France Travel Planner by Tom Brosnahan & Jane Fisher   Ste-Mère-Église, Normandy, France
This Normandy town's most famous personality, US paratrooper Private John Steele, only "visited" briefly, but he is long remembered and honored.

 
   

 

Ste-Mère-Église, 10 km (6 miles) inland southwest from Utah Beach in Normandy, has the distinction of being the first French town liberated on D-Day.

On D-Day (June 6, 1944), the paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Airborne Division weren't supposed to land right in the middle of the small town of Ste-Mère-Église—but unfortunately many of them did.

As portrayed in the movie The Longest Day, many paratroopers were mistakenly dropped in the center of the town, and some were caught in trees. Many were shot and killed as they drifted down, since the town was full of German soldiers and well-lit by fires from stray bombs.

Private John Steele's parachute got caught on the steeple of the ancient church, and he hung there for several hours, pretending to be dead, while the battle raged around him and the church bell rang non-stop in his ears. At the end, he was taken prisoner by the Germans (though he later escaped).

Today the steeple of the church of Ste-Mère-Église is topped with a parachute and a mannequin of a uniformed soldier. John Steele's name graces restaurants, lodging places, and more.

A visit to the church itself is poignant. The guest book shows visitors from around the world who have come to thank and honor the troops. Some bring personal messages, In memory of my dad, who landed on D-Day at Utah Beach, while most simply acknowledge and thank those who fought. Many people of all nationalities have been moved to come to this small village in Normandy.

Ste-Mère-Église, like many towns in Normandy, has a World War II Museum. This one, fittingly, focuses on the Airborne units. Comprehensive information about D-Day may be found at the Mémorial de Caen Museum, also called the Centre for History and Peace.

Tank, Airborne Museum, Ste-Mere-Eglise, France
Above, Tank at the Airborne Museum,
Ste-Mère-Église, France.


About D-Day

D-Day: A Short History

Main D-Day Sites

Bayeux

St-Lô

About Normandy

Normandy Transport

 

Paris Girls Secret Society, a novel by Tom Brosnahan

 

John Steele Memorial, Ste-Mere-Eglise, Normandy, France

Above, Parachute and mannequin of
Private John Steele, Ste-Mère-Église, Normandy, France.

Below, Commemorative hats and flags for sale in the Airborne Museum, Ste-Mère-Église.

 

Hats, Airborne Museum, Ste-Mere-Eglise, France

   
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