The Lost Watch of D-Day
On the night of D-Day, June 6th, 1944, Sergeant Tom Rice jumped into Normandy. Due to enemy fire by German DCA, his aircraft had to accelerate to 164 mph (54 mph above the recommended jump speed). Suddenly, 1800 pounds of para pack bundles prematurely dropped, causing the aircraft to elevate about fifty feet, and with the centrifugal force of the plane, it contributed to Tom's disastrous exit. The accelerated speed and strength of the winds, wedged Tom in the lower-left corner of the door. It was only after several desperate attempts that he could break free and jump into the unknown. The metal of the door tore his arm up to his wrist, and his favorite wristwatch, a brand new A-11 was ripped off and lost in the Normandy night.
Once Tom was on the ground, he was disappointed when he realized he lost his expensive wristwatch.
He joined his Airborne Brothers, Tony Das, and Frank Figuerotta. They went on to fight at the forefront of historical battles that established the notoriety of the legendary 101st Airborne Division. Tom showed a remarkable sense of duty at the locks of La Barquette. The guerrilla skirmishes with the fearsome German fallschirmjaeger around La Billonnerie and the counter-attack of the German SS on June 13th to take back Carentan.
Then on September 17th, 1944, the jump over the Netherlands came Operation Market Garden, the terrible battles to protect the Eindhoven corridor and the stalemate under the threat of German shells in interminable trench warfare in the autumn of 1944. The siege of Bastogne came just a few days after he was finally granted some rest. On December 22, 1944, Tom was severely wounded in Bastogne when drawing enemy fire to clear his section. After extended hospital stays in Paris and England, his perseverance allowed him to reach the end of the war in Berchtesgaden. In 1946, he was able to resume his life as a student in California, where he still resides after a long career as a teacher and sports coach.