Ste-Mere-Eglise is a town at the western edge of the Invasion area. It was one of the first towns the Allies arrived at - the paratroopers arrived here just after midnight on June 6th. Unfortunately they landed IN town instead of outside it like they were supposed to, so the Germans were able to shoot them as they arrived since there was a house fire in town and everyone was already up! One soldier, John Steele, became trapped on the steeple of the church - in memory of this the town has hung a mannequin from a parachute on the church! Although there was a lot of loss of life in this battle, the Allies were able to take the town by the morning of D-Day along with it's railroad and highway so they could move on to taking the entire peninsula to the west of the landing area - the Americans arrived on the beach just a few kilometers from here later that morning and the two groups were able to group together within a day.
Stained glass windows in the church show the paratroopers landing in the town.
There is a great museum just across the street from the church - the Musee des Troupes Aeroportees (the Airborne Troops Museum). We spent some time going through it and watched the film here as well - each town and film focus on the part of the battle that took place near to them, so each one has a different perspective.
Close up of John Steele - he hung here pretending to be dead for over two hours while Germans snipers fired on troops from inside the tower.
Here is a copy of a letter from Eisenhower - the museum is located at #14 Rue Eisenhower!
Casey loves boats!!!
Amanda and Casey liked this little tractor - it's not Caterpillar...
Casey and Amanda with a Sherman tank
Casey and Alex with "Rupert" - they learned about him when we watched the movie "The Longest Day" before we left on our trip. The Allies dropped thousands of these fake paratroopers in areas away from the landing sites to distract the Germans - as they hit the ground, each Rupert had explosives attached to him that would go off, looking and sounding like a soldier coming down to fight. It really worked and some of the Germans were led away from the area for a while to make the Allied landings a bit easier in some places. This Rupert was made by the same company that made the real Ruperts and donated to the museum - it doesn't look at all like the one from the movie or one of the actual ones we saw in a different museum - those pictures to come later!
These fishing instructions and the kit with them amazed Amanda! We had to pull her away from trying to read this entire thing so we could move on with our day! It tells the soldiers things like "don't worry about whales. They won't harm you." And "Eels are safe to eat but avoid sea snakes as they are poisonous" - very useful information!
These propellers were outside the museum - they have seen better days!
One thing about this town's name - Ste-Mere-Eglise. The French word eglise means church, so we thought this was just the name of the church and not the whole town so that was a bit confusing at first. The town name literally translates to saint mother church...
Now it's time to head to the beaches!