Thursday is the 75th anniversary of the Allied forces’ D-Day invasion of Normandy, France. It was the largest seaborne invasion in history and was a turning point toward an Allied victory in World War II.
One D-Day veteran who leaped out of an airplane to land on enemy soil decided he wanted to commemorate the anniversary in a special way, according to the Associated Press.
He leaped out of an airplane again over Normandy. And he did it at the age of 97.
Tom Rice, who was with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, trained for six months to be physically fit enough to make the jump on Wednesday, the day before the June 6 anniversary and the day that paratroopers landed ahead of the famous beach invasion. He even chose his landing site to be one of the exact fields that paratroopers landed in as they entered Nazi-occupied France in the dark of night.
Rice’s original jump in 1944 was “the worst jump I ever had,” he recalled.
Back then, he said, "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.”
75 years later, the jump went much more smoothly, although the landing still looked a bit rough for your average 97-year-old. Take a look:
"It went perfect, perfect jump," he said after his tandem jump with another parachutist. "I feel great. I'd go up and do it all again."
Thousands of people applauded his landing after he floated down. Other, much younger parachutists jumped as well, in some cases carrying battle mementos from their grandfathers.
It was an impressive way to commemorate the incredible bravery shown and the sacrifices made by American, British, and Canadian heroes who leaped in darkness into enemy territory to strike a fatal blow against tyranny and preserve freedom in the world.
Rice wished some of the other guys who jumped in 1944 could have jumped with him in 2019.
"They would love it," he said. "Some of them couldn't handle it. Many of them are deceased. We had 38 percent casualties."