During the D-day 70th Anniversary festivities we had the chance to visit the famous church of Sainte-Mère-Église, known for the landings there of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions during the 6th of June 1944, better known as D-day. The story of Sainte-Mère-Église is especially known for the fact that a part of the divisions paratroopers landed directly in the small town center, right into the arms of the German forces there. At that time, a lot of the towns buildings were also on fire, caused by a previous air raid that night by the Allied Air Forces. This resulted in heavy casualties among the liberators. Some para’s were pulled into the raging fires, while others were easy targets in the sky being illuminated by them.
The most famous story is that of private John Steele of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR). John’s parachute got caught on a pinnacle of the church tower and hung there helpless pretending to be dead to avoid getting shot. Eventually after a few hours he was taken prisoner by the Germans.
Visit the church of Sainte-Mère-Église
The small church is directly in the center of the small town square. Don’t expect a quiet little town as Sainte-Mère-Église is a favoured tourist spot and an important center of festivities during D-day commemorations and celebrations.
The church has two stained glass windows telling the story of the Allied landings and a memorial organ for the victims and soldiers who fell during the liberation.
During the summer months, a doll with parachute depicting private John Steele is hung from the church tower. Damage of the fighting can still be found on the church interior and exterior.