Sainte Mere Eglise has never forgotten that Freedom came out of the night sky, nor the ultimate price paid by the paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st American Airborne Divisions and by the soldiers who came down by gliders on D-Day. Thousands of soldiers were buried in the three temporary cemeteries between 1944 and 1948, there were around 15 000 graves in these cemeteries.
Since then, our collective memory has continued to commemorate them from generation to generation. One just has to walk through our streets and country lanes to see that these events are still very present in daily life.
The Freedom Path
Since 1947, Sainte-Mère-Eglise is the home to milestone 0 of the path of Freedom.
This Freedom path is a way of commemorating the Allied victory and the liberation of France, Belgium and Luxembourg during World War II. It is represented by a series of milestones along the road between Sainte-Mere-Eglise (terminal km 0), and Bastogne (km marker 1145) in Belgium, marking the road taken by the 3rd Army under General Patton.
The Longest Day
It was during the summer of 1961, in the month of August, that the filming of “The Longest Day” took place,directed and produced by Darryl Zanuck (based on the book by Cornelius Ryan).
The shooting of the film will last 10 months in France with about four production teams, with dozens of international stars: Henry Fonda, John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Richard Burton …
It will mobilize 23,000 extras and will at that time be considered like the most expensive film in cinema history.
The landing scenes were shot in Corsica and the Ile de Ré; sites of the Manche and Calvados areas are also used in several major scenes of the film.
Sainte-Mere-Eglise was for its part, the scene of an event which made the film famous worldwide: a US paratrooper, named John Steele, jumped above the square on the night of the 5th to the 6th of June 1944, and remained hung by its parachute on the steeple of the church.
The shooting will last three weeks on site, where inhabitants, and some of them became extras, went alongside actors, technical staff, stuntmen, each one following the others during days and nights.
The film was released in France in September 1962 and will remain one of the greatest war movies in the history of international cinema with 12 million viewers and two Oscars.
Remembrance expresses itself through all the commemorations taking place since 1944 in Sainte Mère Eglise.
Ceremonies, re-enactment camps, concerts, shows and the famous airdrops in la Fière are testimony of the respect and gratitude towards our Liberators who came and are still coming over in big numbers to participate with us to these Anniversaries.