D-Day Vets In Their 90s Parachute Into Normandy 75 Years Later, This Time To Cheers

June 5, 2019

The first time Tom Rice jumped out of a plane over the Normandy coast, German soldiers were firing into the sky and about to launch a deluge of bullets and gunfire into the sea. Seventy-five years later it was nothing but smooth sailing.

Rice, who is 97 years old and was a U.S. World War II paratrooper, was one of a group of about 200 parachutists commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day, which began on June 6, 1944. The invasion of Europe marked a turning point in the war for the Allied forces.

“It went perfect, perfect jump,” Rice said afterward, according to the Associated Press. “I feel great. I’d go up and do it all again.”

It is a stark contrast to his previous voyage through the sky, which he called “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,”

When Rice and his contemporaries first descended on Normandy, France and much of Europe were in the clutches of the Nazi occupation. But on Wednesday, when he floated in a tandem jump from a C-47 transporter, he was met by cheering crowds.

And he wasn’t the only nonagenarian to make the leap.

Harry Read, 95, and John Hutton, 94, both British, also jumped into the misty sky over what was once enemy territory.

“I thought the jump was brilliant. The jump was wonderful in every way. I feel good. My health is good and my mind is still ticking away,” Read told reporters, according to The Guardian.

Meanwhile, Hutton wondered why he doesn’t “have more sense at 94.”

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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