Thomas Rice Obituary, Death -Rice was born in Coronado, California, on August 15, 1921. His father died in a 1934 plane crash in the Panama Canal Zone. Coronado High School in 1940 and Fort Rosecrans near San Diego on November 17, 1940. He went to Camp Toccoa in Georgia before Fort Benning in 1943. After 18 months of training, he joined the 101st Airborne Division’s 501st PIR. Rice commanded a 12-man paratrooper combat group and was platoon sergeant for six months.
In 1944, he’s sent to England with Company C, 501st PIR, to prepare for Operation Overlord, the Normandy invasion. He’s in a mortar-armed group. On June 5, 1944, he boarded a Douglas C-47 at Merryfield airfield. “Albany” is his division’s mission to secure roads through the Cotentin marshes.
“On June 5, 1944, as we boarded the planes that would lead us into combat, I am not sure we realized the full extent of the dangers and difficulties we faced, or if we thought to the hundreds of thousands of other men who have faced similar or worse trials, but if we had known all that, it would not have made any difference to us,” Rice recalls. We were eager to finish the job.”
Under fire from German anti-aircraft artillery, the “Flak,” the C-47 transporting 18 paratroopers led by Lieutenant Janssen accelerates to avoid the shells. As the plane flies over the “D” drop zone, a shell hits the cabin and several soldiers are heard firing for a few seconds.
After a tense landing, Tom regains control of his Thompson submachine gun and surveys his surroundings. He realizes he is near a canal (the Carentan-Sea Canal) and meets Tony Das and Franck Ficarotta. Isolated paratroopers gradually join them. The terrain is particularly marshy, and men struggle to keep from sinking into the mud.
Knowing their location, the military believes they have completed the most difficult task of the day by defeating topography. However, Lieutenant-Colonel Caroll (commander of the 501st PIR’s 1st battalion) is killed, and his deputy Major Phillip Gavin is captured.