Men of War

97 Year Old WWII Veteran Tom Rice Reenacting His D-Day Jump From 75 Years Ago


“One time we were outnumbered 4-to-1,” he said. “By God, we held on. We did a good job.”~Joseph Reilly, Private, 101st Airborne Division

75 years ago today a little over 13,000 American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions jumped out of their airplanes and right in to history over the wind swept beaches and hills of Normandy.  This was the opening act for Operation Overlord, the invasion of German occupied Western France by Allied forces.

I imagine them floating listlessly in the dark morning air, German bullets whizzing by their heads.  What thoughts must have of come to mind? Will I die today? Will I kill someone? When did I last tell my wife I loved her?  Will I live to see our new baby girl?

Or perhaps none at all, just a grim determination to do the job assigned, which was to capture the town of Cherbourg and provide the Allies a port of supply, block enemy approaches to the U.S. amphibious landings at Utah Beach, capture causeway exits and establish river crossings.

It took 3 days of brutal fighting to successfully barrier up Utah Beach and by weeks end all the German strongpoints, although tenaciously defended, were defeated.

D-Day casualties for the 101st consisted of 182 killed, 557 wounded, and 501 missing. For the 82nd, it was 156 killed, 347 wounded, and 756 missing.  That was just for one day.

These men went way beyond just doing their job.  Courageous and strong, they relentlessly pushed forth under the most hellacious of circumstances until their mission was complete.  Without them the Allied Forces would never have won the Battle of Normandy and Hitler would not have been defeated.  Who knows where we would be now.

What motivates men like this? Love of country, the moral duty of defeating evil, the camaraderie of brotherhood among Soldiers? Probably all of these things, but the driving force was they were called to do a job and they did it.  Sounds simplistic but it’s not.  It speaks to a type of character that runs deep inside a person’s soul, one I fear perhaps we may be in short supply of today.

Over and over I’ve heard the same familiar quote from men that have fought in wars,  “We’re not the heroes, those guys there buried under the white crosses are.”

That’s what they say because that’s the type of men they are, humble of their own accomplishments and respectful to the fallen.  They are all heroes in my opinion, alive or dead.


For some context of what these men went through that fateful day along with brilliant pictures, check out Julie’s fabulous post on the subject.

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26 Responses to Men of War

  1. Thanks, Tricia for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wally Fry says:

    Excellent, Tricia

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Al says:

    What an eloquent tribute, Tricia. Thank you. I viited Normandy beach a few years ago. It is aboslutely astounding how they pushed through that fortified defense. Much of it still remains. These guys were dedicated, devoted and relentless. Hard to believe we’ll ever see anything like it again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tricia says:

      You’re welcome Al and thank you for your kind words. I think every American should visit Normandy and immerse themselves in the history of the immense battles that took place there and visit the cemeteries. Hard to believe we’ll ever see anything like it as you say, but sometimes not so hard unfortunately.


  4. Dennis says:

    Brilliant words as usual Tricia. You hit the mark, but do not doubt that there are still men and women out there that would make the same jump, under the same conditions and accomplish the same result. They don’t brag or strut or beat their chest. They do the job and then go back home expecting no reward or recognition.
    “Them that can do, Them that can’ teach” or brag or complain or belittle or try to change history. They are cowards.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Nice tribute, Trish. I have found when I try to put such things into words about the heroes of Omaha Beach and Okinawa, it falls short because: 1) So much has already been written that it’s hard to pick different words, and 2) It’s really difficult to adequately encapsulate into words such a huge feat. The WW2 soldiers were ready to be gritty without complaining because the Great Depression had already tested their mettle. So, what will happen in the future when another global-sized force of evil comes at the throat of the civilized western nations? Will the civilians be ready to sacrifice everything for survival, like our grandparents did for us?

    Ben Shapiro recently interviewed Tom Rice and 3 other D-day soldiers. The 3rd hero, Jack Gutman, was particularly heartbreaking to listen to. He endured untreated, severe PTSD for over half a decade. Get a box of tissues and watch:

    – Jeff

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tricia says:

      Thanks Jeff. I know exactly what you mean about having difficulty writing about WW II event, as it’s really impossible to fully grasp and interpret what happened.

      Thanks for the interview link too, I can’t wait to watch.


  6. Citizen Tom says:

    What motivates men like this? That is a bit of a puzzle. We can glamorize it, and sometimes we can do so justly. Many of the guys probably did what they did because the guys around them were depending upon them. When we train in the military, we spend every day all day with the same guys. Those were the guys the 82nd and 101st jumped into combat with. Then they thought of the people at home, and they realized those people were depending upon them too. I suspect that latter thought crystalized as they pushed through Europe and realized what the Nazis had done to those they conquered.

    Others were just afraid of being labelled cowards. Pride is a powerful thing. What won’t men risk for their pride? That is the question.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tom, I recommend Victor Davis Hanson’s book “The Second World Wars“. At the end, VDH explains how deterrence (or the lack of it) played a big part in the inevitability of WW2. Because WW1 ended indecisively from the German point of view, and because during the 20s and 30s the rest of Western Europe and America didn’t do anything to display deterrence to the rising Nazi party and its leader Adolph Hitler, it allowed Hitler to fantasize that he could actually pull it off.

      Today, we in America (and the rest of NATO that lives protected under the deterrent vigilance of their protectors, the USA) take the reality of the effectiveness of ultimate deterrence for granted. So we look back on those who were brave enough, or peer-pressured into acting brave enough, to storm those beaches and we wonder what motivated them to leave the comfort of their homes on their isolated North American continent to go “over there” and quite probably die.

      But if we put ourselves into their minds and their pre-nuclear-bomb geopolitical era, they felt like their country really was existentially threatened. Especially with the Japanese empire threatening their Pacific flank too.

      I think all our WW2 veterans had a totally justified fear that the survival of our republican way of life was hanging in the balance. We were watching our parent country, the United Kingdom, being pummeled into dust. The Third Reich seemed unstoppable by the rest of Europe and the Soviet Union, without America helping out. At the time, it seemed like if Hitler held his newly gained territory of the whole European continent and was able to consolidate it into a self-sustaining German Empire, that perhaps in another 5-10 years he’d be ready to fulfill the next step in his plan — conquering the Americas.

      VDH’s clinical (and fascinating) analysis of the Second World Wars (so named because of how they started of as several regional wars, and then Japan and Germany parlayed them into a huge combined firestorm) proves conclusively that actually Japan and German never stood a chance. But in 1940 and 1941, nobody in the Allied nations thought that.

      So they were motivated by a global effort to save their way of life. They didn’t see any other way to assure the defeat of tyranny than going all in.

      That’s the way I see it, from what I’ve learned.

      VDH’s book has been developed into a whole online course offered for free by Hillsdale College. Here’s a “trailer” of the course:

      – Jeff

      Liked by 1 person

      • Citizen Tom says:


        Interesting. I enjoy reading Victor Davis Hanson’s columns, but I have never read one of his books.

        Was the defeat of The Third Reich inevitable? Perhaps, but I think the problem was Hitler’s pride. He made too many enemies all at once. When he was still engaged in conflict with Britain and the USSR, he never should have added the USA to his list of enemies.

        When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Germany let Japan drag his country into conflict with the USA. At the time, even the USA did not realize how it would perform in an overseas military conflict.

        There were two considerations almost everyone seems to have underestimated.
        1. The USA was already an economic powerhouse. Even we did not realize our capacity to put soldiers and munitions into the field.
        2. The USA then had the national will to fight with tooth and nail ferocity. The Civil War had ended almost 75 years before the start of WWII, and people had forgotten, if they ever had reason to know, what the USA was capable of.

        Because it was afraid of its own people turning against the war they had started, The Third Reich never dedicated 100 percent of its economic might to the war. From the beginning, full of righteous anger, the USA put everything it had into obtaining an unconditional surrender. Even the effort the North and the South put into the Civil War paled by comparison. Yet it was at the point the people of America decided to dedicate everything they had to the fight that God let it be known that He had numbered the days of The Third Reich and militaristic regime that ran Japan.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Tricia says:

      I think you’re right Tom, the motivation was probably a combination of factors until they saw face to face the evil they were up against. Still, I think men were raised differently back then compared to now at least in respect to faith and country. Unfortunately we will probably see soon enough if that makes s difference.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Canuck Carl says:

    I can’t imagine what these brave soldiers would have been thinking as they enter such extremely dangerous conflict zones. So much respect for them. Thank you Tricia for bringing this to me so vividly.

    Liked by 1 person

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