Airborne Museum (Sainte-Mère-Église)

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The Airborne Museum (Musée Airborne) is a museum in Sainte-Mère-Église, La Manche, France. It is dedicated to the memory of the troops of 82nd Airborne Division and 101st Airborne Division who landed in Normandy, by parachute or glider, on the night of 5–6 June 1944 hours before the Allied landings in Normandy. Its collections have been donated by the townspeople and thanks to gifts from the veterans of 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.

The Sainte-Mère-Église Airborne Museum has known a growing success while adding new collector's items, original documentary films and scenographies, which are regularly renewed. The Airborne museum has become one of the major attractions in La Manche.

Location

Situated on the church square of Sainte-Mère-Église in la manche, the museum is in close proximity to the two American landing beaches Utah Beach (15 kilometers) and Omaha Beach (44.5 kilometers). The museum which also has a souvenir shop is open all year round apart from January and on the 24th, 25th and 31st of December. For the opening times click here http://www.airborne-museum.org/en/practical-information/opening-times/

File:The Airborne Museum is situated on the church square..JPG
The Airborne Museum is situated on the church square.

History

Fifty years ago,Dr Jean Masselin, mayor of Sainte-Mère-Église, was the brainchild of an association promoting the permanent exhibition of Airborne troops. His sole aim was to pay tribute to the memory of all World War Two soldiers in general and to the 82nd Airborne Division and 101st Airborne Divisionparatroopers in particular. These men were either dropped over the Norman coasts or flew over them in silent gliders. Far from their families and their homeland, a great number of them gave their lives to free us. Local inhabitants still remember the 12 708 graves which until 1948, could be seen in the three temporary cemeteries in Sainte-Mère-Église.

In 1964, (20th D-Day Landing anniversary) Dr Masselin, along with General Ridgway, in command of the 82nd Airborne Division in 1944, inaugurated a parachute shaped building sheltering an authentic Waco CG-4 it is the last remaining copy left in France. The Sainte-Mère-Église Airborne museum was built at the very place where, as it is shown in the world famous film The Longest Day (film) a house was destroyed by fire during the night of June 5. Inside the building there is a wide range of items to see, related to war times and donated by veterans, their families or by local inhabitants.

File:The laying of the first stone of the museum..jpg
The museum witnessed the first stone being laid by James M. Gavin on June 6th 1962 along with the mayor of Sainte Mère Eglise, Dr.Jean Masselin situated on the far right of the photo.
File:The first building was opened in 1964 and carries the name "Planeur Waco".jpg
The first building was opened in 1964 and carries the name "Planeur Waco"
File:John Steele (paratrooper) returns to the church where he famously got caught on the church tower on the night of the 5th June 1944..jpg
John Steele (paratrooper) returns to the church where he famously got caught on the church tower on the night of the 5th June 1944.

In 1984 a second building is added to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the D-Day landing with General Gavin commander of the 82nd division. This second building is also parachute shaped and shelters a Douglas C-47 Skytrain. Latter nicknamed "Argonia" this warplane was involved in the droppings of paratroopers during the nights of 5 to 6 June 1944 during Operation Neptune (first assault of Operation Overlord ).

File:Inauguration of the second building "C-47" in June 1983..jpg
Inauguration of the second building "C-47" in June 1984.
File:The second builiding was created in 1984 and carries the name "C-47".jpg
The second builiding was opened in 1984 and carries the name "C-47"

In 2012 the association announced its plans to construct another two additional buildings, from the outside one of the new buildings will have the shape of a wing while the second one will look like a parachute. Today it was decided to first focus on one building that should be opened to the public in June 2014 to mark the 70th anniversary. The first building under construction will be 1200m² and will be divided into : a 550m² immersion room, 410m² exhibition hall and a 130m² devoted to office work and for pedagogical purposes. The first immersion room of the new building will invite visitors to actually enter a Douglas C-47 Skytrain. The three other immersion rooms will evoke fights from the Sainte Mère Eglise marketplace and those, which took place in the marshes as well as the storming of beaches before the battle of the hedges. Finally the visitors will enter an exhibition hall where they will discover a Piper Plane which was recently offered to the Sainte Mère Eglise Airborne Museum by an American donor Mr. Robert Wilson.

The second building phase will start in 2014. This stage will consist in refurbishing and renovating the first building as well as constructing the second oval shaped building which will house a conference and film projection room as well as a temporary exhibition room.

File:Plan of the new building currently under construction..jpg
Plan of the new building currently under construction.
File:A 3D visual of what the the planned expansion will look like..jpg
A 3D visual of what the planned expansion will look like.

Collections

The museum currently holds more than 4500 artifacts and memorabilia dating back to the second world war and in particular objects used by the parachutists during the jump over Sainte mére Eglise during the night of the 5–6 June and during the battle of Normandy. The museum also displays equipement used by the Germans and has newpappers evoking the situations of several countries during the occupation and liberation.During the visit there are more than 100 dummies which display different uniforms as well as giving and representing what a paratrooper would look like before the jump.At the end there is a compelling and emotional film (25 minutes) about the preparation and liberation of Sainte Mère Eglise by the American parachutists.

File:Several dummies illustrate what It would have been like to have been a paratrooper..jpg
Several dummies illustrate what It would have been like to have been an American paratrooper.
File:This Waco Glider is the only left in France in its original state..jpg
This Waco Glider is the only left in France in its original state.
File:C-47 plane.JPG
This Douglas C-47 Skytrain was used during the droopings of the parachutists during the night of the 5–6 June.

Events

The museum currently holds events which commemorates the allied liberation. Each year the museum with its parteners holds a reconstitution of a U.S.army camp where you can find tents and other equipment of the Second World War.

File:Reconstitution of a U.S.army camp at the Airborne Museum..jpg
Reconstitution of a U.S.army camp at the Airborne Museum.

External links

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