Tom Rice was one of the elite paratroopers of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. He volunteered and joined the service around 1943, and on the night of June 5, 1944, he, along with his company, prepared for the assault on Normandy called Operation Overlord. He was the last man to board on a Douglas C-47 at 8:41 English double summer time as Jumper No. 1. Their mission was to secure roads crossing the Cotentin marshes and prevent the German troops from coming in.
They took off and assembled at a stable 5,000ft. They dropped at 1,500ft. over the Brittany peninsula on the right and Cotentin peninsula. A submarine in the middle English channel alerted that they were on German target. While accelerating to escape the shells, Lieutenant Janssen, leading the 18 paratroopers on the plane, commanded Jumper No. 18 to “stand up” and “hook up,” and they began parachuting down. With a bundle of 1,800lbs of equipment beside him, Tom Rice waited for his turn at the door. Traveling at 276 miles per hour – which is near twice their jumping speed – he put his left foot outside the door- two hands at either side – and squatted, ready to jump. The aircraft suddenly went up about 50 feet as the 1,800lbs load was cut off from it. His left arm got caught in the lower left-hand corner of the door which made him swing-out. He hit the side of the aircraft and swung back in. He swung back out and in one more time before turning just enough to get his arm loose. His arm was torn, and his prized Hamilton A-11 wristwatch was stripped off his wrist. He quickly regained focus and parachuted down with his bloody arm into enemy territory.
Not realizing the full extent of the dangers and difficulties that they were about to face, Tom, together with his brothers in arms, was ready and almost eager to go into action and “get the whole bloody thing over with. “ With that, we can see how they sacrificed their lives for the freedom that we have today. This great generation of steel-balled men came and conquered carrying only their grit and courage. Unknowingly looking through the window of their aircraft, who would’ve thought that they would save lots of lives and change the course of history forever? And without their giant service and contribution to society, the world would have been a different place. That is why the bravery and resilience of these wartime heroes are worth commemorating and keeping. They’re the true patriots, real representatives of America.