SAN DIEGO — A local World War II veteran marked 75 years since the D-Day invasion Tuesday with a tandem parachute jump not far from the beaches of Normandy.
Tom Rice, 97, was a paratrooper on D-Day. He traveled to France earlier this week to make the special jump. After he landed, he read a prayer from President Franklin Roosevelt.
D-Day — the military term for the first day of the Normandy landings — was the largest amphibious invasion ever undertaken and laid the foundations for the Allied defeat of Germany in World War II.
The invasion took place on June 6, 1944, and saw of tens of thousands of troops from the United States, the UK, France and Canada landing on five stretches of the Normandy coastline — codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword beaches.
Planning for D-Day began more than a year in advance, and the Allies carried out substantial military deception — codenamed Operation Bodyguard — in order to confuse the Germans as to when and where the invasion would take place.
The operation was originally scheduled to begin on June 5, when a full moon and low tides were expected to coincide with good weather, but storms forced a 24-hour delay.
What happened on D-Day?
The amphibious landings — codenamed Operation Overlord — were preceded by an extensive bombing campaign to damage German defenses. Some 24,000 Allied troops were also dropped behind enemy lines shortly after midnight on the day of the invasion.
Deception tactics employed in the months leading up to the attack led the Germans to believe that the initial attacks were merely a diversion and that the true invasion would take place further along the coast.
Allied divisions began landing on the five beaches at 06.30 on June 6.
The US troops were assigned to Utah beach at the base of the Cotentin Peninsular and Omaha beach at the northern end of the Normandy coast. The British subsequently landed on Gold Beach, followed by the Canadians at Juno, and finally the British at Sword, the easternmost point of the invasion.
By midnight on June 6, the troops had secured their beachheads and moved further inland from Utah, Gold, Juno and Sword.
However, not all the landings were successful; US forces suffered substantial losses at Omaha beach, where strong currents forced many landing craft away from their intended positions, delaying and hampering the invasion strategy.
Heavy fire from German positions on the steep cliffs, which had not been effectively destroyed by Allied bombing prior to the invasion, also caused casualties.