Sainte Mère-Église

Where paratrooper John Steele became caught on the spire - later subject of the famous film 'The Longest Day'.

TravelCurious Tip

Look carefully around the church and some of the town’s other buildings - you can still see bullet holes from the battle that was fought here on D-Day.

Most of the tourism in this small Normandy town is focused on one thing: D-Day. At around 1:40am on June 6th 1944, just hours before the first waves of Allied troops stormed the beaches to the east, hundreds of American paratroopers jumped from transport planes directly above the town. As with many things that day, this was an error - they were meant to be dropped in the countryside, where they would be able to land with little or no resistance.

As it was, there were actually even more enemy troops gathered in the town than usual. An incendiary bomb from the earlier aerial bombardment had ignited a blaze to the east of the main town square, which was still being fought by the combined efforts of residents and German soldiers at the time of the parachute drop. This meant that the falling troops were brightly illuminated for the gathered Germans to pick off, and casualties were heavy.

A Bird’s Eye View

A well-known story from that night, depicted in the film “The Longest Day”, is that of John Steele, whose parachute was caught on the spire of the church tower. He hung there limply for two hours, pretending to be dead, before being captured and subsequently escaping and rejoining his battalion. A dummy paratrooper hangs from the church today as a memorial to him. Elsewhere in the town, there are many small museums dedicated to D-Day. The most prominent of these is the Airborne Museum, which showcases transport planes, General Ridgeway’s jump boots, Steele’s decorations, and over 10,000 other items.

Nearby Attractions

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Omaha Beach
The other American landing site, there were heavy casualties with 2500 killed in action in the first wave.
Pointe du Hoc
The heavily fortified high point between Omaha and Utah beaches, which was stormed by a Ranger assault team.
American Cemetery
The resting place for thousands of American soldiers that died during the Normandy landings.
Overlord Museum
Collects an exceptional collection of military vehicles and equipment used during the Battle of Normandy by both the Allies and the Germans.
Home to the famous Bayeux Tapestry that tells the story of the Battle of Hastings.
Arromanches 360 Cinema
Shows archive footage gathered from around the world of the Battle of Normandy. Film in High Definition on 9 screens helps you relive the events.

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