Richard H. “Dick” Case, a retired Army Special Forces lieutenant colonel who was in the first echelon of paratroopers to jump into Normandy, France, during the D-Day invasion of World War II, died Saturday.
He was 87 and had lived in Las Vegas since 1963.
He died at Nathan Adelson Hospice and had been unconscious since March 6 when he choked on a piece of steak during dinner at a friend’s house, family members said.
While he was best known for the historic, combat jump with the 101st Airborne Division’s 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment on the night of June 5, 1944, his family will remember him as a devoted father, grandfather and charitable member of the Las Vegas community.
“We didn’t talk much about the war until the 50th anniversary” of the Normandy invasion, his daughter, Stacy McCrary, said Monday in a telephone interview from Texas.
“He was big in the Boy Scouts. He was like the dad everybody should have. He was such a humble man. He was everybody’s friend,” she said. McCrary said her father “was always a daredevil. We’d go out on Sundays and ride bicycles, and he’d ride a unicycle. Once he flew a plane from the East Coast to the West Coast following railroad tracks.”
That trip, she said, was when he was a Hollywood consultant for the 1956 movie, “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.” He also served as military adviser that year for the movie, “Screaming Eagles.”
In a 2004 interview with the Review-Journal for the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Case recalled being the last one out of the plane, carrying with him explosives, firing caps and his M-1 rifle. As the plane descended over the Normandy coast “everything opened up on us, anti-aircraft, machine guns, rifle fire, and the noise was unbelievable. We had orders not to load until daylight. We were jumping into a firefight with no ammunition in our weapons,” he said.
Case also jumped into Holland and Belgium with the 101st. He was wounded three times and received three Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals.
Richard Haynes Case was born Nov. 17, 1920, in Nanaimo, British Columbia. At 4 years old, he moved to the United States.
As a Georgia Tech engineering student in 1943, he joined the Army through the enlisted reserve program and volunteered for jump school and demolition school.
After the war, he graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a political science degree in 1948. He later attended the University of Grenoble in France and, in 1950, returned to active duty serving with the 187th Parachute Infantry Regiment Combat Team in Korea and Japan.
He then volunteered for Special Forces and served with the 10th Special Forces Group in Bad Tolz, Germany from 1958-1960.
In Las Vegas, he ran a travel agency with his wife, Betty, who died in 2003. His son Robert died in 1983.
Besides McCrary, of Colleyville, Texas, he is survived by his former wife, Vivienne Case, of Reno; sons, Michael, of Reno, and Bret, of Ohio; daughter Victoria Ferrari Ganser, of Reno; and five grandchildren.
A memorial service will be at noon April 13 at Palm Mortuary on Eastern Avenue. His ashes will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
The family prefers donations to the Disabled American Veterans Department of Nevada, P.O. Box 570356, Las Vegas, 89157-0356, or to Nathan Adelson Hospice.