Dead Man’s Corner Museum

This museum, first opened in 2004, is about a half hour’s drive from Sainte Mere Eglise, in Normandy. It is dedicated to the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions who dropped on the Carentan peninsula in June 1944, and the German airborne troops who faced them.

Following on the popularity of the “Band of Brothers” and “Brothers in Arms” TV series, the museum rates as a must visit alongside St-Mère-Église for followers of the Airborne credo. The uniform and combat gear worn on D-Day, by Major Dick Winters of the 506th PIR of “Band of Brothers” fame is proudly displayed here. A “Band of Brothers” display case shows other memorabilia from this regiment.

Background
The two-story building with red-and-white painted shutters housing the museum sits on crossroads at the corner of a country road leading to St-Côme-du-Mont. The house has been well maintained, with red, white and blue French and American flags fly next to the front gate. Terrible bloodletting took place around the house, beginning on 8 June 1944, with fighting from hedgerow to hedgerow, through the green fields nearby, and along the road into the streets of St-Côme-du-Mont.

St-Côme-du-Mont was the last village on the road from Utah Beach before the large city of Carentan. The road terminates at this crossroads, hence its strategic importance. The 101st had been assigned the mission of capturing Carentan, but they had to first take St-Côme-du-Mont to do this.

Paratrooper history haunts this house: it served as HQ and an aid station for the crack German paratroopers of the 6th Fallschirmjäger Regiment under Major von der Heyte, who were well entrenched around it. They had been issued orders to hold Carentan at all costs. Ironically, the German Fallschirmjäger faced off against their counterparts of the 101st Airborne Division here. After hard fighting, the Germans were evicted from the building that is now the museum, and the American paratroopers took it over.

On 8 June, soon after D-Day, an American tank was struck in the turret right outside the house, disabling it and killing the commander, 1Lt. Walter T. Anderson, who hung from the turret. The paratroopers thereafter referred to the crossroads as “dead man’s corner,” hence the museum’s name.

The museum
Its professionally designed exhibits and dioramas of equipment and uniforms make this excellent museum well worth visiting. Most of the artifacts come from U.S. Airborne troopers who fought here. There is also a large collection of photographs and hundreds of hours of interviews of American Airborne veterans who fought for Carentan. It claims to have part of the world’s largest collection of German and American paratrooper memorabilia, which took the collectors, a Belgian and two Frenchmen, over 20 years to amass.

The signage is in French and English. Amongst the memorabilia are General Matthew Ridgway’s paratrooper helmet; Colonel Ben Vandervoort’s footlocker, arm flags, jump boots, ID cards, ribbons, letters, dog tags, musette bag, wallet, belt buckle, newspaper clippings, a C-47 pilot’s A-2 jacket, M-2 knife, mess kit, glove, a German para helmet, a Nazi flag, rifles, and even 1940s road signs from nearby.

Realistic models in Airborne uniforms pose in dioramas typical of the battle scenes of the time. One scene shows two troopers in the attic listening to a radio; another, a realistic aid station with bloody, bandaged wounded German troops, and a third diorama shows German troops conferring.
This museum is also notable for the large array of military paraphernalia for sale. Be warned, it is hard to resist buying something to take home. The museum store features gifts, books, posters, figures, Airborne-related souvenirs, reproduction uniforms and accessories, military jackets, helmets, helmet liners, Nazi plates, original first aid dressings, WWII cigarette packets, and even authentic WWII uniforms.

This is a worthwhile addition to the many D-Day museums in Normandy, especially for Airborne fans.

DEAD MAN’S CORNER MUSEUM (2 Village de l’Amont, 50500 Sainte-Côme-du-Mont, France; 02 33 42 00 42, e-mail carentan101@aol.com, website www.paratrooper-museum.org). The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but closed on Sundays between 1 Sept and 30 May and closed entirely between 23 Dec-2 Jan. Adult admission, €5.95, or €4.95 with a Normandie Pass. Allow 1½ to 2 hours for your visit.