WWII veteran with US 101st Airborne Division dies at 101

A US paratrooper who participated in the 1944 D-Day invasion, and lived to reenact the famed World War II landing 75 years later, has died aged 101, his unit -- the 101st Airborne Division -- announced Thursday.

"Today we say farewell to a 101st Airborne Legend, Tom Rice," tweeted the US Army division.

In the night of June 5, 1944, Rice strapped himself with 110 pounds (50 kilograms) of weapons and supplies and joined his 9,000 comrades on a nighttime flight across the English Channel into Nazi-occupied Normandy.

His paratrooper division was tasked with securing the muddy roads around the village of Carentan, at the intersection of the Utah and Omaha beaches where Allied forces would land at daybreak.

Seventy-five years later and under much less clandestine circumstances, Rice made the jump again, as part of a series of anniversary commemorations.

Then 97-years-old, Rice waved a giant American flag as he descended, strapped to a parachutist who controlled their tandem jump.

"It feels great," he said after landing to rapturous applause in a field outside Carentan. "I want to go back up and do it again!"

Rice told AFP that for years after the war, he was worried the local French would resent him and his fellow veterans for the destruction of towns and homes in the fight to defeat the Germans.

"We did a lot of damage. People were killed, artillery pock marks, stained glass windows destroyed," said Rice, who became a history teacher in California after the war.

Jean-Pierre Lhonneur, Carentan's mayor at the time, said, "All the veterans say that: 'We destroyed your country.'

"They're very surprised when we welcome them with open arms."

The 101st Airborne, in its tweet, described Rice as "a humble man who just wanted to do his duty for his country."

ube/rle/des/sw