Veteran Highlight – Tom Rice

501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) of the 101st Airborne Division

Tom Rice

Thomas M. Rice was born August 15, 1921 in Coronado, California. A graduate of Coronado High School in 1940, Tom joined the U.S. Army at Fort Rosecrans near San Diego on November 17 of the same year. In 1943, he attended Camp Toccoa, Georgia before being sent to the Air Force Troop School at Fort Benning. After 18 months of training, he joined the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) of the 101st Airborne Division. Deployed in 1944 in England with the entire Company C, 501st PIR, he prepared for Operation Overlord, the assault of Normandy. On June 5, 1944, at Merryfield Airfield, he embarked aboard a Douglas C-47 belonging to the fourteenth drop serial. On June, 6th, D-Day, he oversaw the men on his aircraft and was scheduled as the first man out. He landed safely despite a bullet piercing his parachute. After Normandy, Thomas’ division returned to England where it was re-equipped and prepared for the Holland invasion of September, 1944. After 72 days in combat, Thomas went to Mourmelon, France for a rest period when the Battle of the Bulge started and his unit was rushed to Bastogne to stop the German breakthrough. In total, Rice was wounded four times in combat. He returned home in time for Christmas, 1945. As a regular participant in commemorations of the landing and the invasion of Normandy, he continues to skydive. On June 5, 2019, he jumped tandem near Carentan for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.