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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

See all attractions in Paris
German Cemetery
This cemetary contains over 20,000 soldiers from the German armed forces, and is located in the near the village of Cambe.
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.
Bayeux
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.

Related Tours

Private Excursion to Historic Normandy
This day-long tour provides you with an all-encompassing experience of D-Day, the defining moment of WWII, with visits to key landing points, churches, museums and cemeteries. With over 12 nations involved in what was the largest-scale air and land mission in history, for the sake of depth, this tour explores the Americans’ role in D-Day. As there is so much to see, however, your tour guide will be happy to adapt your itinerary according to your interests. You will be transported from Paris to Caen to all of your destinations by luxury car, so the nature of your experience will not be weather-dependent and you will have the opportunity to frequently relax over the course of a long day. There will also be opportunities to stop off across Normandy’s wonderful countryside along the way.

  • Relive the key moments of D-Day with visits to Omaha and Utah Beach.
  • Visit the American cemetery, where all the American troops who lost their lives are remembered.
  • Explore the Caen-Normandy Centre for History and Peace and see a panoramic film of the landings at the Arromanches 360 Cinema.
  • Stop off for lunch in the beautiful city of Bayeux.
  • Comfortable car-travel provided for the whole day. Your experience of Normandy will not be affected by rain or bad weather!
  • Adaptable, tailored tour experience: Work with your guide to get the most out of your time. Do what interests you - you are welcome to change your itinerary on the day.                                                                                                                                                                                                         
You will begin at the Caen-Normandy Centre for History and Peace, which will provide you with a good background to the events of ’44 for when you go on-site later in the day. Stop off for lunch at a quality restaurant of your choice, recommended by your expert guide, in the charming city of Bayeux before visiting the places that became legendary subjects of history and film. 

Go beyond mythology to learn about and relive the trials and tribulations the Allies faced in overcoming the Nazi forces. You will visit the church, Sainte Mère-Église, where paratrooper John Steele was caught on the spire and feigned death, hung from his parachute, defying all the odds to eventually escape capture. You will also see Pointe du Hoc, where 225 rangers climbed cliffs over 100 feet high to capture and wipe out a German artillery battery; the tour also includes a visit to Utah and Omaha Beach, the latter being where the Americans constructed an artificial harbour to supply its troops with equipment. There will also be an opportunity to pay your respects to the brave 9,387 American soldiers who were laid to rest in the American cemetery which overlooks Omaha Beach.

You will learn about the ins and outs of the war and D-Day from your expert guide who will be happy to answer any questions you may have. At the end of your tour you will be able to put yourself in the shoes of the brave soldiers who took part D-Day at the Arromanches 360 Cinema, where you can experience a panoramic view of the landings, complete with sound and archival footage.

Estimated return time to Paris is 9pm - 10pm 
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