About Tom Rice


Tom Rice, From Coronado to Berchtesgaden

"The watch speaks for itself in shape, design,
elasticity and durability.”

-Tom Rice
101st Airborne Division
501st Parachute Infantry Regiment
C Company


In the annals of American history, there are tales of courage and valor that transcend generations, etching themselves into the collective memory of a nation. Among these legends, the name of Tom M. Rice shines brightly, a beacon of hope and resilience amidst the darkness of World War II.

Born into the dawn of the roaring twenties, Tom's journey began amidst the relief and optimism that followed the end of the Great War. But fate had other plans for him. As conflict once again loomed on the horizon, young Tom found himself at a crossroads, his destiny intertwined with the fate of the world.

It was December 17, 1941, when the bombing of Pearl Harbor shattered the illusion of peace, propelling America into the heart of the deadliest conflict in human history. At the young age of 22, Tom Rice answered the call to arms, leaving behind the comforts of civilian life to join the fight for freedom going on in Europe.

But Tom was no ordinary soldier. Fueled by his brave spirit and courage, he volunteered for the elite airborne paratrooper school, a daring new branch of the American Army. For Tom, the allure of high risk and the promise of an additional $50 monthly bonus drove him to test the limits of his courage at a time where parachute drops were a brand new tool in the US military arsenal.

Under the watchful eye of Colonel Howard Ravenscroft Johnson, Tom thrived amidst the rigors of training, impressing his superiors with his determination and composure under pressure. Assigned to the esteemed 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, Tom found himself thrust into the crucible of war. 


Tom rice Staff Sergeant


Operation Overlord - Tom Rice's brush with death

As a platoon sergeant, Tom led a unit of 18 soldiers, each one a testament to his leadership and courage. Together, they prepared for their greatest challenge yet – the assault on Normandy, codenamed Operation Overlord.

As Jumper No. 1 aboard a Douglas C-47 Skytrain, Tom braced himself for the perilous descent into enemy territory as part of the first American troops to land in France. German Anti-Air Batteries had other plans however - ultimately hitting his plane as he was at the door. He found himself propelled outside the C-47 but still attached to it, flying at 110MPH through pitch black. 

Yet, amidst the chaos, Tom's managed to compose himself and, despite sustaining injuries managed to detach himself from the plane. After successfully pulling his chute and landing on firm ground, he loses consciousness. 

Waking up to noise around him, he immediately uses the infamous “cricket” the 101st had been distributed before boarding their planes to identify if the sounds was friend or foe. After failing to hear answers, Tom fires his M1 Garand and takes down a German soldier. At that point, he realizes that he had lost his prized A-11 Mil-Spec Watch that he had bought before shipping out to England in 1943.  

From the blood-soaked beaches of Normandy to the snow-capped peaks of Hitler's Eagle's Nest, Tom Rice fought and lived through almost every single important event of the 101st Airborne. He only picked up an injury by enemy sniper-fire during the Battle of Bulge returning by the closing stages of the war to the 101st.

For his combat achievements & courage - Tom Rice was awarded the Bronze Star with an oak leaf cluster as well as a Purple Heart with two clusters.


Post-WW2: Tom's dedication to remembrance

But Tom's story did not end with the end of the war. In the years that followed, he returned to civilian life, channeling his experiences into education as a teacher of Social Studies and History. Yet, his memories of wartime service remained a guiding light, driving him to ensure that the sacrifices of his generation were never forgotten.

In 2019, Tom Rice returned to the skies of Normandy aboard a preserved C-47 to re-execute his initial jump 75 year earlier for D-Day (1944). At the age of 97, he took part in this symbolic parachute jump as a testament to the enduring legacy of courage and sacrifice that defines the Greatest Generation. 

It is thanks to this legendary commemorative jump that we at Praesidus Watch Co. were able to meet Tom Rice for the first time. From there we met him a second time in his home in Coronado, CA where we identified the watch he had lost over the skies of Normandy on June 6th 1944. From there, the A-11 Tom Rice “Lost watch of D-Day” was born.


tom Rice peace sign


Tom Rice sadly passed away in 2021 at the age of 101 after having jumped over Coronado at age 100 on last time. A true paratrooper until the end.

We believe Tom Rice's story is more than just a tale of heroism – it is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, a reminder that in the darkest of times, ordinary men can rise to become extraordinary heroes. And though his name may fade from the pages of history, we work to make sure his legacy will endure. He shall remain a shining example of courage and sacrifice for generations to come.