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.