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D-Day 2012 — Steele’s night and his day after

6 June 2012

D-Day 2012 — Steele’s night and his day after

49º 24′ 32″ N / 01º 18′ 59″ W

This day is the anniversary of the Normandy invasion during WW II — D-Day as most know it — when countless individual acts contributed to make for a large and historic operation. One of the opening acts involved nocturnal parachute drops of infantry and all did not go as planned as some drop zones were found and some were missed. Paratroopers are classic Army and accustomed to adapting and overcoming by use of initiative and outright guile whenever required.

This day is also the anniversary of Pvt. John Steele’s tale of having his parachute canopy snagged upon a church’s steeple.

Bad Luck?

Hardly.

That night over Sainte-Mere-Eglise, France a stray bomb had ignited a fire in the village prior to the drop, in fact the garrison was fully alert when Steele’s C-47 mistakenly dropped his unit over the village. Not surprisingly, and tragically, most of his unit were casualties after being easily shot while dangling from their canopies. Although slightly wounded in the foot, Steele was one of the luckier members of his unit that night.

He was captured when daylight came to the village, of course, and this is where the story becomes truly remarkable. Although known for hanging from the steeple he won the Bronze Star for what he did after capture — he escaped the Wermacht to rejoin U.S forces — and that is part John Steele’s story not commonly known.

Adapting, overcoming, initiative and guile.

Steele was assigned to the 505th Regimental Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division and it is at the 82nd Airborne Division and War Memorial Museum where I saw the fitting remembrance in this post’s images, a diorama of his famous church visitation. The model of the Sainte-Mere-Eglise church is made from the stone of Utah beach and is a creation of Eugene Jouan.

The church can be visited and the town has an excellent D-Day museum. Like me, if you cannot jump into a jet and immediately fly there, you can vicariously visit using Google Earth by going to these coordinates 49º 24′ 32″ N / 01º 18′ 59″ W then, using Street View along the south side of the church, you can see a replica of the event hanging from the steeple’s southeast corner.

Steele at the church in the French village of Sainte-Mere-Eglise — photo by Joseph May

Another view of Eugene Jouan’s creation, the western exposure— photo by Joseph May

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. jouan tatiana permalink
    31 July 2012 06:24

    bonjour
    je suis très fier de dire qu’il s’agit la d’une création de mon grand père qui a connu est vécu la guerre .ca me fais grand plaisir de voir ses oeuvres sur le net et partagé avec tous le monde .
    merci au posteur …

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      31 July 2012 10:07

      Thank you very much. Your grandfather, Eugene Jouan, has done great work with his sculpture.

      Merci beaucoup. Votre grand-père, Eugène Jouan, a fait un excellent travail avec sa sculpture.

      Joe May (Travel for Aircraft)
      Joe May (Voyage pour les Aéronefs)

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