Jump by jump, 98-year-old D-Day veteran Tom Rice is nudging closer to his goal. He wants to leap out of planes until he reaches age 100.
The American caused a sensation in June. He parachuted into Normandy for the anniversary of the 1944 D-Day landings. He had done the same thing—only under intense enemy fire—on the original day 75 years before. Rice jumped with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division in World War II.
He was at it again last Thursday. This time, his landing zone was in the Netherlands, and he was strapped to a younger parachutist who steered their canopy.
“Woooo! That was a nice fall!” he yelped as his ’chute opened.
Hundreds of other parachutists also soared over the Netherlands on Thursday alongside Rice. They were commemorating the massive landings of airborne Allied troops into that area in September 1944 under Operation Market Garden—another operation Rice had been a part of. Allied strategists then hoped to stage a land-and-airborne assault that would clear a path over the Rhine River and into Nazi Germany’s heartland. It was intended to hasten the end of the war. But Allied ground troops got bogged down. They did not arrive at the landing site on schedule. That left the airborne soldiers who had jumped ahead of the ground thrust outnumbered. Casualties were high. Operation Market Garden lasted nine days. More Allied troops—about 11,500—died there than in the D-Day landings.
Rice, who fought on the ground and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, described his Thursday jump as “perfect.” He says, “I’m going to do it until I’m 100.”
(Tom Rice, a 98-year-old American World War II veteran, approaches the landing zone in a tandem parachute jump near Groesbeek, the Netherlands, on Thursday as part of the commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden. AP Photo)