John M.STEELE 2nd platoon, MORTAR SQUAD F/505 PIR 82 AB.
John Steele was born in Metropolis, Illinois, in November 29th, 1912.
On the eve of World War II, John Steele enters the airborne troops. He joined the 82nd Airborne Division, Company F, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment and arrived in May 1943 in North Africa.
After a few weeks, the units of the 505th PIR jumped on Sicily around Gela on July 9th, 1943. John broke his left leg and was repatriated to a hospital in Tunisia. Back to Italy in September 1943, he fought from Salerno to Naples and then leaves the country to join the British Isles in November 1943.
On the night of the 5th to the 6th June 1944,during the parachuting of airborne troops in the area of Sainte-Mere-Eglise, John Steele was hit in the foot by a burst of flak. He could not control his parachute and landed finally on the steeple of the church around 1:00 a.m. John swung and tried to free himself from his parachute while on the square around the church, the battle raged.
He tried in vain to loosen his parachute. After more than two hours, two German soldiers named Rudolf May helped by a Alfons Jackl freed him from this situation. John was taken prisoner and his leg taken care of. He escaped and three days later joined the Allied lines and was transferred to a hospital in England.
« I was bazooka gunner in the second platoon, Company F of the 505th PIR of the 82nd Airborne Division. For the jump I was the 5th or 6th guy just after Lieutenant Harold Cadish, our jumpmaster. We were dropped over Sainte Mere Eglise, a house fire lit up the square. I landed on the roof of the church, and I was hanging by my parachute. While I was trying to reach my knife to get rid of my straps, another paratrooper hit the steeple and also remained suspended, not far from me. His canopy was hanging from a gargoyle of the steeple, it was my friend John Steele …… » Memories of Kenneth Russell.
In September 1944, John Steele was parachuted into Holland, and participated in the liberation of the city of Nijmegen. In December 1944 he participated in the Battle of the Bulge.
In April 1945 he arrived in Germany, and participated in various activities designed to cross the Elbe and ended World War II in this area. Therefore, he was reassigned to the 17th Airborne and went to Marseille (France) to take the boat that would lead him to the United States to finally find civilian life in September 1945
For his actions and his injuries, John Steele was awarded the Bronze Star medal for bravery and a Purple Heart medal for wounds in combat.
His action in Sainte-Mere-Eglise was told in the movie “The Longest Day”.
Subsequently, John returned several times to Sainte Mere Eglise, during the commemorations of the Normandy landings.
He died from throat cancer on the 16th of May 1969, in the town of Lafayetteville, North Carolina.