Written by Michael T. Naya, Jr.
“Tom was very calm, ready to go, and wasn’t nervous whatsoever!” stated Stephen Rose, “he gave interviews, was friendly, and just liked having us there! He calls us and the D-Day Doll the D-Day Dolly which is great! After a flyby of the Hotel Del Coronado we prepared him for the jump, and he wanted to do it like a paratrooper! We made sure everything was done properly and it was a success! Tom is a very nice gentleman; we are proud to have been able to drop him.”
Tom Rice has made national headlines over the years for his amazing jumps as he did during World War II. Most notably, Tom jumped into Normandy once again at the age of ninety-eight for the seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day, as well as jumped into Holland for the seventy-fifth anniversary of Operation Market Garden.
Tom enlisted in the U.S. Army on November 17, 1940, at Fort Rosecrans, California. In 1943, he was sent to Camp Toccoa, Georgia and later Fort Benning. After completing basic training, he was assigned to Company C, 501st Parachute Infantry Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. Alongside the 101st Airborne Division he was sent to England in 1944 where preparations were made for the jump into Normandy. As the C-47’s transporting Tom’s company made their way over Normandy they were hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire. Amid his aircraft taking fire Tom made the jump and landed safely. After touching down, he linked up several of his comrades as well as any stragglers that came their way. The group, numbered at nearly a dozen stragglers, made their way through enemy territory. Ultimately, they came across a farmer who told them that they were two kilometers from Barquette Lock, their objective.
As they headed to their position, they came across components of the 326th Airborne Engineers. Ultimately, despite facing an unrelenting sniper they captured Barquette Lock later that day. Between June 7 – 8, Tom took part in combat on the way to Saint-Come-du-Mont and Carentan. Later, Tom took part in the jump into Holland on September 17, 1944, and later saw combat in the Ardennes which would become known as the Battle of the Bulge. While serving near Bastogne he was heavily wounded and evacuated for medical treatment. He rejoined the 101st Airborne just in time for the capturing of Hitlers Eagle Nest at Berchtesgaden.
In 2004, Tom published his memoir “Trial by Combat: A Paratrooper of the 101st Airborne Remembers Division the 1944 Battle of Normandy.” Another book titled “My Part in the War: The Memories of Staff Sergeant Thomas M. Rice, 101st Airborne Division” is set to be released in English soon. Among his many achievements and awards Tom was made an honorary member of the DC-3 Society. Anybody who has met Tom understands that he is a shining example of the Greatest Generation! To those of you who have helped Tom to become such a momentous man, thank you!