John Leicester, The Related Press
Revealed Wednesday, June 5, 2019 8:39AM EDT
Final Up to date Wednesday, June 5, 2019 2:42PM EDT
CARENTAN, France — No murderous hails of gunfire this time. No D-Day goal that needed to be taken, no matter the price. This time, 75 years virtually to the hour after he parachuted into Nazi-occupied France, Tom Rice once more discovered himself floating down by Normandy’s skies, now a grizzled 97-year-old thrilled as a bit child.
“Woo-hoo!” the ex-paratrooper yelped after hitting the bottom, carrying the reminiscences of comrades misplaced in battle and on a brand new mission — of remembrance this time — for the ever-shrinking numbers who sacrificed a lot in World Battle II.
“I represent a whole generation,” Rice stated.
Engines throbbing, C-47 transport planes dropped string after string of parachutists, a few hundred in all – together with Rice, who jumped strapped to a companion, not alone and laden with weapons as he did on June 6, 1944.
“It went perfect, perfect jump,” Rice stated after catching his breath. “I feel great. I’d go up and do it all again.”
The clouds of jumpers, with spherical ‘chutes akin to these utilized by D-Day troopers, have been honouring the hundreds of paratroopers who leapt into gunfire and loss of life 75 years in the past.
Their touchdown zone Wednesday was fields of wildflowers outdoors Carentan, one of many targets of the airborne forces that have been dropped in darkness on perilous missions to take strategic goals and disrupt German defences in order that the best amphibious invasion in historical past, on the D-Day seashores, would have a higher probability of success.
Rice, of San Diego, jumped into roughly the identical space he landed in on D-Day. He stated it was darkish in 1944 when he hit the bottom in hostile territory and he cannot ensure precisely the place he was.
Rice jumped with the U.S. Military’s 101st Airborne Division on that momentous day 75 years in the past, touchdown safely regardless of catching himself on the exit and a bullet putting his parachute. He referred to as the 1944 bounce “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 advised The Related Press in an interview.
His bounce on Wednesday was an altogether totally different story. Nonetheless buff and sprightly, and having ready for six months with a bodily coach, Rice swooped down with an American flag fluttering beneath him and landed to a wave of applause from the gang of hundreds that gathered to observe the aerial show.
Different parachutists jumped with World Battle II souvenirs, some carrying objects their grandfathers took into battle. Many spectators wore war-era uniforms, and music of the time performed over loudspeakers.
Robert Schaefer, a retired lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Military’s Inexperienced Berets who served in Afghanistan, carried whiskey, cigars and the canine tag and pockets his grandfather, George J. Ehmet, had with him when he fought as an artillery man in France.
“I feel like I got to jump with my grandpa,” Schaefer stated afterward.
British parachutists jumped later Wednesday en masse over Sannerville. D-Day veterans have been anticipated to be amongst them. The jumps have been a part of occasions marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion .
Requested how his D-Day comrades would have felt about him leaping, Rice stated, “They would love it.”
“Some of them couldn’t handle it. Many of them are deceased. We had 38% casualties,” he stated.
Like many different veterans, he stated he stays troubled by the conflict.
“All the GIs suffer from same blame and shame,” Rice stated. “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,” he stated.
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Milos Krivokapic in Carentan contributed to this report