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St Mère Eglise

Friday 5 January 2001

St Mere Eglise didn’t have any special military significance but it happened to be on the main road from Caen to Cherbourg, and fell inside the dropping zone of the 82nd Div.

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Church - St Mère Eglise

The capture of it would allow the allies to control movement of trafic on this road·

The mission was given to the 3rd battalion commanded by leuitenant Colonel Krause. His batalion’s drop was quite accurate and he managed to assemble half of his men.

Just before the parachute drops a fire broke out in St Mere Eglise. It was most probably started by a marker flare. The whole town was roused to form a bucket chain from the pump in the market square. The frantic work was suddenly interupted by the steady drone of airplanes . The villagers stared up in amazement as the sky was filled with a confetti of parachutes.

Into this village square in chaos fell a few straglers. Most were eithcr shot or taken prisoner. one paratrooper fell straight into the fire. It’s not clear if one or two parachutes got hooked on the church tower. There was at least one, his name was John Steele played by Red Buttons in the Longest Day.

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John Steel was caught up on the steeple

He was trying to cut himself free when he let go of his knife. It fell near a german soldier who looked up and took a shot at him.The bullet went through his foot and he thought it prudent to play dead.

He didn’t have to wait too long to be rescued as the germans realised what was happening and pulled out. At 4.30 Colonel Krause and his men entered the town to find it deserted.

St Mere Eglise thus became the first town to be liberated. The jubilation of the inhabitants didn’t last long as the germans counter attacked later that day. This resulted in several people being killed.

Although St Mère Eglise was in the 82nd zone some 101st pâratroopers fell here.

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Stain glass window dedicated to the paratroopers

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