November 09, 2019

The Church Pinnacle Paratrooper

Jack Kemp

While looking on Youtube at the back stories of the famous movie about D-Day called "The Longest Day," At the 20 min, 24 sec. marker, I found the amazing true story of an American paratrooper portrayed in the film. Most of this tale below is from Wikipedia, with some embellishments from myself.

Thirty-one year old John Steele "was the American paratrooper (from the 82nd Airborne Division) who landed on the pinnacle of the church tower in Sainte-Mère-Église, the first village in Normandy liberated by the United States Army on D-Day, June 6, 1944." This was a night time jump into a German occupied area and Pvt. Steele found himself in a very awkward situation. Many of his fellow paratroopers had been shot dead as they attempted to land - and he himself was wounded. Steele saw that he needed to play "dead" for two hours in order that the Germans wouldn't shoot him immediately as he hung there like an American style Halloween decoration.The Germans eventually realized he was alive and took him prisoner, but he escaped two days later. Steele "rejoined his division when US troops of the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment attacked the village, capturing thirty Germans and killing another eleven. He was awarded the Bronze Star for valor and the Purple Heart for being wounded in combat."

Pvt. Steele "continued to visit the town throughout his life and was an honorary citizen of Ste. Mère Église. The tavern, Auberge John Steele, stands adjacent to the square and maintains his memory through photos, letters and articles hung on its walls." The church has hung an effigy of him from one of their church towers that can be seen in this photo.  In fact, the church has created a stained glass window of Mother Mary holding the Baby Jesus with both of them surrounded by three descending American paratroopers.

In the movie "The Longest Day" Red Buttons portrays Pvt. Steele and he was in the first version of the video game Call of Duty.

What move can I add to this? I am grateful that I was able to find this story of an amazing veteran who was lucky to have survived his perilous jump in the early morning hours of D-Day in Normandy and briefly retell what he did - and retell of the French gratitude for his feats - for this Veterans Day.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 11:34 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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1 Excellent, Jack. Thanks for this! We can never, or should never, have too much WWII history reminders.

Posted by: Dana Mathewson at November 09, 2019 11:54 AM (V1LVp)

2 Great story Jack; tnks!
I can't imagine hanging there for hours like a bird in a butcher shop.  Must have been terrifying.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at November 10, 2019 11:50 AM (Ihhkc)

3 Sure must have, Tim. But the boys we sent to war in those days became men, very quickly.
It's a good thing we aren't having to send kids the same age today, when you look at our "millennials." The Allies'd have lost the war for sure!

Posted by: Dana Mathewson at November 10, 2019 09:45 PM (SLw7P)

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