- La Fière, Sainte-Mère-Église, France
One of the essential missions of the 82nd American Airborne Division was to take the bridges spanning the merderet river, west of Sainte-Mère-Église. Between 6 and 9 June 1944, fierce battles took place there. To pay tribute to the numerous American paratroopers who lost their lives in this area, a statue baptized ‘Iron Mike’ was erected here.
One of the essential missions of the 82nd American Airborne Division was to take the bridges spanning the Merderet river and the ones in Chef-du-Pont, all located west of Sainte-Mère-Église. Between 6 and 9 June 1944, fierce battles took place in the surrounding area of Merderet, in the midst of swamps purposely flooded by German forces.
On 6 June, at daybreak, a company belonging to the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) as well as soldiers from the 507th and 508th regiments took the La Fière manor as well as the bridge over the Merderet river by storm. At the end of the afternoon, German forces, though backed up by tanks, failed to recapture the bridge.
The following two days German forces counter-attacked repeatedly. Yet, in spite of a lack of ammunitions, the American soldiers stood their ground. On 9 June General James Gavin led a bloody assault through the flooded areas to take control of the road and make it safe. Backed up by tanks from Utah Beach, American paratroopers managed, once and for all, to take the village of Cauquigny. This victory put an end to the battle of the Merderet river.
To pay tribute to the numerous American paratroopers and infantry men who lost their lives in this area, a statute baptized ‘Iron Mike’ was erected. This statute is similar to the one which can be seen in Fort Bragg (USA) where the 82nd Airborne Division was – and still is – based. Every year, on 6 June, ceremonies and demonstration jumps are organized in the La Fière area.
Two museums can be found in Saint-Côme-du-Mont: the D-Day Experience exhibits the American side and Dead Man’s Corner Museum, the German perspective. The museum tells the story of the liberators of Europe through an interactive route with the possibility to take part in virtual experiences and simulations.
For the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the D-Day Memorial Airborne Operation will organise an international and large-scale edition of the event.