You have already visited the highlights of the beaches, and watched “Band of Brothers”. Follow your specialist guide to discover what the 82ndand 101st Airborne paratroopers accomplished on D-day.
They had to jump by night and because of the bad weather, they ended up scattered. Nevertheless, they succeeded in securing the western flank of the invasion, often at the price of their lives. We will drive through many local villages in the hedgerow countryside.
You will hear so many incredible stories such as the way Lt Winters captured the gun battery of Brécourt Manor with only a few men and also the role played by the Easy Company in the liberation of Carentan. All of these actions will make you realize the extraordinary courage of these 15.000 troopers and the terrible sacrifice paid there.
West of Ste Mere Eglise and of Drop Zone “O” for the 505th P.I.R, and also close to the railroad from Cherbourg, the bridge over the Merderet was to be taken during the night before D-day.
Fairly small bridge itself, yet very strategic as it stood on the edge of the flooded marsh, it was attached to the causeway. After it was secured by the 82nd Airborne, it was to be the starting point of the big offensive pushing west across the Peninsula.
There was fierce fighting here for three days : coming from the Cauquigny Chapel on the other side were several German counter-attacks, but no enemy forces managed to get across the Merderet. The imposing statue “Iron Mike” now overlooks this battlefield and beautiful surrounding countryside.
On the northern edge of the attack of the 101st Airborne and located on the “higher” coastal road, Foucarville was to play a vital task in stopping the German counter-attack from Cherbourg. Four road blocks were created by the 502nd P.I.R during the night. Later, after the battle, a huge P.O.W camp was created here, that had up to 40.000 German prisoners!
In Beuzeville, a couple of miles away, took place a terrible accident when a C-47 crashed to the ground just after 01:00 a.m. The company headquarters and the young Lieutenant Meehan, who had recently replaced Sobel as the commanding officer of “Easy Company”, were on board of that Plane #66. As Meehan was reported missing, Lt. Winters took over, as depicted in the TV series “Band of Brothers”.
This little and quiet village was located at the junction of the “higher” coastal road and the road from Ste Mere Eglise to the coast.
It was therefore strategic to hold it as it controlled part of the northern flank of the airborne attack and of the Utah beach landing. Paratroopers of the 502 and 506 regiments held it with MajorStopka until relieved by the 4th Infantry Division.
Ravenoville was made world-famous by the picture of James Flanagan, the U.S paratrooper holding a nazi flag in front of the Marmion’s farm.
Unknown to the Allied Intelligence, a battery of four 105mm guns was going to be a threat to the American troops landing on Utah beach and moving on the causeways. As depicted in the “Band of Brothers”, a group of 15 men of the 506 P.I.R from Easy Company, led by Lt Winters attacked the position early in the morning and destroyed the guns.
His initiative is still taught at West Point for an attack on a fixed position and for his leadership and courage, he was promoted a Captain and received the Distinguished Service Cross. Winters died in 2011 and his statue was unveiled in Normandy in 2012.
Ste Marie “Of The Hill” stands on the edge of the plateau and overlooks the Douve river mouth. The tall bell tower of the beautiful medieval church offered an incredible observation post to the Germans.
Four miles away from Utah beach and located on the main exit road from it, the village was a top priority for the 101st Airborne to capture during the night. General Taylor himself and his men managed to stop the German counter-attacks from the south.
As the commanding officer of the 101st Airborne Division, General Taylor had decided to jump during the night with his 8.000 men. As the deputy commander, General Pratt was to arrive early in Normandy, too.
He flew across the English Channel in a WACO glider, seated in his jeep. When the “Fighting Falcon” hit the ground hard around 04:00 a.m. and the glider crashed into the hedgerow, General Pratt broke his neck and was the first Allied general who died in Normandy.
Within the southernmost Drop Zone “D”, given mostly to the 501 P.I.R, this farming village was first taken rapidly. An aid station was created in the church and continued to be operated by two U.S Army medics, even when the Germans retook it.
Ken MOORE (aged 20) and Bob WRIGHT (aged 19) took care of 80 people and one child in three days. After all these years are still visible the blood stains on the church pews!
As St Come “Of The Hill” overlooks the flooded marsh and the causeway leading to the town of Carentan, and as it was on the main N13 road, it did not take long for the Germans to decide to defend this village, in order to stop the U.S advance and prepare for their own counter-attack. Paratroopers of the 501 and 506 P.I.R faced Germans paratroopers… and liberated St Come on June 8.
The nearby road junction, where the body of Lt Anderson remained on top of the tank turret for hours, was rapidly nicknamed “The Dead Man’s Corner”. The museum here is in the house that the commander of the German 6th Airborne used as his headquarters when D-day started. The displays are German on the first level and American on the second.
This little town was top strategic for both sides. For the Allies, the bridges, the main road and the railway, had to be seized at any cost. Here was the only way to get in or out of the Cherbourg peninsula as everything else was flooded.
But the Germans realized that keeping control of Carentan would allow them to keep the two American sectors divided and to stop the U.S advance to the south. The American paratroopers had to fight against the elite of the enemy in Normandy : German paratroopers !
The battle, which raged until June 12, as shown in “Band of Brothers” #3, was a succession of heroic actions of the Screaming Eagles : the “Purple Heart Lane”, “Cole’s Bayonet Charge”, the “Cabbage Patch Attack”, the “Bloody Gulch”.