WWII Paratrooper Celebrates 100th Birthday in Style by Jumping Out of a Plane

by Keeli Parkey

If you are lucky enough to live to be 100 years old, what would you want to do to mark that milestone? Most of us would probably not have jumping out of a plane on our lists. But that is exactly what a World War II veteran paratrooper decided to do.

According to the Star-Advertiser, this American veteran is Tom Rice. He decided to take this leap on his birthday on Aug. 15. He did so and landed on the beach near the Hotel del Coronado in California. Rice is a resident of Coronado.

So, why did this former World War II paratrooper decide to do something so daring on his 100th birthday?

Well, to answer that question you have to go all the way back to the 1940s. See, Rice was a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division during World War II. One reason he decided to jump out of a plan on his birthday was to honor the soldiers who died in the Normandy invasion. It was that military campaign that helped bring about the end of World War II.

“‘This jump is in honor of all the fellows who, for the most part, never got to go home. It’s an acknowledgment that they exist vicariously in our minds,” Rice said.

Being one of the only living members of the 101st Airborne Division who served in World War II is not lost on this veteran paratrooper. “I’m carrying the weight of the entire division on my shoulders,” he also shared.

Tom Rice also decided to jump out of an airplane on his 100th birthday simply to show that he was still capable of doing so. This is a man who is not letting his age get in his way. Rice landed safely from his 100th birthday celebratory jump. There to meet him were his wife and four of his children. Unsurprisingly, the media was also on hand.

Veteran Paratrooper Tom Rice Also Took Part in the Battle of the Bulge

When American paratrooper Tom Rice jumped out of an airplane in France during World War II he did so with almost 140 pounds of equipment on his back. He also had to worry about the enemies and their patrols on the ground. At the time, Rice was part of the 101st Airborne Division’s 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment.

Even at 100 years of age, this World War II paratrooper clearly remembers the Normandy invasion. One thing he recalled is how he and his fellow paratroopers had clickers with them to communicate. They would click these devices in order to communicate

“We’d click once and listen,” Tom Rice said. The paratroopers also used the words, “welcome, flash, and thunder,” to signal safety to each other.

Tom Rice’s 100th birthday jump isn’t the only time he has jumped in recent years. In June 2019 he performed a tandem jump with Art Shaffer over Normandy. This jump by the paratrooper was in honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Rice’s service didn’t stop on D-Day. Following that battle, he also took part in the Battle of the Bulge. After that, he was part of the Allied forces that battled Nazis close to Berchtesgaden, Germany. This location was close to what was known as Adolf Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest” chalet.