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Memorial to Private John Marvin Steele

American paratrooper Private Steele of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment came down in the village of Sainte-Mère-Église during the airborne assault preparatory to the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944.

His parachute caught on the tower of the church; Private Steele tried to cut himself free but dropped his knife.

After being shot at he pretended to be dead, and hung from his parachute lines and watched as his pals were killed by the Germans defending the town.

Later cut down and taken prisoner, Private Steele escaped when comrades from the regiment attacked the village.

John Steele died in 1969 aged 56.

My photo taken 2005.

John Steele visiting the village in later life;

The scene was accurately recreated in the the 1962 movie The Longest Day. Although at 32 Private Steele was the oldest man in the company, Red Buttons (seen here) who played him was aged 43 at the time of filming!

6 comments on “Sainte-Mère-Église
  1. ang wickham says:

    Definately stopped me in my tracks, that pic! What a thing to endure, I couldn’t imaging how difficult, especially seeing what is happening to your mates on the ground. And he died so young too. I’m glad he / his tale is memorialised, for with this in place we stop to think about what those young men lived through, and all the variant details – not, ‘killed in the war’ .. but what went on in the war too. Great post Ian.

  2. paul says:

    Great story Ian , and of course who can forget the film .

  3. Robin says:

    I’ve heard this story. And it’s one of the most unusual memorials for sure.
    Strange to see so old, medieval church connected to WWII history. It brings to my mind a gothic church in Korczyn village in southern Poland:

  4. Chris Jones says:

    Looks almost comical with the mannequin hanging there, and Mr Steele seems to see the lighter side in the photo of his re-visit, but as Ang says, must have been horrendous to go through

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