The fascinating history of Sainte-Mère-Eglise

Sainte-Mère-Eglise was made famous by the brave men of the 82nd Airborne who parachuted in around the village on June 6th 1944 and signalled the start of the allied invasion. The village though small was significant because whichever side controlled the village, could cut off access to Normandy and the beaches there.

Due to heavy barrages of air bombardment, many of the planes containing the paratroopers went off course, leaving the Airborne division scattered all around the Normandy area upon landing.

An unexpected fire broke out inside one the buildings within the village, which helped to identify the location from the surrounding fields. The troopers had to deal with flooded fields that drowned a number of soldiers and some fierce fighting by German forces.

Battling through, the 82nd surrounded the village ready for an attack. A special unit of German soldiers held the village, expecting the allies to advance on their location at some point. Fighting erupted, continuing through the night and by morning the German threat had been eliminated with around 30 German soldiers captured.

The orders were to expect a counter-attack by the Germans from the direction of Cherbourg, to reopen access to the Normandy beaches. But the allies defiantly held their ground. Some believe that a battle that took place at La Fiere was the basis for the last battle in the war film, Saving Private Ryan, however the details are different while the goals remained the same.

For people who are interested in the history of the second world war, Sainte-Mère-Eglise is a fascinating place to visit. Authentic war artefacts from the American Airborne are on display at the American Airborne Museum. The museum is located in a building on the site of that pre-invasion fire where the locals doused the flames with water trying to put the fire out.