The story of Tom Rice is epic, and his watch was a part of it…
Tom jumped into Normandy on D-Day as a mortarman with Company C, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. Approaching the drop zone, his aircraft was struck by an enemy shell. In the panic as the plane accelerated to 164 mph (54 mph above the recommended jump speed), Tom attempted to exit. His arm got stuck in the door for precious seconds. When he finally jumped, he was far off his target. His chute opened only 300 feet from the ground near the sea canal outside of Carentan. When he landed, along with everything else that had gone wrong, he had lost his favorite A-11 watch.
Tom went on to fight through the D-Day campaign and then dropped into Holland during Operation Market Garden. He was seriously wounded during the siege of Bastogne and was hospitalized, but was able to join his unit at Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest at the end of the war. After WWII, Tom went into public education for over 40 years inspiring young people to live the same values of courage, character, and vision that sustained our Greatest Generation through one of the most difficult times in our history.
Fast forward to last year’s 75th Anniversary of D-Day, and one of the big highlights of the events was that Tom, at 97 years old, would be jumping back into Normandy along with a team trained by the WWII ADT at their home base on Frederick Army Airfield in Oklahoma.
When the staff at Praesidus Watch Makers, a subsidiary of Montrichard Group, met and heard the story of Tom’s lost watch they set out to make him a replacement! The team at Praesidus was ideal for the project as well. Led by an experienced watchmaker and former paratrooper of the French armed forces, they were inspired by the idea of sharing a common passion for honoring the legacy of the WWII Airborne Forces – and so the Tom Rice A-11 Watch project was born. The team also decided to assemble the watches in the US in to celebrate and commemorate the long history of friendship between France and the USA.
On June 6 of this year, the staff at Praesidus presented Tom with his new watch. Tom was delighted! Not only was it the anniversary of D-Day, Tom received his new watch at the same time that he was asked to ring the bell at Naval Station North Island with members of the WWII ADT present as part of Freedom Rings Global—an international effort to remember D-Day in spite of the many COVID-19 restrictions in place on public gatherings.
Praesidus has also graciously invited the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team to join with them in bringing you the same watch that they presented to Tom a few weeks ago. Pre-order the Tom Rice commemorative A-11 watch now at Praesidus.com, and you will receive it in time for Veteran’s Day.
Praesidus also wanted to use part of the profits from the sale of these watches to help Tom and other veterans through an association that supports veterans. So, if you select “WWII AIRBORNE DEMONSTRATION TEAM” from the options at checkout, Praesidus will donate 10% of the sale to support the WWII ADT’s mission.
Pro tip – the WWII ADT say that if you want to get a watch that most closely resembles the ones worn by most GI’s during the war, order the 38mm size watch with black face, and add a spare OD strap to your order.
Check out all the options at Praesidus.com