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D-Day: Liberation of Sainte-Mère-Église & private John Steele story (Normandy, France)
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member Dorcadion Team
N 49° 24.535 W 001° 18.988
30U E 622123 N 5474277
Quick Description: ...in June 6th, 1944 at 04:30 AM the Stars & Stripes were hoisted over the church tower and St. Mère-Église was the first town to be liberated in France. And church tower itself was scene of famous story of one US paratrooper - private John Steele.
Location: Normandie, France
Date Posted: 6/11/2009 8:59:28 AM
Waymark Code: WM6JV7
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member Team Farkle 7
Views: 29

Long Description:

Private John M. Steele was the American paratrooper made famous in the movie, "The Longest Day" who landed in St. Mère-Église, the first village in Normandy liberated by the Americans on D-Day - June 6th, 1944...

During the first night of Operation Overlord (June 5-6, 1944), American soldiers of the 82nd Airborne parachuted into the area west of St. Mère-Église in successive waves. The town had been the target of an aerial attack and a stray incendiary bomb had set fire to a house east of the town square. The church bell was rung to alert the town of the emergency and townspeople turned out in large numbers to form a bucket brigade supervised by members of the German garrison. By 01:00 AM, the town square was well-lit and filled with German soldiers and villagers when two sticks from the 1st and 2nd battalions were dropped in error directly over the village.

The paratroopers were easy targets and John Steele was one of only a few non-casualties. His parachute was caught in the steeple of the village church in St. Mère-Église, leaving him hanging from its roof-top to witness the carnage. The wounded paratrooper hung there limply for two hours, pretending to be dead, before the Germans took him prisoner. John Steele later escaped from the Germans and rejoined his division when US troops of the 3rd Battalion, 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment attacked the village capturing thirty Germans and killing another eleven. For these actions and his wounds, John Steele was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor and the Purple Heart John M. Steele died of cancer on May 16th, 1969 in Fayetteville, NC.


Today, these events are commemorated by the Airborne Forces Museum in "Place du 6 Juin" in the centre of St. Mère-Église and in the village church where a parachute with an effigy of Private J.M. Steele in his Airborne uniform hangs from the steeple. Bullet holes are still visible in the church's stone walls. Inside, there are stained glass windows, with one depicting the Virgin Mary with paratroopers falling in the foreground.

Though injured and deafened by the church bells, Private Steele survived his ordeal. He continued to visit the town throughout his life and was an honorary citizen of St. Mère Église. The tavern, "Auberge John Steele", stands adjacent to the square and maintains his memory through photos, letters and articles hung on its walls.

John M. Steele is portrayed by Red Buttons in the great film "The Longest Day". Darryl Zanuck's movie was made after the Cornelius Ryan book of the same name.

Related Website: [Web Link]

Supplementary Related Website: [Web Link]

Admission Fee: free access

Opening Days/Times:
24/7/365


Visit Instructions:
Posting a picture(s) of the location would be nice although not required.
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Andre 61 visited D-Day: Liberation of Sainte-Mère-Église & private John Steele story (Normandy, France) 8/11/2017 Andre 61 visited it
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