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Thomas Rice

501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division
Born August 15, 1921, in Coronado, California
WWII Service: 1940-1945

Thomas Rice

Always a risk-taker with a taste for adventure, Tom volunteered for the Army’s brand-new paratrooper division just after high school. He found jumping from a plane exhilarating: “When you first get out of the plane, that prop blast is a little intense, but once you get past that—it was wonderful.”

On D-Day, the 22-year-old landed in Normandy—surviving the jump with a bullet-riddled parachute—and spent months in fierce fighting across France and the Netherlands. During a much-needed rest period, the Battle of the Bulge broke out and his unit rushed to the Ardennes. Though wounded twice by German fire in Bastogne, he survived and went on to help capture Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden, Germany, before returning home to begin a decades-long career as a history teacher.

Tom fittingly celebrated his 100th birthday with a tandem jump over his hometown from D-Day Doll, a restored Douglas C-53 that took part in the Allied invasion of Normandy. The event also held a special meaning for the veteran. “My hope is the next generations will always remember the men who came and fought for them, many sacrificing their lives to liberate the world. May we never forget them.”