CARENTAN, France — Parachutists are jumping over Normandy again, just as soldiers did 75 years ago for D-Day ‚Äî but this time without being shot at.
With the throb of their engines rumbling through cloudy skies, C-47 transport planes in World War II colours dropped jumpers with round canopies reminiscent of those used by airborne forces in 1944.
Their landing zone for Wednesday’s operation was fields of wildflowers outside Carentan, one of the objectives of the thousands dropped over Normandy as a prelude to the seaborne invasions on June 6, 1944 .
Thousands watched as the jumpers softly floated through the bright skies. Many spectators are wearing WWII era uniforms and music of the time plays over loudspeakers, giving the display a 1940s air.
Among the jumpers Wednesday is D-Day veteran Tom Rice, 97, of San Diego. He jumped into Normandy with thousands of other parachutists in 1944, and recalls it as “the worst jump I ever had.”
“I got my left armpit caught in the lower left hand corner of the door so I swung out came back and hit the side of the aircraft swung out again and came back and I just tried to straighten my arm out and I got free,” he told The Associated Press in an interview.
Rice is jumping in tandem with another parachutist. He has been preparing for the last six months for his jump, working with a physical trainer.
Like many other veterans, Rice said he remains troubled by the war.
“All the GIs suffer from same blame and shame. It bothers us all the time for what we did. We did a lot of destruction, damage. And we chased the Germans out and coming back here is a matter of closure. You can close the issue now,” he said.
Other jumps are planned later Wednesday involving British veterans at Sannerville as part of events marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.