Sunday, 25 March 2012

To hang or not to hang...

John Steele (well, a dummy) hanging from the church
The first stop we had in Normandy was on Tuesday morning. We were headed towards the small village of Sainte Mère Église, not far from the Atlantic coast. On the fifth of June 1944 a fire broke out in one of the bigger houses of the village and as the Germans and French were putting out the fires, all of a sudden they saw parachutists of the American 82nd Airborne Division. Of course the Germans immediately started to man their guns and started shooting at those parachutists. Some died, others escaped and one of those parachutes landed on the church, where he got stuck.

One of the stained glass windows of the church
John Steele was the unlucky soldier who had managed to get himself stuck on the steeple. As he hung there, fights broke out underneath him in the church square and one bullet actually hit him in the foot. He decided to play dead and hung there a further two hours, before the Germans finally got him down. When they saw he wasn't dead, but very much alive, they took him captive and he became a prisoner of war. However, during the next few days, there was so much mayhem and chaos, he managed to escape. He rejoined his company and he lived to fight in both Belgium and the Netherlands. He passed away in the United States in 1969, aged 56.

The film 'the Longest Day' remembers the night before and of D-Day and John Steele features in it as well.


  1. It may not have been fun, but I enjoyed the accounts, here and below.

  2. You are having quite a trip! Who are the "we" you talk about?

    These sorts of trips are very sobering. I remember visiting the slave castles in Ghana, West Africa, and seeing for myself the part of Dutch history I only knew from books.

  3. What a story. Thank you for sharing it. I can't imagine his fear after falling on the church.
    Sounds like a very brave man.


Any weighty (and not so weighty) comments are welcome!