Angovillie au Plain and "Drop Zone D"
Zone "D" was the southernmost of the 101st Airborne's D-Day drop zones. A scattered drop into flooded fields and a network of hedgerow hedges, small roads and hamlets, unsettled the men belonging to the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment and caused many problems on June 6 and the following days. Regimental commander Colonel Howard "Jumpy" Johnson and his 1" battalion were tasked with seizing the bridges and locks about 3 kilometers south of Angoville and holding its positions; while the 2nd Battalion. under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Ballard, faced fierce German resistance at Addeville and Les Droueries. but also attempted to reach St Côme du Mont to reinforce Johnson's troops at Hells Corner. The battle went on tirelessly for over 48 hours, with places changing hands several times during the fight. Small groups - due to the loss of manpower within the American paratroopers - against a stubborn and vicious enemy, and especially the Fallshirmjagers, the elite of the German airborne troops and a significant number of whom were already combat veterans. For many years, the animosity and importance of this battle was forgotten by visitors concentrating more on Ste Mère Eglise and its history thanks to films. However, Johnson and his troops forged a fearsome reputation in the fields and hamlets surrounding you today, and the story of these men deserves a longer look from every visitor.
The church - a Haven of Peace at the heart of a terrible battle
Situated on a junction of roads, and having been planned as a staging point, as the battle raged, the wounded began to arrive here in large numbers. Two nurses belonging to the2nd Battalion, Robert E. Wright from Ohio State and Kenneth J. Moore from California, worked tirelessly in the church for two nights and days to save lives. Several dozen men were treated, and both were awarded the Silver Star for their dedication to the task. Angoville did not escape death completely, however: at least three paratroopers died of their wounds in the church, and many more died just a few meters from where you are standing. Nor was it the only first-aid post in the area. A few hundred yards south of here, the SO1st Regiment's Catholic priest, Father Sampson, cared for more than a dozen wounded Americans, continuing under heavy shelling and at one point narrowly escaping being put up against the wall and shot by the enemy.
The church today
The church is one of the oldest in the area. It was considerably damaged during the battle: all its medieval windows shattered, and at least one bomb went through the roof. With a population of less than 50, a small association was formed in February 2004 to raise funds to restore the church to its original splendor, and also to honor the men who fought here for the freedom we enjoy today. Masonry work, new stained-glass windows and new woodwork have all been carried out on the interior, and the work continues thanks to the devotion and efforts of people from Europe and around the world. A donation can be made in the church in a box in the wall to the left of the altar.
Monuments and historical details
Angoville's main monument honors Robert Wright and Kenneth Moore, but also all their comrades-in-arms of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (501th PIR). In 2005, the square in front of the church was renamed Place Toccoa, in tribute to all the paratroopers who trained in this small town in Georgia (USA) during the war; this monument is now a permanent link between the two towns across the Atlantic.
Text: Paul Woodadge - Local Battlefield Guide Historical Consultant Mark Bando - historian and author
501st PIR Monument