, proclaiming the 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles.

He was one of 13,000 who parachuted into France on D-Day, June 6, 1944 -- the night that turned the corner for the Allies in World War II.

“900 and some aircraft; the entire armada is about 200 miles long and ten miles wide," he said. "I actually jumped at 1:31 that morning, dark as could be.”

Almost 93 now, the retired U. S. Army platoon sergeant is remarkably fit and ready for his jump in honor of his lost comrades-in-arms.

That historic night is still vivid.  “Standing in the door, looking out I could see a corridor of red, green, blue, and white anti-aircraft bursts.”

He told of machine gunfire at the wing, and turbulence.  “We were yawing, pitching, and standing in passageways; we were bouncing off the walls.”

It took three attempts before he cleared the plane; a rough flight and a hard landing.  

“I jumped between 300 and 325 and 350 feet so I was on the ground in a hurry.”

Then they set about the business of fighting a war.

“We captured 400... 50 of us captured 400 Germans--unbelievable!”

70 years later Tom Rice again took to the skies, paying tribute.

It was a tandem jump with another veteran; a jumpmaster, and it went very well.  “Lot different!  They weren't shootin' at me then!”

Jay Stokes was proud to share that parachute with him. 

“That man is part of our greatest generation. I'm getting goose bumps right now just thinking about it. Those guys are our heritage.”

Rice isn’t hanging up his chute, though. He plans to jump again on D-Day next year.

“I feel maybe I should be running through the cemetery, jumping over tombstones.”

Print this article Back to Top