The D-Day invasion of Normandy required a broad front of Allied soldiers and teams to land on five beaches. The westernmost point of the five beaches was called Utah Beach. The US VII Corps was tasked with securing the beachhead on this section of the Normandy coast.
Thanks to the television series “The Band Of Brothers”, Utah Beach and other nearby areas have become famous all over the world. In the series, a small team of troops from the 101st Airborne neutralized a German battery position known as Brecourt Manor. This location is approximately 3 kilometers from Sainte Marie Du Mont.
Many tourists visit Normandy, and because of the TV series, they head straight for Brecourt Manor. Unbeknownst to most of these tourists, there was actually another drummer very close to Sainte Marie Du Mont, but since it wasn’t in the TV series, hardly anyone knows about it.
Situated a little closer to Sainte Marie Du Mont, the German battery was considered the twin sister of Brecourt Manor and its function was the same; to shoot at enemy troops landing on the Utah Sector beaches.
Around noon on June 6, 1944, Richard Winters and a small force attacked and neutralized the battery at Brecourt Manor. The battle to secure the Holdy battery was nearing completion at the time. However, unlike Brecourt, Holdy would require significantly more American troops to defeat the German resistance.
In the initial stages of the Battle of Holdy, approximately 70 US airborne troops participated. Due to stiff resistance from the Germans, another 70 American paratroopers were sent to reinforce the American effort. It is worth noting that the majority of the Germans stationed at the Holdy battery were in fact Georgians. Due to the lack of manpower, Hitler had no choice but to resort to using other nationalities within the Wehrmacht.
Under the command of Captain Lloyd Patch, the German battery finally fell into American hands around noon. As one of the original objectives of the 101st Airborne was to take Sainte Marie Du Mont, once the battery was secured, Patch and most of his men headed for the village.
The now secure battery was placed in the hands of Knutt Raudstein. Patch ordered him to keep the post until further notice.
Meanwhile, Patch, now halfway between Holdy and Sainte Marie Du Mont, came under very precise mortar fire. He supposed that the fire could only be directed from one place and that was the steeple of the imposing village church. He then made the decision to return to the battery to use German weapons to try to eliminate the observers in the church.
Returning to Holdy, Patch was alarmed to see that Raudstein had started destroying the weapons. Raudstein was concerned that if there was a German counterattack, he would not be able to fill the position. Fortunately for Captain Patch, there was one weapon still operational. Patch, after receiving permission from his commanding officer, fired at the church with two rounds. The first round missed, but the second hit a direct hit. The observers in the bell tower were not killed, but were severely hit by a howitzer. Unbeknownst to Patch, the observers on the bell tower were in fact not Germans, but Americans!
Sainte Marie Du Mont tends to be overlooked in favor of Sainte Mere Eglise. There are many more fascinating stories that took place in Sainte Marie Du Mont and if you plan to visit Normandy, we recommend that you stop in this small town to savor the wonderful history.