Steele, John Marvine, born 29-11-1912, in Metroplois, Illinois, to Captain John & Josephine.Lynn Steele. Captain John was a riverboat captain on the Mississippi river. Marvin as he was called at home, was one of seven children . Three of the boys served in WWII and brother Norman “Short Dog” Steele was killed in Germany only weeks before the cease fire. Brother James “Oney” Steele was with the Marines and fought in the long islands campaigns of the South Pacific. He was seriously wounded and spent time in the hospital.
John, here with his friend George Ziemski was the oldest man in F Company at age 32. He was the company barber and a likeable guy. Many of these men were still in their teens. And as with all of the Airborne. troops they were volunteers. The Best of the Best. George Ziemski survived the war and died old age 84 on 22-06-2002.
John Steele participated in six campaigns in the European, African and Middle Easton Theaters, including participating in the Battle of the Bulge, He made four combat jumps in Sicily, Italy Normandy and Holland. John was a member of of the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, under command of General Mattew Bunker Ridgway. On the night before D-Day, June 5–6, 1944, American soldiers of the 82nd Airborne parachuted into the area west of Ste-Mère-Église in successive waves and John Steele was the only survivor of this group
John Ray died on D-Day, age 21, John Ray, who was shot in the square of Ste Mere Eglise, managed to shoot the German who was going to shoot Steele after he dropped his knife. Private Phillip Lynch was killed in action 13-01-1945 during the Battle of the Bulge and Corporal Vernon Francisco was also killed in action during the Battle of the Bulge.
Ste Mere Eglise had been the target of an aerial attack and a stray incendiary bomb had set fire to a house east of the town square. The church bell was rung to alert the town of the emergency and townspeople turned out in large numbers to form a bucket brigade supervised by members of the German garrison. By 0100 hours, the town square was well lit and filled with German soldiers and villagers when two sticks, planeloads of paratroopers, from the 1st and 2nd battalions were dropped in error directly over the village. The paratroopers were easy targets, and Steele was one of only a few non-casualties. His parachute was caught in one of the pinnacles of the church tower, causing the cables on his parachute to stretch to their full length, leaving him hanging on the side of the church to witness the carnage.
The wounded paratrooper hung there limply for two hours, and dropped his knife trying to cut his way out and decided he might survive if he played dead. He was cut down by the Germans soldiers Rudolf May and Rudi Escher, some hours later and taken to an aid station. Steele later escaped from the Germans and rejoined his division when US troops of the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment under the command of the wounded Major, Edward Krause attacked the village capturing thirty Germans and killing another eleven. Twelve men of F Company were killed, wounded or captured as they parachuted into the town square while Private Steele watched while he hung from the church steeple. For his actions on 6 and 7 June 1944, in capturing and holding Sainte-Mère-Église, Krause received the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) as well as his commander Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Vandervoort
played in “the Longest Day” by John Wayne For these actions and his wounds, Steele was awarded the Bronze Star for valor and the Purple Heart for being wounded in combat. Though injured, Private Steele survived his ordeal. He continued to visit the town throughout his life and was an honorary citizen of Saint Mère Église. The tavern, Auberge John Steele
, stands adjacent to the square and maintains his memory through photos, letters and articles hung on its walls. It’s funny that the John Steele dummy is hanging on the wrong steeple, he landed on the other side.
Death and burial ground of Steele, John Marvine.
Steele died of throat cancer on 16-05-1969, age 56, in Fayetteville, North Carolina just three weeks short of the 25th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.
He is buried on the Massonic Cemetery Metropolis, Massac County, Illinois.