St. Mere Eglise

To protect the flank of the invasion, to open up the exits from Utah Beach, to link up with the other beachheads, and to facilitate the early capture of Cherbourg, the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were dropped in the early morning of June 6th.  Despite the use of groups of Pathfinders dropped early, few of the troops landed in the proper locations, and chaos ensued.  In fact the men were dropped on top of a German unit, the 91st Air Landing Division.  That night, between 1 and 3am, around 13,000 paratroopers were dropped.  Around 4,000 came in by glider starting at 4am.

The Airborne Museum in St Mere Eglise has a C-47 Dakota, a type of plane used for dropping paratroopers.  It could also be used to tow a glider.

The museum has a glider of  the type used in the invasion.

Casualties were high, around 40%.  Many casualties were from drowning as the Germans had used dams to flood the areas behind Utah Beach.

That night, due to either Allied bombing or from a flare used by the Pathfinders, a house in St Mere Eglise caught on fire.  In the photo above, the house was near the flagpoles above the black automobile, now the site of the Airborne Museum.  Locals formed a bucket brigade to fight the fire but were sent back to their homes when the Germans saw parachutists.  One paratrooper, Pvt John Steele, was caught in the church steeple.  He was wounded in the foot, but survived by playing dead as fighting raged in the town square below him.  Today, if weather and season permits, an effigy of Steele can be seen on the church.


The church has commemorative stained glass.

Copyright 2010-11 by John Hamill

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