Image Size: 15″ x 23 1/2″
505th Parachute Infantry Liberates Ste. Mere Eglise, 1944
After conducting a night parachute assault into the French region of Normandy, soldiers of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment reached their objective, the French town of Ste. Mere Eglise. Small bands of paratroopers linked up under a dark French night and made their way to the town. As more paratroopers began to arrive, the leaders planned a hasty defense of the first liberated town in all of occupied Europe from the German counterattack that was sure to come.
The rugged Norman countryside proved a difficult obstacle for the men of the 505th PIR and all other airborne forces that descended upon occupied Europe. The 505th PIR, under the command of Colonel William Ekman, had the critical task of seizing Ste. Mere Eglise, a small French town located along a major road leading into the allied landing beaches. Seizure of this town would prevent strong German forces from launching a counterattack against the allied troops slogging inland from the sandy beaches.
In the town, the beautiful chapel for which the town is named stands boldly in the early morning light. The parachute of PVT John M. Steele is still caught on the bell tower, where he was captured when his plane accidentally dropped troopers into the town. Abandoned German equipment from the unit formally garrisoned in the town was left behind as the Germans fled from the paratroopers who appeared like ghosts across the countryside. A few German prisoners sit stone-faced, stunned by the rapid change in the fortunes of war. Where as yesterday they were occupiers, now they are prisoners. Officers and NCO’s direct the paratroopers into a formidable defense. A map of the countryside comes out and a bayonet becomes a makeshift pointer. Orders are given and the defense of the liberated town begins in earnest. On 6 June 1944, the 505th PIR truly seized the day.