Did you know there were actually two paratroopers who landed on the Sainte-Mère-Église church on D-Day?

The Sainte-Mère-Église church, with a dummy paratrooper hanging from the tower to commemorate John Steele’s adventure. Steele was actually hanging on the other side of the tower, away from the main square and overlooking a back street.
(Photo: author’s own)
You probably know the story of Private John Steele, the paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne Division whose parachute got snagged on a decorative pinnacle of the church tower in Sainte-Mère-Église the night before D-Day, leaving him hanging there for hours before being captured by the Germans. His adventure became widely known due to the 1962 war movie, The Longest Day. But did you know that there was also another paratrooper who landed on the same church at the same time?
Ken Russell, the forgotten paratrooper who landed on the church
(Photo: U.S. military)
Kenneth Russell was from the same “stick” (the group of men jumping from a single plane) and ended up landing very close to Steele. He was lucky enough to avoid the church tower, but landed on the church’s roof, below Steele. A German soldier on the ground some 18 feet below saw him land and tried to shoot him. Russell was saved by a third paratrooper, Sergeant John Ray, who landed next to the German. The German and Sergeant Ray shot each other fatally, which gave Russell the opportunity to climb down and make a getaway, destroying a German anti-aircraft gun in the process.
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