To protect the beachhead from German counterattacks but also to pave the way for the isolation of the strategic deep water port of Cherbourg, two US parachute divisions were dropped on the western flank of the seaborne landing areas.
The 82nd “All American” division was to be dropped around and west of the small village of Saint Mere Eglise situated on the main North/South road in the area. These paratroopers also had to seize intact two bridges west of the village on the Merderet River. The control of these bridges would allow the allies to cut the Cherbourg Peninsula in two and thus isolate the port and weaken it’s defenses.
The 101st airborne division main objective was to facilitate the landing of the 4th Infantry division on Utah Beach itself with its second objective to prevent counterattacks from the South. The allies biggest worry here was the 6th German paratroop regiment, the best German troops in the invasion area on D-Day.
The locks controlling the water level in the rivers had been closed permanently by the Germans in order to flood the low ground inland from the Landing Beaches should the Allies land there. Unfortunately many paratroopers, overloaded by their equipment, ended up drowned in these marshes.
However, the landings though costly were successful with Sainte Mère Eglise being the first village liberated by US troops in Franc, the action later depicted in the movie “The Longest Day” made in 1961. The HBO “Band of Brothers” serie also highlighted the mission of Easy Company, 506th,101st Airbone division.