Sainte Mère Eglise: first liberated village in France
On the night before D-Day (June 5–6, 1944), American soldiers of the 82nd Airborne parachuted into the area west of Sainte 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 hours, the town square of Sainte Mère Église was well lit and filled with German soldiers and villagers when two sticks (planeloads of paratroopers) 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 one of the pinnacles of the church tower, causing the cables on his parachute to stretch to their full length, leaving him hanging on the side of the church 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, 505th 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 for being wounded in combat.
Visit for sure the Airborne Museum in Sainte Mère Eglise, see: (Things to do) or the website of the Airborne Museum. Visit the website of the Touristoffice for the other attractions of Sainte Mère Eglise: www.sainte-mere-eglise.info
Today Sainte Mère Eglise (1.600 habitants) is very well visited by the tourists. The past – June 1944 – is still perceptible. The town center has been renovated, but has still its old charm.