Remembering Metropolis Native John Steele, The Iconic D-Day Paratrooper Caught On Church Steeple
As world leaders and veterans gather in France to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Hannah Bullard speaks with Amanda Quint of the Metropolis Public Library about a WWII paratrooper from the community whose jump ended in a famous entanglement.
Paratrooper John Steele was born and buried in Metropolis. Pvt. Steele was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his injuries and bravery on D-Day in 1944. In the early morning hours, he jumped with the 82nd Airborne Division into Normandy, France. His jump ended with an entangled parachute on the steeple of the church in Sainte-Mère-Église.
This left Steele hanging over the city for several hours before eventually being taken prisoner by the Germans. After his capture, escape, and the close of the war, John Steele returned to his hometown of Metropolis.
He later moved with his wife to North Carolina. On the 20th anniversary of D-Day, he returned to France and found he was memorialized by the village with a mannequin on the church steeple and a depiction in a stained-glass window.
“He went back to Normandy and toured the beaches. They had a hotel and a bar named after him. They treated him like royalty basically. He signed autographs for several hours,” Quint said.
Steele is depicted in the film The Longest Day. He died in 1969.