Salute to Veterans

At 98, D-Day vet jumps again, with eyes on the big 100

GROESBEEK, Netherlands — Jump by jump, 98-year-old D-Day veteran Tom Rice is nudging closer to his goal of leaping out of planes at age 100.

The American who caused a sensation in June by parachuting into Normandy for the 75th anniversary of the 1944 D-Day landings was at it again on Thursday.

This time, his landing zone was in the Netherlands.

"Woooo! That was a nice fall!" he yelped as his 'chute opened.

World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer, 96, receives the Bronze Star from U.S. Army Maj. Peter Semanoff at the World War II Memorial, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, in Washington. (Alex Brandon/AP)
The ‘Hero of Cologne’ receives his Bronze Star 75 years late

When 96-year-old Clarence Smoyer came to Washington Wednesday, he thought he was heading to the Pentagon to sign copies of “Spearhead,” a recent book detailing his exploits as a World War II tank gunner.

Strapped to a younger parachutist who steered their canopy, Rice jumped as part of commemorations for the massive landings of airborne Allied troops in September 1944.

He described the jump as "perfect" and said: "I'm going to do it until I'm 100."

Rice jumped with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division in World War II.

Parachutist jump from a plane near Groesbeek, Netherlands, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, as part of commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden, an ultimately unsuccessful airborne and land offensive that Allied leaders hoped would bring a swift end to World War II by capturing key Dutch bridges and opening a path to Berlin. (Peter Dejong/AP)
Parachutist jump from a plane near Groesbeek, Netherlands, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, as part of commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden, an ultimately unsuccessful airborne and land offensive that Allied leaders hoped would bring a swift end to World War II by capturing key Dutch bridges and opening a path to Berlin. (Peter Dejong/AP)

Hundreds of other parachutists also soared over the Netherlands on Thursday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden, a 1944 land-and-airborne thrust through the country.

Allied strategists hoped the assault would clear a path toward Nazi Germany's industrial heartland and hasten the end of the war. But ground troops got bogged down, leaving airborne soldiers who'd jumped ahead of the thrust outnumbered and outgunned.

The military bungle was immortalized in the Hollywood film and Cornelius Ryan's book "A Bridge Too Far."

More Allied troops - about 11,500 - died in the nine days of Operation Market Garden than in the D-Day landings.

Tom Rice, a 98-year-old American WWII veteran, and U.S. Ambassador Pete Hoekstra, right, pose with the U.S. flag after landing with a tandem parachute jump from a plane near Groesbeek, Netherlands, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, as part of commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden. (Peter Dejong/AP)
Tom Rice, a 98-year-old American WWII veteran, and U.S. Ambassador Pete Hoekstra, right, pose with the U.S. flag after landing with a tandem parachute jump from a plane near Groesbeek, Netherlands, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, as part of commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden. (Peter Dejong/AP)
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