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St Mere Eglise

Discussion in 'St Mere Eglise' started by Jim, Jun 1, 2007.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    The American Airborne Landings and St Mere Eglise


    The Allies

    The overall mission of the two US airborne divisions on the morning of D-Day was to isolate the Cherbourg peninsula and prevent the Germans trapping the seaborne forces on UTAH beach.


    10lst Airborne Division

    The 101st Airborne Division, nick-named the Screaming Eagles, was to undertake the latter of these tasks, and was to land to the immediate west and south of UTAH beach. From these positions the airborne units were to assist the seaborne assault troops of the US 4th Infantry Division to fight inland via the few exit roads through the flooded fields to the rear of the beaches.
    Additionally, the 101st was to protect the beach-head from attacks from the Carentan area. The 502nd Parachute Infantry Regt was to land on Drop Zone (DZ) A to the immediate west of St Gemain de Varreville and the 506th Regt on DZ C west of Ste Marie du Mont. The 501st Regt was to land on DZ D, east of St Come du Mont and north of the road and rail crossings of the Rivers Douve and Groule. Re-supply and heavy equipment, including light artillery, were to land in France by glider at a landing zone cleared by the paratroops next to DZ C.


    82nd Airborne Division

    The 82nd Airborne Division, nick-named the All Americans, had seen action in Sicily and Italy. It was given the task of cutting off the Cherbourg peninsula from the rest of France. The division, therefore, planned to land further west than the 101st, near the important road junction town of St Sauveur. By dominating this area the 82nd would hinder German reinforcements moving either up or down the peninsula, and would pave the way for the seaborne divisions to advance to the western coast. In May 1944 Allied intelligence discovered that the German 91st Air Landing Division, a special anti-airborne force including the elite 6th Paratroop Regt, had been moved into the centre of the peninsula around St Sauveur.

    St Mere Eglise in 1944

    [​IMG]


    The DZs for the 82nd were therefore moved eastwards to cover another important road junction town, Ste Mere Eglise and the crossings over the Rivers Douve and Merderet. The 505th Regt was to land on DZ 0 west of Ste Mere Eglise and the 507th and 508th Regts were to land on DZs T and N to the west of the River Merderet. Resupply, heavy equipment and reinforcements in the form of 325th Regt were to land by glider at a landing zone cleared by the paratroops south of Ste Mere Eglise.


    The Germans

    The German 243rd and 709th Static Infantry Divisions defended the coastal areas of the peninsula. Although manned with second line troops, these divisions were equipped with some tanks and self-propelled guns and had the normal allocation of artillery. They were therefore still a match for the lightly equipped Allied paratroops. In addition to the 6th Paratroop Regt, the 91st Division contained two regiments of first line infantry and a battery of twelve 88mm guns.
    But the main enemy on the morning of D-Day was to be the inundations caused by the deliberate flooding of the low-lying areas around the Rivers Douve and Merderet. Although Allied intelligence had plotted some of the flooding, much was invisible to photoreconnaissance, as the swamps were covered with vegetation, giving the impression of being pastures.


    D-Day Action

    On the night of 5 June, Allied bombers flew over Normandy to attack their D-Day targets. Behind them, at 0015hrs on 6 June, came the twenty Dakotas carrying the airborne pathfinders. These troops were to mark the DZs with lights and radio beacons for the main forces following 30 minutes behind in 925 more transport aircraft.
    However, the plan began to go wrong. Poor weather, which had already caused the invasion to be delayed 24 hours, persisted. Low cloud and high winds, combined with inexperienced aircraft pilots and a complex dog-leg flight plan to approach the Cherbourg peninsula from the west, caused many aircraft, carrying both the pathfinders and the main force to get lost. The result was that the paratroops were spread over many square miles of Normandy countryside, some up to 40km (25 miles) from their planned DZs

    St Mere Eglise after its liberation by U.S. Troops in 1944

    [​IMG]
     
  2. dfisher

    dfisher New Member

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    It must have been quite a site to see all those gliders taking off from the south of England & forming up over the channel. Not sure I'd have wanted to face the initial barrage in nothing but a glider though :ahg:
     
  3. Cabel1960

    Cabel1960 recruit

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    It's interesting to note that there are still many bullet holes scattered around the square in st mere eglise that can still be seen if you look for them, this is other than the church obviously. Inside the church you can see a volley of machine gunfire around the alter. It is a very intestine place and a must visit if you are in Normandy.:thumb:
     
  4. brianw

    brianw Member

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    I must agree with Stalin; a visit to Ste Mere Eglise is a must if you ever visit Normandy.

    Don't panic when you see a paratrooper still hung up on the church tower in the middle of the town. It's a dummy and is maintained as the town's way to remember liberation and paratrooper John Steele of the 505th PIR who "almost" landed in the centre of the town on the morning of D-Day. The incident is recounted in the film "The Longest Day".

    Paratrooper John Steele hung limply on his parachute webbings hoping that the German troops would think he was already dead and not kill him again. He was finally cut down and taken prisoner after some two hours. He escaped from capture and rejoined his unit.

    I have visited many of the major sites in Normandy, almost every town and village have their very own Sherman tank (wifey wasn't over-impressed) and Ste Mere Eglise was one of the high spots.

    On a more humerous note, to the casual visitor it seems that the history of Normandy has a great big hole in it. Everything stopped in 1066 and they didn't wake up again until 6th June 1944.
     
  5. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Personally i can't help thinking John Steele was one lucky chap, not only did he have a lucky break when no German used him as target practice whilst hanging from the church, he also had the cheek to make an escape when captured after the initial battle. :lol:

    You couldn't make this up ... :fag:
     
  6. Cabel1960

    Cabel1960 recruit

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    I am not 100% in belief that the Germans saw Mr Steele, during this battle i am sure any one soldier would have shot at anything that they saw moving, there would have been panic and sporadic shooting it is instinct surely to shoot at the enemy, even those defenceless and hanging from a church steeple. :ehm:
     
  7. sarienic

    sarienic New Member

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    granddaughter of a paratrooper

    My Papaw was in 1st battalion C company, 505th PIR, 82nd Airborne. I am so thankful for your pictures and writings! I knew my Papaw and spent a lot of time with him, but he rarely spoke of his time in war. I am becoming increasingly grateful for folks who document history! the Lord bless you. Thank you!
     
  8. Cabel1960

    Cabel1960 recruit

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    Thanks for dropping by with this message sarienic, and god bless your Papaw and men like him for their service in battle. :thumb:
     

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