97-year-old veteran parachutes for WWII anniversary

Larry Hoffman
June 6, 2019

The vet was full of energy following the jump - enough to clarify his age with gusto.

A 97-year-old US veteran has parachuted into Normandy - 75 years after he made the same journey on D-Day.

Raw video: 97-year-old veteran paratrooper Tom Rice, who jumped with the 101st Airborne Division on D-Day, leaps from a plane in France to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

"I am sure that anyone with imagination must dislike the thought of what's coming", his letter said. "I feel very proud that I took part in it".

Rice's D-Day jump on June 6, 1944, was with the US Army's 101st Airborne Division, with him landing safely despite the bullet hole - and him nearly never making it out of the plane.

When asked what his D-Day comrades would have felt about him recreating their bravery, Rice said: "They would love it".

Reenactments over Carentan have become more common in recent years, and veterans themselves have been returning more frequently, even though majority remain on the ground. "We had 38 per cent casualties", he said.

Portsmouth was the main staging point for 156,000 US, British, Canadian and other Allied troops who sailed for northern France.

"All the GIs suffer from the same blame and shame", he said. It bothers us all the time for what we did.

"There's a lot of tension on the shoulders and arms and legs, so we did about four months of physical exercise", he said.

He wrote: "Although I would give anything to be back with you, I have not yet had any wish at all to back down from the job we have to do". "But the wartime generation -my generation- is resilient, and I am delighted to be with you in Portsmouth today", the 93-year-old monarch said in a brief address during a ceremony attended by world leaders Wednesday.

Dozens of world leaders including US President Donald Trump attended, while President Vladimir Putin - who attended 70th-anniversary celebrations five years ago - hosted Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Moscow.

"According to historians, the Normandy landing did not fundamentally influence the result of World War II", she said.

Moscow, which had been fighting German forces in the east for nearly three years by the time of D-Day, and gradually pushing them back from early 1943, had been urging Britain's Winston Churchill to open a second front as far back as August 1942. He landed safely despite some problems exiting the plane and a bullet going through his parachute.

At the time of the invasion, the tide of the war in Europe had already turned against Nazi Germany, following the Soviet victories at Stalingrad and Kursk, and the allied invasion of Italy in 1943.

This week, more than 1,300 current US servicemen and women are in Normandy to commemorate D-Day, alongside close to 1,000 military personnel from Europe and Canada.

The ceremony brought together presidents, prime ministers and other representatives of the countries that fought alongside Britain in Normandy: New Zealand, the United States, Canada, Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Denmark, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland.

The D-Day landings intensified pressure on Hitler's war machine by forcing the Nazis to fight on two fronts.

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