Saviors from the Sky – Sainte-Mere-Eglise
Sainte-Mere-Eglise is a little bit further inland from the D-Day landing sites, and it was one of the cities that the Paratroopers came in to liberate. Looking at the church above, you can actually see that there is a pretend paratrooper hanging on one of the church spires. There is a paratrooper who landed like that, and was stuck while germans shot at him. He eventually played dad, and released himself at night. (The dummy weirded us out quite a bit, actually.)
We actually sat right there in the church parking lot eating an amazing crepe (Kate) and a sausage with the best mustard Ryan’s ever had. (Or so he said at the time … maybe he was just really hungry ;-)
As it happened, we were in Sainte-Mere-Eglise just before the anniversary of D-Day, so the town was getting ready for some celebrations. They were stringing up decorations, and there were lots of WWII enthusiasts in full Army gear riding around in vintage vehicles. It was really cool.
It’s hard to see in the picture above, because of the light, but the stained glass window is dedicated to the paratroopers who liberated this French city. During the war, all the stained glass windows were destroyed, and when they went to replace them, they replaced them with this tribute which they dedicated upon an anniversary of the liberation, when veterans came back to the town.
This window was emblematic of the town’s relationship with the American troops. There were still signs around thanking the American liberators, and American flags flying next to the French ones. It really gave off a very patriotic feeling.
The coolest thing we saw in Sainte-Mere-Eglise was the paratroopers museum. It was absolutely overflowing with memorabilia donated by locals and American Soldiers. It gave everything a very personal feel since many of the items came complete with their backstory.
There were lots of parachutes, and uniforms, and paratroopers’ landing kits – as well as a whole glider plane and other heavy equiptment. It was really really cool.
The car above was on the museum grounds, but we saw lots of WWII jeeps out on the streets.
As we were leaving town, we stopped by at the Paratroopers’ Memorial – which was both aesthetically interesting (the display I’m looking at is made to look like a parachute) and educational. It explained some of the major points of interests in the Airbornes’ objectives.
I realize that I’m saying this about everywhere we went in Normandy … but I’m really glad we went to Sainte-Mere-Eglise, it was a great last stop on our World War II tour.