CARENTAN, France (AP) — Parachutists are jumping over Normandy again, just as soldiers did 75 years ago for D-Day - but this time without being shot at.
Engines throbbing, C-47 transport planes dropped group after group of parachutists, a couple of hundred in all - including a 97-year-old D-Day veteran, Tom Rice.
“It went perfect, perfect jump,” Rice said after his jump. “I feel great. I’d go up and do it all again.”
The jumpers were honoring the airborne soldiers who descended into gunfire and death ahead of the June 6, 1944, seaborne invasion .
The landing zone for Wednesday’s operation was fields of wildflowers outside Carentan, one of the objectives of the thousands of paratroopers who entered occupied France from the sky dropped over Normandy in the D-Day prelude.
Rice, of San Diego, jumped into roughly the same area he landed in on D-Day. He said it was dark when he touched down in 1944 and he can’t be sure exactly where he was.
Rice jumped with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division on that momentous day 75 years ago, landing safely despite catching himself on the exit and a bullet striking his parachute. He called the 1944 jump “the worst jump I ever had.”
“I got my left armpit caught in the lower left hand corner of the door so I swung out, came back and hit the side of the aircraft, swung out again and came back, and I just tried to straighten my arm out and I got free,” he told The Associated Press in an interview.
His jump on Wednesday was a different story. He came down in tandem with another parachutist, after preparing for six months with a physical trainer.
Rice flew down with an American flag fluttering beneath him and landed to a wave of applause from the crowd of thousands that gathered to watch the aerial display.
Other parachutists jumped with World War II souvenirs, some carrying items their grandfathers took into battle. Many spectators wore war-era uniforms, and music of the time played over loudspeakers.