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John M Steele: A Biography

John M Steele was born in Metropolis, Illinois, on November 29th, 1912. In the 1930s, his was a model family living in Illinois.

John M Steele Biography

His father piloted freight boats and his mother, Josephine, took care of the traditional wooden house. Together, they raised seven children, two girls, and five boys. John was the eldest of the siblings.

John M Steele
John M Steele

John M Steele was a tough guy, more of a player than of a student and eventually dropped out of college. When the United States entered the war at the end of 1941, one of his brothers, James, went into the navy and another, Norman, in the army. John joined the paratroopers at the age of 29.

The Career of John M Steele

On the eve of World War II, John M. Steele entered the airborne troops in the 82nd Airborne Division, Company F, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

After that, he arrived in North Africa in the month of May 1943. Steele rose to prominence due to a famous incident that highlighted his bravery.


On the night of the 5th to the 6th of June 1944, during the parachuting of airborne troops in the area of Sainte-Mere-Eglise, John Steele was hit in the foot by a burst of flak. Unable to control his parachute, he landed on the steeple of the church of Sainte-Mere-Eglise at around 1:00 a.m.

No matter how much he swung and tried to free himself from his parachute, he was unsuccessful while on the square around the church, the battle raged. After more than two hours, two German soldiers named Rudolf May and Alfons Jack freed him from this situation but simultaneously took him, prisoner.

John M. Steele Works

But somehow, he escaped and three days later joined the Allied lines and was transferred to a hospital in England. After that, he arrived in Germany and then was reassigned to Marseille, France. From there, he was to return to the United States and finally settle into civilian life.

John Steele (Parachutiste)
John Steele (Parachutiste)

For his exemplary courage and injuries endured in war, John M. Steele was awarded the Bronze Star medal for bravery and a Purple Heart medal for wounds in combat. What is more, is that his action in Sainte-Mere-Eglise was told in the movie “The Longest Day”.

Civilian Life and John Steele

When John M. Steele came back to his home state, Illinois, he spoke little of the war. First, he grieved his brother Norman who died in a war like all his other relatives. After settling into civilian life, he worked in various trade jobs before working for electricity companies.

John M Steele
John M Steele

In 1950, he married Katherine Main, a girl from Metropolis. Unfortunately, theirs was a shaky marriage and Katherine ran off with their baby. In 1955, he remarried Verma, a nurse he met in North Carolina. Steele was flamboyant and had an air of fun and frolic, involving whiskey and cigars.

But John M. Steele suffered from serious health problems. As of 1961, a cancer of the throat forced him to undergo severe treatments, followed by a tracheotomy. He died from throat cancer at the age of 56 on the 16th of May 1969, in the town of Lafayetteville, North Carolina.