The small Norman town of Ste.-Mére-Eglise is famous today because it lay at the epicentre of the D-Day drop zones for the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.
In the early hours of 6 June, 1944, a house in the town square was burning. The German commander ordered the mayor to call out the locals to form a bucket brigade drawing water from a nearby hand-pump. The firefighting was still in full swing when the first paratroopers landing in the square were shot or captured by the Germans. All save Private John Steele, whose parachute had caught on the church tower and who hung there playing dead. He was eventually taken prisoner, but later escaped and rejoined the fight. He survived the war.
The Airborne Museum next to the town square is worth a visit, if only to walk through the body of a WWII glider and buy a ‘cricket’, one of the clickers that the 101st Airborne used to locate each other in the dark.
The thing to remember is that if you visit SME on a Sunday, the only things likely to be open will be the church, the museum, one restaurant and one boulangerie. Mind you, if you’re happy with a baguette for lunch, then that’s all you need.