Sainte-Mère-Église Church – Where One Trapped D-Day Soldier Watched Helplessly As His Mates Were Killed (Watch)

Sainte-Mère-Église Church – Where One Trapped D-Day Soldier Watched Helplessly As His Mates Were Killed (Watch)

In June 1944, the fate of the modern world hung in the balance. After five years of open warfare in Europe and beyond, the Allied armies were preparing to launch the largest amphibious landing in history.

Several years earlier, the Allies had been forced to fall back, with many British soldiers barely escaping back across the English channel with their lives. After the daring evacuation of Dunkirk, which saw thousands of French and British troops being rescued from the the on-coming tide of German forces, the United Kingdom and its allies were understandably reluctant to return to Europe.

Having largely secured the western regions of the continent, Hitler now turned to the east. In a move that would change the course of history forever, he ordered the commencement of Operation Barbarossa. This was an enormous military campaign against Russia, and it took the Soviets completely by surprise.

Although it had been assumed that eventually this showdown between the two nations would have to take place, Russian expected that Hitler would want to invade and defeat the British Empire first. This was not the case.

While they were able to fight back well enough on their own, the Soviets soon began urging Britain and America to establish a Western Front again, so that Germany would have to defend itself from both sides. Although they were initially reluctant to return to Europe too quickly, the Allies eventually agreed and began plotting a major new offensive.

The Normandy operation, commonly known as D-Day, would come to mark a pivotal moment in the course of the Second World War, turning the tide against Hitler and his forces. Just over a year later, the conflict would be over, but on the 5th of June – the eve of the Normandy landings – the future was still uncertain.

On this fateful evening, the American 82nd Airborne Division parachuted into occupied France, behind enemy lines. They landed just west of Sainte-Mère-Église, a commune that still stands in the area today. The square next to the building was swarming with German soldiers when, entirely by accident, two planeloads of US troops were dropped into the center of the village.

The majority of the men were killed by German gunfire, but one soldier, John Steele, survived. His parachute was caught on the steeple of the commune, and he was forced to hang there, motionless, while the fighting unfolded below. Eventually, he was taken down and held as a prisoner of war by the enemy. Not long afterward, however, Steele managed to escape from his captors. He managed to rejoin the Allied forces after reinforcements from his regiment attacked the village. For his service and bravery, he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

Steele returned to the area on many subsequent occasions, but passed away in 1969, on the 16th of May.

This high-resolution drone footage shows the scene of the battle on the square, and the spire on which Steele found himself suspended. To experience the detail and beauty of the 11th Century structure and the surrounding landscape, viewers can watch the video in crisp 4k. The War History Online YouTube channel also hosts many other fascinating videos, exploring a wide variety of topics relating to the First and Second World Wars. Covering everything from military technology to the stories of the individuals on the front lines, the channel is well worth a closer look.

The War History Online YouTube channel also hosts many other fascinating videos, exploring a wide variety of topics relating to the First and Second World Wars, and covering everything from military technology to the stories of the individuals on the front lines. Subscribe today!