NORMANDY, France (WKRN) — To mark 75 years since the D-Day invasion, parachutists jumped from C-47 transporters in World War II colors and other aircraft, aiming for fields of wild flowers on the outskirts of Carentan, one of the early objectives for Allied troops.
Among the jumpers was American D-Day veteran with the 101st Airborne Tom Rice, 97. He jumped into Normandy with thousands of other parachutists in 1944, and recalled it as “the worst jump I ever had.”
Like many other veterans, Rice said he remains troubled by the war.
“We did a lot of destruction, damage. And we chased the Germans out and coming back here is a matter of closure,” he said. “You can close the issue now.”
Commemorations in France began early Wednesday morning with U.S. Army Rangers climbing the jagged cliffs of Normandy’s Pointe du Hoc to honor the men who scaled them under fire 75 years ago, helping give the Allies a foothold in France.
Elderly veterans looked on as members of the 75th Ranger Regiment started mounting the limestone promontory at dawn, pulling themselves up on ropes one by one, seagulls swooping above them.
They’re recreating a journey taken by the U.S. Army’s 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions to destroy Nazi guns atop the cliffs. The operation helped prepare the way for Allied troops landing on beaches up a few kilometers (miles) up the coast to break Hitler’s stranglehold on France.
Of the 235 men who took on the cliffs in 1944, only 90 were fit for battle two days later.
***The Associated Press contributed to this report.