Parachutists are jumping over Normandy again, just as soldiers did 75 years ago for D-Day—but this time without being shot at. C-47 transporters dropped stick after stick of parachutists, a couple of hundred in all—including a D-Day veteran, Tom Rice.
The parachutists were honoring the airborne soldiers who jumped into gunfire and death ahead of the June 6, 1944, seaborne invasion.
Their landing zone for Wednesday’s operation was fields of wildflowers outside Carentan, one of the objectives of the thousands dropped over Normandy as a prelude to the seaborne invasions.
Tom Rice, 97-year-old veteran paratrooper jumped in tandem into roughly the same area he landed in on D-Day—he said it was dark when he touched down in 1944, and he can’t be sure exactly where he was, he said it was difficult getting out of of all the equipment.
Rice jumped with the 101st Airborne Division on D-Day, landing safely on that momentous day despite catching himself on the exit and a bullet striking his ‘chute. He called the 1944 jump the worst jump he ever had.
Wednesday’s jump was a different story. He came down in tandem with another parachutist, after preparing for six months with a physical trainer.
Rice flew down Wednesday with the stars and stripes flag fluttering beneath him, and landed to a wave of applause from a crowd thousands strong, gathered to watch the aerial display.
Other parachutists jumped with World War II souvenirs, some of which had been worn by their grandfathers into battle. Many spectators wore war-era uniforms and music of the time played over loudspeakers, giving the display a 1940s air.
Asked how his D-Day comrades would have felt about him jumping, Rice said they would have loved it, recalling that 38 percent of them died.
With the number of D-Day survivors dwindling fast, Rice said he feels he represents a whole generation.
Rice’s jump and others were made with A group of the US Dakota aircraft that took off from Duxford Airfield in Britain’s Cambridgeshire on Wednesday.
The historic aircraft played an important role in the Normandy landings delivering gliders, filled with troops, to their target areas.
Commemorating the events, the Dakota aircraft flew toward Normandy, dropping off parachutists in historic drop zones along the way.
Other jumps on Wednesday involved British veterans at Sannerville as part of events marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.