HIDDEN ALLY      By Arthur L. Funk

 

This is a disk version of Hidden Ally: The French Resistance, Special Operations, and the Landings in Southern France, 1944 (New Yok: Greenwood Press, 1992). The text does not exactly have the same format as the published volume, some of it having been taken from working versions on various disks.

 

 

 

Chapter 1         Introduction

 

 

            Although the landings in southern France have never received the same attention as that given to OVERLORD, the Normandy assault, it should not be forgotten that in the mind of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied forces, two thrusts into France were considered as integral parts of the overall Allied Grand Strategy.  Eisenhower's concept of a broad front, reaching from Switzerland to the channel, imposed on him the need for filling the most eastern segments of the line with forces not logistically dependent on supplies from the Normandy beachhead.

Eisenhower and the American chief of staff, Gen. George Marshall, firmly believed in this strategy, but Prime Minister Winston Churchill and many others, mostly British, vigorously opposed Operation ANVIL, the southern landings.  The prime minister used every argument known<197>and Churchill knew them all<197>to persuade President Roosevelt, General Marshall, the Anglo-American Combined Chiefs of Staff, and Eisenhower to abandon the project.  The British argued that pulling divisions from the Italian Theater would doom an advance into the Po Valley, and with that failure would evaporate all prospects of exploring the Ljubljana route to Vienna.  On the American side, neither Roosevelt nor the Joint Chiefs of Staff cared to support British "adventures" northeast of Italy, and they brought forth a variety of arguments:  word given to Stalin at Teheran, de Gaulle's reluctance to leave French divisions in Italy, the need for Mediterranean ports<197>all of which affirmed that ANVIL, even though delayed, must become operational.<P8MJ239>1<P255DJ0>

 

At the Quebec Conference, in August 1943, neither Churchill nor the British chief of staff, Gen. Sir Alan Brooke, registered strong opposition to a southern France operation.  While he expressed some hesitancy about ANVIL, the prime minister "wanted it definitely understood he was not committed to an advance in northern Italy beyond the Pisa<196>Ancona line."  Brooke approved a southern France landing if the Germans had withdrawn a number of divisions from the area.  In the final report, approved by both Churchill and Roosevelt, the planners affirmed that Mediterranean operations should support OVERLORD by gaining airfields around Rome, obtaining Sardinia and Corsica, placing pressure on northern Italy, and entering southern France.  Regarding the latter, the report specified:  "Offensive operations against southern France (to include the use of trained and equipped French forces) should be undertaken to establish a lodgement in the Toulon<196>Marseilles area and exploit northward to create a diversion in connection with OVERLORD."  With a gesture toward one of the prime minister's suggestions, the report added:  "Air-nourished guerrilla operations in the southern Alps will, if possible, be initiated."  AFHQ (Allied Force Headquarters) at Algiers, then under Eisenhower, was instructed to begin planning for the southern France assault.  By December 16, 1943, Eisenhower's staff had drafted a plan for a Seventh Army assault on southern France with three American divisions, plus a follow-up of seven French divisions.  To implement the draft plan, members of the Seventh Army staff flew at once to Algiers, where they started work as "Force 163."

After the Teheran Conference, in December 1943, Roosevelt and Churchill agreed that Eisenhower should leave Algiers to assume the duties of Supreme Allied Commander in London.  They also concurred that a British general should succeed to the  Mediterranean command, and they named to this post "Jumbo"  Wilson<197>Gen. Sir Henry Maitland Wilson<197>who had served capably as Commander in Chief in the Middle East.  The position of deputy commander went to an American general, the well-liked and genial Jacob "Jake" Devers.  Devers was also Commanding General of American forces in the North African Theater, and ultimately, when the ANVIL contingents should build up to two armies, he would take charge of them as commander of Sixth Army Group.  He had, therefore, a strong and personal interest in the naming of the ANVIL assault commander.

Shortly after taking up his new responsibilities, Devers learned that the U.S. IV Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. Alexander M. Patch, Jr., had been assigned to the Mediterranean Theater.  Devers had long known and admired Patch, a dependable and experienced officer who had acquired some knowledge of Free French intransigence in New Caledonia, and who had built up a reputation as commander in Guadalcanal.  Devers strongly recommended to Washington that Patch be given the Seventh Army.  In February 1944, Patch, having been briefed in Washington, flew into Algiers at the end of the month with a handful of staff officers.  After intensive talks with Wilson and Devers, he became Seventh Army commander early in March.  Although ANVIL was at the time in a state of suspended animation, Patch found no lapse of enthusiasm for it in Washington and no suggestion that cancellation was even under consideration.<P8MJ239>2<P255DJ0>

It was no wonder that Frenchmen who had been working with the Allies were somewhat bewildered.  While the announcement that Patch had been appointed to command the Seventh Army seemed to confirm the fact that ANVIL would take place, there had not yet been any definite decisions concerning the exact role that the French were to play.  Allied planning assumed that French divisions would land in France and that inside France the Resistance would be ready to help, but a myriad of how's and when's and where's remained to be spelled out.

 

 

@HEAD1 = THE FRENCH STAKE IN ANVIL

 

Since June 1943, Gen. Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French, and Gen. Henri Giraud, Commander in Chief of the non-Gaullist French troops in North Africa, had served as co-presidents of the FCNL (French Committee of National Liberation), which met in Algiers.  The United States had mostly supported Giraud, a conservative, unimaginative career officer who wanted to fight Germans but who lacked the political insights and administrative capacity required of a top-level executive.  De Gaulle found him uncooperative and a serious impediment to his own ambitions.  In November, after disputes emanating from Giraud's unilateral actions in Corsica, de Gaulle forced his rival to surrender his seat in the FCNL, and thereafter emerged as undisputed single president.  Giraud remained as Commander in Chief of the armed forces, however, and a power struggle developed between Giraud and the FCNL over the incorporation and equipping of Gaullist divisions into the rearmament plan that Giraud, at the Casablanca Conference, had negotiated with President Roosevelt.  Accordingly, just as the Americans were approaching the French with concrete plans for the use of their troops, Eisenhower was confronted with a French political imbroglio that threatened to upset the orderly planning of ANVIL.

Out of the turmoil, with that inherent and undeniable flair for the right move in a political impasse, de Gaulle emerged with new prestige.  When American staff officers outlined the ANVIL plan to him on December 27, 1943, de Gaulle revealed such a grasp of the overall problem (which Giraud had never demonstrated) that an agreement on the use of French troops under Allied control quickly evolved.  On December 30, the day he left Algiers to assume his new command at SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force), Eisenhower sat down for a personal conversation with de Gaulle, and each gained a new respect and understanding of the other.  Eisenhower seemed to comprehend the sensitivity and pride of the French leader in a way that President Roosevelt never could.

De Gaulle possessed a comprehensive view of Allied strategy and keenly appreciated his own need to work with the great powers at the same time that he made sure he would be accepted as leader within France.  In November 1943, the same month that he ousted Giraud from the FCNL, de Gaulle summoned a "consultative assembly" to Algiers and brought into his provisional government three Resistance leaders, Henri Frenay, Emmanuel d'Astier de la Vigerie, and Fernand Grenier, a Communist.  These were first steps leading to measures that would ensure that a Gaullist government would prevail after liberation and that the French military (Resistance forces as well as the rearmed French army) would be subordinated to de Gaulle's control.  From the beginning, de Gaulle had maintained contacts with the Resistance within France, but finding out what was really going on in the Vichy-dominated Metropole was difficult and dangerous.<P8MJ239>3<P255DJ0>

 

 

@HEAD1 = THE RESISTANCE

 

The French Resistance had come into being in 1940<197>virtually as soon as the Armistice with Germany brought Marshal Philippe Pá,átain's collaborationist regime, with its capital at Vichy, into existence.  However, most activities of the Resistance until 1944 had consisted of developing underground networks, stockpiling arms, publishing clandestine newspapers, forming escape chains, and sabotaging Nazi installations.  After June 1941, when Hitler threw his undefeated armies against the Soviet Union, the French Communist Party finally recognized Germany as the ultimate enemy.  With its long experience in clandestine operations, it brought its formidable machinery to the Resistance.  In 1942, after the Allied invasion of North Africa, Hitler sent occupying troops into the southern zone and forced Vichy to disband the 100,000<196>man token Armistice Army.  Many officers and men, however, continued to keep in touch with each other and set up an underground hierarchy that came to be known as ORA (the Organization of Resistance of the Army).<P8MJ239>4<P255DJ0>

On the nonmilitary side, many French citizens who were simple civilians began to band together secretly in order to resist the Nazi occupiers.  In the South, an energetic journalist of leftist leanings, Emmanuel d'Astier de la Vigerie, united some groups under the title Libá,áration. Another important group, Combat, was headed by the dynamic Henri Frenay, whose energy was largely responsible for the formation of a Gaullist military wing, the Secret Army, or AS (Armá,áe Secrá_áte).  When Combat, Libá,áration, and another group, Franc-Tireur, came together in early 1943 as the MUR (<MI>Mouvements Unis de la Rá,ásistance<D>), they recognized de Gaulle's leadership and accepted, at least in theory, that the military arm would help to impose de Gaulle's FCNL as the provisional government on the French people.  In general, the professed policy of the Secret Army was to organize itself so that it could mobilize in force when the Allied invasion occurred but meanwhile was not to engage in premature uprisings that could provoke German reprisals.  Under the MUR were listed many <MI>Groupes Francs<D>, originally oriented toward sabotage but in any case filled with young enthusiasts who wanted action as soon as possible.<P8MJ239>5<P255DJ0>

Unification was complicated by those companies organized as FTP (<MI>Francs-Tireurs et Partisans<D>).  With its leadership largely Communist-oriented, the FTP strode along its own political and military path.  Since many of its chiefs detested both the decadence of the Third Republic and the fascism of Pá,átain, they looked with suspicion at military Resistance groups headed by officers who had been trained in the pre-1939 tradition and who had served in the suspect Armistice Army.  Nor were they necessarily partial to de Gaulle, who was identified by some FTP leaders as the tool of the British and who, in any case, exemplified a political tradition that was anti-Communist.  Unwilling to take its orders directly from de Gaulle's provisional government in Algiers, the FTP looked for political and military leadership to the Communist Party or to the CNR (National Council of the Resistance), formed at the insistence of de Gaulle in early 1943 by the great Resistance leader Jean Moulin in an effort to bring all the clandestine movements together.<P8MJ239>6<P255DJ0>

From the very early days, many Resistance leaders kept in touch with de Gaulle's Free French in London and with representatives of the American and British governments.  To administer and maintain the contacts, de Gaulle established the BCRA (<MI>Bureau Central de Renseignements et d'Action<D>) directed by Andrá,á Dewavrin (Colonel Passy), which did its utmost to nurture and organize the various Resistance movements in France.<P8MJ239>7<P255DJ0>

However, the French, almost entirely dependent on British subsidies, had to rely on British planes, weapons, and radio in order to keep in touch with their occupied country.  This clandestine support, a unique phenomenon of World War II, came from a unique organization, SOE (Special Operations Executive), with which sections of its American counterpart, OSS (Office of Strategic Services), later became associated.  What SOE was, and what it did, must be understood if one is to acquire some sense of the preliminary work and sacrifice that paved the way for ANVIL.

 

 

@HEAD1-NP = THE SPECIAL OPERATIONS EXECUTIVE

 

SOE was a secret organization formed after France fell in 1940.<P8MJ239>8<P255DJ0>  It had the mission of holding together, aiding, and providing leadership for those stalwart individuals in Europe who could not accept Nazi domination and who wished to fight on with whatever meager resources they had.  Attached to Lord Selborne's Ministry of Economic Warfare, headed after 1943 by Maj. Gen. Colin Gubbins, SOE from its London headquarters in Baker Street, enlarged itself octopus-like so that its tentacles touched ultimately on multitudinous problems: ferrying and parachuting agents into the European mainland, providing machine guns and explosives, and developing elaborate codes and radio communications, all with the purpose of hampering and interfering with the German occupiers.  In 1942, for example, SOE's stated mission was to build up and equip paramilitary organizations, which would disrupt enemy transport, communications, and equipment by various methods, but with "particular care to avoid premature large-scale rising of patriots."  In general, SOE never believed that widespread, universal risings would be effective:  With their superior weapons and trained soldiers, the Germans would inflict unnecessary losses and undoubtedly wreak vicious reprisals against civilians.

Many British plans were developed with the Gaullist BCRA, and SOE maintained a separate section, RF, to provide services for the Gaullists.  Using British planes, weapons, and radio equipment, the Free French were gradually able to send in agents and supplies to those who would form the nucleus of the Gaullist military organ, the AS.  By August 1943, these BCRA enterprises had led to the formation in France of the BOA (<MI>Bureau d'Opá,árations Aeriennes<D>) and in the South,  previously unoccupied,  SAP  (<MI>Section d'Atterrissage et de Parachutage<D>, or Landings and Parachute Section), responsible for selecting places for drops and for organizing the reception, storing, and distribution of weapons and explosives.  Set up along a regional and departmental structure, SAP controlled hundreds of localities where agents and supplies could be landed or dropped.

SOE ran its own French operation, in F section, with French and British agents who built networks, arranged for air drops, and cooperated with Gaullist and non-Gaullist elements of the French Resistance.  Headed by Maj. Maurice Buckmaster, this section was the largest unit within SOE concerned with France.  For southeastern France, where ANVIL would be operative, F section ran a single circuit, JOCKEY, headed by a remarkable and dedicated agent, Francis Cammaerts (code name ROGER), whose contacts south of Grenoble and east of the Rhá"áne provided him with a rare understanding of the region's possibilities.

The job of such agents as Cammaerts was to identify local Resistance leaders, and to enable them to receive the containers of arms and explosives, parachuted on moonlit nights at prearranged spots.  Just as SAP made plans for Gaullist drops, so the F section agents made sure that supplies for their own people would reach the proper destination.  The agents could do little without the cooperation of the French underground.

Nor could SOE "set Europe ablaze," as Churchill had urged them, unless they received the planes and weapons that were always in short supply.  Even though the prime minister had backed SOE through many lean months, even his prestigious influence could not affect priorities set by the Combined Chiefs of Staff.  In early 1944, however, he seriously took up the cudgels on behalf of increased air drops.

After the Teheran Conference, where operation ANVIL had been once more affirmed, Churchill had fallen ill with pneumonia.  Then shortly after Christmas 1943, he had taken himself to Marrakesh for a period of convalescence.  During the two weeks he spent there, the prime minister received generals and admirals, political hopefuls such as General de Gaulle, and lesser dignitaries such as Emmanuel d'Astier, who urged him to send more aid to the Resistance.  Churchill promised d'Astier he would help, and he invited the Frenchman to come visit him in London.

Churchill was as good as his word.  When he returned to London, he did convene a high-level meeting of ministers on January 17, which included Brigadier E. E. Mockler-Ferryman, head of SOE's "London Group" (Northern Europe), his superior Lord Selborne, minister of economic warfare, as well as d'Astier.  The prime minister vigorously emphasized that he wanted increased arms deliveries especially to that area lying between the Rhá"áne and the Italian border, from the Mediterranean to Geneva.

On January 31, Lord Selborne produced for the prime minister a not-too-optimistic summary of the situation in  southeastern France, as well as plans for increased sorties.  During the next week, six sorties flew into southeastern France.  Churchill was ecstatic, sensing perhaps that a beefed-up Resistance army could replace ANVIL<197>in which case no divisions would have to be transferred from Italy.  He sent a memorandum to Selborne: "I want March deliveries to double those planned for February."<P8MJ239>9<P255DJ0>

 

 

@HEAD1 = EISENHOWER AND THE FRENCH

 

Churchill's new policy, conceived and executed unilaterally, raised serious questions regarding Eisenhower's control over issues related to the land the Supreme Allied Commander was charged to invade.  When the prime minister convoked his special committee, he had not invited any Americans even though some agents from SO, the Special Operations section of Maj. Gen. William "Wild Bill" Donovan's OSS, had already joined SOE units in London and were rapidly learning about the French Resistance.  In fact, the group that was advising the Supreme Commander had the official designation SOE/SO, although the OSS people never numbered as much as a third of the total personnel.  When Eisenhower released to the French, on March 17, a statement about his plans for the Resistance, he was simply reflecting the standard policies of SOE, that guerrillas could best be used in sabotage, in blocking roads and communications, together with hit-and-run attacks over a widespread area.  He also saw the need to bring SOE/SO closer to his own planning staffs and a week later absorbed the unit, not serving on the headquarters staff but "consulting, as if attached."  Later these SOE/SO components especially involved in OVERLORD were given a new name, SFHQ (Special Force Headquarters), with joint Anglo-American direction: Brigadier Mockler-Ferryman, head of SOE's Northern Europe section, for the British, and Col. Joseph F. Haskell, in charge of SO's London branch, for the Americans.  SHAEF decided that overall control of the French Resistance should be exercised from London, which meant abolishing the line of demarcation in France that had given SHAEF the northern side and Gen. Maitland Wilson's AFHQ in Algiers the southern part.<P8MJ239>10<P255DJ0>

Eisenhower's vague statement about the use of the Resistance did not in any way satisfy de Gaulle, who saw nothing different from what had been the relationship between BCRA and SOE's RF section.  What he hoped for was inclusion in Eisenhower's planning, with concrete tasks for the French in cooperation with the Anglo-American allies.  Disappointed with the progress made by his representatives in London, de Gaulle named Gen. Pierre Koenig as his new military delegate.  Having distinguished himself as commander of the Gaullist forces fighting with Montgomery in North Africa, Koenig, then 46 years old, brought great experience and prestige to his appointment.  He took up his duties in London on April 1, but he was not certain exactly where he stood in the Allied Command hierarchy.  He at once began negotiations with Eisenhower in order to resolve this difficulty.<P8MJ239>11<P255DJ0>

On his side, Eisenhower faced an almost insuperable problem because he himself had never received clear-cut instructions delineating exactly the line he should follow with the FCNL, even though a draft directive had been sent by Roosevelt to Churchill in March.  Eisenhower was authorized to talk to Koenig on military matters<197>on this he had President Roosevelt's approval<197>but, as he advised the Combined Chiefs, if circumstances required him to reach agreement with the French on other matters, he would need additional authority.

It was clear to Koenig that, if he were to exercise command over the French Forces of the Interior, he would have to control not only the Gaullist BCRA, but also SFHQ.  The French general established a London headquarters and began his campaign.  He obtained the services of the "Action" section of BCRA, with Col. Henri Ziegler (code name VERNON) as his chief of staff.  Because of BCRA's close relations with RF section of SOE, this move served notice that, if OVERLORD called for people or machinery controlled by de Gaulle, an understanding would necessarily have to be reached with the French military delegate.  On May 24, Koenig officially requested that all Resistance forces be brought under SHAEF and that a French commander be appointed.  A week later, Eisenhower agreed to confirm Koenig as commander in chief of the French Forces of the Interior, but with Normandy D Day set (unknown to the French) for early June, there was no possibility for the French commander to exercise a command that would materially help the landings.

After the beachhead had been established, SFHQ personnel hammered out a working agreement that evolved into a rather awkward administrative structure:  Koenig would have two deputies, Mockler-Ferryman and Haskell, with a tripartite Franco-Anglo-American staff (EMFFI, or <MI>Etat Major des Forces Franá‡áaises de l'Intá,árieur<D>) that would consist of Colonel Ziegler for the French, Maj. Maurice Buckmaster (head of SOE's F section) for the British, and Lt. Col. Paul van der Stricht (head of SO's French section) for the Americans.  Significantly, the new organization did not become officially established until June 23, even though an enormous number of crucial decisions were being made on an <MI>ad hoc<D> basis.  Only gradually, well into August, did Koenig obtain real authority, by which time ANVIL had already been launched and Paris stood on the verge of liberation.  Had this awkward situation<197>caused largely by Roosevelt's distrust of de Gaulle<197>been resolved earlier, some of the ambiguities and misunderstandings that plagued ANVIL might have been avoided.<P8MJ239>12<P255DJ0>

 

 

Chapter 2         Resistance in Southeastern France

 

 

      The French Resistance, because of its many  confusing and contradicting aspects, almost defies analysis.  Some resisters concentrated on politics, some on propaganda, others on helping Allied fliers to escape, and considerable groups devoted their energies to sabotage and fighting.  They spanned political and social categories -- from Communists to members of the old aristocracy:  professors, lawyers, and physicians, as well as peasants.  Beginning with small intimate groups of school or business associates, they ended up with literally hundreds of organizations, which far-sighted leaders tried to unify for more effective action.  The hierarchy of command, with a duality of political and military leadership, was further complicated because organizations outside of France--ultimately de Gaulle and the FCNL--attempted to control those inside the Metropole.  The FCNL had counterparts in local Departmental Committees of Liberation, while the military delegate, General Koenig, theoretically would command all those ragged poorly armed guerrillas who, after the Normandy D Day, comprised the FFI, the Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur.

     In popular usage, all of the guerrillas, the insurgents, the terrorists (as the Germans called them), the Resistance fighters, the FFI, came to be known as the Maquis.  Since the end of the war, there has developed a great body of writing about the Maquis. Virtually every department has one or more histories about what happened there during the occupation, and on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Liberation, professional historians undertook to clarify innumeerable questions about La Résistance et les Français.a As a result of their collaboration, a series of colloquia were organized: Toulouse (Histoire et mémoire, 1993),  Rennes (Enjeux stratégiques et environnement social, 1994), Bruxelles (Résistance et les Européens du Nord, 1994), Besançon (Lutte armée, 1995), Paris (Villes, centres et logiques de décision, 1995) and they focussed scholarly attention on many characteristics of the Resistance not previously scrutinized.  No one with serious concern about the Maquis and their role can ignore these studies, but  the brief Histoire de la Résistance, by the distinguished historian Henri Michel (to whom this volume is dedicated), still provides a succinct and authoritative introduction. Michel writes.

       For the most part, a Maquis contained local people, and many Maquis were identified simply by the town from which the maquisards came. Others, particularly if the leader

were  popular, might recruit from a wider area.  Take as an example, the 142 members of the 6th company, commanded by Captain Brentrup, in the central part of the Drôme Department.  About two-thirds came from Crest and other towns in the area, with about 25 from neighboring departments, such as Ain and Vaucluse, but included in the roster were three North Africans, one Pole, one Spaniard, two Germans, two Belgians, one Italian, one Russian, and one American--Pierre Bettager, from Madison, Pennsylvania.  It was not unusual, especially after the Normandy invasion, to find Slavic contingents (Poles, Ukrainians, Cossacks, referred to generally as "Mongols") who, having been forcibly inducted into the German army, had deserted and joined the Resistance.

     How many Maquis were there?  How well prepared were they?  This was exactly what the Anglo-Americans, before the Normandy invasion, wished to know.  To explain some of the problems in making an estimate, let us examine, as an example, a single southern department. The central part of the Drôme Department is  a reasonable choice because it  hosted several pre-landing  special missions, and later served as the bloody terrain where the German Nineteenth Army came close to annihilation.

 

 

THE DROME

 

From a geographic point of view, the central Drôme enjoys considerable variety. Along the banks of the Rhône east of Valence, spreads a rolling plain, dotted with farms and clusters of woods, about eighteen kilometers wide, then rising gradually 500 meters to a plateau.  From ledges along the plateau, one can see the plain spread out for miles, and once started downhill, an automobile can coast the ten miles from Léoncel to Chabeuil, where the German occupiers guarded the area's most important airport.  Behind the plateau, another fifteen km to the east, rise the formidable cliffs of the Vercors, a plateau so high, so well protected, and so inaccessible that the Resistance commander for the southeast maintained in this remote locality his regional headquarters.  The great Vercors Plateau's southern escarpment descends to the Drôme Valley, with the principal road zigzagging down from the Rousset pass to the little town of Die, famous among Frenchmen for its sparkling wine.  Moving westward along the Drôme Valley toward the Rhône, one leaves the protected gorges and emerges on the plain at Crest, whose great cube-like fortress overlooking the town provides a reminder that medieval strategists identified the site as guardian of the route eastward into the old province of Dauphiné.  Continuing on toward the Rhône, one reaches the most important north-south highway, National Route No. 7 (N 7), together with the Marseille-Lyon railway  (no Péage A 7 in 1944), both of which span the Drôme river between Loriol on the south and Livron on the north.

South of the Drôme River, the region is mountainous and wooded.  The plain along the Rhône narrows to a few kilometers, hedged in between Loriol and Montélimar by the hilly Marsanne forest, some of whose western slopes come close to the river and whose eastern ridges command the great Marsanne plain, almost ten miles across, hemmed in by wooded slopes to the north, toward Crest and to the east at Puy-St.-Martin and Manas.  (Here, in August 1944, would be fought the battle of Montá,álimar.)

In early 1944, the military Resistance groups of the region, which by this time had all accepted de Gaulle's leadership, came under the orders of Commandant L'HERMINE, the Drá“áme departmental military chief.  L'HERMINE, whose real name was Drouot, had been mobilized as a sergeant in 1939, and soon thereafter became a cadet at the French air academy.  After the French defeat, he continued to serve as an officer under Vichy, for a while at the Uriage <MI>Ecole des Cadres<D>, that unique leadership school near Grenoble, sponsored by Pá,átain, which became a breeding ground for Resistance.  Forced underground when the school was shut down, L'HERMINE remained active with the Secret Army in and around Lyon.  One of the more flamboyant characters in the Resistance, he gloried in a black magisterial cape with a coat of arms and L'HERMINE embroidered on it.  Surrounded by an admiring retinue, he enjoyed his role as a modern Robin Hood<197>some said bandit chief<197>and he played it with gusto and flair.  All who knew him remember him as a colorful personality, but unfortunately there were many whom he antagonized.<M^>4<D>

After February 1944, L'HERMINE received as deputy commander a young graduate of St.-Cyr (the French West Point), Commandant LEGRAND, the <MI>nom-de-guerre<D> for Jean-Pierre de Lassus Saint-Geniá_ás, who since his escape from a German prison camp in 1941 had served with the Secret Army in the departments of Ain and Savoie.

At that time, there were fewer than 500 <MI>maquisards<D> in the department.  De Lassus estimated that about 150 supported the Gaullist Secret Army, while the rest served with the pro-Communist FTP.  However, there were others who, like the Minute Men of Colonial Massachusetts, could be called upon to leave their homes, get what weapons were available, and serve with already organized groups.  These were the <MI>sá,ádentaires<D> (sedentary reserve), of whom there were perhaps 1,500 in the department.  The extent to which they could be called up, and their reliability, depended more or less on the arms they might receive.  The gathering of these parachuted arms continually preoccupied the Resistance leaders.<M^>5<D>

To describe the situation at any one moment is difficult because of fluid conditions prevailing before the Normandy landings.  The numbers of <MI>sá,ádentaires<D> changed constantly, as did the numbers and places of Maquis already in the field.  Leaders were arrested and executed, and there were conflicts among those who arrogated to themselves authority over the lower echelons of the Resistance.  Some Maquis recognized no higher command at all, and others wanted to have orders but remained confused regarding the chain of command.

Although difficult to maintain in occupied France, a clandestine military and political hierarchy connected the various departments and regions.  Since the Drá“áme Department lay within a military region (R-1, with administrative center at Lyon), L'HERMINE and de Lassus irregularly kept in touch with Col. Marcel Descour, known in the Resistance as BAYARD, head of the Drá“áme-Vercors subregion, and with Col. Henri Zeller (FAISCEAU), responsible for the entire southeast.  The regular army officers, especially those in the ORA, indoctrinated to accept a chain of command, did their best to make the system work,  although the very nature of guerrilla units, with their disparate political views, their youthful untrained cadres, and their lack of telecommunications, made the task almost insuperable.

No account of Resistance organization is complete without a commentary on a principal concern:  sabotage.  In his memoirs, General de Gaulle singled out the Drá“áme Department, pointing out that the Maquis took action against the railroads in particular:  "In December [1943], a train of German soldiers on leave was blown up at Portes-les-Valence; the wagons stopped or overturned were machine-gunned by our men, who killed or wounded two hundred soldiers."<M^>6<D>

Individual acts like this occurred hundreds of times, all over France:  There is no space to recount in detail each incident, such as one finds described in twenty-five pages of the Drá“áme official history; yet tables hardly reflect the heroism of the guerrillas, or the psychological effect on the occupiers.  Nevertheless, let the record show that in the Drá“áme, there were:

 

@INDENTED-NUM =           17        major railway bridges destroyed, Oct. '43<196>Aug. '44.

@INDENTED-NUM =           248      attacks and sabotage of railway lines, locomotives, cars, and railway

@INDENTED-NUM =                       equipment, Feb.'43<196>Aug. '44.

@INDENTED-NUM =           25        road bridges destroyed, June<196>Aug. '44.

@INDENTED-NUM =            1         hydroelectric plant sabotaged, July '44.

@INDENTED-NUM =           25        high-tension lines and towers destroyed, Nov. 21, '43<196>Aug. '44.

@INDENTED-NUM =           15        ruptures of long-distance telephone cables, from June to the end

@INDENTED-NUM =                       of Aug. `44

@INDENTED-NUM =            2         large-scale attacks against trains of German soldiers on leave,

@INDENTED-NUM =                       Dec. '43, Feb. '44.

@LINE = ____

@INDENTED-NUM =           333      Total actions of the Drá“áme Resistance.<M^>7<D>

 

While the work of sabotage never prevented the German occupiers from controlling the country, it produced delays, inconveniences, a need for constant patrols, and an increasing apprehension about the role they played.  As General Eisenhower put it, the resistance forces had "by their ceaseless harassing activities, surrounded the Germans with a terrible atmosphere of danger and hatred which ate into the confidence of the leaders and the courage of the soldiers."<M^>8<D>

 

 

@HEAD1 =  INTER-ALLIED MISSIONS

 

London needed to know more about the work of the Maquis in southeast France, especially since operation ANVIL had been confirmed at the Teheran Conference.  SFHQ deemed it advisable, in the interests of Allied-French unity, to send in to France what came to be known as inter-allied missions, teams representing England, the United States, and France, or more specifically:  SOE, OSS, and the BCRA.  One of the first teams, ordered to inquire about conditions east and south of Lyon (departments  of Savoie, Isá_áre, and Drá“áme) was Mission UNION, dispatched to the field in January 1944 and headed by an indomitable Gaullist of the first hour, Pierre Fourcaud.  Fourcaud, then 45 years old, had served in World War I, joined the Free French in 1940, had been arrested and imprisoned while on mission in France, but had been able to escape and get back to London in l943.  With him as members of UNION were the British agent, a former schoolmaster, H. H. A. Thackthwaite, and an American who had served in the French Foreign Legion, Marine Capt. Peter Ortiz.  The mission spent four months visiting Maquis groups and conferring with Resistance leaders, especially with those who commanded armed contingents.  Ortiz, known as "Jean-Pierre," had responsibility for the Drá“áme where, with L'HERMINE and de Lassus, he arranged for dropping zones.

UNION completed its mission in May 1944, a month in which the Gestapo decimated the southeastern Resistance by an unprecedented series of arrests, deportations, and executions.  Thackthwaite and Ortiz returned safely to England, where they reported on the size and capabilities of the guerrillas, but Fourcaud was arrested and held for two months by the Gestapo before he was released.<M^>9<D>

Although missions like UNION were temporary affairs, sent out for a specific purpose, SOE had its own agents, in F section, who reported constantly on conditions.  It so happened that southeastern France, where Operation ANVIL would be carried out, fell  within the compass of a single F-section circuit, JOCKEY, developed by an extraordinary Englishman of Anglo-Belgian descent, Francis Cammaerts.  What Cammaerts did and how he organized his units reveal much about the importance of SOE and the status of the Maquis prior to the invasion.

@HEAD1-NP =  CIRCUIT JOCKEY

 

Francis Cammaerts was known to Resistance leaders throughout the southeast as Major ROGER, or sometimes more familiarly as <MI>grands pieds<D> (big feet), a reference to the means of locomotion appropriate to a large-framed six-footer.<M^>10<D>  By June 1944, Cammaerts had spent a total of twelve months in France, eight in 1943 and the remainder in 1944, covering by car, foot, and motorcycle an area almost as large as South Carolina.  Within this region, he had organized over 100 "minuteman" teams averaging around fifteen men, each with codes, communications, and drop zones, prepared for sabotage, harassment, and hit-and-run tactics.

To be sure, JOCKEY was only one of about forty SOE F-section circuits operating in France during 1943 and 1944, but it was nevertheless one of the most extensive.  Also, while there were other nearby circuits, such as R. H. Heslop's MARKSMAN to the north, Anthony Brook's PIMENTO around Lyon, and Boiteux's GARDENER in the Marseille area, JOCKEY especially held a strategic significance for ANVIL.  Cammaerts possessed furthermore unusual perceptions of the region because his personality with its unassuming modesty, combined with an intense moral commitment to his mission, engendered in his contacts a degree of faith and confidence<197>indeed of affection<197>that was remarkable.

Because his mother was British and his father Belgian, Cammaerts knew both English and French from childhood.  Nevertheless, Cammaerts' education had been essentially British, and after Cambridge, he went into teaching, a profession that became, after the war, a lifelong preoccupation.  In 1942, at the age of twenty-six, he joined SOE and went through its various schools<197>parachuting, sabotage<197>set up to train recruits in an enterprise calling for skills unheard of in any ordinary curriculum.

Not until March 1943, however, was Cammaerts dispatched to the field with the mission of reconstructing infiltrated circuits and of building new ones.  Cammaerts soon concluded that efforts to resuscitate the older circuits might prove self-defeating, and he consequently moved south to the Mediterranean coast, where he made contact with a small resistance group at Cannes.  Obtaining a forged identification card that described him as Jacques Thibault, a manager born in Morocco, he began to circulate through a wide area:  to Avignon in the Vaucluse, where he met the dental surgeon Louis Malarte; north to Beaurepaire, between Grenoble and Lyon, where he arranged for the first container drop in August; to Montá,álimar on the Rhá“áne; into the lower Alps, at Digne, where Dr. Paul Jouve, a respected physician and fierce patriot, made use of his wide contacts to assist Cammaerts immensely; to Marseille, where his principal contact was a Communist, Jacques Má,áker; to Seyne-les-Alpes, where Cammaerts established one of his more permanent headquarters, with the Turrel family, and where many drops in 1944 brought in agents and weapons.

Cammaerts was able to maintain excellent contacts with SOE's Baker Street headquarters in London.  In large part, this was accomplished through his wireless operator, Auguste Floiras, known in the Resistance as ALBERT, a navy veteran from Marseille, who was so expert and conscientious that he transmitted over 400 messages without detection from German direction-finding devices.  While the two agents differed in stature<197>ALBERT's short, wiry body contrasted markedly with Cammaerts' height and build<197>they found common ground in security and in the affection tendered them by the insurgents.

Cammaerts was joined, in June 1943, by another F-section agent, known in the field as ALAIN, but whose real name was Pierre J. L. Raynaud.  A native Frenchman, he had helped the Allies, in November 1942, land in Algeria, where he had been recruited by SOE and sent to England for training in sabotage operations.  Raynaud helped Cammaerts by recruiting and establishing drop zones in the southern half of the Drá“áme department.  Paul Pons, a Resistance leader in the Drá“áme river valley, recalls his first contacts with Raynaud, whom he met during the 1943 Bastille Day<197>14 July<197>celebrations:<M^>11<D>

@INDENTED =

@INDENTED = We were contacted by an agent of the Intelligence Service [<MI>sic<D>].  This officer, "Alain," was one of those rare Frenchmen officially affiliated with a very important Allied service. . . .

@INDENTED2 = Next day, after a long conversation, I conducted him on a tour of the areas I had checked as possibly suitable for parachute drops.  These satisfied him, and back at the house, we arranged for a future drop and the code messages to precede it.  I was really happy:  finally I was going to get what we wanted most:  arms, ammunition, explosives.

@INDENTED =

@FIRSTPARA = The foregoing scenario was repeated all over the JOCKEY area, with anywhere from two to ten groups recruited in each department.<M^>12<D>

In October 1943, SOE ordered Cammaerts to report back in London.  He remained in England during November, December, and January, those months in which Eisenhower left Algiers to take up command of SHAEF.  He had the opportunity of reporting to SOE officials, arguing for increased drops of supplies (already strongly advocated by the prime minister), and emphasizing the idea of holding the Valensole plateau, the Vercors, and reinforcement with airborne troops.

After one false start, Cammaerts flew back to France on February 9, 1944, in a Lancaster bomber that, having been attacked by German fighters, had to be abandoned.  Cammaerts and the crew successfully parachuted to the ground near Beaurepaire, west of Grenoble.  Carrying several million francs and some false ration cards with him, Cammaerts would have been in trouble had he been apprehended by Germans or by the French <MI>milice<D>.  Fortunately, he and the crew fell in with patriots.  At once he began to reestablish his old contacts.

He was especially successful in the Hautes-Alpes (Upper Alps), the department whose pleasant rounded hills in the west become more rugged and convoluted as the terrain rises toward the Italian frontier at Brianá‡áon, where 300 years earlier Vauban and his successors erected impregnable fortresses for Louis XIV.  People in this area are mountaineers from childhood, and such was Paul Há,áraud, a chair-maker in the Hautes-Alpes' principal town of Gap, who in the underground had become, at the age of 37, the most adventurous and dynamic Resistance leader in the area.

Known simply as Paul, or in the Maquis as Commandant DUMONT, Há,áraud had served in the 1939 French army as a sergeant of engineers, and after the Armistice had become involved in the <MI>Groupes Francs<D>, the activist arm of Combat, along with his good friend and deputy, Etienne Moreaud.  With the welding of various groups into the MUR in 1943, Há,áraud became departmental chief, universally accepted by reason of his natural leadership qualities.  His ability to obtain the devoted allegiance of his followers and his unique capacity to get along with people<197>politicians, career military officers, peasants, and mountaineers<197>brought him naturally to the center of Resistance activities in his department, where in 1944 he became not only <MI>Chef FFI<D> but also a member of the Departmental Committee of Liberation.  In the latter part of 1943, in conformance with the BCRA "Plan BLEU" (sabotage of power lines), he had successfully blown up transmission towers, for example in December, when the pylons near Pertuis were dumped into the Durance River.<M^>13<D>

When Cammaerts finally met Há,áraud, they immediately struck up a firm friendship that lasted until Há,áraud's untimely death at German hands just before the ANVIL landings.  Cammaerts has written:

@INDENTED =

@INDENTED = From my first meeting with Paul, I knew that I was dealing with the greatest Resistance leader I had ever met in France.   From the first moment I had complete confidence in him, and the result is well known.  Supplies began to arrive in important quantities throughout the department. . . .  Paul remains for me the greatest friend, the most pure and sure that I have ever known in all my life.<M^>14<D>

@INDENTED =

The four months between Cammaert's return in February until the Normandy landings in June saw increasing clandestine activity in the southeast and all over France.  No one knew, of course, when or where the Allies would land, but everyone, whether in England, North Africa, Italy, or in France itself, intuitively felt that the great event must come in the spring of 1944.  In spite of bad weather, the British and American bombers dropped more and more supplies, although never reaching those amounts that Prime Minister Churchill had hoped for.  These figures give some idea of the materials the JOCKEY area was receiving:<M^>15<D>

 

@BODY3 = 1944       Operations       Containers       Packages

@BODY3 = March     8          156      133

@BODY3 = April        8          117      93

@BODY3 = May        18        418      278

@BODY3 = June        16        466      343

@BODY3 = 

@FIRSTPARA = Even so, Cammaerts was sometimes irritated at sloppy packing in Algiers, which meant a loss of perhaps 20 percent of the contents.<M^>16<D>

What Cammaerts and SOE were doing must always be viewed against the backdrop of other happenings in London and Algiers, especially as the Normandy D Day approached.  Cammaerts had a good deal of leeway in his actions, but he was constrained by the basic SOE directive that emphasized that Allied clandestine operations should support the overall Allied strategy for defeating the German <MI>Wehrmacht<D>.  His responsibility was

 

@INDENTED = for coordinating sabotage and other subversive activities including the organization of Resistance Groups, and for providing advice and liaison on all matters in connection with Patriot Forces up to the time of their embodiment into the regular forces. . . .  Sabotage of communications and other targets, must be carefully regulated and integrated with our operational plans.

 

@FIRSTPARA = Clearly he was to mold and direct the units he armed so that they would give maximum aid to the Allied invasion; nothing in his instructions suggested, at least until June 1944, that he should support purely French internal objectives.<M^>17<D>

 

 

@HEAD1 = THE FRENCH IN ALGIERS

 

Meanwhile, the French in Algiers were undergoing a crisis.  For months, de Gaulle had been trying to obtain a clarification of the FCNL's relationship with the two western Allies.  If he could obtain recognition, and if his French military commanders could be incorporated into the SHAEF structure, he would know with reasonable clarity how he would be able to move within metropolitan France.  It was rumored that President Roosevelt was mulling over a directive to General Eisenhower.  If this draft evolved into an Allied policy that recognized the FCNL as the provisional government and that brought the French into the exclusive top-secret planning staffs of OVERLORD and ANVIL, then de Gaulle could resist Communist pressures and develop procedures with the Anglo-Americans to apply to liberated areas.

The month of March 1944, however, had brought frustration on all issues to the French.  It was learned that Roosevelt was not prepared to recognize de Gaulle.  The farthest he would go was to authorize Eisenhower to deal with any group on a purely military basis as the Supreme Allied Commander believed necessary.  Thus, he could deal with General Koenig, but not reveal to him top-secret information:  The French did not know when the anticipated assault would strike, they did not know what cooperation with the interior Resistance was envisaged, and they did not know whether they would be faced, like the Italians, with an AMGOT (Allied Military Government of Occupied Territory).  They were concerned that the Anglo-American command would overlook the political future of France, and make invasion plans without adequately considering either the interior or exterior Resistance.

Thwarted by the Allies' lack of cooperation, de Gaulle took unilateral steps.  He eliminated Gen. Henri Giraud, the French Commander-in-Chief, by assigning him to a meaningless inspectorship; he took firm control of the military hierarchy, placing both regular forces and Resistance forces (with Koenig as military delegate outside France) under the FCNL; he invited cooperation with leftists by accepting two Communists into the National Committee, which he now began openly to refer to as the provisional government.  Within France, he invited the Resistance to form Departmental Committees of Liberation and he undertook, by dispatching or naming military delegates (national, zonal, regional) to bring all guerrilla groups under a unified structure:  the French Forces of the Interior.  For his military and political delegates, de Gaulle tried to select individuals who, comprehending the policies and needs of his Algiers government, would control communications and ensure that the policies of the Liberation Committees, together with their military components, would conform to the decisions of his provisional government.                                                                                                     

Although de Gaulle imposed his plans all over France, only the arrangements in the southeast, where the Allied troops of ANVIL came in contact with the local French, need concern us here.  We have already mentioned the Departmental Liberation Committee in the Drá“áme.  By early 1944, there were similar committees in all twelve departments of the southeast.<M^>18<D>

De Gaulle also sent "military delegates" into France whose function was to serve as liaison between his provisional government and local military chiefs.  For all France, he had named Jacques Chaban-Delmas, and for the southern zone, Col. Maurice Bourgá_ás-Maunoury, with headquarters near Lyon.  The latter, code named POLYGONE, 30 years old, had graduated from the prestigious <MI>Ecole Polytechnique<D> in Paris and had served as an artillery officer before the French defeat in 1940.  Continuing in politics after the war, Bourgá_ás would hold a number of cabinet posts and, in 1956, as minister of defense, would attain international prominence during the Suez crisis.<M^>19<D>

Bourgá_ás-Maunoury and other high-level Resistance leaders, assuming the Allies would land along the Riviera, realized there should be a military commander who could unify action within the possible target area.  For this post they chose Col. Henri Zeller, a career officer who had served on the Armistice Army staff at Vichy until it was dissolved in late 1942.  Thereafter, Zeller had operated clandestinely within the ORA, especially in the south, where he had contacts at Lyon, Grenoble, Marseille, and Nice.  In late 1943, during a secret mission to Algiers, he had seen both Generals Giraud and de Gaulle.  From Algeria, Zeller flew to London, where he made contact with Buckmaster but not with the Gaullists in BCRA who may have been suspicious of his Vichy/Giraudist connections.  Returning to France, he worked for cooperation and unification of the Secret Army and the MUR, with the professional soldiers of ORA providing the chiefs of staff.<M^>20<D>

Long before the Allies landed, Zeller had organized a clandestine chain of command that established hierarchies of officers:  regional, subregional, and departmental.  Southeastern France had two administrative regions:  R-1, with its seat at Lyon, included eight departments:  Ardá_áche, Drá“áme, Isá_áre, Savoie, Haute-Savoie, Ain, Rhá“áne, Loire, and parts of two others; R-2, headquartered at Marseille, was composed of seven:  Gard, Bouches-du-Rhá“áne, Var, Alpes-Maritimes, Vaucluse, Hautes-Alpes, and Basses-Alpes (later renamed Alpes de Haute-Provence).  Under Bourgá_ás-Maunoury, there were regional military delegates, and under Zeller, regional, subregional, and departmental military commanders (referred to after the French Forces of the Interior were established, as <MI>chefs<D>, <MI>FFI<D>).

Not the least of Zeller's concern was coordination with SOE and BCRA, the source of supplies and orders from the Allies.  Technically speaking, by the time of the Normandy invasion, the French sections of SFHQ should have been consolidated under General Koenig's FFI headquarters in London, and in the field, all separate military groups theoretically should have lost their separate identities.  However, Regions 1 and 2, which comprised Zeller's command, lay much closer to Algiers than to London.  Zeller had reason to suppose that most of his supplies and orders would come from Algiers, directly from de Gaulle, or from the FCNL's special services unit, which had a subcommittee supervising action in France.  Yet the transmitters and planes reaching into France remained in Allied hands.  De Gaulle could not act unilaterally; he had to coordinate action through the appropriate Allied agencies, SOE and OSS.

The French also had to coordinate the policies and actions of the Gaullists outside France<197>in Algiers and London<197>with those of the Resistance leaders inside France, many of whom did not consider, with some justification, that the exterior French, who acted as legislators, really understood what conditions in France were like.  Many insurgents believed that the clandestine CNR (<MI>Conseil National de la Rá,ásistance<D>), created by Jean Moulin with de Gaulle's approval, better represented the true aspirations of the French underground, not only of the major Resistance groups, but of the labor unions and political parties.<M^>21<D>

Aware of the CNR's rival claim to authority, the Algiers government appointed regional-- and departmental prefects to replace Vichy officials as soon as possible.  With primary allegiance to de Gaulle rather than to the CNR, they would strengthen de Gaulle's administrative hold over the entire country.

In southeastern France, there were two regional prefectures, one with its capital at Marseille covering approximately the Resistance area R-2, and the other, centered at Lyon, with its region corresponding to R-1.  De Gaulle called the regional prefects <MI>Commissaires de la Rá,ápublique<D>, and months before the ANVIL landings had named his candidates for the southeast:  Raymond Aubrac for Marseille and Yves Farge for Lyon.<M^>22<D>

An engineer educated at M.I.T. and Harvard, 30-year-old Aubrac had been arrested in Lyon with Jean Moulin, but had been able to escape and make his way to Algiers.  He would come ashore with the ANVIL troops and take up his responsibilities a few days later when Marseille was liberated.

Farge, on the other hand, was already residing in France.  Journalist by profession, leftist in orientation, he had been editor of the <MI>Prográ_ás de Lyon<D> before the German occupation forced him underground.  Although not a Communist, he had been a director of the Communist-dominated <MI>Front National<D>.

At the departmental level, de Gaulle named Resistance prefects, some of whom had already participated in local underground activity.  Altogether, there were a great many political and military chiefs, some self-appointed, some designated by Algiers, others approved by the CNR, who would serve as hidden allies when Patch's Seventh Army came ashore in August 1944.

 

 

 

Chapter 3         Special Operations in Southeastern France

 

Shortly after the successful Allied landing in North Africa, in November 1942, the British inaugurated an SOE operation at the Club des Pins, a group of villas in a secluded area about 15 miles west of Algiers, under the code name MASSINGHAM.  In January 1943, Lt. Col. Douglas Dodds-Parker became MASSINGHAM's commander after a meeting in Algiers with Eisenhower, attended by Col. William ("Wild Bill") Donovan, director of OSS, Maj. Gen. Colin Gubbins, executive director of SOE, and Lt. Col. William Eddy, heading OSS-Algiers.  Dodds-Parker recalled the discussion:

 

Eisenhower said the OSS and SOE should work closely together; that Eddy was to be the head and I was to be his second-in-command.  Clasping his hands, he said to us all, "You must work together like this.  You must have no secrets from each other." We all agreed.  Eisenhower, like Alexander later, inspired devoted loyalty. 1

 

Since SOE had already been operating out of Cairo and Gibraltar, it had a considerable head start in planes, ships, containers, and contacts within Europe.  Thus, while on paper the Americans were supposed to be equal, they were far behind in organization and equipment.  As late as mid-1943, OSS could provide only a plane or two for dropping supplies from Algiers.  Up to April 1944, SOE had 18 Halifax bombers available to the Americans' three Flying Fortresses (B-17).  There were in fact very few Americans among the many missions, mostly despatched from London, working with the French Maquis.

In North Africa, Donovan sought to gain more freedom of action than he had achieved in England.  Consequently, the OSS operation out of Algiers, although ostensibly cooperating with  the British, embarked on a number of independent enterprises.  OSS differed from SOE in that it contained an Intelligence component (SI) as well as an Operations section (SO).  In England, the SI activity had been curtailed because British Intelligence was unwilling to accept a parallel operation by what they considered Donovan's naive newcomers.  In French North Africa, however, especially with the American Eisenhower holding the Mediterranean command (AFHQ), an SI operation began to develop. 

For France, the OSS Intelligence branch fell under the guidance of a capable New Yorker, Henry B. Hyde, who by the time of the ANVIL landings controlled fifteen to twenty networks in Metropolitan France.  Educated in France, Switzerland, England, and Germany, speaking idiomatic French, Hyde exercised a cosmopolitan charm, unusual among Americans, which ingratiated him into many of the diverse circles of intrigue-ridden Algiers.  Although his first agents did not reach France until July 1943, ultimately they accumulated significant amounts of information about roads, bridges, German installations, and enemy troop movements, all of which became available to the ANVIL planners.  In time, the SI branch recruited a large staff that, attached to the Seventh Army's G-2, moved to Naples when General Patch transferred his headquarters there in July 1944.  It should be made clear that the SI unit attached to Seventh Army, although part of OSS, was completely separate from the OSS/SO unit in Algiers.  It would not be SI's function to develop liaison with French guerrillas or to serve as interpreters as the advance forces moved through the countryside.  This function would devolve on SOE and OSS's SO section.<M^>2<D>

Throughout 1943, SOE and OSS expanded their activities in the Mediterranean, not so much in France as in Italy, Yugoslavia, and the Balkans.  Once the OVERLORD and ANVIL decisions had been made, however, late in the year, the planners focussed their eyes on France.  In January 1944, an agreement reached at Algiers among British, French, and American representatives established for special operations three target areas:  the Eastern Mediterranean, Italy, and France.  Thereafter, MASSINGHAM would concentrate on southern France, would cooperate more closely with the SO section of OSS, and would work with the appropriate agency in de Gaulle's provisional government.<M^>3<D>

To establish exactly what this agency would be posed a considerable problem for the French because two separate services, one Giraudist and one Gaullist, made rival claims.  When de Gaulle eliminated Giraud from active duty in March 1944, he opened the way for integration of the two agencies.  The difficult task of consolidation fell to Jacques Soustelle, a brilliant young anthropologist who from the early days had thrown in his lot with de Gaulle.  Soustelle's DGSS (Direction Générale des Services Spéciaux) became the Algerian counterpart of the London BCRA and, with de Gaulle once established in North Africa, the senior intelligence and operational agency.  The London office became a branch, thereafter technically BRAL (Bureau de Renseignements et d'Action de Londres) 4

Under DGSS, there existed an implementing body, the <MI>Direction Technique<D>, that supervised a small group, the "Action" Service, concerned especially with operations (as opposed to Intelligence) within France.  When Commandant Clipet, the Giraudist officer who headed this service, was relieved, Soustelle concluded that an officer close to General de Lattre (who would be commanding the French forces destined for ANVIL) would provide a satisfactory liaison.  De Lattre concurred and released his aide, Lt. Col. Jean Constans, for this position.

Constans, a tall, heavy-set officer (code named SAINT SAUVEUR), had since 1941 served as chef de cabinet to de Lattre, who having been imprisoned in France, had escaped to London, and finally reached Algiers in December 1943.  Constans, coming to Algiers with the general, remained as his aide until May 15, 1944, when he assumed his new position as "Chef, Service Action" under Soustelle.   One of his major tasks, to develop good relations with MASSINGHAM and especially with the French section head, Lt. Cdr. Brooks Richards, was facilitated by the fact that Capt. Guillaume Widmer, already on the "Action" staff, became automatically a member of Constans' team.  5

"Willy" Widmer, a French Protestant, outdoorsman, and good horseman, was well accepted by the British officers at MASSINGHAM's Club des Pins, where in fact he was already living.  Trained in law and banking, the 36-year-old Widmer, a cousin of André Gide, had worked for the Banque d'Indochine in Shanghai before coming to Algiers by way of Indochina as a lieutenant in the Colonial Infantry.  Widmer's Gaullist leanings did not endear him to his superior, Clipet.  Widmer went to London with Brooks Richards in February 1944, and during their stay, the two developed a mutual admiration.  They were endeavoring to seek better means of coordination between London and Algiers.  Widmer also impressed the Gaullist BRAL officers, and back in Algiers, when Constans replaced Clipet, Widmer's influence became increasingly significant.  Later, sent into France, Widmer would receive an on-the-spot promotion to colonel.  After the war, Widmer distinguished himself in government service, first as governor-general of Wurttemburg during the occupation of Germany and thereafter as directeur de cabinet for several defense ministers.

 

ESTABLISHMENT OF SPOC  (SPECIAL

PROJECT OPERATIONS CENTER)

 

       In the spring of 1944, with training for the cross-channel invasion in process, there developed imperative needs for MASSINGHAM (to say nothing of OSS) to obtain a directive from Eisenhower so that the southern French Resistance would give maximum support to the invasion plans.  It took some time for SHAEF to enunciate a definite policy.  Meanwhile in April, SOE and OSS representatives began to consult on ways by which OSS and MASSINGHAM--also possibly French officers--could achieve better coordination.  Out of these discussions emerged a decision to integrate MASSINGHAM with those OSS officers (of SO section) who were especially concerned with France, following somewhat the pattern of the London-based SFHQ.

    Once the decision was made in May, the awesome technical capacities of the armed forces in Algiers quickly permitted construction of a new facility, made up of nine Quonset (British:  Nissen) huts, over twenty-five tents, and a wooden mess hall, built across from the Villa Magnol (one of the OSS-North Africa installations), which was given the name Special Project Operations Center, or, as it was generally called, SPOC.  The Center opened officially on May 23, 1944, scarcely two weeks before the cross-channel attack.  6

   The staffing of SPOC continued the inter-allied procedure of British and American officers sharing responsibilities.  The command went jointly to the British  Lt. Col. John Anstey, commanding officer of MASSINGHAM, and to the American Lt. Col. William P. Davis, SO director in Algiers.  Under Anstey and Davis (who with their staffs occupied the Control Hut), there were four basic sections:  French, Air, Jedburgh and OGs, and Intelligence, linked together and with the field by a complex signals operation.

The French section was headed by the British Lt. Cdr. Brooks Richards, who carried on with the same general responsibilities he had shouldered at MASSINGHAM, maintaining contact with all the agents and missions in southern France.  Francis Brooks Richards (he did not use his first name), a yachting enthusiast and yacht designer, had begun his studies at Cambridge when the war broke out in 1939.  At age 21, he received a reserve commission in the Royal Navy, and later assumed command of a small minesweeper that was sunk in 1940.  Thereafter, as a member of SOE's Naval Section, he became engrossed with the possibility of making contact with France by sea.  In October 1942, on a special mission to Gibraltar, he tried to get arms to Algerian resisters.  After the North African landings, he participated in SOE missions to Tunisia and, from December until February 1943, commanded a pro-Gaullist, SOE-trained group of young Frenchmen, holding a position at Cap Serrat.  Relieved by regular troops, Richards then carried out SOE missions in Malta and Corsica when, in October 1943, at age 25, he replaced Jacques de Guélis as French desk officer at MASSINGHAM.  (De Guélis had to be replaced because neither de Gaulle, who had just eliminated Giraud as rival president of the French Committee of National Liberation, nor Jacques Soustelle, charged with reorganizing French Special Services, would cooperate with one of SOE's F-section officers.)  An energetic and capable officer, Brooks Richards went to the British Embassy in Paris after SPOC closed in October 1944.  After the war, he would serve with distinction in government posts at home and abroad including, in the 1970s, appointments as ambassador in Saigon and in Athens.  7

Richard's American opposite number was Capt. Gerard (Gerry) de Piolenc, an engaging and enthusiastic young OSS officer.  De Piolenc was actually of French origin, a member of an aristocratic French family.  The training section included Lt. Geoffrey Jones, an American who had spent part of his youth in the Fréjus area  and could speak French.

With the OSS people being mostly newcomers, the operations at first were maintained as they had been at MASSINGHAM although now modified to conform with directives from SHAEF, AFHQ, and Seventh Army Planners.  SPOC was not a policy-making agency (although it recommended policy), but rather a vehicle to carry out and coordinate all orders from higher levels with the end of building up the French Resistance, giving it guidance, and making i

 

 

 

 

MISSIONS INTO SOUTHERN FRANCE

         SPOC had responsibility for sending and supplying all the special missions in southern France, including the maintenance of those already in the field, despatched earler from London or separately by SOE, OSS, or BCRA. The most important types included:

1.        British SOE circuits, such as JOCKEY.

2.        Inter-allied Maquis missions consisting generally of British, American, and French agents.

3.        American OSS Operational Groups (OG).

4.        Inter-allied Jedburgh teams. 

5.        Groupes de contre-sabotage de la Marine française.

           It must be emphasized that SOE and SO of OSS, together with Service Action of DGSS, concentrated not on intelligence but on sabotage and  military enterprises--what the Resistance termed "la lutte armée."

          There were a great many intelligence networks in France, some run by the BCRA of Colonel PASSY (André Dewavrin) in cooperation with the RF section of SOE; some run by the British SIS (or MI6); some by the Poles; some by OSS. For example, the SI (Intelligence Section) of OSS had sent Fred Brown (TOMMY)  into France where he recruited Gaston Vincent (AZUR), who helped the Allied cause until his death in the Vercors in June 1944.  There were also, of course, the G2 (deuxième bureau) sections of the regular military forces, which could include units such as the Seventh Army's Strategic Services Section (SSS), a mobile unit to serve as liaison between agents in the field and the G2 staff.

          Important as intellience networks may be, the study and analysis of them lies outside the scope of this volume, although they may be referred to when they interact or relate to special operations. Let us, then, describe briefly the missions that fell under SPOC's control.

 

 

In order to direct and to supply its missions, SPOC kept up a steady volume of communications with the field.  One hut was devoted to writing and receiving field messages, at first handled almost entirely by SOE.  Another hut, using the MASSINGHAM ciphers, encoded and decoded the messages that, via a teletype system, were relayed to and from the MASSINGHAM wireless transmitting and receiving station west of Algiers.  The volume of messages, constantly increasing, and the diversity of situations strained both equipment and personnel.  There were over 50 radio operators in southern France, together with various missions and circuits with their own operators.  Each agent might transmit once or twice a day and receive an equal number of messages from Algiers. The messages coming to Algiers had to be decoded, copied, and distributed<197>hundreds per day<197>some of which were relayed to or from London.

When SPOC began operations in late May, control of the Resistance, as far as the Allies were concerned, remained vested with SHAEF, so that actions within France could be coordinated with OVERLORD.  On the other hand, General de Gaulle, through the French Committee's Special Services, also communicated with the Resistance.  In London, this service had been rendered by SOE's RF section; in Algiers, it went from Soustelle's DGSS via Brooks Richards' desk in MASSINGHAM, and after May 23, via the French country section desk (Brooks Richards and de Piolenc) at SPOC.  These complexities sometimes meant a delay of three or four days before a message reached all of the French addressees.  Within  SPOC, decipherment and routing were much more rapid.<M^>10<D>

Coordinated with overall control and with the French country section stood the operations hut,  with its maps detailing all of the agents in the field together with the many drop zones.  Operations had to keep track of the equipment being packed in containers, loaded on planes, and ready for parachuting into southern France.  It worked closely with the air operations section, ensuring what planes and pilots were available, and whether meteorological conditions would permit sorties.

The number of planes available to SPOC had increased from twenty at the beginning of 1944 to over thirty.  The basic contingent of eighteen Halifax bombers (RAF 624th Squadron) was augmented when Roosevelt and Secretary of State Hull, piqued by de Gaulle's April statement that most of his help came from the British, pressured the Joint Chiefs of Staff to have more American bombers made available for bringing aid to the French Resistance.  Consolidated with the three B-17s already serving OSS/SO,  the 885th Bomb Squadron ultimately provided SPOC with a total of eleven four-engine Flying Fortresses and Liberators (B-17s, B-24s), together with seven two-engine B-25s capable of handling containers, paratroopers, and pamphlets.  The American crews, new to Special Operations, took some time to learn the techniques of communicating with the ground and making pinpoint deliveries on the drop zones.  At first they could not match the skill of the Royal Air Force pilots, but they rapidly gained in experience.  In May, the month that  SPOC was established, the Americans made forty-five successful sorties into southern France and thereafter made an increasing contribution to the task of getting supplies to the Maquis.  By September, when SPOC completed its mission, the number of successful sorties into southern France (over 1,000) and the tons dropped (over 3,000) were about evenly divided between the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force.  The British, however, took more than double the number of personnel into the field (411 to 198).

While SPOC controlled the planes assigned to it, the overall command of aircraft remained vested in General Eaker's Mediterranean Air Force, which could alter the allocation or supplement it according to overall strategic requirements.  With northwestern Europe under SHAEF, the Mediterranean command gave its highest priority not to France, but to the Balkans and Italy.  In 1944, there were over 13,000 successful sorties into Yugoslavia, Albania, Greece, and northern Italy, compared to 1,129 into southern  France.  Nevertheless, the Mediterranean command did assist SPOC from time to time, making available Wellington and Dakota bombers, and some Lysanders for special missions when agents had to be landed or evacuated.<M^>11<D>

At SPOC, several huts were devoted to air operations, of which one housed the personnel responsible for those unique types of operations:  the inter-allied Jedburghs and the American OSS Operational Groups.  The Jeds and the OGs posed additional problems for SPOC, which already administered or had to keep track of SOE circuits, French missions, and inter-allied missions, to say nothing of coordinating all these operations with the needs of General Patch's Seventh Army.  How to use the Jedburghs most effectively raised problems among Operations, the Country section, and the Jedburgh section, headed by the British Major Champion.  Coordination proved difficult but was eased when Maj. Neil Marten replaced Champion in early August.  A Jedburgh himself, Marten had parachuted into the Drá“áme as a member of team VEGANINE but had returned to Algiers for consultation.  The orders for OSS's Operational Groups, administered in a separate section headed by Maj. Alfred G. Cox, also had to be coordinated with Operations and the Country section.<M^>12<D>

At the height of its operations in August, SPOC personnel numbered about 150, but if one counts all the people--agents, Jedburghs, OGs--operating in the field, one must add another 400 or 500 to the list.  Before examining what SPOC did specifically in preparing the way for Operation ANVIL, one must take at least a glance at the ways in which it coordinated its activities with de Gaulle's Committee of National Liberation and with General Patch's Seventh Army.

 

 

 THE FRENCH AND SPOC

 

          Up to June 6, the date of the Normandy landings, the French had not been privy to top-level planning and decisions.  Once the Allies were in France, however, this policy changed and, with General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Allied Supreme Commander, strongly arguing for ANVIL, de Gaulle and the French Committee of National Liberation participated in its planning:  General de Lattre de Tassigny, commanding the French forces, would move his headquarters to Naples adjacent to those of General Alexander Patch, who commanded the U.S. Seventh Army and was responsible for the entire ANVIL operation.   There would be French liaison officers at various levels, and a French representative would serve in SPOC.

         This French representative was to be Lt. Colonel Jean Constans (SAINT SAUVEUR),  a tall, heavy-set officer, who had served as General de Lattre's chef de cabinet since 1941.  At the insistence of Jacques Soustelle, head of  de Gaulle's  Direction Générale des Services Spéciaux (DGSS), de Lattre released Constans to Soustelle, who appointed him chef, Service Action.   One of Constans' major tasks, to develop good relations with the Anglo-Americans, was facilitated by the fact that Captain Guillaume Widmer, already on the Action staff, became automatically a member of Constans' team.

          "Willy" Widmer was in fact living at the Club des Pins, the SOE headquarters and training center west of Algiers.  A specialist in law and banking, the 36-year-old Widmer, a cousin of André Gide, had worked for the Banque d'Indochine in Shanghai before coming to Algiers.  Widmer and Brooks Richards had developed a personal friendship and he was well thought of in Gaullist circles. (After the war, Widmer distinguished himself in government service, first as governor-general in occupied Wurttemburg and thereafter as directeur de cabinet for several defense ministers.                     

       The choice of Constans, a military officer, as a special service agent,  signified a shift in Gaullist policies, echoing a realization that the Allies, unwilling to extend political recognition to de Gaulle, nevertheless appreciated the value of French soldiers in the forthcoming campaign. In keeping with his past experience and lack of information about the Resistance,  Constans conceived of his new job at SPOC essentially in military terms.  In a diary entry of 22 May he wrote: "Vu Richards à qui j'explique comment je conçois le rôle qui m'est dévolu--Nous sommes en guerre, nous aurons un plan d'opération à éxécuter,  sous des ordres et un commandement-- Celà seul compte et est en rapport avec le réel."

   There remained, however, the need for a clarification as to where exactly Constans stood in the hierarchy of command.  Part of the problem lay in the fact that, when General Giraud was ousted from his command of French forces in North Africa, de Gaulle insisted that thereafter military liaison should be directed to Gen. Emile Béthouart as his chief of staff for national defense.  He had also appointed the hero of Bir Hakeim, General Pierre Koenig, as commander of the FFI--the French Forces of the Interior--bringing together in theory, if not always in practise, the military units of  the Resistance. Koenig maintained his headquarters in London, close to those of Eisenhower                          HoweverThe question arose, should there be a counterpart in Algiers to the position held by General Koenig?   De Gaulle had named (at the same time as the Koenig appointment) General Gabriel Cochet as  Délégué Militaire Opérations Sud (DMOS).  Cochet was a capable Air Force officer who, like de Lattre, had been imprisoned by Vichy, escaped, and had finally  joined the Gaullists in North Africa.  He had served briefly as de Gaulle's intelligence chief before being replaced by Soustelle         Thereupon one had to ask:  Did Cochet have powers (in the south) equivalent to those of Koenig?    Constans found himself in a curious predicament, not clear just who his superiors were.  In Constans' own words: "Devant la croissance continue de la tension qui existait entre DM Sud (Cochet) et SPOC, devant aussi l'absence de tout organogramme de commandement traçant les responsabilités respectives à Alger, j'ai décidé de faire appel directement au Général Koenig Cdt en chef des FFI et dont le QC était en Angleterre. A cet effet, et de ma propre initiative, j'ai envoyé le Cne Widmer (adjoint au SPOC) en mission à Londres. Widmer est parti le 22 Juin."  After seeing Koenig, Widmer wired Algiers that he, Constans, was offically empowered to act as Koenig's representative in dealing with DGSS and with Cochet.  There was no mention of amalgamation.                                                                        ConstansConstans later (in 1962) made some trenchant comments about his role in SPOC, where so far as policy was concerned, he considered that he should be on equal footing with Anstey and Davis, whereas in reality the French desk seemed to be running the show.  He noted:  15  

  Apparemment rattaché à la section G.B., mais en réalité autonome du fait de sa qualité d'officier de liaîson, le Lt de Vaisseau (puis Cne de Corvette) Brooks Richards assurait au sein du SPOC le rôle de représentant du Commandement allié auquel l'organisme était subordonné. Ce commandement ne manifestait jamais sa présence directe, ce qui valorisait d'autant l'influence et le rôle de B. Richards."

    Constans recalled the excellent and cordial relations within SPOC's tripartite structure, but he could not avoid a sense of frustration, any more than de Gaulle could, at his enforced second-class citizenship.  The SPOC commanders, Anstey and Davis, with their overall responsibilities, were not inclined to take Constans into their circle, while they nevertheless expected the French country officer, Richards, to maintain daily contact with DGSS's "Action" representative.  With Richards a grade lower than Constans, this interchange devolved essentially on Widmer, whose congeniality and broad-based attitudes were suited admirably to the task.  Brooks Richards was not officially a "liaison officer," nor was he autonomous, but, responsible for operations long before Constans arrived on the scene, he could not readily alter the complex business of running agents into France to suit the concepts of a very military regular French officer.  Constans never felt entirely comfortable in a situation where without real authority he had to cope, like a new boy on the block, with operations already in progress.

 

SPOC, OSS, AND THE SEVENTH ARMY

 

OSS had run into difficulties in Italy where Gen. Jacob Devers, the senior U.S. Commander in the Mediterranean Theater, had subjected some of its activities to severe criticism.  For the ANVIL operation, OSS was determined to coordinate its activities with the army command.  Such a move made good sense especially in light of the fact that, once the armies were ashore, they would unite to form the Sixth Army Group, which Devers would command.  Incorporation into Seventh Army's G-2 could obviate the kind of misunderstandings that had produced problems in Italy.<M^>16<D>

In due course, a Strategic Services Section (SSS), under Lt. Col. Edward W. Gamble, became attached to Patch's G-2 and participated in ANVIL planning.  Gamble was prepared to send a contingent of about 30 persons, with seven vehicles and drivers, over the beaches alongside the landing troops.  This unit would be attached to Seventh Army headquarters.  OSS did not wish the SSS unit to work with corps or division staffs who might not understand its function as providers of strategic and tactical Intelligence.  SSS believed that one of its primary functions in the field would be to make contact with those many agents and chains that Henry Hyde had already established.<M^>17<D>

The relationship of SPOC to Seventh Army was somewhat different because, for one thing, SPOC was an international body, operating under Gen. Maitland Wilson's AFHQ.  So long as Force 163, the Planning Group for the Seventh Army, remained in Algiers, it was not too difficult for SPOC to maintain contact with the planners, who kept SOE and OSS abreast of high-level strategic thinking.  Once Patch decided to transfer his headquarters to Naples, where most of the ANVIL units were training, the problem of liaison became acute.  Since the packing units and radio transmitters could not easily be moved, it was not feasible for SPOC, which in any case came under Wilson's overall Mediterranean command, to follow Patch to Italy.  Nevertheless, a special unit, almost as large as SPOC itself, was organized for transfer to Naples, where it would be attached to Seventh Army headquarters.

This was 4-SFU, Special Forces Unit No. 4, commanded by American Lt. Col. William G. Bartlett, with British Lt. Col. E. S. N. Head as deputy, assigned by AFHQ to the Seventh Army on June 29 and later moved to Naples.  The unit would operate under Patch's G-3 with liaison to G-2, and would "control Resistance groups in southern France in support of ANVIL," would be a source for information about these groups, and would be Seventh Army's "channel for obtaining the assistance of Resistance groups."  The unit was large, with 22 officers (10 American, 12 British) and 42 enlisted persons (12 American, 30 British) together with a large all-British detachment<197>over 50<197>for radio communications.  4-SFU would be provided with over 20 vehicles so that once landed its teams would be mobile and independent of regular army support.  It was planned that there would be officers at the various headquarters, army, corps, and division, and teams to serve as interpreters and liaison, or to organize sabotage missions behind the lines.  The teams would have adequate mobile radios and would keep in touch with Algiers, as well as with missions already in the field.<M^>18<D>

Because the officers of 4-SFU were all French-speaking, they were in a position to assist the commanders, especially at the lower levels, in getting help not only from the FFI, but from French civilians.  The Seventh Army had not made any special effort to ensure that interpreters would accompany all its units.  As a consequence, once the invasion began, interrogators, translators, SSS, and 4-SFU personnel found themselves providing interpretation services, which did not lie within their principal missions.  Possibly, because so many GIs of Italian background enabled the VI Corps to get along in Italy, the planners ignored the fact that no comparable numbers of soldiers had descended from French immigrants. 19

 

Chapter 4         Impact of the Normandy Landings

 

The invasion of Normandy, on June 6, brought repercussions in southeastern France, where but for the Anzio setback a simultaneous landing might have taken place.  Certainly no member of the French Resistance knew when or if the Allies would come across the Côte d'Azur beaches, but many of them were excited about rumors that action would soon come their way.  In fact, plans did exist for operations in the south, but since ANVIL was temporarily "on hold," they remained undeveloped and uncertain.

Eisenhower had already received from General Wilson a summary of SOE, OSS, and French plans for coordinating Resistance activity that might help OVERLORD.  Wilson told Eisenhower that a mass uprising was inevitable and that it would be better to direct such an uprising than to try to suppress it.  He believed British relations with the French would be better if they supported Resistance groups, and he spoke of sending in some French commando-type forces to stiffen large-scale Maquis operations.  The Supreme Allied Commander replied to Wilson that "overt action is to be delayed until it can be helpful to tactical operations."  Resistance action "is intended to delay enemy forces moving by rail and road, to sabotage enemy telecommunications, and to carry out general guerrilla tasks."  Five days later, on May 21, SHAEF sent Wilson a directive, "Role of Resistance groups in the South of France," which called only for cutting significant north-south railways and roads.

     Eisenhower had in mind using Resistance forces essentially to keep German troops stationed in the south from reinforcing the Normandy defenses.  He knew from intelligence sources the routes principally used by the occupation forces; it was those he wanted cut, and SFHQ sent out appropriate alert messages to the guerrillas in France.

     The French Resistance, however, had its own ideas as to what should be done in case an Allied landing paved the way for liberation.  Granted that the Maquis along the strategic routes did their best to hinder German movements, there existed no overall plan to integrate Resistance forces into OVERLORD.  As a consequence, many French insurrectional plans had been formulated that, while possibly known to the Gaullist military delegates, had not been analyzed or approved by British or American commanders.  These Maquis uprisings, and the German reprisals, affected the entire area for which ANVIL was planned.

        Together with the inter-allied missions, there were also enterprises in southern France of essentially French origin, not part of Allied strategy or planning, but to some extent supported by SOE and OSS.

For example, French plans had been drawn up to gain control of the great Vercors Plateau southwest of Grenoble and a number of other areas in the mountains.  The Vercors, guarded by precipitous escarpments, served as a base of operations for Colonel Henri Zeller (FAISCEAU), the FFI commander for the southeast, whose area of command comprised R1 (Ardèche, Loire, Rhône, Saône-et-Loire, Jura, Ain, Savoie, Haute-Savoie, Isère, and Drôme) and R2 (Alpes-Maritimes, Var, Bouches-du-Rhône, Gard, Vaucluse, Basses-Alpes, and Hautes-Alpes).                                                 In May,In May,  Eugene  Chavant (CLEMENT), civilian Resistance leader in the Vercors, had come to Algiers where he obtained firm Gaullist support for establishing a strong point on the plateau--Operation MONTAGNARDS.  Although Colonel Constans (the French representative to SPOC) knew of the plan, SPOC itself was not involved.

       Another plan, to hold the Larche pass approaches, had been developed over a period of several months before June 6.  Barcelonnette,           The principal problem related to overall regional military command:  whether the dominant officer should be Robert Rossi (LEVALLOIS), pro-Communist regional chief of the MUR--Mouvements Unis de la Résistance-- or Jacques Lécuyer (SAPIN), regional head of the ORA.  Both men were highly qualified:  young (neither had reached 35), handsome, energetic, Rossi a graduate  of the Ecole Polytechnique and a captain in the Air Force, Lécuyer, a graduate of St.-Cyr.                                                   In May In May,1944, Rossi was appointed FFI chief for R2 by the regional military delegate.  Rossi conformed to the FTP position that Resistance forces should be reserved for urban insurrection, where they might help in establishing leftist controls after liberation.

        Lécuyer, stationed in Syria with the regular French army, had tried after the fall of France in 1940 to respond to de Gaulle's appeal by getting to British-controlled Palestine.  Imprisoned for this attempt, he was released in 1941 when the British took over Syria.  The French army then assigned Lécuyer as an instructor in the Ecole Spéciale Militaire de St.-Cyr, set up in Aix-en-Provence.  While the school was nominally under Vichy, Lécuyer used his position to rally a number of student officers to resistance.  He became ORA leader in R2 .  He did not believe that Resistance forces should be used for political ends but should be reserved strictly for action against the German occupiers.

     The political aspects of Resistance rivalry found emphasis with the arrival of the MICHEL mission. Helped by MICHEL mission members Lancesseur and Captain Hay, and inspired by Hay's contention that the Allies would soon be disembarking in France, Lécuyer and his colleagues developed a plan to seize and hold a defensible area in the Ubaye valley.

       On the eve of the Normandy invasion, Eisenhower authorized action messages to be sent to the Maquis throughout France and the BBC pronouncement, "Méfiez-vous du toréador," came through loud and clear.

        To Commandant Michel Bureau, the ORA officer commanding the Maquis of the Ubaye valley, the message definitely meant:  "Put the plan into effect"  and he ordered his men to capture the German garrison at Barcelonnette.  On this day, the higher-ranking FFI officers were not in the Ubaye area.  Colonel Henri Zeller, FFI commander for southeastern France, was at Lyon.  He went south to Marseille on the 7th where he talked briefly with Lécuyer who, with Captain Chanay, was just leaving for Barcelonnette.      Cammaerts was at this time not far from Barcelonnette and was invited by Zeller, whom he did not know personally, to review the situation with him.  They met on June 10.

       The date has interest because at this time the FFI command  sent messages to the Maquis--"la pause-Koenig,"--to restrain their offensive actions and revert back to the regular tasks of harassment and sabotage.

       This order of June 10 reached Barcelonnette at a crucial juncture of the operations: a formidable enemy task force was reported to be coming down from Guillestre to the north. German elements threatened Barcelonnette in the early afternoon of June 11 and soon reached a roadblock only seven miles from Barcelonnette.  After a desperate defense, in which Captain Hay was killed, the FFI command ordered a withdrawal at nightfall.  During the next few days, the maquisards scattered into the hills, some into Italy, some to the south where they began to reorganize.  Lécuyer moved his ORA headquarters down to Colmars, in mountain country  south of Barcelonnette.

       Meanwhile information about the MICHEL mission had been treacherously revealed to Gestapo headquarters in Marseille. Chanay and Lancesseur were arrested in July, along with the American d'Errecalde and the sea-lift agent Pelletier.

 

THE VERCORS

 

          While the Maquis effort in the Ubaye was heroic, it was a small affair compared to the Resistance uprising in the Vercors.  Ultimately some 4,000 guerrilla fighters, many untrained and unarmed, rallied to the great plateau southwest of Grenoble, where the leaders proclaimed the area of woods and rolling farmland  an independent republic.   Upon receiving word that the Vercors population had begun their insurrection, Zeller, with nothing more to be accomplished at Barcelonnette, hurried to the plateau.  With him went Cammaerts, now understanding that his JOCKEY network had been absorbed into the FFI and that he was to serve essentially as a liaison officer for Zeller.  The Vercors maintained radio contact with both London and Algiers.

       By June 15, elements of the Grenoble-based 157th Reserve Division, under Generalleutnant Karl Pflaum, had wrested St.-Nizier from the Maquis.  Resting on the northeast road into the Vercors from Grenoble, St.-Nizier provided a gateway to the northern third of the plateau and enabled the Germans to bring in artillery, which the defenders lacked.  Furthermore, the Germans could fly in planes from the airfield at Chabeuil, on the western side, and against these the guerrillas had little protection.

     Lt. Col. François Huet, code named HERVIEUX, had held the overall Vercors command since May.  He coordinated the defense under Zeller and Colonel Marcel Descour (BAYARD), commanding the eastern part of R1.  He also consulted with the FFI heads of the Drôme and Isère departments because the approaches to the plateau lay in these two departments.  An important aspect of the defense was a determination of which Maquis would be on the heights and which around the perimeter.  Not all the discussions went smoothly, however, because of personality differences and the basic logistical problems in clandestine warfare.

        In the midst of these essentially French command hierarchies  stood Francis Cammaerts, now involved in FFI affairs as a consequence of his designation as Zeller's liaison officer.  Although Cammaerts had two radio operators with him in the Vercors, he was hampered for lack of staff, nor was he entirely clear as to his position in the chain of command or what was his role related to missions sent in by SPOC.

While SPOC could only authorize actions under its specific control (and  the Vercors uprising was not one of them), it did send the embattled  maquisards from time to time encouragement, which gave the Resistance leaders reason to believe they had not been completely abandoned.  On the plateau, the leaders recorded innumerable hopeful messages coming in from London and Algiers, and occasionally they gathered up containers with machine guns and ammunition, but few of the mortars and heavy weapons they desperately needed.

     A spectacular drop of 420 containers in daylight reached the plateau on June 25, a Sunday, as if heaven had bestowed a blessing while Colonel Huet officiated at a memorial service.  The present of some 70 Bren submachine guns, over 1,000 Stens, 648 .30-cal. rifles, and most-prized, 34 Bazookas came, interestingly enough, from the Americans.

      Certainly the drop of arms gave some comfort to the Maquis on the Vercors, who, with recruits coming in every day, had good reason to believe that the Germans, constantly probing the Vercors defenses, would not leave the defiant gesture of the French unchallenged.  There was always hope that paratroopers would materialize, and this hope had been nourished before the end of June by SPOC's dispatch of special forces to the area:  an American OG, JUSTINE; an inter-allied mission, EUCALYPTUS; and two Jedburgh teams, VEGANINE and CHLOROFORM.

 

 MISSIONS TO THE VERCORS

 

      JUSTINE, made up of fifteen men, commanded by two officers, 1st Lt. Vernon G. Hoppers and 1st Lt. Chester L. Myers, landed at Drop Zone "Taille Crayon" near Vassieux in the small hours of June 29.  They reported to Colonel Huet and at once began to work with the maquisards, especially to train them how to use the American and British weapons they were receiving.

      Landing at the same time, the inter-allied mission (EUCALYPTUS) consisted of two British officers, Maj. Desmond Longe and Capt. John Houseman.  With them were two radio operators, one of them an American, Lt. André Pecquet (PARAY), who, being bilingual, served also as an interpreter.  To the Vercors inhabitants, these commandos in full uniform had to be precursors of an army of paratroopers, and they were greeted with enthusiasm by an ecstatic populace.

 

 

 

 

 

         The first Jedburgh team to come into the ANVIL area from Algiers    was VEGANINE, which included two British members, Major Neil Marten and the radio operator, Sergeant. D. Gardner, who was killed when the team jumped into the Drôme department near Beaurepaire on June 9.  The third member was French, Commandant Gaston Vuchot, generally known by his nom-de-guerre NOIR.  A graduate of St.-Cyr (promotion Joffre), he and Marten had orders to work with the Maquis to hinder German transport along N7.  As Marten soon returned to Algiers, NOIR remained as the sole member of the team, and thereafter acted more like an FFI leader than member of an inter-allied team. He was later joined by an American, Major C. E. Manière, of Jedburgh DODGE, who had a high opinion of him: "Je garde un souvenir ému et plein d'admiration pour le commandant Vuchot. Il fut un soldat merveilleux . . ."                      CHLORAnother team, CHLOROFORM, which had been alerted to go into the Drôme department right after Normandy D Day,  had been delayed by poor weather until June 30, when it was dropped a few kilometers northeast of Dieulefit.  This group included a Frenchman, Captain Jacques Martin (MARTINO) (later a distinguished diplomat), an American, Henry McIntosh, a tall, southern paratrooper who after the war became a surgeon in Florida, and a French radio operator, Jean Sassi (NICOLE), who made a career in the French army.

        The team had been given the unusual mission of looking into the command relationships that appeared to keep the southern Drôme department from being well integrated under the FFI commander, Commandant Jean Drouot, better known as L'HERMINE. Fine athlete, impressive personality, L'HERMINE was one of the more colorful figures spawned by the Resistance, but his actions antagonized some influential people in the department.  SPOC also had reports intimating that Pierre Raynaud (ALAIN), Cammaert's assistant, was having difficulty in cooperating with the FTP, which was especially strong in the southern Drôme.  FTP leaders appeared to have joined forces with members of the Departmental Committee of Liberation  in demanding L'HERMINE's removal.

       Colonel Zeller, FFI commander for southeastern France, agreed that a transfer of L'HERMINE to another area, where his forthright personality might promote recruiting but grate on fewer nerves, would help the overall Resistance effort.  Zeller therefore had the controversial L'HERMINE promoted to lieutenant colonel and gave him a regional command over the "Central Alps."  He was succeeded as Drôme FFI commander by his deputy, a young graduate of St.-Cyr, Commandant LEGRAND, nom-de-guerre for Jean-Pierre de Lassus Saint-Geniès, who since his escape from a German prison camp in 1941 had served in the Armée Secrète in Ain and Savoie.

         L'HERMINE was in the process of moving to his new headquarters northeast of Gap, in the Hautes-Alpes Department, when the CHLOROFORM Jeds arrived on the scene.  They were impressed by L'HERMINE's leadership qualities, and when he asked them to go with him, they enthusiastically agreed.  They believed that, with other Allied missions in the Drôme area, they would be more useful in some locality where the Allied presence had been less apparent.  Although SPOC did not oppose the transfer,  Cammaerts felt that CHLOROFORM would be more useful in the Drôme.                                                                           The apThe appearance of so many military personnel in the JUSTINE, EUCALYPTUS, CHLOROFORM, and VEGANINE missions foreshadowed a significant change in Resistance and Allied relations.  Such agents as Cammaerts had indeed been in touch with some professional soldiers, generally officers of the ORA, but he, like many in SOE, believed that a firmer and longer-ranged base would emerge from relations with the civilian Resistance and with those who would be the future prefects or parliamentary representatives.  SOE believed furthermore that sabotage, together with hit-and-run harassment, served as the most effective use of force, not a head-on confrontation of the Wehrmacht.

 

 

 

        Cammaerts found himself in a trying situation.  He had been informed that he was officially senior Allied liaison officer, deputy to Colonel Zeller, but he had no clear instructions as to where he stood in the overall hierarchy of command.

       Cammaerts gave vent to his feelings in a long message carried to Algiers on July 11 by Major Marten, the VEGANINE Jedburgh whose colleague NOIR remained in the Drôme.  He pointed out that he had organized small groups of saboteurs that could harass German lines of communication until such time as he knew definitely that an invasion was imminent.  He commented on the premature risings right after the Normandy D-Day, emphasizing that FFI leaders assumed that, when they embarked on open warfare, no more than two or three weeks would elapse before Allied reinforcements would pour in.  He complained that his appointment as Zeller's liaison officer came much too late:  "The result was chaos."

      Cammaerts concluded his letter by mentioning that R-1 was better organized than R-2, but "R-2 can be rallied.  Coupled with the Italians, they may be able to hold the frontier Alp valleys."  "In spite of everything," he added, "I believe there will be a great and general uprising when a serious attack is made in the southeast."

      In the field, such officers as Cammaerts, together with hundreds of guerrilla leaders, could scarcely imagine the political and logistical complexities at high levels outside France that affected their struggles and sacrifices.  They would not know, for example, how fervently Prime Minister Churchill had opposed the idea of a landing in southern France, with the result that only on July 2 did Patch receive a directive from the Combined Chiefs of Staff giving a green light for ANVIL.  Nor would they know that the target date had been set six weeks into the future, longer than any guerrilla group, without reinforcements, even in a natural bastion such as the Vercors, could hold off an organized German attack.

 

 CAMMAERTS AND THE JOCKEY AREA

 

     Although plans for ANVIL were now moving ahead with increased intensity, no definite word could be sent to the field so far in advance.  Cammaerts and the Resistance leaders could assume that the main highways from the beaches northward would become invasion arteries, but they could only continue to prepare for the landings by ambushes, road-blocks, sabotage, and bridge-blowing along possible German supply routes.  Cammaerts needed to check on contacts throughout his JOCKEY area and not restrict his liaison duties to the Vercors, which, while looming up as a great sacrificial symbol of French defiance, did not coincide with the SOE guerrilla warfare principles he believed it was his mission to implement.  Cammaerts therefore continued to travel around the southeast, returning regularly to his center of operations headquarters, Seyne, in the Basses-Alpes between Digne and Gap.

            The department of Basses-Alpes had been hard hit by German reprisal actions after the uprisings on June 6.  Not only had the Germans attacked the Ubaye area, but they had carried out raids throughout the department with investigations, arrests, massacres, and executions.  Furthermore, echoes of the Lécuyer--Rossi dispute reverberated at the departmental level, with ORA officers accused of noncooperation by the local Liberation Committee.  This meant that no one held undisputed command, and there was danger that the FTP, the Secret Army, and the ORA would go their separate ways.

               Cammaerts also kept in touch with leaders of the Hautes-Alpes department.  No comparable command problem existed there, because Paul Héraud, the wiry carpenter and mountaineer whom Cammaerts held in the highest respect.

             Cammaerts had other responsabilities than defense of the Vercors, but after travelling around the JOCKEY circuit he soon returned to the plateau. He learned that in his absence, SPOC  had sent in a French mission which arrived in the Vercors on 7 July. This was  Mission PAQUEBOT, the leader of which, Captain Tournissa, an engineer, had been sent to the Vercors to supervise construction of an airstrip near Vassieux.  With him came Christine Granville  (code name PAULINE), a petite attractive Polish woman, then 29 years old, whose real name was Krystina Skarbek.  Of an aristocratic Polish family,  she had been recruited as an agent for SOE and had come to Cairo early in 1944.  With her knowledge of languages, she seemed a perfect candidate as an assitant for Cammaerts, and particularly for developing contacts with Poles, many of whom, forcibly recruited for the Wehrmacht, sought opportunities to desert.  As soon as she could walk comfortably (she had bruised her hip on landing), she accompanied Cammaerts as he visited in the nearby areas.

 

COLLAPSE OF THE VERCORS

 

    Bastille Day, 1944, ushered in a short, exuberant period where those in the Vercors Resistance, rejoicing in the summer sunshine, celebrated their defiance of the Nazi occupiers.  Although ominous storm clouds may have loomed on the horizon, they must have felt that indeed London and Algiers, attentive to their plight, were putting out every effort to bring assistance.  Why else would Algiers have sent Captain Tournissa to build an airstrip unless planes would follow?  Only four days earlier, the American OG team led by Captain Hoppers and the French had fought side by side, fourteen Americans, fourteen maquisards, in ambushing a German column on the Grenoble road east of the Vercors near the Col de la Croix Haute.  If one commando had been dispatched to the Vercors, should there not be more to follow?  Then, at 9:30 in the morning of July 14, two groups of American bombers flew over the Vercors and released hundreds of containers suspended (to indicate their contents) by red, white, and blue parachutes.  The Bastille Day container drop, Operation CADILLAC, doubled the June 25 operation in numbers of aircraft and in tons of weapons.                                                                                          There is no doubt the American gesture served as a psychological fillip to the Vercors populace, but unfortunately German planes, taking off from the nearby airfield at Chabeuil, appeared overhead just as the Maquis trucks, completely without cover, tried to cart the containers off to safety.  Not only did the planes prevent immediate recovery of the weapons, but they continued all day strafing and bombing the principal towns, breaking up the parades and ceremonies scheduled for Bastille Day.

        However, in spite of token demonstrations of Allied concern, the Vercors defenders received no further meaningful support.  The German bombings of July 14 simply gave warning that General Pflaum, commanding the 157th Reserve Division, would soon unleash his troops, some 14,000 in number, against the ragged companies, perhaps 4,000 in all, which now defended the heights.                              

           On July 19/20, the German forces on the east, west, and south of the plateau began sending reconnaissance patrols along the approaches, and on July 21, they  landed a force of over 200 commandos by glider on the meadows near Vassieux.  Valiantly the maquisards tried to break up this airborne invasion, but with inferior weapons, they could not dislodge the attackers.  The American commandos of OG JUSTINE could provide only an infinitesimal fraction of the total fire power required.  The group had also lost Lieutenant Myers, invalided after an emergency appendectomy, leaving Lieutenant Hoppers in sole command of the thirteen team members.  The situation on the plateau was now hopeless.  Germans were everywhere, destroying the towns, and shooting both maquisards and civilians, inflicting atrocities on helpless women, invalids, and wounded.

            There was no alternative to dispersal, reluctantly ordered by Colonel Huet, who tried to develop some sporadic counterattacks.  The OG team JUSTINE, like the Maquis, underwent a trying ordeal.  Lieutenant Myers, recovering from his appendix operation, saw the wounded maquisards around him killed without mercy.  He became a prisoner, finally ending the war in Poland.  Lieutenant Hoppers led his remaining commandos north.  Finally, after several weeks of avoiding German patrols, the men of OG JUSTINE struggled into the mountains north of Grenoble, where the FFI leader and préfet désigné, Commandant Reynier (VAUBAN), gave them food and blankets.  The section, recalled Hopper, arrived in the mountains in very poor shape.  "I had lost 37 pounds myself, three of the men were not able to walk for almost two weeks and some of the men had dysentery which lasted for a month."

       The fate of Hopper's group was duplicated by many of the defenders.  The British EUCALYPTUS team, Longe and Houseman, escaped to Switzerland.  The team had lost contact with their wireless operator, the American André Pecquet, but he was able to remain with Huet.  Hunted down by German patrols, the Maquis took serious losses, but many of the groups were able to reorganize and revert to the guerrilla hit-and-run tactics for which they were best suited.  However, the Resistance had suffered a serious setback.  Of the 4,000 maquisards who resisted the attack, 640--about 16 percent--lost their lives.                                 In addition to reprisals against people, the Germans pillaged the plateau, making off with over 4,000 head of livestock and large quantities of grain, hay, and potatoes.

      The German occupation forces, struck by the realization that France might be lost, now moved to unprecedented activity.  On July 25 their barriers holding back the Allied onslaught in Normandy had broken, leaving all of northern France vulnerable to further pressure.  At about the same time that General Pflaum's 157th Reserve Division occupied the Vercors Plateau, the German southern command--that is, General Blaskowitz's Army Group G with headquarters at Toulouse and General Wiese's Nineteenth Army headquartered near Avignon--had to anticipate the possibility of a southern Allied landing and stepped-up guerrilla attacks.  For weeks, increased Allied bombing raids had given notice of a possible invasion in the south, especially vulnerable since two of the three Panzer divisions--2nd SS Panzer (Das Reich) and 9th Panzer--had been ordered to the Normandy front in June and July.  This left only the 11th Panzer, commanded by General von Wietersheim, which, stationed  west of the Rhône near Toulouse, could move to the Atlantic coast or to the east, depending on where an Allied attack materialized.

      Since June, there had been such continual sabotage and ambushing that the Germans were hard pressed to maintain their supply routes.  They had to keep the main roads and railways intact, but on some lines they would find forty and fifty exploded rails a day, to say nothing of destroyed locomotives and broken telephone and telegraph cables.  On July 28, General Blaskowitz noted:  "The activity of bands in the rear of the Army Task Force has been allowed gradually to reach the point that control over a greater part of the area can no longer be assumed."

       In July, the Germans began a series of operations designed to make sure that they controlled the principal links between major cities and also to diminish the number of strongholds from which guerrillas (or "terrorists," as the Germans preferred to call them) could launch attacks on their convoys.  The Germans, with many divisions spread across the French Mediterranean coast from Spain to Italy, were not simply sitting in the countryside waiting for the Allies to come.  They were in fact skirmishing constantly with the FFI who, working with Allied agents, kept the German commanders off balance, unable to coordinate their defenses with any degree of efficiency or reliability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter  5        Preparations for ANVIL/DRAGOON

 

 

    Although a final decision on ANVIL had to wait until after the Allies had successfully obtained a foothold in Normandy, General Alexander Patch, whose Seventh Army was responsible for the landings in southern France, continued to plan.  In Algiers and in Naples, where Seventh Army transferred its headquarters in July, American officers worked on details with the staff of  General de Lattre de Tassigny. who had been confirmed by de Gaulle as commander of Army B, the French troops allocated to ANVIL. 

      The seven weeks prior to D Day, finally fixed definitely for August 15, saw intensive training and perfecting of plans. Renamed Operation DRAGOON, the plans called for a beachhead to be established on forty kilometers of the Côte d'Azur between Cavalaire and St.-Raphael, with rapid expansion to a "blue line" about twenty-five kilometers inland.  The first wave would comprise three infantry divisions of  Major General Lucien Truscott's VI Corps:  Maj. Gen. John W. O'Daniel's 3rd, Maj. Gen. John E. Dahlquist's 36th, and Maj. Gen. William W. Eagle's 45th.  Just beyond the landing beaches, the First Airborne Task Force, commanded by Brig. Gen. Robert T. Frederick, would bring in troops by parachute and glider to seize airfields in the vicinity of Le Muy and Draguignan.  The small river Argens provides a valley of easy access from St.-Raphael to Draguignan, a short distance to the northwest.  Once in possession of that corridor, troops would control a major railroad junction and would find relatively level highways west to the ports of Toulon and Marseille, the first objectives, and northwest to the Rhône Valley.  While responsibility for establishing the beachhead would be Truscott's, de Lattre's Army B, consisting of five divisions, would land later to thrust along the coast westward to Toulon.  The ultimate objective was Lyon and Vichy, 600 kilometers away.

      That Patch and de Lattre maintained headquarters in Naples made for good coordination between them, but it made communications with Algiers difficult.  Algiers remained the headquarters of General Maitland Wilson, who commanded the Mediterranean Theater, and it was also the seat of de Gaulle's provisional government, as well as  the headquarters of General Gabriel Cochet, Délégué Militaire, Opérations Sud (DMOS).

         Cochet faced an unusual problem, as it was not clear to him whether Koenig in London superseded him in his relations with the FFI in the south. With the Normandy battle continuing, Eisenhower controlled all activities in France and it could be assumed that Koenig therefore commanded all the FFI.   No commanders in the Mediterranean were supposed to initiate operations, but only to support Operation OVERLORD.  Officially, London even made policy regarding the Vercors.                                                                        This sitThis situation made it difficult for General Cochet to exercise any real authority over the FFI in the south.   In the latter part of June, Cochet, assuming he was authorized by de Gaulle to act on behalf of the FFI, addressed himself to General Wilson with the intention of coordinating Resistance actions and Allied operations.  He argued that, just as Koenig had an integrated staff of British, Americans, and French, he should operate in a comparable fashion--that is, in control of SPOC.         On Jul Wilson issued a preliminary directive, on 7 July, regarding Cochet's spheres of action.  It stated that Cochet would command (a) the FFI in southern France; (b) SPOC, but not technical control of communications, supplies, and aircraft; (c) OSS/SOE groups with the Seventh Army.  The directive pointed out that Cochet would have to provide his own staff, although SPOC's staff would be maintained.

When Wilson gave orders to Cochet as "Commanding General, FFI, Southern Zone," many of the higher-ranking Allied officers simply assumed that Cochet could give orders to the French Resistance just as de Lattre could give orders to the French First Army.  General Patch, for example, appreciating the convenience of having de Lattre's headquarters adjacent to his own, assumed that Cochet would also come to Naples.         Just Just returned from his visit with Roosevelt, de Gaulle tried to clarify the distinction between "Commanding General" and "Délégué Militaire" when he saw Wilson on July 20.  Following the conversation, Wilson modified the basic orders to Cochet on July 29:  His "operational control" was defined as "issuing orders and executing orders from Allied Force Headquarters," and his mission was defined as giving "the maximum possible assistance to ANVIL."  Such assistance could be no more than what SPOC was doing:  working on directives from the Seventh Army planners, with whom Cochet had no direct contact except by liaison.  When Cochet's chief of staff, Col. Boutaud de Lavilléon, asked that he be informed three days in advance the exact time of H Hour, his request was denied.

     In General Cochet's personal file can be found an organizational chart drawn up by himself, almost pathetically trying to delineate the flow of command.  The chart is a spider-web, with himself, DMOS, at the center, and lines radiating in all directions, solid for command relations, dotted for liaison.  They go to SACMED, AFHQ, SPOC, DGSS, FCNL, Seventh Army, French First Army, and to the field, zonal and regional military delegates, Committees of Liberation, and Chefs, FFI.  There is no clear-cut line of military command.  Cochet penned a succinct comment:  "Mes pouvoirs et les moyens d'accomplir ma mission ne sont pas à la hauteur de mes responsabilités."                                                   NeverNevertheless, General Patch liked the idea of working through a French military officer in the French Resistance and, with Wilson's approval, directed General Cochet to embark with him from Naples so that he could have close personal contact at the time of the landings.  But when de Gaulle learned of Patch's desire, he categorically refused to release Cochet, insisting that he remain in Algiers.  Cochet himself agonized over the situation, apologizing to Wilson on August 7 that he had to obey de Gaulle, and adding rather lamely that in any case "practically all instructions to the FFI in the southern zone have been given without reference to me."

     It is interesting to note that a new directive on plans for the Resistance, similar to SPOC's plan of July 15, bears the date August 8 and was issued over Cochet's name.  General Cochet did not, in fact, reach France until August 21, when much of the south had already been liberated.  He still had a large responsibility ahead of him, when thousands of FFI troops wished to become incorporated into the regular French army.   But at the time of the landings, his voice was scarcely heard or even recognized among the Maquis.                               PLANNING AND ACTION AT SPOC

     While Seventh Army planners sweated through the hot summer in Naples organizing an amphibious operation involving a force of 50,000, the people in SPOC, a thousand miles away in Algiers, labored on plans to coordinate the regular army's assault with actions of the Maquis.  SPOC received the first directives on what Patch expected from the FFI on July 4:  a list of railway lines and roads, the cutting or controlling of which would obstruct German efforts to bring its forces to focus on Marseille, Toulon, and the beachhead.  The planners listed three routes as highest priority: first the roads and railways on both sides of the Rhône as far as Lyon; second, the roads and railways stretching east and west across France from Bordeaux on the Atlantic to Narbonne on the Mediterranean; third, the major road from Milan and Turin into France via the Mt. Cenis tunnel.                                                                 Using Using this directive as a guide, SPOC made plans to alert the Resistance, to deploy the Jedburgh, Operational Group, and inter-allied teams, and to increase drops of arms and equipment.  To meet the August 1 deadline given them by Patch, SPOC officials modified their existing directives and by July 15 had produced Draft No. 2, a twenty-three-page document (plus five appendices):  "Plan for the Use of Resistance in Support of Operation ANVIL."                                        One of SPOC nevertheless faced the necessity of supporting groups already in the field, despatched before the strategic military objectives had been delineated.  For instance, for SPOC, the Vercors held the No. 1 priority.  The 2nd and 4th priorities were the Drôme and Ardèche departments--quite properly since they held the Rhône Valley between them.  However, the No. 3 priority lay in Savoie and Haute-Savoie,  guarding the roads to the Little St. Bernard and other passes.  While this  area had minor significance for the early stages of ANVIL, it was important to SOE, because of MARKSMAN, a circuit that under the leadership of XAVIER (R. H. Heslop) had functioned in Ain, Haut-Jura, and Haute-Savoie since 1942 with conspicuous success.

The No. 5 priority was the Vaucluse, important for communications with Algiers because, on the plateau southeast of Mont Ventoux, the Maquis had constructed landing strip Spitfire, where small planes such as Dakotas and Lysanders could land.  The 6th priority lay in the Hautes-Alpes, key  to the Montgenèvre Pass, where the Resistance was providing strong support for operations against the occupiers.  Cammaerts had made his headquarters, after he left the Vercors, at Seyne-les-Alpes, and it was into the undulating hills of this picture-postcard landscape that many paratroopers and containers were dropped

ARRANGEMENTS IN R2

        All of the people concerned with the Resistance--the British and Americans in SPOC, the French in Soustelle's Special Services, the G-2s of Patch's Seventh Army and de Lattre's French First Army--had to be disturbed about the organization, or rather the lack of it, in R2, where the ANVIL landings would be made.  In particular, planners had to scrutinize the department of Var, along whose coasts the initial onslaught was scheduled, as well as Basses-Alpes (Alpes de Haute-Provence) to the north and Vaucluse to the northwest.

       In mid-July, a series of unfortunate events further ruptured the Resistance organisation in R-2.  Through betrayals, the Gestapo had been able to identify a number of Marseille Resistance leaders.  They then learned that the Basses-Alpes Liberation Committee planned to  meet at Oraison on July 16.  The local Milice, working with the occupiers, broke in on the gathering and arrested eight, including one of the "Héros de la Résistance,"  Louis Martin-Bret.  The next day, in Marseille, the Gestapo located Rossi and arrested him with several others, including  Lancesseur and Chanay.  The prisoners, 26 in all, were taken to a secluded spot about 25 km north of Toulon, near the tiny hamlet of Signes.  There, on July 18, in a natural hollow encircled by grubby shrubs and rocky outcroppings, all of them were shot and buried in shallow graves.  The lonely grove, seldom visited, has been identified since as a melancholy memorial:  le Charnier de Signes.

       Less than a week later,  the sea communication system between St.-Tropez and Corsica, managed in France by François Pelletier, was penetrated.   Pelletier was in the process of arranging transportation for the American OSS officer, Muthular d'Errecalde. Both men were arrested, interrogated, and later, on August 12, shot with eight others at the same isolated spot near Signes already rendered infamous by the twenty-six graves of earlier victims.                                                               ConcerConcerned over the deteriorating situation, a group of R2 leaders, including Lécuyer and Cammaerts, met on August 4  in an effort to reestablish a logical and workable command structure.  The discussions, stormy and prolonged, parallelled in micro-form the divisions of French society, right against left, politicians versus soldiers, and among the latter, divergent views of strategy and tactics.  Some of the assembled leaders turned on Lécuyer.  Many still held him accountable for the unsuccessful attack on the Germans at Barcelonnette, and they accused him of misappropriating the mission MICHEL for ORA purposes alone.    LécuyerLécuyer had no intention of relinquishing his regional command of the ORA, but he was willing to eliminate himself from the regional FFI staff in exchange for departmental authority.  He would therefore become FFI chief in Alpes-Maritimes and retain his authority as ORA chief in R2.  This arrangement would have to be confirmed by the military delegate and FFI chief when, as expected, they would be named and begin exercising authority in France.  In fact, they had already been named  [Widmer and Constans] and the military delegate, "Willy" Widmer (to be known in the field as Colonel CLOITRE), had arrived in the Vaucluse three days before the meeting of R2 leaders.

WIDMER TO FRANCE; ZELLER TO ALGIERS AND NAPLES

        In mid-July, General Koenig in London, and Generals de Gaulle and Cochet in Algiers, together with the officials at SPOC, had agreed that the two principal French officers responsible for SPOC liaison with the French provisional government--Widmer and Constans--should be named respectively as regional military delegate and FFI regional chief in R2.  De Gaulle, having conferred with them both, signed their orders of mission on July 29 and told them to get to mainland France as soon as possible. Constans' orders read as follows:

ORDRE DE MISSION

I - Le colonel CONSTANS est nommé Commandant des Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur de la Région R 2.  A cet effet, il est habilité pour donner tous ordres nécessaires concernant la constitution et l'encadrement des FFI. Il dirigera leaur action et en assurera la coordination avec les opérations prévues par le Haut Commandement.

II - Les limites de la Région R 2 sont fixées comme suit :  Cours de l'Isère du Rhône à GRENOBLE, cours de la Romanche, limites du département des Hautes-Alpes jusqu'à la frontière franco-italienne.

III - Le Colonel CONSTANS rejoindra son poste dans les plus brefs délais.

                                                              ALGER, le 29 juillet 1944

                                                               /s/  C. de Gaulle.

 

 

        Not trained as paratroopers, they had to be flown in, which meant landing in the Vaucluse Plateau north of Apt, where landing strip Spitfire could handle small bombers.  Widmer was the first to leave, reaching Corsica with his staff on August 2.  There, two members of the Jedburgh team GRAHAM, Major  M. G. M. "Bing" Crosby, a Scottish officer who enjoyed wearing his  kilt, and Captain Pierre Gavet (code-name GOUVET),  found themselves "bumped" to make room for Widmer and his party in three Lysanders.  (Widmer's party was not large, since a Lysander generally carried no more than two passengers.)  The planes reached  zone Spitfire in the early hours of August 2.  At the airfield the group ran into Zeller, recently promoted to general, who had been waiting anxiously for transport to Algiers.  Constans' departure was delayed, and is described later.

      Since his departure from the Vercors, Zeller had remained at Seyne, seeking to find some way whereby he could ascertain why the people at Algiers had neglected the valiant Resistance fighters on the plateau and trying to sort out the confused command relationships among the FFI in the coastal areas where unity of command would be most needed.  He radioed Algiers for authorization to go there in person.

     On July 26, having received approval to visit Algiers, Zeller hurried to Apt, where ARCHIDUC (Camille Rayon), the capable and hard-working  R2  SAP (Section d'atterrissage et de parachutage) officer, assured him that he expected a Lysander shortly.  With a few days to wait, Zeller had time to reflect on the deplorable catastrophe in the Vercors and gradually came to realize that the Vercors did not represent a true picture of the occupation.  In traveling through the southeast, he recorded:

"Toutes mes sombres idées disparaissent: aucun train ne circulait plus depuis le 15 juin sur les deux lignes des Alpes, de Grenoble à Aix-en Provence et de Briançon à Livron. Aucune voiture allemande isolée, aucune estafette ne peut prendre la route, aucun barrage ennemi, aucun contrôle n'existe en dehors des villes de garnison. Pas de traces de travaux de campagne ou de champs de mines. Les Allemands sont pratiquement prisonniers dans leurs garnisons, dont ils ne sortent qu'en force pour leur ravitaillement ou quelque expédition de représailles--et ces convois, ces colonnes sont attaqués, une fois sur deux, par un ennemi insaisissable.

        Après deux mois de ce régime, le soldat allemand est ahuri, démoralisé, affolé--nous le le savions, nous lui volions son courrier. Il considère avec crainte ces montagnes, ces forêts, ces rochers, ces vallées étriotes d'ou à tout instant pouvait  sortir la foudre.  Il attend l'arrivée des "réguliers," des soldats alliés, comme une délivrance.   Si l'on en excepte le haut des vallées alpestres (Durance, Ubaye, Var, Verdon, Tinée et Vésubie) où se livrent encore des combats, également les routes proches de la Vallée du Rhône et les environs de Grenoble, le centre du massif est à nous."                                                                                     Such Such was the message that Zeller hoped he could convey to the Algiers authorities.  Anxious to be on his way, the newly promoted general could spare only a few moments with Widmer at the airfield before the Lysanders took off.

          Zeller arrived in Algiers on August 3, but the labyrinthine bureaucracy of wartime Algiers prevented him from seeing anyone at a high level until the afternoon of the fourth, when he saw Jacques Soustelle.  What Zeller had to say persuaded a reluctant Soustelle to arrange an appointment with de Gaulle for the following morning.           When When he saw de Gaulle on August 5, Zeller was filled with indignation and bitterness that Algiers had neglected the guerrillas on the Vercors.  As  Zeller recounts it:  "Je lui rends compte de la situation dans le massif alpin et de l'évolution des événements depuis le 6 juin  . . .    Le Général de Gaulle me tend alors un dossier à couverture bleue: 'Les Alliés vont débarquer dans quelques jours sur les côtes de Provence; voici l'essentiel du plan d'opérations; étudiez-le et donnez-moi votre avis . . .'   

      Le dossier est vite parcouru.  . . . Je sursaute: Grenoble, J + 90. Grenoble prévu comme devant être atteint 3 mois après de débarquement!  C'est impossible et impensable . . .ou alors nous serons tous morts!

        "Je ferme le dossier, je me lève.  . . .'Mon Général, je ne saurais être parfaitement d'accord.'  

         "Je lui expose alors mon opinion en lui déclarant que la manoeuvre projetée me semblait top timide.  . . . Le Massif Alpin était pratiquement entre les mains des FFI.  Une fois la côte occupée sur 20  kilomètres de profondeur, les Alliés devaient avoir du 'culot,' lancer audacieusement sur tous les itinéraires Sud-Nord des colonnes légères avec quelques blindés et quelques canons.  . . .  Après avoir atteint la ligne Aix-en-Provence--Brignolles--Draguignan, les Alliés devaient être en 48 heures à Grenoble, et de là se rabattre sur la Vallée du Rhône pour couper la retraite des Allemands aux environs de Valence ou mieux, si possible, à Lyon.                                                                                   De Gaulle was impressedby Zeller's arguments.  It might not be too late, he believed, to get this opinion to Patch and de Lattre.  The French leader took immediate steps to put Zeller on a plane to Naples.

Zeller arrived in Naples on August 6 and saw Patch very early the next morning.  He was accompanied by Lt. Cdr. Brooks Richards from SPOC who served as interpreter.  Zeller's testimony:

        "Devant la grande carte du future théâtre d'opérations, je lui retrace ma conversation avec le général de Gaulle, en appuyant sur ma conviction profonde d'un succès rapide dans le massif alpin et en détaillant l'appui qui pourrait être fourni par les FFI. Je conclus: direction générale, la route Napoléon--mais, pour l'amour de Dieu, foncez!      Suivit un long interrogatoire sur les maquis, le terrain, les itinéraires; questioné sur les dangers pouvant surgir de leur droite, je leur donnai l'assurance de l'appui des FFI dans la région frontalière; ils me demandèrent de prévoir les destruction des routes des cols frontaliers. Les instructions à cet égard partiront par radio de Naples dans l'après-midi même.. . . Suivit entre les Américains une longue discussion, . . . puis le général Patch me serre vigoureusement la main, me remercie. En sortant, le jeune capitaine anglais qui me servait d'interprète [Brooks Richards] dit avec un large sourire: 'Mon colonel, je crois que vous avez gagné.'

        During the three days he remained in Naples, Zeller set forth his views, experiences, and arguments to various other groups, including the French. "Le général de Lattre me donna la magnifique occasion, d'entretenir, le lendemain, tous ses commandants de Corps d'Armée et les officiers de l'Etat Major de l'Armé B de l'organisation, de l'action, des efforts des Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur et des résultats obtenus par elles. Je dois avouer que les questions qui me furent posées dénotaient une méconnaissance assez générale du sujet." 

                                 

ORIGINS OF TASK FORCE BUTLER

 

      Meanwhile, Major General Lucien Truscott, whose VI Corps would bear the brunt of establishing a beachhead, had begun to think about his need for a fast-moving cavalry-type force to exploit opportunities as they arose.  A problem for Truscott lay in the fact that, while his divisions had tank battalions, the landing schedule provided for only one armored division, but that was French, under de Lattre's command.  What Truscott wanted was a motorized armored unit, capable of moving rapidly to exploit an opportunity or available to support other units when needed. 

       Doubtful about obtaining a transfer of the French  division, Truscott decided on his own to fashion a cavalry-type task force from elements of his VI Corps.  In his own words:

        "On August 1st . . . I called a meeting of my planning staff, informing them of my decision to organize a provisional armored group to be commanded by Brigadier General Fred W. Butler, my assistant Corps commander, and to be designated Task Force Butler.  His staff, and essential communications, were to be provided by the Corps Headquarters.  The group was to consist of the Corps Cavalry Squadron, the 117th Reconnaissance Squadron, one armored field artillery battalion, one tank battalion less one company, one tank destroyer company, one infantry battalion in motors, an engineer battalion and the necessary service troops.  It was to be ready to mass in the vicinity of Le Muy on Corps' order at any time after D-Day."

      Zeller's explanations may have helped convince General Patch that Truscott's idea of a special task force had considerable merit.  Perhaps Patch saw that by giving his support he solved several problems:  he satisfied Truscott's wish for a fast-moving contingent of motorized armor, he resolved the question of reassigning a French unit, and he made a gesture toward cooperation with the FFI.  He therefore authorized Truscott to form Task Force Butler.                                    

            On August 11, four days after Zeller conferred with Patch, General Wilson gave the Seventh Army commander a new directive with an addition:  "You should also be prepared to thrust with light forces northward up the Durance River Valley towards Sisteron, with a view to gaining touch with and stimulating the Maquis in the Vaucluse area.  Such action will have the additional advantage of providing a large measure of protection to your right flank."

 

 

Chapter  6        Eve of the Landings

 

       Hampered by uncooperative weather and a variety of problems, SPOC had been able to mount fewer sorties than normal into southeastern France during July.  With the full moon coming on August 4, the officers at SPOC knew they had to make maximum use of good flying weather during the first two weeks of August if they were to dispatch into the field the OGs, the Jedburghs, and the members of special missions--over 100 individuals--who were training in the back regions around Algiers.   WhatWhatever the reasons for delays, SPOC bent every effort to make up for the relatively quiet action that in June and July had brought only  a few Jedburghs and three OGs into France. 

      In the first fortnight of August, with the benefit of long-awaited moonlight and exceptional efforts from packers, schedulers, and pilots, British and American bombers carried five OGs, ten Jedburgh teams, innumerable French officials, and a dozen "British Liaison Officers," whose special efforts would focus on the Alpine passes.

      First, a Jedburgh team, PACKARD, was dropped into the Gard department on August 1.  This mission consisted of an American, Capt. Aaron Bank, and two French officers, Lieut. Henri Denis (nom-de-guerre Boineau) and Lieut. F. Montfort

      Bank was instructed to coordinate his activities with the inter-allied ISOTROPE mission, dropped on 9 June, the leader of which was French Commandant Jean Albert Baldenperger, and Major Denys Hamson the British representative.  However, PACKARD did not work closely with that primarily Anglo-French group.  In his memoirs, Bank makes only one brief reference to a "two-man SOE team" and has written the writer that they "made contact with us infrequently.  They did their thing and we did ours."

      Whatever his relations with ISOTROPE may have been, Bank obtained great satisfaction from his initiation to guerrilla warfare, and his enthusiasm increased after the war.  Remaining in the American army, he was later instrumental in developing American paratroopers and guerrilla commandos within the military forces; indeed, he has been called the Father of the Green Berets, 

           During the first week of August, three OGs flew to southern France from North Africa.  One, PAT, landed near Toulouse, far to the west of the anticipated ANVIL beachhead, but the other two, RUTH and ALICE, parachuted into areas directly ahead of a possible breakout.

       RUTH consisted of 15 OSS commandos, led by two first lieutenants, Mills C. Brandes and Carl O. Strand, Jr.  The group's mission was to help prevent German use of railroads in the southern part of the Basses-Alpes department and northern section of the Var.   The RUTH team was dropped in the early hours of August 4--night of the full moon--between Grasse and Castellane, to a zone where the reception group--a small contingent of FTP maquisards--were prepared for goods, not human beings.   After three arduous night marches, loaded with heavy equipment, the group reached a Maquis camp at St.-Jurs, in the mountains south of Digne.  For the next few days, until the ANVIL landings on August 15, Brandes, Strand, and their men blew four bridges in the area.  A maquisard at St.-Jurs, Oxent Miesseroff, later wrote memoirs that described, not too kindly, the OG's operation:  "Comme ils n'avaient rien à faire, vu que tout ce qui méritait d'être démoli l'était déjà depuis longtemps, ils menaient dans leurs 3 tentes, à 500 mètres de nous, une petite camp de vacances."                                                     ApparApparently realizing that more blowing of bridges might be counterproductive, SPOC ordered the group to concentrate on ambushes.  Lieutenant Strand, therefore, moved with four men into the Les Mées area, west of Digne, while Brandes, with the remainder, set up ambushes along the Route Napoléon.  They had seen no action, however, when the first U.S. Army elements reached them after the ANVIL landings.

       The other OG, ALICE, led by Lieutenants Ralph N. Barnard and Donald J. Meeks, was sent to the Drôme department "to organize and strengthen the resistance forces," "to reconnoiter National Highway No. 7, and to destroy enemy communication lines."  The parachute drop of the 15-man section took place without incident, near Dieulefit, shortly after midnight on August 7.

       It so happened that Commandant de Lassus, the Drôme FFI chief, was in the south, near Nyons, when OG ALICE landed nearby.  He assigned the section to Captain Kirsch, in charge of the company located on the Combovin plateau  southeast of the German airfield at Chabeuil.  The group set up headquarters there on August 12 and organized its first sabotage operation, blowing two high tension towers on the plain south of Chabeuil.

        De Lassus, like many  Resistance leaders, believed that, when American paratroopers with their bazookas and heavy weapons came in, they should preferably attack Germans rather than carry out sabotage, which the maquisards, as long as they had plastic explosives, could effectively do.  In defense of ALICE's leaders, it should be pointed out that SPOC had ordered them, as essential to the mission, to destroy communication lines.  When Jedburgh team MONOCLE reached de Lassus' headquarters, the French leader requested the American member, Lt. Ray  H. Foster, to talk the OG into attacking German convoys rather than pylons and isolated bridges.

       The ALICE team arrived in the area at a moment not conducive toward pro-Americanism, at least not toward the U.S. Air Force, which was bombing far and wide in anticipation of ANVIL.  On August 13, attempting to knock out the bridge across the Drôme at Crest, American planes missed the bridge but destroyed much of the town.  Asked to assuage the townspeople's misery, Lieutenants Barnard and Meeks, with three paratroopers, went down to Crest.  In their words:

     "Upon arriving they were greeted by a very downhearted and somewhat belligerent group of people.  The damage consisted of destruction of about one-fourth of the town, thirty-eight killed, one hundred wounded.  Lt. Barnard and Lt. Meeks talked with the people, visited the hospital and encouraged the people that the bombing was a mistake and would not occur again."  One cannot help but wonder about Allied bombings, so many of which seemed unnecessary. As the Drôme history (Pour l'amourde la France, p.383) has well stated it: "Rien ne parait plus injuste que la mort d'un être cher mais cela paraît encore plus injuste si, comme à Crest, les objectifs ne sont pas atteints et n'ont par ailleurs aucun intérêt stratégique. Aucun train ne pouvait en effet circuler sur cette voie depuis le 6 juin et même si cela avait été nécessaire, si l'ordre en avait été donné, la Résistance aurait accompli sa mission de destruction de ces ponts, sans aucune perte pour la population."

 

Missions to the franco-italian border

    

         Besides the Jedburghs, OGs, SOE Circuits, intelligence agents, and inter-allied missions, there was another special group of agents sent into France, sometimes characterized in the records as "British liaison officers."  The concept of British officers going into France appealed to SOE, which was already helping Italian partisans in northern Italy.  If French and Italian guerrillas could harass German forces in the Alps, the passes might be closed to Axis troops attacking ANVIL's flank or, conversely, open for Allied troops crossing from France into the Po Valley.

      Early in 1944, SOE in Italy (No.1 Special Force) proposed an operation known as TOPLINK, which would endeavor to make contact with Italian and French maquisards in the high Alps. Several groups were formed and trained in Algiers, but like so many other missions, could not get authorization to leave until the end of July.   When the teams finally left, they were directed to the Hautes-Alpes with specific orders to get in touch Francis Cammaerts and  Resistance leaders.

   The FFI chief in the Hautes-Alpes was 38-year-old Paul Héraud, known everywhere as Commandant DUMONT or simply as Paul.  He is highly honored in Gap, whose historian, the Abbé Richard Duchamblo, renders homage in this citation:

      "Une bonne vingtaine de rues, squares et monuments de Gap rappellent le souvenir de la Résistance et en particulier des résistants gapençais qui ont donné leur vie pour la France.

       "Qui fut, par exemple, le chef militaire des mouvements unis de la Résistance (les MUR) Paul Héraud.  . . . A la route de Grenoble, la plus fréquenté de Gap, a été donné le nom d'avenue Commandant Dumont.  Au Centre d'apprentissage a été donné le nom de Centre Paul Héraud, le chaisier de la place St Arnoux, chaisier comme son père.  . . .

        "Sa passion, avec celle du travail bien fait, c'est la montagne. Alpiniste de classe, observateur-né, apte à juger rapidement toute situation, rien le met en difficulté.  . . ."   

          Cammaerts held Héraud in the highest regard:

         "Dès ma première rencontre avec Paul, j'ai su que j'avais à faire avec le plus grand chef de la Résistance qu j'avais rencontré en France. Depuis le premier moment, je lui fis pleine confiance et le résultat est connu.  . . . Paul reste pour moi le plus grand ami, l'homme le plus pur et le plus sûr qu j'aie connu dans ma vie."

         In coordinating the missions of the officers assigned to TOPLIFT, Cammaerts worked  closely with Héraud,  as well as with Gilbert Galetti, the Resistance leader who operated east of Guillestre into the Queyras, with headquarters at a group of chalets above Bramousse.  This is rugged country,  guarded farther to the east by an ancient fortress, Chateau Queyras, and beyond, as the road rises and the pine and larch forest thickens, rendered almost impassable by the range of high Alps, its crests delineating the frontier between France and Italy.  Indeed, no road crosses the Alps at this point, but Galetti's people regularly took trails from Abriès or l'Echalp, over the Col de la Mayt or the Col de la Croix, to maintain contact with Italian partisans under Marcellin, who tried to harass German convoys shuttling toward the Montgenèvre Pass from Pinerolo and Turin.

       The first TOPLINK mission, arriving in France on 1 August,  parachuted into Savournon, an isolated spot ringed with hills about 45 km southwest of Gap, directly west of Seyne, where they were met by a dedicated resistant, René Guérin.  The group included six persons:  two British, one French, and three Italians.  The British members were Major L.G.M.J. Hamilton and Captain P.W.R.H. ("Pat") O'Regan.  ("Hamilton"  was in fact not British but a Belgian, Leon Blanchaert, who had joined the British army and served in North Africa.)  The French representative (and wireless operator) was Lieutenant Simon Kalifa, while the Italians included Lieutenants Ruscelli and Renato and  a radio operator. In order to obtain specific information for Hamilton's mission, Cammaerts had assigned Christine Granville the difficult mission of making preliminary contacts with the Italians.

        Scarcely rested up from her ordeal in the Vercors, Christine moved from Seyne to Gilbert Galetti's headquarters near Bramousse.  From there a helpful ski instructor, Gilbert Tavernier, took her on the back seat of his motorcycle up the Guil Valley to l'Echalp, from which point she proceeded on foot across the 2500 m Col de la Croix into Italy.  There she met the hard-pressed Marcellin, who was in the process of reestablishing his base in another valley farther north.

      Unfortunately, Hamilton did not meet Christine and therefore failed to learn about the German attack that had provoked Marcellin's evacuation plans.  Learning that the Italian partisans were scattered and in retreat, Hamilton returned to Galetti's headquarters where they continued their efforts to help Marcellin and his dispirited partisans by packing supplies on muleback up to the pass.   In spite of these reinforcements, the Germans soon captured the Col de la Mayt barracks, forcing the guerrillas to withdraw farther south, to the Col St.-Véran area.  Ultimately, when regular French troops arrived, they  beat back the Germans and pursued them into Italy as far as Cuneo.

 

         During the first ten days of August more French and British

officers, but no Americans, came in by parachute, mostly to drop zones in the rolling pastures just south of Seyne. The leader of the first inter-allied mission to arrive was French, Commandant Christian Sorensen (code named CHASUBLE), member of a wealthy wine-producing family of Algeria, whose name evinced his forebears' Swedish origins, He had served in the Tunisian campaign and later, like Constans, became affiliated with the "Service Action" section of Soustelle's DGSS.  He had undergone the same sort of paratrooper training at the Club des Pins as the British officers. Until Constans arrival, he would serve as the senior delegate from Algiers.  The other French officer, Captain Jean Fournier (CALICE), also from "Service Action," had completed similar training.  He was a graduate of St.-Cyr, had served with the French army during the 1940 debacle, and later in AOF.

         The mission included three British oficers. Major Havard Gunn, of Scottish origin, had joined the reserve of the Seaforth Highlanders  before the war.  An artist of considerable talent, he became enamored of the Provençal countryside, like Cézanne and Van Gogh before him, and when the war broke out was living and painting near St.-Tropez, where he had purchased a cottage.  Joining his regiment after Hitler invaded Poland, he served in Italy and in 1944, seeking an opportunity to go into southern France, he obtained a transfer to SOE. His codename, BAMBUS (unique among the "religious" codenames of his colleagues) was suggested to him by Christine during a walk in Algiers.

       The remaining British team members include a radio operator, Sergeant Campbell, and Captain John A. Halsey (LUTRIN), who would be assigned to the Larche pass area.  Halsey, sometimes referred to in the records as Kerdrel-Halsey, possessed dual citizenship through his father, the Comte de Kerdrel, London representative of the French Railroads, who had married an English woman named Halsey.  Captain Halsey had fought with the French army in 1939-40, subsequently served in the British army, and finally joined SOE.

       Sorensen had injured his leg on landing, but nevertheless immediately undertook to solve some of the problems in R2.  In the words of his deputy, Capitaine Fournier: "Excellent acceuil à Seyne-les-Alpes.  Le même jour (4 août)  a lieu une importante réunion au Col St.-Jean (12 km au Nord de Seyne). Là, le colonel Georges Bonnaire (NOEL), FTP, est désigné comme chef départementale FFI [Basses-Alpes]. Il est alors informé par Lécuyer, présent au Col St-Jean, que le commandant Sorensen, parachuté au Fanget avec la mission interallié désire le rencontrer. Cette rencontre se déroulera à Seyne.

       "A Seyne, Sorensen est présenté à Bonnaire par Paul Meyere, représentant du CDL. Le but de la mission CHASUBLE est 'd'apporter à la Résistance française toute l'aide nécessaire et coordonner son action avec celle des alliés.'  Sorensen et Bonnaire abordent ensuite la question de la désignation du commandant FFI dans les Alpes-Maritîmes. Se sera Lécuyer (SAPIN) qui sera nommé.”  The conversation at Seyne also gave Bonnaire, a Communist, an opportunity to express a principal FTP grievance, that when the FFI commands were organized on orders from London, the FTP leadership was kept on the sidelines.

       Sorensen was anxious to set up a command post farther to the south and closer to the Route Napoléon.  Following  the counsel of Lécuyer, he decided that Halsey would go to Barcelonnette, while Gunn would go farther south to Colmars, where Lécuyer had previously maintained a headquarters.  Because of his injured leg, Sorensen would for the time being remain at Seyne.

       Before Gunn left Seyne,  another inter-allied mission parachuted into the area in the small hours of August 7.  This group consisted of six men, led by a French officer, Commandant Jacques Pelletier (CONFESSIONAL), two British officers, Major R.W.B. Purvis (MANIPULE) and Captain John Roper (RETABLE), an American OSS radio operator, Lieutenant Mario Volpe (ROSSINI), and two men to serve as liaison with the Italians.  Jacques Pelletier was pursued by bad luck, for two weeks later he was accidentally shot in the shoulder by an immature recruit.  He survived but could no longer continue with the mission.

       CONFESSIONAL, scheduled to work with Paul Héraud in the Hautes-Alpes and with Hamilton's Italian mission, landed near Savournon, where they were received by  Guérin.  Héraud greeted the mission and arranged for them to meet the next day with the Hautes-Alpes Resistance leaders.  On that day, August 8, Cammaerts and Christine drove over to Savournon, west of Seyne, and conducted the team to a forest hideaway east of Gap for the meeting.  Christine had just completed an arduous two-week reconnaissance expedition in the area and into Italy. She had undertaken to recruit some Poles out of the Wehrmacht and reported that thousands of Italian partisans might join in cooperative ventures with the French.

         Héraud's short notice for the August 8 meeting had not prevented all the Resistance chiefs, traveling by car and bicycle or on foot, from reaching the rendezvous site near Gap.  There Héraud outlined his plans for guerrilla attacks and for cooperation with the Allied missions.  Cammaerts proposed a vote of confidence for Héraud's leadership. The CONFESSIONAL group agreed and proceeded back to Savournon in preparation for a move to the eastern Alps.  Cammaerts and Christine returned to Seyne.  Héraud and his deputy, Etienne Moreaud, went to Gap, while the other leaders walked or rode to their homes and command posts.

        On the next morning, August 9, Héraud came to Moreaud's house in some agitation.  He had learned that Baret, the pro-Resistance deputy prefect, had been arrested; he needed a vehicle to get to Savournon as soon as possible.  Moreaud had gone out, but Héraud was able to find a motorcycle on which, with a friend, the Gendarme Meyere, he started south on the Route Napoléon toward Tallard.  He never reached Savournon.  A short distance above Tallard, the two men were stopped by a German patrol.  Selon Duchamblo: "Il échappe aux premières balles mais la fusillade va durer une heure. Au bord du torrent de Rousine une rafale finit par l'atteindre. Trahison? Le mystère demeure."  (Histoires de notre ville, 8).

         Héraud's death, along with that of so many others, brought havoc and grief in its wake.  In a Resistance sewn with internecine antagonisms and rivalries, Paul Héraud had virtually single-handed wrought a fabric in the Hautes-Alpes where ORA could talk to FTP and where career military officers would consult with Socialist politicians.  And a towering irony lay in the fact that in ten days the Allied army would have thrust its way to the threshold of Gap; but Paul would not be there to see it.

         One can only imagine the shock to all those in the Resistance on learning of the unexpected and brutal execution of Paul Héraud, whom everyone not only respected, but viewed as unique, a person who could bring some degree of unity to the frequently squabbling Resistance factions.                                                                                           

        When he returned to Seyne, Cammaerts found that another Jedburgh team had arrived:  NOVOCAINE, comprising two Americans and a Frenchman.  The Frenchman was Lieutenant Jean Yves Pronost (nom-de-guerre Lelanne), while the Americans included the radio operator, Sgt. W. Thompson, and Lieutenant Charles Gennerich.    Cammaerts gave them the same instructions that he had already given the CONFESSIONAL (Pelletier-Purvis-Roper) mission: proceed to Guillestre, get in touch with Gilbert Galetti in the Queyras, and move on to a Maquis post at Vallouise from where they could carry out guerrilla actions along the roads to Briançon and the Montgenèvre pass.  The two teams shortly moved out by gazogene trucks that Cammaerts arranged for, and they reached their destination by August 13.  Thereafter, they cooperated with Capt. Jean Frison, the Sector commander, who with his deputies Capt. Lucien Nortier and Capt. François Ambrosi, had over 150 hardy maquisards under his command.  Many were mountaineers, wearing the floppy berets of the celebrated chasseurs alpins, and some of the paratroopers, well trained as they may have been, could not always keep pace with them.

       Meanwhile, and leaving Commandant Sorensen to recuperate at Seyne, Major Gunn had moved south with Lécuyer to Valberg on August 8.  In his official report, Gunn writes:  "Difficulty of movement, area surrounded by German garrisons; made first recce area BARCELONNETTE-LARCHE, had to travel as Gendarme, uniform hidden."  Gunn's uniform, of course, consisted of the kilts of the Seaforth Highlanders, difficult to conceal under any circumstances, but, wishing to let it be known that Allied support had arrived, Gunn and the other British officers (as well as Jedburghs and OGs) liked to wear their uniforms as frequently as feasible.

      Already, Captain John Halsey, having co-opted a sergeant of Spanish origin, Fernandez (RUDOLPH), already in the field, had established a base of operations at a ski resort just south of Barcelonnette, where he was able to begin reconnaissance in the Larche pass area.  He was in touch with Christine Granville, who, with her ability to speak Polish, was making efforts to persuade the 50-odd Poles in the Larche garrison to desert the leaders outrageously inflicted upon them.  This effort of Christine's embodied one part of her mission, and since coming down from the Vercors, she had already reached a number of Polish soldiers, who maintained a clandestine organization centered at Mont-Dauphin.  While at Valberg, Gunn kept in constant touch with SPOC and with the various field missions, awaiting the "Action" messages they all knew would soon be transmitted.   On August 11, Cammaerts learned that Constans had finally arrived, and he concluded that he should go see him at once.

 

Constans and Cammaerts

 

     Because Constans was not qualified for jumping by parachute, arrangements had been made for him to come in by Dakota (DC 3) along with Jedburgh GRAHAM and half a dozen important Gaullists, including Charles Luizet, slated to become de Gaulle's chief of police in Paris.  Obstacles kept delaying this flight but after a delay of over a week, the flight was finally approved.  Constans, the other passengers, and the two Jedburghs of GRAHAM, who had been replaced by Widmer on Corsica (Major "Bing" Crosby of the Gordon Highlanders and Captain Gavet) flew to an airfield at Cecina, south of Livorno in Italy.  After some more delays they were picked up by a Dakota and in the early hours of August 11 landed at Spitfire, to be taken in charge by the ever-vigilant ARCHIDUC.

        ARCHIDUC escorted Constans and the rest of the group along  the foothills to Drop Zone Armature, near the hamlet of Lagarde, up a curving road from Apt, where Widmer was waiting. Constans at once sent word to Resistance leaders in R2  to meet with him as soon as possible.  D Day was now but four days away, though neither Constans, nor Cammaerts, nor others in France knew the exact date or place.

         At the same time that Constans landed in the Vaucluse, another segment of the Sorensen mission parachuted into the hills around Seyne.  This group consisted of Major Xan Fielding (CATHEDRAL), who had worked previously in Greece, and a personable South African, Captain Julian Lezzard, who, having injured his back on landing, was unable to participate in further activities.  On the morning of August 11, Fielding obtained medical aid for his companion and soon located Cammaerts and Christine, who were staying  at the home of the Turells in Seyne.  During the day, while the containers dropped along with Fielding were recovered, Cammaerts explained the local situation to the newcomer and prepared to drive to Apt for a meeting with Widmer and Constans.

        Of the problems facing Constans, the most urgent related to commands and command relationships, especially in those departments where the landings might take place and along the Route Napoléon. The period following the Normandy landings had witnessed a significant evolution from an essentially civilian "waiting" Resistance, with its not-yet-mobilized sédentaires and its stockpiling of material, to a Resistance of active and structured military forces, receiving more and more arms, and captained in many instances by self-promoted natural leaders or a handful of St.-Cyr graduates.  The untimely deaths of Martin-Bret, Robert Rossi, and Paul Héraud automatically established Constans' agenda:  What should be done with Lécuyer?  Who should replace Héraud?  With Zeller absent, did Constans fulfill the role of FFI commander?  To what extent would Constans, a regular army officer, presumably therefore sympathetic to the ORA, find broad acceptance?

        Cammaerts planned to travel to Apt in a Red Cross truck, driven by Claude Renoir (a son of the painter), which had already provided him with safe cover during trips in his area.  Still at Seyne was Commandant Sorensen who, because of his injured leg, had not accompanied Gunn to the south, as well as the recently arrived Major Fielding.  Cammaerts had to weigh the advisability of leaving them at Seyne or of having them accompany him.  Because Fielding's French was somewhat rusty, travel on open roads risked a possible interception, but in the end Cammaerts decided to bring the two officers along with him.

The trip began on August 12.  Fielding has described it:

       "It was full of confidence, then, that I started out on my first journey through enemy-occupied France, my only worry being the baggy Charlie Chaplin trousers I was wearing.  In these flapping garments, I felt almost like a freak beside Roger [Cammaerts] and the dapper Chasuble [Sorensen], a suave, silent man with greying hair, neat dark features and a tired, urban manner."  When Cammaerts met Constans, it was not in Apt, but at the Maquis near Lagarde, where ARCHIDUC controlled Drop Zone Armature.  In the locality as well, "Bing" Crosby and his French partner of Jedburgh team GRAHAM, Captain Gavet, fumed at Constans' debates, which they considered unnecessarily prolonged.  At the same time, in the small hours of August 13, an OSS Operational Group, "NANCY," led by Capt. Arnold Lorbeer, came in by parachute.

          Constans discussed the general situation in the area with Cammaerts. He approved the recommendation that Lécuyer, who had many contacts in the eastern part of R2, should be continued as FFI chief for the Alpes-Maritimes Department.  In this department, the German 148th Division maintained control of the principal cities, like Nice and Cannes, as well as the main towns along N85, the Route Napoléon:  Grasse and Castellane.  Lécuyer had been coordinating operations just north of the boundary between Alpes-Maritimes and Basses-Alpes.  SPOC was not inclined to support leftist efforts to remove Lécuyer; indeed, SPOC continued to send him arms, money, and reinforcements.

         The succession to Héraud, in Hautes-Alpes, proved more complicated.  (L'HERMINE was not a consideration, since he held a "regional" command in the Central Alps, in principal making him senior to the departmental hierarchy.)  The possibilities included Etienne Moreaud (DUMAS), Héraud's deputy, good friend, and companion of many years; Colonel Daviron (RICARD), the departmental ORA chief; and Captain Bertrand (O'HERNE) of the Gendarmerie. In the event, Constans chose Moreaud.

        Having concluded his discussions with Constans by the morning of August 13, Cammaerts, along with Sorensen and Fielding, and with Claude Renoir at the wheel, began the journey back to Seyne.  On leaving Digne, scarcely an hour's drive from their destination, they were arrested.  They remained in custody until two days after the landings.

        That he and his colleagues came through the ordeal unscathed resulted from the enormously resourceful efforts of Christine Granville.

Learning of Cammaerts' capture, Christine, then in Seyne, immediately informed SPOC and got in touch with a gendarme--an Alsatian named Schenk--who served as go-between in her negotiations with the Gestapo agent Max Waem, a Belgian in the Germans' employ.  Christine was able to get over a million francs parachuted to her from SPOC.  With the funds as bribe and the Allied landings as threat, she persuaded Waem, after ten hours of arguing, that it would serve his best interests to accept an Allied safe-conduct and release his prisoners.  Schenk, not Waem, ultimately obtained the money  but, because he was murdered a short time later, never made use of it.  (The money disappeared.)  Waem, quite aware by August 17 that no substantial German elements stood between Digne and Allied forces in Draguignan, released his prisoners, sent them off to Seyne, and placed himself at their disposition. In time, Waem got a safe-conduct to Italy and, after the war, repatriation to Belgium.

        On returning to Seyne, Christine and the three released agents were greeted by John Roper.  Undismayed after his ordeal but euphoric at his release, Cammaerts realized that with the Allied landings, he faced a number of  tasks: keeping in touch with the missions, and serving as liaison between the FFI and the Allied forces.  Half a dozen new teams--Jedburghs and OGs--had been dropped into his area, and American troops now controlled a great semi-circular beachhead, east and west of St.-Tropez, extending eighty kilometers into the interior. He would have to make contact as soon as possible with an American commander.

 

 

Chapter 7         The Landings

 

 

       The landings of Truscott's VI Corps--the 3rd, 36th, and 45th Divisions--would be made along French Riviera beaches stretching some thirty miles from Cavalaire-sur-Mer in the south to the pleasant bay of Agay to the north.  All of these landing sites, together with the first major objective, Toulon, lay within limits of the Var Department.  It might have been thought that SPOC would have concentrated on the Var, with agents as heavily dispersed as they were in the Ardèche, the Vaucluse, and the Alps, but this was not the case.  If there was not an unusual number of contacts, it was not because the Var lacked a vigorous Resistance movement.

             In fact, the Var possessed much hilly, forested land suitable for Maquis encampments; indeed, with one-half of its stony terrain covered with woods, it ranks first among all French departments in timbered acreage.  Furthermore, with Resistance developing since the early days, the Var had begun to unify its movements in 1943 and was the first to organize a Committee of Liberation.  Its military components registered the same disputes and rivalries already noted in the other departments.  The FTP, under the command of André Claverie (JEAN-PAUL), was represented by  companies throughout the Var. The ORA, under Lieutenant Colonel Lelaquet, was especially strong in the northwest part of the department, with  Joseph Ducret commanding an area east of Brignoles and Colonel Gouzy, chef de l'ORA du nordouest du Var, maintaining  his command post  at Varages.  Before the landings Gauzy had been cooperating with the American  SI (Secret Intelligence) branch of OSS, which maintained a          

réseau  de renseignements (Fitz-Crocus) centered at Seillons.                                                                                                  The GaulliThe Secret Army had organized itself principally in the Toulon area and around the department's administrative center, Draguignan, where Captain Fontes, chef de l'arrondissement, and Pierre Barrème, chef local,  maintained their clandestine headquarters.  At nearby Les Arcs, where the railway from Toulon joined the line from St.-Raphael, Commandantd Jean Blanc was in charge.  By the time of the ANVIL/DRAGOON landings, the AS had banded together with the Groupes Francs and the MUR to form the CFL (Corps Francs de la Libération).  With the establishment of the FFI in June, Captain Salvatori, located in the Toulon area, attempted as chief of the FFI to persuade all the diverse heterogeneous units to cooperate in the common effort.

         The most successful unification effort had brought into existence the Brigade des Maures.  Stretching parallel to the coast behind St.-Tropez, the Massif des Maures comprises some eighty km of low-lying hills, covered with pines, chestnuts and cork trees, in some places isolated and stark, belying the nearby activity along the coast.  In this area, several résistants, Marko Célébonovitch,  Alix Macario, Jean Despas, René Girard, Marc Rainaud, and others had forged a unit that contained elements of the FTP, the ORA, and the AS, with Maquis cantonments throughout the massif as well as on the St.-Tropez Peninsula itself.  While the Brigade had been alerted for several days before D Day, the leaders did not know that the beaches south of St.-Tropez had been earmarked for "Iron Mike" O'Daniel's 3rd Division.

            Unfortunately, the Brigade des Maures had not been well served by SPOC.  Some 26 Drop Zones had been confirmed in the Var Department, but a series of failed missions plagued the effort to drop containers and packages.  After Normandy D Day, only eight deliveries were successful, and of these, two occurred after August 15, scarcely providing time for recuperation and distribution.  While the Var might be considered to be within the limits of Cammaerts's JOCKEY circuit, or part of GARDENER, run by Robert Boiteux out of Marseille, neither Cammaerts nor Boiteux had circulated much in the Var.

         There were good reasons why, even though ANVIL/DRAGOON's first assaults would be made along the Var beaches, widespread contacts with the Resistance were lacking.  Simply because the department faced the Mediterranean and included the French naval base at Toulon, German defenses and counterespionage were especially effective.      From AugNevertheless, in the first two weeks of August,  SPOC feverishly attempted to increase its drops, and to send in agents and teams that had been training for months in the hills and deserts around Algiers.  The plan called for teams to drop into all regions just beyond the "blue-line" semicircle, which ANVIL planners hoped to achieve as a bridgehead from which thrusts would fan out, chiefly to the north and west.  SPOC wished particularly  to reinforce the antisabotage teams in Toulon, Marseille, and Sète, and also to have an agent on the spot to help Maj. Gen. Robert T. Frederick's FABTF (First Airborne Task Force) when its 7,000 paratroopers landed on D Day near Le Muy and Draguignan.

 

 THE AIRBORNE LANDINGS

 

           Farmers who trudged to their fields around Le Muy were startled, in the dark predawn haze of August 15 to find that thousands of paratroopers had floated through the fog from squadrons of Allied C-47s.  They were observing the first units of the FABTF, which had taken off from Italy several hours before.

         The drops encircled Le Muy, a small town about  25 km from the coastal beaches where the 36th and 45th  US Divisions would land.  Between Le Muy and the coast flows the Argens River, separating the two rugged outcroppings of the Massif des Maures on the south, and the picturesque Esterel on the north.  Because few good roads penetrate the pine-covered slopes and ravines, the Argens Valley provides an easy access to the principal east-west highway, N7, and ten miles beyond, proceeding along the Nartuby River to a junction at Draguignan, to those roads that connect Grasse on the east with the Durance Valley to the west.  If the paratroopers could hold a circle around Le Muy and Draguignan, and if the landing forces could quickly join up, then Patch would control key strong points on the three major east-west arteries.

          The German Nineteenth Army commander, Gen. Friedrich Wiese, had correctly assessed the Allied need to gain control, farther west, of the major ports Toulon and Marseille, together with command of the Rhône Valley.  His major defenses against an invasion, other than coastal batteries and block houses, consisted of seven divisions, four of which protected the coast between the Rhône and Spain.  His only armored division, the 11th Panzer, had been stationed near Toulouse, far from the landing beaches.  East of the Rhône, Wiese had deployed his three remaining divisions, the 244th protecting Marseille, the 242nd defending a stretch from Toulon to the landing area, and the understrength 148th covering Cannes and Nice, eastward to the Italian border.  The 242nd and 148th Divisions made up the LXII Corps, under command of Generalleutnant Ferdinand Neuling, with headquarters at Draguignan.  Under the Occupation Forces Command, Generalmajor Ludwig Bieringer held responsibility for control and defense of the Var Department, of which Draguignan served as the administrative seat.

          With excellent intelligence about LXII Corps headquarters, and with reports on the strength of German garrisons in the Draguignan-Le Muy area, Seventh Army planners had good reason to believe that a vigorous airborne attack could seize this strategic inland communications center.  They knew also that Maquis groups had been harassing the German occupiers and that their cooperation could be enormously helpful to the paratroopers.

 

SPOC AND THE RESISTANCE

 

           Responsibility for getting in touch with the Resistance fell, of course, on SPOC.  A preinvasion plan had called for Muthular d'Errecalde, the agent who had operated in the Var Department with the MICHEL mission in June, to rally the area FFI and organize them to support an airborne operation.  However,  when d'Errecalde failed to return to Algiers, SPOC sought a replacement.  (D'Errecalde had been captured and shot, but SPOC did not learn this until after the invasion.)  For a replacement, SPOC fixed on 24-year-old Lieutenant Geoffrey M. T. Jones,  who had been training and organizing recruits at Blida airfield near Algiers since June.

            In his youth, Jones had lived in southern France, spoke French, and before he joined OSS, had been attached to an airborne field artillery unit.  Resourceful and aggressive, he would prove an ideal choice for the mission.  SPOC arranged for him to be dropped as soon as weather and facilities would permit.  Shortly before he left for France, Jones received a promotion to captain.

            Jones made up part of a two-man team, the other officer, senior in rank to Jones, was Capitaine de Corvette L. P. A.  Allain (LOUGRE), the officer in charge of the anti-sabotage teams already sent to Toulon, Marseille, and Sète.  As Allain's groups were already in place, SPOC assigned him the additional duty of assisting in the airborne attack. In Allain's words (from his report):

       "LOUGRE et YORK (Jones) se parachutent à 0 h 45  le 11 août avec 20 containers de matériel d'armement et de radio. Ils atterrissent à 800 m. du terrain fixé, dans un ravin. Résultat: LOUGRE une entorse et une blessure à la cheville droite; YORK de multiples contusions.  . . . Les deux autres équipiers ne peuvent sauter et retournent à Blida."

        Allain and Jones had been dropped at Zone Prisonier, on the Montagne de Malay, about  22 km (as the crow flies) northeast of Draguignan.   The two officers quickly made contact with  FTP Maquis Valcelli, led by Joseph Manzone, an able and enthusiastic Communist,  at Mons, a picturesque medieval "perched village" overlooking the plain below.  They were joined by the American Sergeant James Dyas, a member of OG RUTH, which had parachuted into the area a week earlier.  Injured in landing, Dyas had been cared for by local maquisards.

         In the seventy-two hours now remaining before D Day, Jones and Allain were able to reach key Maquis leaders, Captain Fontes at Draguignan, Lieutenant Silvani at Montauroux, Commandant  Jean Blanc at Les Arcs, who, along with Manzone could muster some 200 maquisards.  They all met together near Mons during the afternoon of August 14, and that night at 8:00 they received the BBC messages warning that the invasion was imminent.  They laid out a plan of action:  First, Manzone, under the guidance of the two Allied officers, would undertake to knock out the German radar installation at Fayence, about thirty descending kilometers south of Mons.

          If the Fayence radar could be put out of commission, it would leave Generals Neuling and Bierenger with incomplete intelligence on Allied intentions.  The radar station was located at an abandoned reservoir on the heights above Fayence, with its antenna perched atop an immense boulder--La Roque--from which it could survey the invasion landing beaches at St.-Raphael.  Jones remembers having had instructions regarding the radar before he left Algiers and needed only a BBC message for execution.  Brooks Richards recalls that, when he learned the place and time of the invasion, he immediately realized how vital the installation was.  However, having been given highly classified information about the landings shortly before D Day, he was prevented by security regulations from taking any steps that might jeopardize military secrets.  In spite of this, Richards instructed his deputy, under no such restrictions, to get off a message to Allain and Jones) .  They in turn persuaded a local group to undertake the job. As recounted by one of the members: "Le radar allemand était placé à la Roque, sur l'emplacement des anciens reservoirs d'eau de Fayance. Le radar a été détruit par des explosifs introduits sous le poste allemand par des résistants qui y étaient parvenus en remontant depuis l'aval des reservoirs par les conduites d'alimentation d'eau."

        Meanwhile, in the early hours of August 14, Jedburgh team SCEPTRE had dropped on to the Montagne de Malay, at Zone Prisonier.  The American member, Lt. Walter C. Hanna, had trained with McIntosh of Jedburgh CHLOROFORM.  The steep, rocky slope brought disaster to the French member of the team, Lt. François Franceschi (nom-de-guerre Tévenac), who broke his foot, and to the American radio operator, Master Sgt. Howard Palmer, who sprained a knee.  They encountered Jones and Allain on the mountain but, with Franceschi requiring a doctor, they remained near Mons while the others went down the mountain toward the designated parachute areas.

          From Allain's report: "Nous décidons de rallier en camionnette, pendant la nuit, le point de rendezvous.  Il s'agit de faire une cinquantaine de kilomètres à travers les lignes allemends.  Une escorte de gendarmes nous accompagnera. Le brigadier André Charles de la brigade de Draguignan qui parle allemend parfaitement, servira de médiateur en cas de rencontre inopportune. Il doit nous présenter  comme des parachutistes qu'il a arrêtés et conduit à la gendarmerie de Draguignan, pour interrogatoire.  . . . En cours de route, un chasseur bombardier nous gratifie d'une bombe à trente mètre sur l'arrière de la camionnette. Drôle de sensation. Pour une fois, je suis le gibier et mon chasseur est un aviateur ennemi!

        "A 5 h 10, arrivant au petit village de La Motte, nous percevons un bruit que je connais bien: le ronronnement du Douglas C47, notre appareil d'entraînement à l'école des parachutistes, qui augmente d'intensité et bientôt remplit toute l'atmosphère. Il doit y en avoir queslques uns: Et les voilures blanches descendent du ciel par dizaines, par centaines, par milliers même pourrons nous le vérifier quand, le jour levé, nous les verrons, innombrables petities taches blanches jonchant les prairies, accrochées aux arbres, aux fils à haute tension, aux maisons. Mes gendarmes n'en croient pas leurs yeux."

                 General Frederick's First Airborne Task Force consisted of over 5,000 American paratroopers to which had been added almost 2,000 members of the British Second Independent Brigade.  The plan called for the British together with the U.S. 509th Parachute Battalion (reinforced by the 463rd Parachute Field Artillery) and the 517th Parachute Infantry Regimental Combat Team, to drop into an area centered at Le Muy beginning at  0430 on D Day, August 15.  These forces would immediately attempt to gain control of Le Muy, establish road-blocks, and safeguard the flat area just south of Le Muy where gliders of the 550th Infantry Battalion would land late in the afternoon.

          Jones and Allain, descending from the mountains, first encountered some men of the 463rd Parachute Field Artillery who had landed about eight km off target into the zone assigned to Col. Rupert D. Graves' 517th Regiment.  In the confusion of the gray haze, Jones was able to identify himself to the paratroopers and help establish a command post for Graves at the Château near Ste.-Roseline, just northeast of Les Arcs, one of Graves' objectives.

             Between dawn and 0900 most of Frederick's troops had come in except for two battalions scheduled for the afternoon, and two groups that through pilot error had parachuted far from their objectives.  Since these two groups benefited from contact with the Maquis, let us examine their adventures (and misadventures) before turning to the principal exploits of the Airborne Task Force.

             By an unanticipated error in navigation, five plane loads of troops--company A of the 509th Battalion, and elements of the 463rd Field Artillery--were dropped a few minutes too soon and found themselves deployed in the hills just south of St.-Tropez, thirty km from their objective.  Almost at once Captain Jess Walls of the American paratroopers met detachments of the Brigade des Maures, which had taken up positions in the peninsula since the 14th.  The Americans were able to assemble five guns, and before dawn, the paratroopers and the FFI decided to attack the St.-Tropez German garrison, which had withdrawn to several pillboxes and to the ancient citadel.  The daughter of Marko Célébonovitch, Nicole, achieved some celebrity from the part she played:

           "Nicole, pistolet à la ceinture, guidait dans Saint-Tropez une partie de la compagnie   de parachutistes du capitaine Jess W. Walls qui allait libérer la ville.  . . . Un peu plus tard, les Américains et un groupe de résistants conduits par Mark Rainaud attacquaient la citadelle où allait mourir Guy Ringrave, un jeune homme qui tenait absolument à participer au combat et qui avait supplié Nicole Célébonovitch de lui prêter l'arme qu'elle portait à la ceinture.  A 17 h 30, la garnison allemande se rendait et descendait place des Lices, les mains en l'air, en criant 'Krieg fertig!'  'Guerre ininie!'"    "Nicole, 18 ans,  devint  pour le monde entier 'la jeune fille au pistolet,' une des images symbole de la Résistance, après la publication d'une photo prise par un journaliste américain. Aujourd'hui [1994] Nicole a toujours le même sourire." (Article and photos in Le Figaro Magazine, No. 34, 12 août 1994.)

                                                                                                                                                Saint-Tropez, with its harbor cleared and good facilities for communication,  appeared ideal to Seventh Army staff officers seeking a shore-based command post for General Patch.  They chose the Hotel Latitude 43  on D + 1, and the Commanding General moved there  during the morning of August 17.  Learning how the Brigade des Maures had assisted his American forces, Patch took time out from a pressing schedule to review these maquisards and to award the Silver Star to  Marc Rainaud, with letters of commendation to seven others, two posthumously.                                                                                                  The otheThe other error in navigation brought three groups of Lt. Col. Melvin Zais' 3rd Battalion (of the 517th Parachute Regiment) to ground near Callian and Montauroux, small "perched villages" about halfway between Grasse and Draguignan, and 40 km east of their objective.  These villages, old fortified towns built on precipitous slopes, command the wooded valley road to Grasse several kilometers inland from the coast.  Even as villagers protected themselves from Arab attacks in the Middle Ages, so now in 1944 small contingents of Germans could hold off attackers from the main road below.  As the FABTF gained control of its target area, groups of fleeing Germans holed up in the little towns, attacked by the FFI before the Americans could move in tanks and artillery.  It took a day for most of the paratroopers to orient themselves and march west through a region infested by German patrols.  Many had joined their units by August 16, but a few remained behind.  These included about 35-40 injured men, cared for by their own medical people and the French, at Montauroux and Fayence.  They were not molested by the Germans.

Another group, about the same size, organized defenses in the area and along with some FFI, harassed the batches of Germans, pulling back from Le Muy and Draguignan, who were infiltrating the area.  About 25 men, led by Captain Hooper of the 517th, withdrew to Montauroux, where they held off attacks until reinforcements rescued them a few days later.

               At Fayence, some of the paratroopers  joined Hanna's SCEPTRE Jedburgh team and the local Maquis group led by Lieutenant Silvani.  They fought intermittently against Germans in the area, but could not dislodge Major Turnov, commanding 200 Germans defending La Roque, the site of the demolished radar installation, just above Fayence.  After five days, a patrol of the 517th, probing along the road south of the town, received bursts of 20.-mm. gunfire and called in artillery.  This shelling somewhat softened the German will to resist, and Turnov sent word to Hanna that he was prepared to discuss surrender, but only to Americans.  Un rôle important a été joué par les résistants locaux, en particuler par Madame Michel-Jaffart. C'est elle et le percepteur du bourg, Monsieur Blanc, qui ont servi d'intermédiaires pour l'amener à la reddition. After three hours of negotiation with the German commander, Turnov agreed to give up.  On the next morning, the 21st, 184 Germans filed out and stacked their arms.

 

        In spite of the two erroneous drops, one south and one north of the designated area, the bulk of Frederick's FABTF landed where they were supposed to, and in the early morning haze of August 15, gathered up equipment and made for the designated assembly points.  By noon, Frederick's troops had control of the small villages around Le Muy.  Frederick established his command post at Le Mitan, two miles to the north.  Geoffrey Jones, the OSS representative, was able to confer with the general and offer his services as liaison with Resistance leaders.   Another OSS agent, Capt. Alan Stuyvesant, representing SI, had parachuted with the Task Force, thereby providing Frederick with two OSS officers who could make radio contact with their respective field headquarters, with Patch, as well as with Algiers.   Captain Allain remained with Frederick for a few days until he was joined by one of his team members, enseigne de vaisseau Sanguinetti,, and then made off for Toulon, his principal objective.                                                                                          In the In the afternoon of August 15, Frederick organized attacks at Le Muy and Les Arcs, the latter of which had been occupied for a while by the FFI when the German garrison withdrew.  In the late afternoon, two more battalions landed, Lt. Col. Wood G. Joerg's 551st, which jumped, and Lt. Col. Edward Sach's 550th, which arrived in gliders. Altogether  over 7,000 men had come in, with 220 vehicles, 213 artillery pieces, and 1,000 tons of equipment.

              By dawn of August 16, Frederick resumed the offensive and, by early afternoon, had taken Le Muy.  Bitter fighting developed around Les Arcs, as the Germans tried to retake it, but with all three battalions of the 517th engaged, the town was in Allied hands by late afternoon, when advance units of the 45th Division, coming up from the beach, began to arrive.  The Americans, faced with another struggle to obtain Draguignan, considered calling in artillery, but were dessuaded by the local resistants, who  sent  emissaries to the paratroopers. One these, Mademoiselle Vidal, daughter of the préfet  provisoire, used her knowledge of English to explain the situation  to Colonel Joerg, whose battalion advanced and by 1800 were in control of  the town.

              When the paratroopers and the FFI drove the Germans out of Draguignan,  the prefectural seat,  the new prefect and the Department Liberation Committee should have taken up residence.  But as Draguignan, with a population of 11,000 was dwarfed in size and importance by the naval-base city of Toulon,  the Liberation Committee generally met at the port, not at the inland town.  When Draguignan became free, one of the Committee's members, Henri Michel, went there at once to ensure that Henri Sarie would be recognized as the préfet.  Michel, then a young teacher in charge of press matters for the Committee, would later become France's foremost historian of the Resistance, founder of the French Committee for the History of the Second World War, editor of its Revue, and a leading influence in accumulating documents about the Resistance.  Without the archives and inquiries that Michel was instrumental in developing, studies of the Resistance (such as the present one) would be immensely more difficult to achieve.  This book is dedicated to Henri Michel.

         With Draguignan, which had served as an administrative center for the Germans, in Allied hands, the paratroopers quickly destroyed the enemy command.  General Bieringer, the departmental commander, was taken prisoner, although General Neuling and his LXII Corps staff escaped to the northwest.  On the next day, General Frederick in person brought Bieringer to General Patch's command post at St.-Tropez.  On the eighteenth, Colonel Hodge of the 117th Reconnaissance Squadron, now a part of Task Force Butler, routed Neuling and his staff from a cave.  He, too, was brought to Patch.  Thereafter, the German LXII Corps ceased to exist, leaving its two components on their own:  the 242nd Division to defend Toulon and the 148th to protect Cannes and Nice.

 

GUNN AND LECUYER

 

                Jones and Stuyvesant were not the only agents available to the invading forces on Patch's right flank.  Farther to the north, at Valberg, Havard Gunn and Capt. Jacques Lécuyer, the ORA commander for R-2, had received alert messages and waited for the imminent Allied invasion.  Lécuyer, named FFI chief for Alpes-Maritimes on August 4, had to divide his attention between his ORA regional responsibilities and his departmental FFI concerns.  Fortunately, so far as Alpes-Maritimes was concerned, he possessed an able deputy in Lt. Pierre Gautier (MALHERBE), who like Lécuyer had been active in the ORA and had operated throughout the department.  He had maintained good relations with the FTP, headed by Jamme (known as JOB), although he was not on close terms with the former FFI leader, Melin (CHATEL).  Melin had previously led MUR contingents and, in any case, limited his activities primarily to the city of Nice.  Through Gautier and by his own visits as ORA head, Lécuyer had been in continual touch with the Maquis--especially those in the northern mountain part of the department, where Resistance actions were coordinated by Captain de Lestang-Labrousse (RODOLPHE).

        Prior to the landings, Lécuyer's contacts with Algiers had been reinforced by the presence of Havard Gunn, who for the most part had remained at Lécuyer's command posts.  Through messages from SPOC, Gunn had already learned that an airborne attack would occur, and had orders like Jones to demolish antiglider stakes at possible landing sites.

          Gunn found out that Cammaerts and Sorensen had been arrested at Digne at the same time (August 14) that he and Lécuyer received the action message from Algiers.  Gunn hoped that he could reach some American troops and persuade them to rescue Cammaerts.  He, of course, did not know what efforts Christine was already making to obtain his release.

           Lécuyer and Gunn, with two FFI scouts, came down from the hills on D Day and after some efforts reached General Frederick at his command post on the sixteenth.  The general, sympathetic with the Maquis effort, ordered a detachment of armored jeeps to accompany the two officers up to the Route Napoléon.  Gunn soon learned that Cammaerts had been released, and decided therefore to retrace his steps to the coast with the idea of obtaining arms and equipment for the Maquis.

           Lécuyer moved on beyond the Route Napoléon, persuading the leader of the jeep detachment that by following the hill roads he could reach the Var River a few miles north of Nice without German interference.  As Lécuyer recalled it:     "Nous arrivâmes sans encombre à Puget Theniers, puis à Chaudan (au confluent du Var et de la Vésubie). 

     "Là nous fûmes accueillis par des rafales de mitrailleuses installées sur les hauteurs de Levens.  Tout le détachement--heureusesment sans pertes--se mit à l'abri dans le tunnel routier de Chaudan.  Je dis au commandant du détachement qu'en se lançant à toute allure, jeep par jeep, on pouvait, en remontant dans la vallée de la Vésubie, atteindre un vieux pont (nous avons, bêtement! fait sauter le pont Durandy), se trouver rapidement dans l'angle mort de ces tirs et revenir dans la vallé du Var pour se rapprocher encore de Nice.

       "Il me demanda à quelle distance nous nous trouvions de Nice; je lui répondis: 'A  une bonne vingt km.'  Il me dit alors: 'Vous avez dit au général que l'on pouvait aller jusqu'à vingt km au Nord de Nice, sans tirer un coup de fusil, c'était vrai, mais maintenant on en reçoit: je rends compte par radio et je rentre.'

        "Et ils repartirent, après une nuit de repos à Beuil, ce qui leur permit de constater que l'arrière-pays était entièrement entre nos mains."   [Sapin, p. 71]

 

          After he took leave of Lécuyer and the Americans, Gunn proceeded along the Route Napoléon to Castellane, which had just been liberated, and then south to Callas, which had been occupied by the FFI and some of Frederick's paratroopers.  By this time, most of the Airborne had been relieved by elements of the 142nd Infantry team.

          Quickly, members of the patrol escorted Gunn to company, then regimental, and finally to division headquarters at Le Muy where he met General Dahlquist.  He dined that night with the general, explaining to him how free the roads were, how few garrisons were left in the mountains, and what opportunities existed for surprise strikes.  Dahlquist appreciated the information and, on the next day, authorized a 142nd Regiment patrol up the route Gunn had used, as far as Castellane, some fifty miles north of his command post.  On the same day (this was the day Task Force Butler moved through Draguignan and on to the Valensole plateau), Dahlquist enabled Gunn to see General Truscott who, having just conferred with Patch, had reached agreement that Frederick's First Airborne would take over the right flank position from Dahlquist.  He found Gunn's information helpful:  Truscott's diary is succinct:  "Maj. Gunn (Br of Maquis Forces) in with report that right flank is clear."

         Gunn received encouragement from the American officers, who arranged for a convoy of six trucks to bring captured German arms and other supplies to the Resistance groups along the Route Napoléon.  With one of his trucks, he returned to Lécuyer's command post at Thorenc early on the 20th.  Both Gunn and Lécuyer were prepared to cooperate with the Allied regular forces as they drove eastward toward the Italian border.

          But General Patch had other matters to contend with.  He had to decide whether Task Force Butler should be launched, he had to find out whether the French troops were landing on schedule, and most of all, he had to determine the best methods of reaching the Rhône valley.

 

 

Chapter 8         Task Force Butler and the Liberation of Digne

 

By D + 1, August 16, General Patch could view with satisfaction the positions of his Seventh Army.  In the south, the entire St.-Tropez Peninsula had been cleared, and elements of the 3rd Division were moving inland.  They would be joined later by de Lattre's French First Army (Army "B") and together begin the drives westward toward Toulon and the Rhá“áne.  With the German 11th Panzer Division still on the far side of the Rhá“áne, German resistance had been sporadic and ineffectual.

North of the 3rd Division sector, General Eagle's 45th Division had landed in the vicinity of Ste.-Maxime and was moving rapidly across the Massif des Maures toward Vidauban, its objective on the "blue line," in the flat country watered by the Argens River.  Vidauban lay only a few miles southwest of Les Arcs and Le Muy, now occupied by Frederick's paratroopers.

The 36th Division had run into strong resistance when its landing craft pressed toward the St.-Raphael beach.  Instead of a direct assault, Dahlquist's troops came ashore to the east of their objective, then moved on Frá,ájus by circling St.-Raphael.  This maneuver delayed the 36th's thrust up the Argens valley to join the paratroopers fifteen miles away at Le Muy.  The VI Corps commander, General Truscott, was furious at Dahlquist's lack of drive but, nevertheless, was sufficiently satisfied with his positions on D + 1 to judge that further consolidation of the beachhead would not be required.

Except for some minor hitches, the ANVIL/DRAGOON landing had been exceptionally successful.  With the "blue line" virtually achieved by the second day, General Patch controlled, within that semicircle fifty miles long and twenty miles deep, a well-disciplined, well-equipped combat force of almost 100,000, together with 10,000 vehicles.  Also, in his VI Corps commander, General Truscott, he had an able aggressive leader who believed, like the cavalryman he was, in bold moves at the enemy's flank.

During the landings and the day after, Truscott reviewed the situation several times with General Butler.  By the end of August 16, he was convinced that the Provisional Task Force could move north as planned, and he gave Butler orders to convene the component elements at Le Muy.<M^>1<D>

After the talks with Truscott, General Butler came to Le Muy on the 17th to take command of his heterogeneous force<197>a selective group of fighting units that now, for the first time, came together.  In addition to the 117th Cavalry serving as the recon and communication core of Butler's Force, Truscott allocated various other elements to provide the necessary mobility and punch to this unique 20th-century cavalry:  a battalion of infantry (the 2nd Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Charles J. Denholm, from the 143rd Regiment, 36th Division); two companies of Sherman tanks (from the 753rd Tank Battalion); a battalion of self-propelled 105-mm. howitzers (59th Armored Field Artillery); some Tank-Destroyers (Company C, 636th TD Battalion), together with companies of engineers, trucks, maintenance, and medical corps.

Altogether, the Task Force included some 3,000 troops and 1,000 vehicles, which with its tanks and mobile assault batteries, provided Butler with a formidable armored scouting force, but clearly one that lacked the punch of an armored division.  Also, although the Force had a full complement of radio receivers and transmitters, entirely adequate for internal communications, the Task Force could not, in this mountainous country, always rely on contact with Truscott's or Patch's command posts.  Light Cub airplanes helped in scouting and communication, but Butler had only one attached to his group.

The 117th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron not only spearheaded the Task Force, but provided Butler with some of his staff.  Headed by Lt. Col. Charles J. Hodge, the 117th formed part of the celebrated "Essex Troop" from northern New Jersey.  When they reached southern France, the troopers, numbering almost 900, had gained some battle experience in Italy.  Completely mechanized and mobile, the squadron could, in the tradition of its mounted forebears, probe miles ahead of the main body.  The horses had given way to vehicles<197>about 240 jeeps, command cars, half-tracks, and trucks; the sabers were replaced by 105-mm. assault guns and by light M5 tanks firing 37-mm. guns.  The basic fighting units (aside from the headquarters and service companies) consisted of three troops, A, B, and C, about 125 men and five officers each.<M^>2<D>

 

 

 

 

 ULTRA and DRAGOON

 

While the Airborne Task Force was consolidating its positions around Le Muy and Draguignan, while Truscott's divisions were reaching and penetrating the "blue line," and while Task Force Butler was assembling for its march to the north, an intelligence breakthrough brought Patch information of extraordinary significance.  This information came to him from the deciphering and analysis of German Enigma coding machine messages that were intercepted and sent to the field from Bletchley Park in England with a top classification:  ULTRA.

On D + 1, the British liaison officers and the American ULTRA specialists had begun operations adjacent to General Patch's command post at St.-Tropez.  Dissemination of the information was extremely limited<197>going only to Patch of the commanding generals, but, of course, also to Wilson and Devers.  No division commander or any French officer was privy to the ultrasecret messages that, once delivered in the field, were destroyed.  Because knowledge of the system remained classified until 1975, no general who may have used ULTRA could admit it in memoirs written before that date.  Because both Patch and Truscott had died before the declassification, they left no personal testimony as to ULTRA's influence.  On the other hand, the American ULTRA specialist with Seventh Army, Donald S. Bussey, and the G-2, Lt. Col. William Quinn, have been queried about the role these signals played, and they agree that Patch "had been fully persuaded on the value of the ULTRA intelligence."<M^>3<D>

Late in the afternoon of August 17, Bussey received from Bletchley a deciphered message in which the German high command ordered all forces in southern France to begin a withdrawal except for those defending Marseille and Toulon.  On the next day, Patch had available a long message (XL 6919) expanding on details of the Nineteenth Army's withdrawal.  4  The salient features of Hitler's order were:

 

             1. Construction of a defense line Sens--Dijon--Swiss border.

             2. Withdrawal of all forces from southern France, with 11th Panzer Division as rear guard of Nineteenth Army in Rhône valley.

             3. Defense of Franco-Italian border by LXII Corps, with 148th Division (Cannes area) and 157th Division (Grenoble area) protecting eastern flank of Nineteenth Army.

             4. Protection of port cities of Marseille and Toulon "to the last man."

 

   Since the LXII Corps headquarters had already been overrun and the corps commander was a prisoner of war, Patch knew that coordination of German resistance to his north and east would be practically impossible.  However, the Seventh Army commander had a number of other factors to consider.  He had to ask himself whether Task Force Butler, together with the 36th Division, could provide an adequate flank defense.  His decision was also made difficult by the attitude of his French ally, General de Lattre, commanding the five French divisions that comprised over half of the Seventh Army.  Patch wished to employ the French, especially their Moroccan mountain troops, to guard the Alpine passes, but there were two problems.  First, de Lattre, feeling deeply that French honor needed combat in a major theater, protested vigorously against his troops being tied up in the mountain fastness.  "Whatever the cost," he wrote later, "I had to escape from the trap<197>pull myself out from south of the Alps<197>and with the least delay, reach as far north as possible."  Second, the schedule for unloading French troops meant that the mountain division would not be available for a week.<M^>5<D>

Into this dilemma, which confronted Patch on August 18, entered his senior, Gen. "Jake" Devers, who conferred with Patch that evening.  As commanding general of the Seventh Army, Patch controlled the forces currently in action, but overall command of the entire operation rested with the Supreme Commander of the Mediterranean, Gen. Maitland Wilson, whose deputy was Devers.  Furthermore, it was understood that, when de Lattre had two corps ashore, he would become independent of Patch, but would remain subordinate to Devers, who would command a newly formed Sixth Army Group.  Therefore, Devers, who liked to remain on friendly terms with the French, was very much involved in decisions relating to commands and overall strategy.  Interviewed in 1967, Devers said:

 

             I happened to come into the headquarters right then and I suggested to Patch, or          his chief of staff, Doc [Major General A. A.] White, "Let him go, let him go    up the other side.  I'll take care of that flank over there because we can keep          the airborne in there and some others to protect it."

                 In other words . . . the airborne group under Frederick took over the job that           had been originally assigned to the French.  I didn't wire back for authority   to do this. . . .  I got them to do what they did. . . . Patch issued that order             after I   told him I'd take the full responsibility.   6

 

   Taking into account all these factors, Patch issued Field Order No. 2 at noon on August 19.  De Lattre's French forces would concentrate on Toulon and Marseille.  Truscott's VI Corps would push the Germans toward the Rhá“áne.  Frederick's Airborne Task Force, which had passed into reserve, would establish and hold a defensive flank along the general line Fayence<196>La Napoule and protect the army right flank.  Since there is no mention of flank protection north of Fayence or east of Digne, Patch did not, at this time, have any real apprehensions regarding the more northern Alpine passes.  As Bussey put it in his postwar report:  "there was no indication that the enemy would adopt an attitude other than defensive on the flank.  Accordingly it was decided to pursue, and all unloading priorities were altered with the whole emphasis given to fuel and vehicles."<M^>7<D>

Patch now realized from ULTRA that a great opportunity lay before him.  With the FABTF relieving the 36th Division on his eastern flank, Patch had at his disposal Dahlquist's division to move on up to Grenoble, take care of the passes into Italy, or reinforce Task Force Butler.  What Butler reported could be crucial to the decisions Patch and Truscott would soon have to make.

 

 TASK FORCE BUTLER GETS UNDER WAY

 

At dawn on August 18, Task Force Butler left its dispositions around Le Muy, and with Capt. William Nugent's Troop C in the van, headed for Draguignan and the Valensole Plateau.  Following the 117th Cavalry's lead, the main body was prepared to speed along the paved highways at over 20 miles an hour, stretched out over thirty miles.<M^>8<D>

General Butler truly faced the unknown.  Colonel Zeller had assured Patch that no major German forces existed in the Durance Valley, but Zeller had left the area over two weeks earlier.  G-2 had little precise information about enemy concentrations, and local intelligence was sparse.  To be sure, 4-SFU, the Special Force Unit attached to Seventh Army, was supposed to provide interpreters and radio contact with the Resistance, but no officers from this unit had yet reported.

As the first units started off on August 18, they had no idea what sort of opposition they might meet, but they assumed that German units remained in the rolling shrub-covered hills.  Their first encounter with the enemy occurred only fifteen miles from Draguignan, when C Troop received some shots emanating from one of the numerous grottoes near Aups.  One of the Task Force's tanks wheeled around and poured in a few rounds of high-velocity shells.  Quickly, there emerged the staff of the German LXII Corps, headed by its commander, Lt. Gen. Ferdinand Neuling, who surrendered his side-arm, a hand-crafted Luger, to platoon leader Lt. Joseph Syms.  Syms turned the weapon over to Colonel Hodge, who after the war kept it as a prized  memento of the southern France campaign.<M^>9<D>

Meanwhile, the main column, with Capt. Thomas C. Piddington's A Troop in the lead, moved rapidly through Salernes and then north toward Quinson.  Forty miles northwest of Draguignan, around 1:30 <MS>P.M.<D>, Piddington reached the Verdon River south of the small town of Quinson.  To the north lay the day's objective, the vast Valensole Plateau, a large plain twenty miles across, set in among an area of hills, small mountains, and gorges.  (A few miles to the east, the Verdon runs through spectacular gorges, which are in peace time a great tourist attraction.)  To reach the plateau, it was necessary to cross the river and then mount a zigzag road up several hundred feet to the plain, but the bridge was out.  Ironically, it had been the objective of Allied bombers several days before, and when they failed to demolish it the local Maquis had finished the job.  What had been meant to hinder German reinforcements or escape had boomeranged.

However, members of the Maquis got to work.  Together with the townspeople of Quinson, they pitched in and built a ford at a shallow point of the river.  Two tank bulldozers cut trails to the ford, where the French guided the ponderous tanks and self-propelled howitzers across the 16-inch deep stream.  Only one 4 x 4 was flooded.<M^>10<D>

In crossing the Verdon River, at the southern end of the plateau, the American forces entered the French department of Basses-Alpes (now known as Alpes de Haute-Provence), of which Digne, a spa celebrated for its sulfurous waters, is the principal center.  To the FFI, it was imperative that Digne, the department's prefectural seat, garrisoned by the largest German contingent in the area, be liberated.

In the department of Basses-Alpes, the FFI came under the military command of Commandant NOEL (Georges Bonnaire) who, while a Communist and head of the FTP, had been accepted by the AS as FFI commander for the department.  He had hopes of forcing the German garrison at Digne to surrender and had already alerted the FFI units in the area regarding the plan of action.<M^>11<D>

The area around Digne was well organized.  District I, in the south around Manosque, had Captain Brondi (JANVIER) in command, while the Valensole Plateau was the responsibility of Capt. Justin Boeuf (DECEMBRE).  District II, to the west, was under Captain Alain.  District III, which included Digne, had Captain Lindenmann in command.  To the southeast, covering Barrá_áme and Castellane, was District IV, under Boiteux.  Each of the districts contained many Maquis detachments, such as the redoubtable <MI>Maquis de Thoard<D>, northwest of Digne, and the FTP <MI>Maquis Fort de France<D> to the southeast.

In the early afternoon of August 18, Captain Boeuf learned from a messenger on bicycle that the Americans were coming up to the Valensole Plateau.  Boeuf rushed off on his motorcycle and met an advance unit, which took him in their jeep to Riez.  Boeuf helped establish an effective location for the CP and sent a message off to Lindenmann.  When Butler arrived, Boeuf argued vehemently for a detachment to move to Digne.<M^>12<D>  The liberation of the departmental <MI>chef-lieu<D>, while of great significance for the French, did not have any political value for Butler, who had planned to advance up the Durance Valley.  He could see, however, that Digne protected his right flank.  Set in the midst of mountains, the little resort town held a key strategic position, dominating the Route Napolá,áon (N85) to the southeast and cutting the road north that led to Cammaerts' headquarters at Seyne.  These were the only roads by which the Germans, if they chose to do so, could bring in reinforcements from Italy.

Butler agreed to dispatch part of Hodge's squadron, Troop B, under Capt. John Wood, toward Digne.  Thus, while the main force would continue north up the relatively level Durance Valley, Wood, who was already bivouacked five miles north of Butler's command post, would move north on a parallel road about fifteen miles to the east.  Unlike the Durance road, however, Troop B's route led into rough mountain country, the narrow highway snaking upward through forested slopes where a few heavy guns could dominate the final eight miles of the approach to Digne.

By late afternoon, Captain Lindenmann had arrived, and he was able to confer with Captain Wood, with Boeuf, and with Lieutenant Brandes in command of OG RUTH, which had parachuted into the area a week earlier.  General Butler later recalled his first contacts with the commander of RUTH and a local <MI>maquisard<D>, whom he described as a "tough bunny<197>about five feet tall and five feet broad."<M^>13<D>

Butler gave Brandes the assignment of protecting Troop B's right flank even though only three men (of OG RUTH's original thirteen) could go because "the rest of the men didn't have shoes which could possibly hold up."  Brandes augmented his ragged commando with twenty-five <MI>maquisards<D>, a bazooka, and a mortar.<M^>14<D>

While Butler bivouacked at Riez, 4-SFU, the group that had been organized to maintain contacts with agents and the FFI, finally set up a headquarters at St.-Tropez.  There were, in fact, two groups coming ashore at the same time:  4-SFU and SSS, the latter to serve as liaison with intelligence agents operating in the path of the Seventh Army.<M^>15<D>  Both of them arrived at St.-Tropez on August 16, D + 1, and established command posts on the grounds of Hotel Latitude 43, Patch's headquarters.  Col. Edward Gamble commanded the SSS contingent, and Col. William Bartlett was in charge of 4-SFU.

Since vehicles and equipment had been loaded on different ships, the men of 4-SFU and SSS worked under considerable handicaps trying to find transportation from the beach to St.-Tropez.  4-SFU controlled operations<197>that is, SOE and OSS' SO, both of which were administered by SPOC<197>while SSS involved OSS' SI, the intelligence unit directed by Henry Hyde, also out of Algiers.  (British intelligence operated separately.)  Administratively, the two units came under Colonel Gamble, but operationally, they were separate.  Nevertheless, since the Americans were all OSS, they frequently knew each other, and indeed some officers were interchangeable.  Both units had to be in contact with the G-2s of army, corps, and division, but at the combat level, distinctions as to whether information came from SO or SI contacts became academic.

Under normal anticipated circumstances<197>that is, a build-up within the "blue line" leading toward a breakout, possibly weeks later<197>the delay in obtaining a full complement and sufficient vehicles would not have hindered the missions of 4-SFU or SSS.  The planners had arranged for only one-third of the units to come ashore with the assault troops; a second third was to arrive on D + 10, and the final segment on D + 15 (August 30).  In the event, however, by the time the third group crossed the beach, Seventh Army had bypassed Lyon and overrun almost all of the agents controlled from Algiers.

Colonels Gamble and Bartlett began, as soon as possible, to establish radio communications with Algiers though Colonel Gamble suffered from a leg injury resulting from a jeep accident, and Henry Hyde had just come down with jaundice.  They wasted no time in sending SSS teams to each of the VI Corps divisions:  one under Lt. Robert Thompson to the 3rd, one under Capt. Justin Greene to the 36th, and one under Frank Schoonmaker to the 45th.

Similarly, Colonel Bartlett assigned the 4-SFU field representatives who reported to him on August 18 at St.-Tropez:  two Americans, Capt. Henry Leger and Donald King; three British, Capt. Ralph Banbury, Sgt.-Mjr. Lloyd, and a driver; and four Frenchmen, Lt. Marc Rainaud (the <MI>Brigade des Maures<D> leader who had just been decorated by General Patch), Sous/Lt. Comp., Sous/Lt. Fageot, and <MI>Adj./Chef<D> Maxent.  Captain Leger's report explains the situation:

 

@INDENTED = The vehicles consisted of one motorcycle and two bantams [jeeps] (one of which was ours).  We were to join the Task Force Butler.

@INDENTED2 = To the consternation of all present, it was found that TFB had left on the morning of August 18, 1944, at 0545.  It was jointly decided by Capt. Banbury and Capt. Leger that the party would start immediately and find TFB.  After nine solid hours of riding through friendly and unfriendly territory we caught up with TFB bivouacked in vicinity of Riez.  We reported to Major Hansen, G-3 of TFB, who introduced us to General Butler who had us briefed by Lt. Col. Hodge, operations officer, who gave us our assignments as follows:

@INDENTED2 = Capt. Banbury and S/Lt. Comp to B Troop; Mr. Donald King to A Troop; Lt. Rainaud to CIC Hqs troop; Capt. Leger to Hqs troop with order from Gen. Butler to be his liaison with the Maquis and anything and everything French that might come his way.<M^>16<D>

 

With the 4-FSU personnel assigned, early on the morning of August 19, Task Force Butler moved off the Valensole Plateau.  Captain Wood's Troop B, with the mission of striking at Digne from the south, drove north to the Asse River, which flows southwest ultimately to join the Durance.  Besides his own troop, Wood had with him Lieutenant Brandes and three men from OG RUTH, Captains Lindenmann and Boeuf of the Basses-Alpes FFI, together with the 4-SFU representatives, Captain Banbury and Sous-Lieutenant Comp.

Crossing the river, with Maquis fighters in support, Troop B sped up the Asse Valley toward the formidable wooded slopes that provided excellent cover for German machine gun fire.  By 8:30 the column had reached Má,ázel, about ten curving mountainous miles south of Digne.  Here the force ran into German opposition.  Wood brought up some light tanks, forcing the enemy into the hills, where they were pursued by Lá,áopold Comte's 3rd FTP Company, by FFI under Deromas (FELIX), and units of the Asse Secret Army.  Comte would later be the first member of the FFI to enter Digne.<M^>17<D>

At Má,ázel another agent joined Wood's staff.  This was Capt. Jean Fournier (CALICE), a member of the Sorensen mission.  While Sorensen had accompanied Cammaerts on the ill-fated trip to Apt, Fournier had gone south with Gunn and Lá,ácuyer, where he checked out possible landing sites in the Alpes-Maritimes Department.  He then struck west to carry out a similar mission on the Valensole Plateau.  Moving mostly on foot, Fournier had hiked to Má,ázel during the night of August 18/19, and met Captain Wood in the morning.<M^>18<D>

Having broken up the German blocks at Má,ázel, Troop B worked its way along the winding upgrade and shortly before noon reached the southern outskirts of Digne.  The small force had run into mines hanging from trees and had received scattered German fire, but was able to take up positions that threatened German headquarters located on the edge of town in the Ermitage Hotel.  Meanwhile the departmental FFI commander, Commandant Bonnaire (NOEL), had sent out orders to all under his command.  He ordered them to set up road-blocks on all the roads leading to Digne.  If or when feasible, the Maquis elements would move cautiously toward the town, with some units assigned the responsibility of seizing storage depots and fuel dumps.

It soon became clear to the German command that it would not be possible to defend the Ermitage, and Generalmajor Hans Schuberth, commanding the 792nd Liaison Staff (<MI>Verbindungs Stab<D>), decided to capitulate, as long as he could surrender to the Americans.  He had been out of touch with his superiors at Avignon for four days, and had no way of assessing the overall situation.<M^>19<D>

The capture of Schuberth did not mean, however, that the entire garrison at Digne had surrendered.  Captain Wood saw that his small force and light guns would have difficulty in attacking German defensive positions in and around the town.  As he moved into the southern part of Digne, Captain Wood sent a series of messages to squadron headquarters reporting heavy opposition.  By 3:00 in the afternoon, he had not been able to advance farther.

While Troop B and the FFI attacked Digne, the main columns of Task Force Butler proceeded up the Durance Valley toward Sisteron.  Henry Leger, the OSS man from 4-SFU, located a serviceable bridge across the Durance at Oraison.  Piddington, leading the advance, crossed the river and moved his A Troop up the west bank toward Cháƒáteau-Arnoux, while Troop B's 3rd Platoon sped north on the opposite bank (where OG RUTH and the FFI had set ambushes), passed the spectacular rock formation called <MI>Les Pá,ánitents<D> at Les Má,áes, and continued on to Malijai, a key position that guarded the road branching off toward Digne ten miles to the east.

In this area the Americans met up with more Resistance fighters.  During the night of August 18/19, in accordance with Bonnaire's orders, the 16th and 19th FTP companies had moved into the hills around Malijai.  From the hills, in the early morning of August 19, the <MI>maquisards<D> witnessed Germans executing three civilians, but they were not strong enough to intervene.<M^>20<D>

Actually the Germans were attempting to reinforce the garrison at Digne.  From Sisteron, early in the morning of August 19, a company of about 135 men (2nd Battalion, 194th <MI>Sicherungregiment<D>) marched south with the intention of crossing the Durance at Cháƒáteau-Arnoux to assist the troops on the north bank of the Blá,áone.  Between 2 and 3 <MS>A.M.<D>, however, the FFI blew the two bridges over the Durance, thus preventing the Germans, who arrived at Château-Arnoux at dawn, from crossing.  The German officer-in-charge was apparently reluctant, for fear of Maquis ambushes, to march on to the next bridge, about five miles south.  To cross there would in any case have placed him south of the Blá,áone, in hilly wooded country infested with Maquis.  He therefore remained at Cháƒáteau-Arnoux, deploying his forces in the park adjacent to the old castle.  Meanwhile the commander of the local gendarmerie had sent a message to the Maquis south of the town to alert them regarding the German presence.

The German commander, with no way of making contact with German headquarters at Digne, insisted to the mayor that he send a French messenger to Digne, under threat of taking hostages and burning the town.  He gave the mayor until 1 <MS>P.M.<D> to obtain a reply.  A gendarme volunteered for the mission.  Instead of going to Digne, however, he bicycled to the nearest Maquis command post and turned over the message to the local FFI leader.

By this time, Piddington's Troop A had reached a point about five miles south, and the well-informed Maquis knew that the column would join them in a few minutes.  When Piddington arrived, he met with the Maquis leader and the gendarme. Together they opened the German message and, laboriously translating it, learned that the commander, in a quandary, sought instructions from his superior.  Knowing the approximate size, armament, and disposition of the German force, Piddington prepared to attack but agreed that the gendarme should return to see if the Germans might surrender.  He set 1:15 as the deadline.  It was now about noon.

Upon returning to Cháƒáteau-Arnoux, the gendarme found the Germans still in the park, to which the iron grilled gate was locked.  Finally the German officer agreed to meet Piddington, who had now moved into Cháƒáteau-Arnoux itself.  A few minutes later, the German commander, without cap, jacket, or arms, came out of the park and met Piddington at the gendarmerie, a few yards south of the park.  The Germans surrendered, marched out of the park, and stacked their guns.  Piddington, loathe as he was to reduce his number of vehicles, loaded approximately 135 Germans onto some trucks and sent them to the rear.  Troop A then moved on to Sisteron.<M^>21<D>

Behind Troop A came the main body of Task Force Butler.  When Butler was about ten miles from Cháƒáteau-Arnoux, he became aware of the situation at Digne, where Captain Wood was reporting German resistance.  Butler decided to send reinforcements and ordered Maj. James C. Gentle, executive officer of the 143rd Regiment's 2nd Battalion, to form a mini-task force and go to Wood's assistance.  Task Force Gentle was made up of an M8 armored car, a tank company of eight Sherman tanks, and a company of infantry.  By 2:00 <MS>P.M.<D> this force had crossed the Durance at Les Má,áes and dispersed the Germans, who began to withdraw toward Digne, attempting a vain resistance from foxholes along the road.  Gentle moved steadily toward Digne.  Around 5:30, he was held up by a fire fight about seven miles west of the town.  As he proceeded, he was joined by the <MI>Maquis de Thoard<D> and shortly reached a munitions dump, defended by a few Germans.  After brisk fighting, in which Gentle's radio was knocked out, the munitions dump blew up.  An hour later, the Shermans moved onto the Grand-Pont over the Blá_áone, on the outskirts of Digne.  The arrival of the Task Force demonstrated to the beleaguered Germans that they had a new and more formidable enemy to cope with.  All of the German points of opposition surrendered.  By 7:00 <MS>P.M.<D>, after two years of occupation, Digne had found freedom.  The Americans and the FFI rounded up over 400 Germans.<M^>22<D>

If the Americans had anticipated that the FFI would now join them in the push northward, they would have been disappointed.  Because the resistance forces, whether FFI or FTP, were organized departmentally, they considered their main task to be expelling the Germans from their department.  They then sought to occupy the departmental seat, oust the Vichy incumbents, and replace them with officials of their own choosing.   This meant a triumphal entry of the Departmental Liberation Committee, representing a variety of political views, but frequently dominated by Communists and Socialists who undertook to play an interim role until the regular councils and administration could take over.  At the same time, the Gaullist provisional government, represented by the <MI>Commissaires de la Rá,ápublique<D>, would oversee the installation of a new prefect.  As for the <MI>maquisards<D>, after a period of exuberant rejoicing, these warriors tended to return to civilian life or to continue to fight under their old leaders until such time as they became absorbed into the regular French army.  In the Basses-Alpes, Germans still threatened Barcelonnette, where Commandant Bureau continued the struggle for control of the Larche pass.

During the liberation celebration at Digne, both Cammaerts and Major Fielding, freed from Gestapo headquarters only three days before, visited the town, trying to locate a 4-SFU representative.  Meanwhile, Captain Banbury had gone up to Seyne, where he encountered Cammaerts by chance.  He was able to bring him up to date regarding Butler, at Sisteron, where Cammaerts, together with Christine, promptly went to report.

Colonel Constans also learned about Task Force Butler.  He had completed his reorganization, and after visiting de Lassus and Descour on August 16, he also sought out General Butler and caught up with him at Sisteron on the twentieth.

Butler himself established his CP just south of the city, and found himself more and more in touch with the FFI.  Writing about his experiences a few years later, Butler expresses high praise for the Resistance:  "It is only fair to state that without the Maquis our mission would have been far more difficult."<M^>23<D>  The historian of the 117th Cavalry believed, however, that Butler might have made even better use of them.  He writes:<M^>24<D>

 

            We were beginning to meet more and more Maquis.  The groups we were meeting were better trained, better disciplined and more heavily armed.  Their assistance is invaluable, as they mop up the rough country between the roads up which we advance.  Their enthusiasm and sincere desire to be of assistance is most gratifying.  Unfortunately the commanding officer of the Task Force lacks confidence in them, with the result that they are not being employed as well as they might be.  The information which they give to us as to enemy movements ahead has, up to this time, proved accurate in composition and timely to within six hours.

 

 

Chapter  9

 

LIBERATION OF GAP AND GRENOBLE

 

        With his Task Force bivouacked in the Sisteron area on August 19, General Butler prepared for further action to the north.  In prerevolutionary times, Sisteron guarded the rocky pass between Provence and Dauphiné; in modern times, it serves as a gateway to the Hautes-Alpes Department, with its prefectural seat at Gap, in 1944 a thriving attractive town of 15,000 set like a gem in a bowl of Alpine hills.

         After Paul Héraud, the Hautes-Alpes FFI leader, had been killed, Colonel Constans had resolved the succession problem by naming Etienne Moreaud, Héraud's deputy, to serve as departmental chief.  In the four days since the landings, Moreaud scarcely had time to exert real leadership and obtain cooperation from all the other Resistance commanders.  On the other hand, the charismatic Colonel L'HERMINE, commander of the Central Alps, believed the time had come for a general uprising against the Germans.  As preparation for an onslaught against Gap, he ordered that a strategic bridge to the east should be destroyed, and he gave the mission to the Jedburghs of CHLOROFORM.

       This long bridge, on piles, spanned the Durance at Savines, where the road from Gap crosses the river and leads toward Guillestre and the Italian passes.  In the 1950s, a large dam greatly enlarged the small lake (Lac de Serre-Ponçon), completely engulfed the old town, and necessitated construction of a new bridge; but in 1944, while the lake was smaller, it still required a long roadway from one side to the other.  Algiers approved the mission, and on 14 August  L'HERMINE ordered the Jedburghs, McIntosh, Martin, and Sassi, as well as a handful of maquisards loaded with explosives, to cross the high pass south of Orcières in order to reach the bridge without being observed.

For the mountain-trained guerrillas, crossing the pass was routine; for McIntosh it was somewhat more arduous.  One of the company  recalled the climb:

"Ce fut pour tous une grosse épreuve, mais surtout pour le lieutenant américain. Marcheur infatigable en plaine, il peinait en montagne.  . . . De vingt minutes en vingt minutes, il demandait: "A combien du col?' Et on lui répondait, 'A vingt minutes!'  Et il lui semblait que la montée n'en finirait jamais."

        By morning of August 16, the bridge was out. Had the Germans crossed in this direction, they would have found it extremely difficult to progress westward.  In the event, the road was never required by them, for the Gap garrison surrendered and the Germans never attempted an offensive over the passes. 2

       When he received word of the landings, L'HERMINE radioed Algiers, "Can we attack Gap?" and told the other Resistance chiefs that he had received an affirmative reply.  L'HERMINE hoped that the German commander, with intelligence that the Americans were on French soil, would be ready to surrender.  Through the officials in Gap he unofficially communicated this notion to the Germans, while at the same time he consulted with the FFI leaders about the feasibility of an attack.  There were more Germans in Gap than in Digne, and they had recently been reinforced by a nearby garrison, bringing the number of troops to over a thousand.  Although many of these Germans were noncombatant administrators, they were attached to General Pflaum's 157th Reserve Division, headquartered at Grenoble, which could readily send reinforcements down from the north.

         L'HERMINE insisted that the attack should be planned for the morning of Sunday, August 20.   Moreaud and other officers continued to have doubts and were in favor of waiting until the Americans actually came into the area.  On the 19th, the Hautes-Alpes Prefect went to the German headquarters to obtain a reaction from Captain Hermann, the officer in charge.  He obtained a firm reply: the Germans would not surrender to the "irregulars," but he might be prepared to negotiate with officers of a regular army.

        This left the Maquis leaders in a quandary, since they were not unanimous in their will to attack.  There were conferences by telephone and finally a meeting in the small hours of the morning, wherein it was decided to make contact with the Americans.  Word had come in that American advance units were moving up the Durance River Valley.

        Moreaud, learning that troops had already been reported about 20 km north of Sisteron, went down with John Roper to find them.  He met some men who conducted him to Butler's CP, just south of Sisteron in the small hours of August 20.  The shivering duty officer made an appointment for the FFI leader to see Butler at 8:00.  Moreaud and Roper therefore went back to order the Maquis to hold off the planned attack and on the road encountered the other commanders, L'HERMINE and Colonel Daviron of the ORA, along with the Jedburghs Martin and McIntosh.  Also with them was Lt. Jacques Céard, leader of Sector D, whose 150 maquisards guarded N75 north of Aspres.  Returning together, they saw Butler at 7:30.  The general, quite cognizant of the threat to his right flank, agreed to send aid.  He had already concluded that Aspres, rather than Sisteron, would be the key point from which to exercise his expected orders--go north on N75 to Grenoble or west to the Rhône.  He therefore planned two moves, one north to guard the pass at La Croix Haute, and the other east to hold Gap.  He told the Resistance leaders that one element of the 117th Cavalry (Nugent's Troop C) would go toward Grenoble, and the other (Piddington's Troop A) would take the right fork just north of Serres in order to reach Gap by 17:00 that afternoon.

        The French leaders, Moreaud, Daviron, and L'HERMINE, with the American McIntosh, then left to order their troops (estimated at about seven hundred) to take positions around Gap.  Two officers of the Maquis, Genty and Woussen, would remain with the Americans as guides.  The FFI would be deployed on all sides of Gap:  Captain Tortel's column would attack by Puymaure, a hill in the northwestern part of Gap where the Germans maintained their radio installation; Dusserre's maquisardswould block the road from Embrun; Sector K would enter Gap from the south; and L'HERMINE's commandos would come in from the north, through the Col Bayard.  The Americans would be approaching Gap from the heights lying to the west.  Butler gave orders to form a mini-task force, similar to the one used at Digne, this time to be built around Captain Piddington's A Troop, now heading for the Aspres-Veynes area about 25 km west of Gap.

        Troop C had already started north.  Leaving Sisteron in an American jeep, Lieutenant Céard guided Nugent's vehicles up N75 to the Col de la Croix Haute, where they joined 200 maquisards.  Nugent sent patrols 15 km farther on, to Mens and Clelles, halfway to Grenoble.  They encountered no Germans, but received reports of four hundred Germans to the north.  Butler sent a message to Truscott: "My main body control pass at Croix Haute.  Partisan support organized and building up."

        General Butler remained at his CP at Sisteron, where Colonel Constans found an opportunity to discuss the campaign with him, together with possibilities of deploying the FFI along with the Task Force.  Butler felt comfortable talking to regular military men: "Officers of the old French Army were coming in now," he wrote, "and the assistance of these trained officers was invaluable."  There is here possibly a hint that military men could speak to other military men, whereas the threadbare un-uniformed maquisards may not have engendered the same sort of respect that the general accorded Constans, who, incidentally, is the only French officer referred to by name (the code name, that is, SAINT SAUVEUR) in Butler's memoirs.  It may have been that Butler, having been in Algiers from time to time before the landings, actually recognized him, and, of course, he had Captain Leger of the 4-SFU team on his staff as his liaison "with the Maquis and anything and everything French that might come his way."  Leger states in his report

    "Following instructions given by Gen. Butler, Col. St. Sauveur [Constans] and I worked out a plan whereby a French liaison officer would be attached to Task Force Butler as his representative and also that of the Regiment de la Drome. . . .  Regular radio contacts were established between Task Force Butler (through 36th Division) and Col. St. Sauveur's Hqs. and Commandant Legrand's [De Lassus] Hqs.

        On this same day, Cammaerts, in uniform, accompanied by Christine and the 4-SFU representative Banbury, journeyed from Seyne to Sisteron in order to pay his respects and offer his assistance to General Butler.  The effort proved disastrous.  Perhaps the general felt he had already made adequate contact with the FFI through Constans, or perhaps within him lingered some anti-British sentiment; in any case, he made it clear he had no use for Cammaerts' services, affirming that he was "not the slightest bit interested in private armies."

        Queried by the writer many years later, Cammaerts remained at a loss in trying to explain why Butler literally "threw him out."  "Christine and I went to see Butler twice," he states, "the first time he snapped at us and his GSOI (Intelligence) had to apologize....Perhaps Butler simply didn't like our faces....  When you talk about Butler's relations with members of the Resistance these were nearly all army men."

        The historian can only wonder at Butler's short-sightedness in ignoring a British officer who knew a great deal about the terrain and the people in it.  Clearly Butler preferred to deal with the French military officers, but he could have done this without losing the counsel and support offered by one of SOE's most capable agents.

        While they were at Butler's command port, Cammaerts and Christine learned about the imminent move on Gap.  With the help of a Task Force officer, they were able to reach the city before Troop A began its attack.  Meanwhile, Captain Piddington had assembled his force near Veynes, north of Sisteron, where he conferred with his FFI guides, and waited for the assault guns and tanks to join up.

        The road from Veynes to Gap offers no significant obstacles.  For the most part, the road runs straight alongside the Buech river. However, one cannot help but be suprised when, a few kilometers before Gap, one sights the city nestling in a valley eight hundred feet [250 meters?] below.  At this point, not far above the road stands an orientation table where a 360 degree disc locates the distant towns and mountains.  Just beyond, the road begins to zigzag in sweeping curves down to the town.  From the fields and farms, one can readily pick out, slightly to the north of Gap's center, the little round wooded hill called Puymaure.  It was there that the German occupation force had established their barracks and radio transmitter.

        Piddington's miniature armored force reached the Table d'Orientation around 16h00.  Under his command, he had his own motorized troop, augmented by five 105-mm. assault guns and three light tanks.  In addition, he had acquired about a hundred maquisards who were piled on to the armored cars, jeeps, tanks, and other vehicles.  When he reached the point overlooking Gap, he learned from local citizens about the location of the German barracks.  As Duchamblo records [Maquisards et Gestapo, Cahier 18, p. 12]:  "Les chars quittent la route, montent dans le champ derrière la Table d'orientation et prennent position de tir. Woussen, Genty et un officier américain continuent d'avancer jusqu'à l'embranchement du chemin de Rabout. Là, les curieux voient leur Jeep quitter tranquillement la route, descendre à travers les champs de Louis Trinquier, traverser le ruisseau, remonter l'autre versant très raide pourtant et s'arrêter près de la maison d'Emile Trinquier. Une seconde Jeep, munie d'un poste émetteur et récepteur, prend le même chemin. L'exploit laisse rêveurs les spectateurs."

         Satisfied with the positioning, Piddington ordered Captain Omer Brown, in charge of the assault guns, to emplace his howitzers in a meadow from which he could readily hurl shells at Puymaure.

By 16h30 the assault guns had fired forty rounds at German installations.  The first shot was particularly impressive, because it knocked over the radio tower at Puymaure.  Thereafter, Germans began to come in, their hands high in surrender, to give themselves up to the Americans.  Shortly before 17:00, the time designated for the attack, Piddington moved his CP down to the edge of town.  With indications that all the Germans might be willing to surrender, Captain Brown volunteered to drive to German headquarters under a flag of truce to see if there was a possibility of avoiding bloodshed.  Piddington obtained permission from his own superiors to delay the attack until 18:00.  It was, however, difficult to get the word to the FFI groups, which were already beginning to move.

        Captain Brown's mission was successful.  Around 18:30 he returned to report that the German officer-in-charge had surrendered and had ordered the garrison to the town square, where they began to report in groups of fifty to a hundred.  For the next few hours, Piddington, with the cooperation of Colonel Constans, the FFI and the prefecture's secretary-general, Baret, tried to establish some sort of order in the midst of a rejoicing population gone wild.  Thousands were parading in the streets; some zealous citizens shaved the heads of collaborationist women, and the crowd, identifying three Gestapo agents among the German prisoners, grabbed them and, save for American intervention, might have executed them on the spot. (They were, in fact, shot on the following evening.)

          Around 19:30, just as it was beginning to get dark, the final groups of Germans gave up.  There had been some confusion in the northern part of the town, when firing was heard at Puymaure.  It turned out that elements of L'HERMINE's commandos had moved in and just narrowly missed being fired at by the Americans.  The FFI from all sides moved into Gap, and while they rejoiced at the town's liberation, they had tears in their eyes that the great Resistance chief, Paul Héraud, was not there to join them.

       Piddington and the Resistance leaders had their hands full.  They held over one thousand German prisoners, of whom several hundred were Polish, under guard, but they could imagine no way of sending them to the rear.  Piddington saw a logical solution: Use the Poles, who detested their German masters, as guards.  He and Christine, who could harangue them in their own language, encouraged them to shed their Wehrmacht uniforms and volunteer to fight on the Allied side.  However, General Butler would have none of it, even threatening to have Cammaerts and Christine arrested for interfering.

        This effort to recruit the Poles brought an unhappy termination of all efforts the two SOE agents had made to rally the Resistance east of the Rhône.  They faced no alternative but to leave the area and seek support from higher military authority.  With help from a member of the Task Force staff, they ultimately reached Seventh Army headquarters, but General Patch did not send Cammaerts back to the area he knew so well.  Instead, he assigned him to de Lattre, whose Army B he later accompanied up the Rhône's western bank. With his knowledge of the French people and language and with his official position as General Zeller's liaison officer, Cammaerts could have been of considerable value to General Butler, and later to Dahlquist and Truscott, whereas his experience and talents were lost in an area assigned to the French, who could readily establish their own liaison missions.

        General Butler, still without specific orders, decided to move his CP from Sisteron to Aspres.  Learning that Gap had been liberated, the general decided to drive to his new headquarters by way of Gap.  Delighted to see so many German prisoners, he promised Piddington he would send help to take care of them.  Colonel Constans, who that  evening had conferred with FFI leaders, recommended to Butler that reports about German reinforcements coming down from Grenoble should be taken seriously.

       The Germans were, in fact, moving down the two roads from Grenoble, one column threatening the pass at La Croix Haute (guarded by Troop C and Céard's maquisards), and the other, marching south along the Route Napoléon, posing the possibility of Gap being reoccupied.  Lucien Blache, commander of a Secret Army contingent at St.-Firmin, about twenty miles north of Gap, learned that a sizeable German force, estimated at 800 to 1,000 men, was approaching his sector.  He set up road-blocks.

         On the morning of August 20, a report had reached the FFI that the Germans had passed Corps and were continuing on toward Gap.  The report stated that the enemy had heavy machine guns, mortars, and a 90-mm. field gun.  The local Maquis, numbering about one hundred, possessed one machine gun, forty rifles, and a few revolvers.  On reaching St.-Firmin, the Germans spread out through the woods to avoid guerrilla ambushes.  By nightfall, they had reached a point about 20 km north of Troop A's vulnerable outposts at Col Bayard, where Piddington had positioned his assault guns.  Jedburgh CHLOROFORM (McIntosh, Martin, and Sassi), together with a number of L'HERMINE's maquisards, stood in support.

         Meanwhile, at Aspres, Butler had received orders to proceed west to Loriol, on the Rhône.  However, aware of the potentially dangerous situation at the Col Bayard, he ordered Major McNeill (G3 of the 753rd Tank Battalion) to form a small task force of Sherman tanks, tank destroyers, and infantry.  This force pulled out of Aspres early on August 21 and within two hours was in position at the Col Bayard.

         At 10:00  the Germans attacked.  Piddington radioed his headquarters:  "1015: enemy patrols trying to enter Col Bayard but are stopped."  The Germans did not press the attack, but turned around and started north.  One enemy group, of which half were Polish, broke off from the main body.  A platoon of McNeill's tanks, along with Jedburgh McIntosh and the FFI, pursued them and took three hundred prisoners.  Later some of these Poles served briefly as guards when the Germans were put in trucks and sent to the rear.  Two American officers in a jeep started after the  remaining Germans and, although unable to catch up with them, were able to estimate that about a thousand men were retreating toward Grenoble.  Later that afternoon, Piddington's Troop A and McNeill's tanks, relieved by elements of General Dahlquist's 36th Division, sped west along the road to Aspres, Die, and Crest, to join up with the main body of Task Force Butler, already taking positions for what would be known as the battle of Montélimar.

 

Chapter 9         The Liberation of Grenoble

 

         If General Patch had any concern by this time that the eastern flank held counteroffensive possibilities, ULTRA certainly had removed them.  He had, in fact, before noon of the 20th, authorized Truscott to send Task Force Butler west to the Rhône.  As soon as possible thereafter, the 36th Division would follow, with one regiment (143rd less 2nd Battalion already with Butler) alerted for a move on Grenoble and the others following up the Durance.  Butler only received his orders at 0400 the next morning (August 21) but, in the course of the day, moved all except a few elements to the Rhône.

        Truscott had in mind that the entire 36th Division would follow Task Force Butler to the Rhône, but he did not make this intention entirely clear to General Dahlquist, who understood his mission as also protecting the east flank and moving up to Grenoble.  Consequently, on the 22nd, Dahlquist ordered two battalions of Col. Paul Adams' 143rd Regiment to move north.  Adams had his 3rd Battalion, under Lt. Col. Theodore Andrews, proceed beyond the Col de la Croix Haute, and sent his 1st Battalion, under Lt. Col. David M. Frazior, over to Gap, where it took the Route Napoléon north beyond the Col Bayard.  (The 2nd Battalion was with Butler.)

       Grenoble served as headquarters for the German 157th Reserve Division, consisting of three infantry regiments and two artillery battalions, commanded by Generalleutnant Karl Pflaum.  Pflaum had fought on the Russian front in 1941 before he was transferred to France.  The 157th, having been assigned to antiterrorist duties, had elements scattered around the cities of southeastern France, such as Gap, Embrun, and Chambéry, as well as at Grenoble.  Lacking sufficient power, with its communications constantly harassed by Maquis groups, and uncertain how the invasion was progressing, the 157th could muster no concentrated or effective measures of defense.

        German intelligence as to the exact position and movement of the Allied forces was meager and delayed.  German records complain of the lack of air reconnaissance.  The commander at Digne, when captured, admitted that partisans had kept him out of contact with his superiors for four days.  On August 20 (with Task Force Butler already in Aspres and Gap, 100 km from Grenoble), the Nineteenth Army was insisting that elements of the 157th hold Grenoble until August 30.  At the same time, the German C-in-C Southwest, Kesselring, assuming that the 157th was now under his command, ordered the division to retire to the Mont Blanc--Montgenèvre pass line, "leaving rear guards in regiment strength at Grenoble and sufficient forces to control roads leading from Grenoble to the passes.  Efforts would be made to leave rear guards until about the 30th, depending on Allied advance from the south.  To delay this, roads south of Grenoble to be destroyed, beginning immediately."

        Clearly, C-in-C Southwest did not realize how harassed General Pflaum had been.  In early August, Pflaum had mounted Operation Hoch-Sommer, in which he sent detachments southeast, into the valleys of the Romanche, Drac, and Eau d'Olle, to destroy the Maquis of Oisans.  He needed to secure the road to Briançon, which guards the Montgenèvre pass to Italy.  Pflaum had sent other troops down the two main roads south of Grenoble, but these had been stopped on August 19 and 20 at the Col de la Croix Haute and at the Col Bayard.  On the 21st, they also were retreating in the direction of Grenoble, ambushed and attacked by FFI units along the way.

       These FFI companies came from both the Isère and the Drôme Departments for, while Grenoble lies in Isère, the boundary between Isère and Drôme extends north and south only a few miles west of N75, the Aspres-Grenoble road.  The Drôme FFI chief, de Lassus, had authorized the newly arrived French commandos under Lieutenants Muelle and Beaumont, with several Drôme FFI companies, to harass the Germans near Clelles, north of the Col de la Croix Haute.

        The official Drôme history, Pour l'amour de la France, deplores with good reason the official American account: "laconique, en ce qui concerne la participation des FFI de la Drôme." [p. 404]  The US Army official history does not give credit to the Resistance for clearing the way to Grenoble. From the Drôme history: "Les Américains nous avaient demandé de nous saisir les deux ponts de Pont-de-Claix, le 21 août à 10h30 afin d'assurer le passage des chars U.S. qui devaient déboucher à cette heure précise.

    "L'attaque de Pont-de-Claix est donnée par surprise à 10 heures de manière brutale et rapide. Les ponts sont enlevés, la mairie occupée ainsi que le piton qui domine la ville. En trente secondes les sentinelles qui gardent le pont ont été abattues. Les occupants d'un blockhouss sont grenadés à la Gammon, le poste de garde - une quinzaine d'hommes en train de se restaurer - est 'liquidé'  à la mitraillette. A 10 h 30, les Américains auraient pu pénétrer dans Pont-de-Claix mais ils n'étaient pas là: manquant d'essence, ils n'arriveront que tard dans la nuit."

       The commandos sent messages to the Americans, still at the Croix Haute pass, that the way was clear.  (By this time Colonel Adams, commanding the 36th Division's 143rd Infantry, had relieved the Task Force Butler units holding the pass.)

       On August 21, General Pflaum concluded that he should carry out the order to abandon Grenoble so that the 157th Division could guard the Alpine passes.  His effort to hold the road to the Montgenèvre pass having failed, he had only one option left--to withdraw to the northeast up the Isère Valley (Route N90) to the Little St.-Bernard, as well as into the  Maurienne leading to the Modane tunnel and the Mont-Cenis pass.  During the afternoon and evening of the 21st, the German garrison burned documentary records, destroyed installations, and began to pull out.  By midnight, the city had been evacuated.  With Pont-de-Claix already lost to the FFI, not many elements remained to protect the rear guard, only the companies that, retreating from Oisans, had reached Vizille, and the scattered units retreating from the Col Bayard.

        All of the German units were hard pressed by the FFI, which did their best, with their limited firepower, to cut off isolated enemy groups, block roads, and occupy key positions.  Because Grenoble is surrounded by mountains, the Resistance fighters could control all areas except those where the Germans had become well entrenched.  With the German withdrawal, however, elements of the Isère FFI were able to enter the city during the night of August 21/22 and occupy the more important installations.  Cdt. Louis Nal (BRUNET) with his Groupes francs took over as the enemy departed.  Into the city came units from the Chartreuse mountains to the north: Sector II under LE BARBIER (Lyautey de Colombe) along with companies HUGUES (Guyot), PAUL II (Weill), STEPHANE (Etienne Poitau), and many others.  Commandant Alain Le Ray  (BASTIDE), Isère departmental Chef FFI, set up his CP at the Hotel de la Division, and the newly designated prefect, Albert Reynier (VAUBAN), with members of the Departmental Committee of Liberation, began to take over the administration.

         There were still enemy forces at Vizille,15 km from Grenoble, and along the two roads, N75 and N85, leading into the city from the south, there were groups of Germans.  Nor was it impossible that the Germans retreating to the northeast and northwest, finding their ways blocked, would return.  From the FFI point of view, it was necessary to get American forces into Grenoble as soon as possible.

         The American forces were on the way.  The first recon units of Andrew's 3rd Battalion reached Pont-de-Claix, occupied the day before by French guerrillas, around dawn.  About two hours later, Colonel Adams , commanding the 143rd regiment, arrived with an infantry company, a few tanks, and a field artillery battery.  However, with no information about the German withdrawal, he was hesitant to proceed into town with his small force

        On this morning of the 22nd, a journalist with the 143rd, Edd Johnson of the Chicago Sun, hopped onto a trolley bringing French commuters into Grenoble.  He wore a correspondent's khaki, but was soon recognized and hailed as the first American to help liberate the city.  He was escorted to a hotel, where he took a bath, and then in the early afternoon reported to Adams what had happened. The city was exuberantly celebrating its liberation.  Crowds swelled into the main thoroughfares, along which proudly marched detachments of the Resistance--from the Vercors, from Chartreuse, from all the mountains around Grenoble.

        By 14h00 most of Andrews' 3rd Battalion had reached the city.  Adams conferred with Commandant Le Ray about the possibility of a German counterattack.  Adams' resources were pitifully thin, and the maquisards were poorly armed, but together they established road-blocks on the main roads out of Grenoble, northwest toward Lyon and northeast where the road led toward the Franco-Italian frontier.  Just east of Grenoble, at Gières, Adams placed a platoon reinforced with FFI.  He could only hope that his other battalion, coming up the Gap-Grenoble road, would soon appear, but Frazior's 1st Battalion had not made rapid progress.  It encountered more German resistance than the 3rd.

         The German forces involved were the remnants of those who had participated in Operation Hoch-Sommer.  Units of the 157th Reserve Division had progressed some thirty miles up the Romanche/Eau d'Olle Valleys, on the eastern side of the 8,000-foot [3000 meters?] Belledonne chain, when word of the Allied invasion reached them.  They had been fighting principally against Sector I of Commandant LANVIN (André Lespiau), who has described the actions in detail in his book Liberté provisoire.  By the 21st, LANVIN had lost contact with the Germans and assumed that some had continued northeastward over the mountains into the Maurienne, which, since it leads to the Mont-Cenis pass, would permit withdrawal to Italy.  The others he assumed would be withdrawing down the Romanche Valley.

         As LANVIN and his FFI troops followed down the valley, they were hailed as liberators.  Some Germans had, in fact, retreated ahead of them, and in the morning of August 22, were reported moving along N91 between Séchilienne and Péage de Vizille, where the road crosses the Romanche.  Shortly after noon, an advance reconnaissance of Frazior's battalion made contact with the enemy.  Learning that Germans were up ahead, the 93rd Field Artillery, attached to the battalion, set up batteries at Laffrey and began to shell N91.  At this point, between 15h00 and 16h00, LANVIN located the Americans, meeting a lieutenant in charge of a small contingent of tanks and jeeps, about halfway between Séchilienne and the bridge.  LANVIN believed that the bombardment was doing more harm to civilians than it was to the Germans and requested a cease-fire.  The Americans agreed.  LANVIN was impressed by the rapid radio communication between the observation post and the battery.

LANVIN and the Americans planned a coordinated attack, directed against the Germans at the bridge over the Romanche, to commence at 17h00. One American company would circle around north and west of Vizille, with the other coming up from the south.  There was a misunderstanding, however, since the American movement began an hour earlier, and the FFI moved at 17:00.  Unfortunately, the maquisards came under the fire of the American battery, and there was some wild scrambling before the French were identified.  There was more confusion as the Americans moved north into Vizille, mixed up with the Germans, estimated as 500-600, withdrawing into the Chateau and its park.  In the end, the Germans surrendered.  The American report estimated 150 enemy casualties, and 150 prisoners, who were turned over to the FFI.  French reports mention 700 prisoners.

         The action at Vizille slowed the advance of the 1st Battalion, which was only able to reach Grenoble between 20:00 and 21:00 that evening, but it had developed real cooperation between the Americans and the FFI.  Colonel Adams later testified how helpful the French had been in pointing out areas where Germans still operated.  Adams recalled that a lot of maquisards attached themselves to Capt. Zerk O. Robertson's L company.  "He is a nice country-type fellow,"  Adams said, "brave as anything.  So, he had a company of Maquis as well . . . .I later got into a little bit of trouble over it, but I didn't mind it . . . because they were real helpful to us and fought alongside Robertson's company."

         Just as the 143rd Infantry (minus the 2nd Battalion) was getting organized in the city, with its command post at the Hotel Napoleon, Colonel Adams learned that his units were ordered to leave Grenoble and proceed to the Rhône where the rest of the 36th Division was trying to block the German retreat.. Consequently, General Eagles, commanding the 45th Division, ordered his179th Regiment to move into the Grenoble area as soon as possible.

         At dawn on the 23rd, the day following liberation, the first recon elements of the 179th's 1st Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Michael Davison, began entering the Grenoble area.  By the afternoon, the 3rd Battalion under Lt. Col. Philip Johnson had arrived, along with Colonel Harold Meyer, commander of the 179th, who set up his CP at the Hotel Suisse et de Bordeaux.

        Relations between the French and the 179th Regiment, which remained in Grenoble for four days, established a bond that lasted into the postwar years.  Colonel Adams had set a good precedent, fighting together with LANVIN's maquisards at Vizille and cooperating with Commandant Le Ray.  The exhilaration of the rejoicing populace was shared by the troops, which, to their pleased surprise, had faced no German panzers on their march north.

          By the 23rd, when Colonel Meyer relieved Adams, the city had somewhat settled down.  Meyer, who had taken over the 179th Regiment at Anzio only five months earlier, was delighted with the French.  He wrote his wife:

 "Every soldier and officer, to a man, loves the people of southern France.  There were throat lumps and tears for all of us from the uncouth, the unlettered, to the cultured as our convoys rolled through the villages, along country roads, and as we were greeted by a happy, courteous, dignified and proud people.

         Colonel Meyer was fortunate in the capable staff that supported him:  His much-more experienced deputy, Lt. Col. Preston Murphy (who had been acting commanding officer), cooperated with good grace and enthusiasm; his supply officer, Capt. Harlos V. Hatter, supervised the 300 km truck route to the beach so capably that the regiment never had to "pull its punches for lack of ammunition."  The two battalion commanders at Grenoble would be affectionately remembered by the French: Colonel Davison would later destroy a troop of German panzers at Meximieux, where "Place Davison" now commemorates the town's liberation.

         Meyer's other battalion commander, Lt. Col. Philip Johnson, has been especially honored in Grenoble, almost as if he, not Meyer, held the regimental command, and as if he, not Adams, had liberated the city.  Johnson stands alone as the only American officer who is mentioned by name in the French accounts of Grenoble's liberation.  For example, Paul and Suzanne Sylvestre have written (in Chronique des Maquis de l'Isere, p. 331): "Les troupes du colonel Phil Johnson défilent dans ce qui deviendra le cours de la Libération, fleuris, adulés, fêtés, lançant chewing -gum et cigarettes, avant de camper à l'Esplanade.  . . . cavalcade assez picaresque, joyeuse et décontractée . . ."  And Jean-Pierre Bernier, in Maquis Rhone-Alpes (103): "Le Ray-Bastide  s'installe à la Division tandis que les nouvelles autorités civiles, abandonnant leurs noms de guerre, se mettent en place au grand jour. Le commandant Reynier-Vauban devient le préfet de la Libération. Dans l'après-midi, les Américains du colonel Phil Johnson défilent sous les vivats."  Johnson, a veteran of World War I, had remained in France after the Armistice, and spoke French. In 1951 he was named chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the French government.  No doubt his knowledge of French and of France caused the Grenoblois to emphasize his actions more than those of the other American commanders.

        Soon after the liberation of Grenoble, Colonel Huet (HERVIEUX), the Vercors commander, established headquarters in the city. After the Vercors dispersal, the various commanders had hidden in the wooded western slopes of the Vercors and then, in early August, had gradually begun to regroup the survivors.  While Geyer (THIVOLLET) organized his 11th Cuirassiers in the Royans area between the Vercors and Romans, Huet established a command post at Tullins, about 20 km northwest of Grenoble.  He kept with him André Pecquet (PARAY), the American bilingual agent who had served as radio operator for the British EUCALYPTUS team in the Vercors.

        When Huet learned that American forces were arriving at Grenoble, he quickly moved, with Pecquet, from Tullins to the city.  Pecquet carried with him orders signed by General Caffey (on the staff of General Wilson, Supreme Commander for the Mediterranean), which affirmed in French and English: "Cet officier porteur des présentes est le représentant pleinement accredité du Commandment Suprême Interallié. Il a reçu pour instructions de se joindre partout où cela sera possible aux groupes de résistance pour poursuivre à leurs côtes contre l'invahisseur allemand une lutte que ne doit cesser qu'avec la libération de territoire français."

       On August 23  Pecquet reported to Meyer's CP in Grenoble and introduced Huet to the 179th Regiment commander.  Meyer and Huet became friends and thereafter shared a headquarters office with the sign:   "Colonel Meyer-179th, and Lieutenant Colonel Hervieux."  Pecquet became the official liaison officer.

        Although in fact liberated, Grenoble remained vulnerable to possible German counterattacks from the northwest and the east.  After consultation with Huet and Le Ray, Meyer reinforced the road-blocks, of which there were six encircling the city.  He assigned Colonel Davison's1st Battalion to look after the west along  N 92  leading  toward Romans) and the north, the rugged Chartreuse escarpment, which as Sector II had been the responsibility of Captain Lyautey de Colombe (LE BARBIER), whose command post was located at Voreppe, northwest of Grenoble.  Davison recalls that LE BARBIER (as he knew him) was wounded on a patrol toward Romans.  Davison ordered him into an ambulance, but the FFI leader persuaded the driver to drop him off at his home, rather than a hospital, so he could continue the fight.    

   A particularly vulnerable area, as far as a German counterattack was concerned, lay along N523, the road on the southern bank of the Isère, going east and northeast from Grenoble.  With numerous FFI in the slopes overlooking the road, the Germans would find it hard going to continue toward the Little St.-Bernard or into the Maurienne.  They  might, therefore, try to return and break through the city to the road leading northwest to Lyon.  Meyer had posted a road-block, consisting of an American platoon plus several hundred maquisards, at Gières. on the eastern outskirts, but it was not strong enough to repel a serious attack.

         Indications that the Germans would try to break through developed in the afternoon of August 23, the day following the liberation, when shells began to fall on Gières.  German forces were reported all along the road northeast of Grenoble, and Maquis groups in the mountains began planning ambushes.  About midnight the Germans attacked the road-block, overran it, and took a number of prisoners, including Lt. Clarence E. Coggins, commanding company A of the 179th Regiment.  Learning of the attack, the Americans rushed artillery to the east of town, and all day long on the 24th, an artillery duel developed between the Americans and the Germans.  The Germans, with a CP at Domène (about five km northeast of Gières), were grievously harassed.  They could not break through the line which Colonel Johnson was continually reinforcing, yet their escape route to Italy was rendered almost impossible by FFI harassment.

         Lieutenant Coggins later reported that German officers conferred with him several times during the afternoon, each time more courteous than they had been before.  Finally, around 17:00 they told him they wanted to discuss surrender terms.  Coggins was ready to go along with them, so he, a German officer, the mayor, and a nun, Sister Marie-Françoise of Assisi, drove with a white flag through the French and American lines to the Allied command post.  Huet recounts the episode:  [radio, le 20 avril 1954]

"L'officier allemand, raide, descend. 'Heil Hitler, je viens prendre les conditions de reddition. Vous êtes trop nombreux et trop forts. Nos hommes n'en peuvent plus. Ils sont mille, nos munitions ont sautés.' Tout à coup, il me jette un regard de haine. 'C'est aux Américains que je me rends, pas aux Français.'  Le Colonel Johnson me prend par le bras, me serre contre lui et réplique: 'Lui et moi, c'est la mème chose. Nous ne faisons qu'un. C'est à prendre ou à laisser.'

         By nightfall, the surrender had been arranged, and by dawn of the 25th, the thousand Germans were rounded up as prisoners.  FFI groups came down from the hills and rounded up stragglers along some thirty kilometers of highway.  With this surrender the threat of a counterattack from the northeast was ended.  It was now a matter of trying to destroy the Germans before they escaped entirely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 10       The 3rd Division to the Rhône

 

        Patch and a few officers on his staff knew from ULTRA that on August 18 Hitler had ordered the withdrawal (except for the two divisions in Toulon and Marseille) of all German units in southern France.  Patch certainly realized that de Lattre, responsible for the two port cities, would encounter strong resistance, but he could anticipate that the three American divisions of Truscott's VI Corps would face rear guard defenses rather than a vigorous counteroffensive. In any case, Truscott urged O'Daniel and Eagles to drive as rapidly as possible to the west.

       There would be three thrusts from the beachhead to the Rhône. First, de Lattre's First French Army (technically Army B) would fight its way along the coast, capturing the ports and continuing on to Arles, Montpellier, and Toulouse.

        Next, north of the French, Truscott sent "Mike" O'Daniel's 3rd Division, with its 7th, 15th, and 30th Regiments, along the principal highway, N7, which connects the Riviera resorts of Cannes and Nice with Aix-en-Provence and then follows the Rhá"áne valley northward.  Parallel to the 3rd Division thrust, about twenty miles north, run secondary roads through hilly country, which Eagle's 45th Division--157th, 179th, and 180th Regiments--would  cover, protecting the 3rd Division's flank.  Truscott  controlled the French "cavalry" unit, Combat Command Sudre, which moved rapidly along the secondary roads.  Farther north lay the Valensole Plateau, immediate objective of Task Force Butler, behind which followed Dahlquist's 36th Division.

          Patch received the German retreat order via ULTRA about the same time, August 18, as General Blaskowitz, commanding the German Army Group G, and General Wiese, in command of the Nineteenth Army, obtained the message through their own channels.  By the 18th, the German high command could assume that the principal Allied thrust would come from the St.-Raphael--St.-Tropez beachhead, headed for the Rhône.  Wiese had to form defensive positions hastily along a line hinged on Toulon and running straight north to Brignoles on N7 and to Barjols in the undulating wooded country twelve miles farther north.  He assigned Kampfgruppe von Schwerin to be in charge of these defenses at the time of the landings.  Wiese's strongest division, the 11th Panzer, stationed in Toulouse, had already started to cross the Rhône and would be joined by the 198th Division, but neither could move rapidly enough to defend Brignoles and Barjols, which were left to Schwerin and to elements of the 242nd Division, already in the area.

        Following the basic strategic plan for use of the French Resistance, SPOC might logically have sent agents, Jedburgh teams, and OGs into the highlands north of the bridgehead to do what they could, in cooperation with the local Maquis, to harass German reinforcements of the strongholds.

         Only one team, however, was sent to that part of the western Var that might have vitally impeded German defenses.  This was Jedburgh team CINNAMON, that included a British officer, Capt. R. Harcourt, and two Frenchmen, Capt. F.  Lespinasse-Fonsegrive (nom-de-guerre: Ferandon) and Sous-Lt. Jacques Morineau (nom-de-guerre: Morin).  They were dropped on August 13, two days before the invasion, at a point between Barjols and St.-Maximin just west of the anticipated German defense line.  This team was to make contact with the British SOE agent, Major Boiteux (FIRMIN), head of the GARDENER circuit, which coordinated Resistance groups in the Marseille area.  They were also to work with Colonel Lelaquet, ORA Chief for the Var Department.

         The team was plagued with misfortune.  As Lt. Col.Gouzy later reported:  "Malheureusement le capitaine Harcourt s'est cassé les deux jambes. Le transport et le camouflage de cet officer avant l'action, alors que l'ennemi circulait librement dans notre secteur, souleva des problèmes énormes. Il faut croire que le blessé fut bien soigné parmi nous, car lors de notre prise de contact avec les troupes alliées, il fut transporté dans un bloc américain; mail il a demandé à revenir parmi nous, ce que fut fait à sa grande satisfaction."

          Although the team could not locate Lelaquet,  Captain Lespinasse-Fonsegrive finally made contact with Colonel Gouzy, ORA chief for the western part of the Var Department, and also with Lieutenant Galvain, chief of staff for the Var FFI.

            There were few Maquis in western Var, and many members of the Resistance who had suffered reprisals after June 6 were loathe to take arms until they were certain that the landings had taken place.  Nevertheless, once word of the fighting at the beachhead reached the western Var leaders, they rapidly began to organize small groups in order to harass the Germans. Realizing that Brignoles and Barjols held key positions for the German defense, the FFI tried to ambush and interfere with German reinforcements going to those points.

            On August 18 O'Daniel's 3rd Divison and Eagles' 45th ran into serious resistance from German artillery and mortars trying to hold Brignoles and Barjols. The full strength of Col. Lionel McGarr's 30th Infantry Regiment (3rd Division), 3,000 men with tanks and artillery, took up positions around Brignoles.

          Farther north, at Barjols, which is surrounded by hills, Colonel Meyer, commanding the 45th Division's 179th Regiment, deployed two battalions.  There was genuine cooperation between Americans and Maquis.  Reports had reached the 179th  that partisans were already engaged with 300 Germans.  The guerrillas had made contact with another American regiment (the 157th) of the 45th Division, which coming from Salernes, was by-passing Barjols to the north, and heading toward Varages.  The 157th had already sent company C to Aups, five miles north of Salernes, to help an FFI group that was fighting the German garrison.  Behind the 179th's positions at Barjols, 11 km to their rear--at Cotignac--enemy mortar fire was threatening their line of communications.

Colonel Gouzy reported on the operation in his area, and recounted a situation that unfortunately sometimes occurred.

"18 August.  Varages.  Established Command Post . . . formed a guerrilla group under the command of Lieutenant GALVAIN.  3 P.M. open fire.  Germans surprised.  4  German mortars firing on us.  We continue firing with guns and grenades.  The enemy breaks off and retreats.  We are held down by the American bombardment.  Our guerrilla groups retreat covered by the fire of the others."

           By evening of the 18th, Colonel Meyer was prepared for an all-out assault on Barjols the next day.  The FFI was ready to help.  They swarmed around the regimental CP.  Captain Dean, S-2, began organizing a combat group, incorporating guerrillas with a 3rd Battalion rifle company, to go back to Cotignac to mop up the German remnants.  At Cotignac they took eight prisoners, bringing the total in that area to 204.  The FFI had already been harassing the German elements around Barjols, at one point taking as prisoners three Poles who said they had gone without food for three days because of guerrilla ambushes and Allied air raids.

            In the course of August 19, the 179th, helped by two battalions from the 157th, overwhelmed the German garrison trying to hold Barjols.  The two American regiments then hastened westward, passing through Varages and Rians, with advance units as far as the Durance River by nightfall.  Meanwhile, the 180th Regiment, which had been held in reserve, moved up to Rians, about fifteen miles west of Barjols.  Thus, in two days, the 45th Division moved its three regiments about 50 miles through the German defensive lines, and now massed the power of some 9,000 men, backed by tanks, tank destroyers, 105-mm. howitzers, and a truck supply system ferrying gasoline, ammunition, and food from the beachhead over 100 miles of roads, some of them winding through very hilly terrain.

            Where possible, the Maquis helped the regular troops, and the Allies helped the French guerrillas.  With its desire to reach the main body of the German Nineteenth Army at the Rhone, the American force by-passed many German garrisons in smaller towns.  Some of these Germans wandered about, trying to surrender; others attempted to rejoin their companions over the back roads; some held fast in the towns.  The Maquis did yeoman work in flushing out these isolated units, in guarding prisoners, in establishing road-blocks, and in getting information to the American commanders.

The guerrilla forces under Colonel Gouzy moved to Varages, a few miles north of Barjols, and for the next few days, they mopped up German troops stranded in the area.  On August 20, the 179th Regiment picked up a message from Colonel Gouzy:

             I am at Varages.  Learned that sizeable detachment of Germans is on road        Varages--Brue.  They are from Barjols. . . .  An officer of the American M.P.'s for        Varages is with us.  3

 

Because the 179th, after capturing Barjols on the 19th, had assembled just west of the road connecting Barjols and Varages (they are about five miles apart), it was a simple matter for the 179th to send a reinforced company to the area designated.  They captured over one hundred enemy stragglers<197>mostly Poles.

            A few miles to the south, on August 19, 30th Infantry (3rd Division) assaulted Brignoles and virtually destroyed those elements of the German 757th Regiment that were trying to hold this key town.  Meanwhile, the two members of the CINNAMON team, with two dozen <MI>maquisards<D>, moved on to St.-Maximin, still held by the Germans.  But in the course of the day, Sudre's First French Combat Command, together with the 30th Regiment, broke the German defenses and moved rapidly on to the west.

By taking Brignoles, St.-Maximin, Barjols, and Rians, the Seventh Army had now gained control of the north<196>south roads whereby the Germans could reinforce Toulon, the first major objective of de Lattre's Army B.  While the French forces would lay siege to Toulon and Marseille, it would be the task of the 3rd and 45th American Divisions to complete protection of the French flank by taking Aix-en-Provence and getting control of the Rhone.  By nightfall on August 20, the 30th Regiment had reached the outskirts of Aix, with the 15th in control of route N96, which goes from Aix in a southeasterly direction toward the sea.

 

 

 THE VAUCLUSE DEPARTMENT

 

By August 19, the 157th Regimental Combat Team (45th Division) was pressing ahead toward the Durance River, the level valley of which, south of the Luberon mountains, serves as the natural direct route to Avignon and the Rhone.  The bridge over the Durance at Mirabeau, though damaged, permitted foot soldiers across, and some patrols of the 1st Battalion, encountering no enemy, reached the north bank during the 20th.  In crossing the river, the Americans moved from the Var Department to the Vaucluse, the prefectural seat of which was the celebrated old city of Avignon, resting on the Rhone, dominated by the great 14th-century Palace of the Popes.  Within the Vaucluse boundaries, fifty miles north rises majestic Mont Ventoux, surrounded by a vast plateau that harbored innumerable Maquis, well-armed and waiting for American tanks and howitzers to support them.

In this region, about 1,000 Maquis forces aligned themselves under the leadership of Lt. Col. Philippe Beyne, a former tax collector and officer of the Colmar 152nd Infantry, who with his deputy Max Fischer, had organized the Maquis Ventoux into groups that could be counted among the best equipped and best trained of the Vaucluse Department.<M^>4<D>  One of the inter-allied missions, headed by Cdt. Gonzague Corbin de Mangoux and Maj. John Goldsmith, had been dispatched in July to the Vaucluse to improve coordination between Beyne, as head of the Ventoux FFI, and the FTP and <MI>Groupes Francs<D> in the area.  Among the latter was one of Cammaert's units, centered at St.-Christol and led by an able dental surgeon from Avignon, Louis Malarte.<M^>5<D>

The first member of the mission, the Frenchman Corbin de Mangoux (code named AMICT) had come in by Lysander on July 12, landing at the Spitfire strip south of Sault where he was received by the SAP officer ARCHIDUC (Camille Rayon), known generally among the Resistance as Jean-Pierre, or simply J-P.  (This landing strip is the same from which Zeller departed on August 2.)

Goldsmith was parachuted in a week later, on July 19, together with a Canadian officer, Maj. Paul Emile Labelle, and two Frenchmen, Robert Boucart and Rená,á Há,ábert.  (A radio operator had been dropped earlier.)  The Frenchmen were soon incorporated into Beyne's forces, while Goldsmith remained with ARCHIDUC, whose activities he has described in colorful postwar memoirs.<M^>6<D>

            While the Vaucluse mission worked with Beyne and other Maquis on the plateau, the German Nineteenth Army Command, then operating out of Avignon, scarcely ten miles from the plateau's edge, decided to send a punitive detachment toward Sault, known to be Beyne's command post.  The Germans needed supplies, and they had to keep open a route across the plateau north of Mont Ventoux in case the southern roads were lost.  A series of attacks along the road north of Apt was carried out starting on August 4 by some 400 Germans of a motorized transmission unit, KNA 485.  They were repulsed, dangerously close to the Spitfire landing strip, but reformed on the 7th and, breaking through the Maquis defenses, ultimately occupied Sault and ten miles beyond, Montbrun-les-Bains.

            In gaining control of the road from Apt to Sault, German patrols passed within a few hundred yards of Spitfire.  With a dangerous situation developing on the plateau, Goldsmith returned to Algiers on August 12, to report on what he had experienced.<M^>7<D>

            About five miles east of Spitfire, ARCHIDUC operated a Drop Zone, Armature, near Lagarde.  Although, because of the rocky terrain, Armature should have served only as a reception field for containers, SPOC kept sending teams into that area.  True, Commandant Rayon<197>ARCHIDUC<197>controlled very efficient crews at both sites, and Colonel Constans, when he first arrived in France, maintained his command post at Lagarde; nevertheless, since the Germans now kept a contingent at Sault, operations on the Vaucluse Plateau had become somewhat precarious.  When the Germans threatened nearby St.-Christol, some the <MI>maquisards<D> felt they should withdraw, and indeed, Constans moved his headquarters a few miles east, to the Maquis of the 10th FTP company, in rugged hills between Cá,áreste and Vachá_áres.<M^>8<D>

            Before he left Lagarde, however, two more Jedburgh teams came in.  The first, CITROEN, included two Englishmen, Capt. J. E. Smallwood and Sgt. F. A. Bailey, together with a Frenchman, Capt. Rená,á Alcá,áe.  During the night of August 13<196>14, they landed on the rough ground at Armature without mishap, were received by ARCHIDUC, and met Constans and Widmer.  Some time later, a second unexpected Jedburgh team, MONOCLE, dropped seemingly out of nowhere.  This group was made up of a Frenchman, Capt. J. Tosel, and two Americans, Lt. Ray Foster and Sgt. Robert Anderson, both from Minneapolis.  MONOCLE had been ordered to the Drá"áme, where they would obtain further instructions from the FFI chief, de Lassus.  They moved up to Crest on the 16th, the day after the landings took place far to the southeast.<M^>9<D>

Smallwood's CITROEN group, scheduled to remain in the Vaucluse, shortly met Commandant Beyne and proceeded to his CP at Sault, where they met the Canadian Major Labelle, of the Goldsmith mission, now serving under Beyne as a technical counselor.  Beyne assigned the Jedburghs to two <MI>Corps Franc<D> companies, commanded by Cammaerts' friend Louis Malarte (PAULO), which were to cover the right (northern) bank of the Durance River in the important sector between Manosque and Pertuis.  This sector lies between the Montagne Ste.-Victoire, so beloved of the painter Cá,ázanne, on the south and the Luberon mountain chain on the northern side of the river.  If the Germans sought to follow the Durance northeast from Aix, they would come this way; if the Allies, landing on the Riviera beaches, wished to drive toward the Rhone, they would logically try to control the Durance Valley.  Shortly after word of the landings reached them, CITROEN and the two Maquis companies established a command post at La Bastide-des-Jourdans, in the Luberon hills about ten miles north of the Durance River, and just a few miles from the line separating the Vaucluse and the Var Departments.  There they awaited news of the Allied advance.

            The departmental boundary held no meaning for the Americans, but it played a part in the actions of GRAHAM and CITROEN, the two Jedburgh teams in the area.  Maj. M. G. M. "Bing" Crosby, of the Gordon Highlanders, and his French colleague, Captain Gouvet, of GRAHAM, had landed at Spitfire in the Dakota which had brought in Colonel Constans.  Crosby, who like Havard Gunn wore the kilts of his regiment whenever feasible, had been deputy president of the Jedburgh Selection Board in England and a company commander at Milton Hall (where the Jeds trained) before coming to Algiers.  It was ironic that a person so involved in the program reached the field only four days before the invasion, and even more ironic that his area should have been overrun within a week.  It was also ironic that French departmentalism should have affected his mission.<M^>10<D>

            Crosby and Gouvet (without the third member, who was to join later) had been assigned to the Basses-Alpes, although their orders permitted a wider range if appropriate.  Nevertheless, Colonel Constans confirmed the assignment at Spitfire (which is in the Vaucluse), and shortly after landing, the two GRAHAM team members went to a Maquis near Cá,áreste, just over the departmental line.  It was understood that they should work in cooperation with the Basses-Alpes FFI chief, Georges Bonnaire (NOEL), who happened to be a Communist and not over-enthusiastic about British missions.  Also, like many FTP officers, he was especially interested in liberating the prefectural seat, in this case Digne, in the eastern part of the department.  Crosby did not get along with Bonnaire, whom he categorized as hating action, more interested in parades and military reviews than real work.  On the 19th, when both Crosby and Bonnaire saw Butler at Sisteron, they reached a mutual agreement that Crosby should devote himself to the western part of the department, which would leave Bonnaire to concentrate on Digne.  Because Digne was liberated that same day, Bonnaire could feel that for him the task of departmental  FFI chief had been for the most part successfully concluded, since no German forces, except at the Larche pass, remained in the Basses-Alpes.

            Crosby, however, received reports that Germans had occupied Apt, in the Vaucluse Department, but only ten miles west of Cá,áreste, where he already had made good contacts with the FFI leaders in the area.  Knowing by this time that American forces were pushing west, he alerted the Maquis<197>numbering about six hundred<197>to a possible attack on Apt.  During the 21st, on a reconnaissance around Apt, he ran into several Americans on a jeep patrol, from the 157th Regiment's 1st Battalion, at this time just south of the Luberon mountains.  The battalion coed by Louis Malarte, possessed a good quantity of arms and was eager for action.  11

            Smallwood had met the commander of the American battalion when the Americans crossed the Durance and had accompanied him on a patrol toward Cadenet, where a German rear guard with tanks was blocking the road.  A skirmish involving the FFI produced an extraordinary heroic act.  Smallwood recalled that the tanks came “rumbling down the street at us and we beat a hasty retreat.  One of these tanks was knocked out by a man from the FTP who slipped a grenade through the visor into the tank, killing the entire crew. The American colonel unpinned his decorations from his own jacket and awarded them to the maquisard.”  The German column turned back.

            On August 22, Crosby and the 600 FFI from Céreste moved to the outskirts of Apt and waited for the Americans. Smallwood and Alcée came up from the south with a miscellaneous group of maquisards and undertook to block the roads leading north and west from Apt. When the American detachment showed up on the morning of the 22nd, there were inordinate delays which frustrated the FFI and the Jedburghs. The Americans were not ready to attack immediately but insisted on surveying the situation. Thus the element of surprise was lost and the German rear guard, observing that they were outnumberd, quietly withdrew. By late afternoon, Apt had been liberated.  GRAHAM and CITROEN had the satisfaction of having contributed to the victory, and of helping to bring about the cooperation of FFI and regular Allied troops.

            The Germans were continuing their retreat, and General Wiese hoped especially to hold the strategic gap at Orgon, where the Durance flows toward Avignon. He began to pull his small units out of the vast Vaucluse Plateau, reassigning them to protect N7, the major route north. He also wanted to keep open the departmental D938, a few miles farther east, that runs along the foothills from Cavaillon to Carpentras, and then through Vaison to Nyons.

            It was this latter route that Colonel Beyne believed he could block with the Maquis Ventoux. On August 20 he had ordered his men down to the plain, where they took up positions around Malaucène, rough country ideal for ambushes, between Carpentras and Vaison.  They were successful in blocking the road, forcing the Germans to use the Rhône passage--N7--and alternative routes to Nyons.   14

            By the 23rd, both Wiese and Truscott were revising their strategies.  For Truscott, the success of Task Force Butler in reaching the Rhone between Montelimar and Loriol presented him with the possibility of cutting off the German retreat.  He knew, of course, from ULTRA and tactical intelligence, that the German Nineteenth Army would continue to fall back; he knew also that as more and more of de Lattre's regular French divisions came ashore he could count on them for pursuit of the enemy rear guard.  Accordingly, he decided to pull Eagle's 45th Division out of the pursuit and, by sending it north, use it to reinforce or relieve the 36th Division.  O'Daniel's 3rd Division, in the process of being relieved by de Lattre, would take over the pursuit north and south of the Luberon mountains, with Avignon as the immediate objective.<M^>15<D>

            General Wiese also appreciated the dangers of being forced to push his entire army through the narrow defile north of Montelimar.  In consultation with General Kniess, commanding the LXXXV Corps, he decided to rush his 198th Division from the rear guard defense around Avignon to Montelimar, with his lone armored division, the 11th Panzer, protecting his flank.  By August 21, the first formidable Mark III and Mark IV tanks had arrived east of the Rhone, and in the days to come, they would prove themselves a virtually impenetrable barrier along the Nineteenth Army's eastern flank.  Von Wietersheim, commanding the armored division, was ordered to guard a line about 25 miles east of the Rhone: Vaison, Nyons, and Crest.  The unexpected encounter of a patrol to Crest with Task Force Butler elements surprised both parties.<M^>16<D>

            The U.S. Seventh Army also moved with great rapidity, and the units of the 3rd Division soon swept through the Vaucluse Department.  On the 24th, the Germans pulled out of Avignon, the department's administrative center.  With the arrival of the American units, the Jedburghs' work came quickly to an end.  Crosby, of GRAHAM, assigned to the Basses-Alpes, went back to Barcelonnette, carried out a hazardous patrol in the Larche area, and returned to find that the regulars<197>Sach's 550th Battalion<197>had taken over.  The CITROEN team, Smallwood and Alcá,áe, with FFI companies under Vincenzini and Malarte, reconnoitered ahead of the 7th RCT's 2nd Battalion, along the road to Avignon, which they entered on August 25 about an hour before the regiment.

            The liberation of Avignon, prefectural seat of the Vaucluse, called for great rejoicing.  The Departmental Liberation Committee took over, and Colonel Beyne, FFI Chief, with Juan as deputy, established his FFI headquarters in the city.  Regular French and regular American troops met there on the same day.  The French now had the mission of crossing the Rhône (all bridges having been destroyed), wiping up a vast sector to the south, and pursuing the Germans up the Rhône's western bank.  The American 3rd Division would chase the Nineteenth Army, which was now more concerned with developments at Montélimar than with the pressure in the Vaucluse.

            The FFI and the CITROEN team pressed ahead a little too vigorously.  Only stopping for lunch in Avignon, they ran into trouble about ten miles north, at Courthézon, not far from the celebrated vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape:

 

            We were trapped in an ambush and badly shot up.  The autobus in which our    patrol was travelling was fired and blown up with a hit on the 300 kilos of plastic    lying in the baggage compartment.  The defense of Courthezon was taken over by             an American column [2nd Bn, 7th Regiment, 3rd Divison].

             Commandant Alcée sent out several patrols and captured three Germans.  He was       kept busy with the need to maintain peace between the men of the FTP and the      FFI who were at each other's throats most of the time over their political             differences.  His own troops bothered him much more than did those of the        enemy.  17

 

The Germans were attempting to hold the road between Courthézon and Vaison, guarding one of the ways to Nyons.  On the same day that Avignon was liberated, some patrols of the American 7th Infantry came over the Vaucluse Plateau to the north of Mont Ventoux, and others followed the 2nd Battalion toward Orange. On the next day, August 26, the entire 3rd Division controlled a sector from the Rhône at Orange to the hill country twenty miles to the east, and was rushing on, six battalions abreast, to Montélimar and Nyons.

 

 

 

Chapter  11      Task Force Butler to the Rhône

 

            Five days after the landings, General Patch's strategy was proving to be more effective than anticipated.  The primary Allied objective, to seize the ports of Toulon and Marseille, was being achieved by de Lattre's army.  The danger of those seaports being reinforced was minimal, a fact that Patch knew from ULTRA and from situation reports.  All evidence pointed to the fact that the Germans were pulling back to a defensive line around Avignon. Confronted only by enemy holding actions, Patch felt confidant that the French could control the seacoast, and that the11th Panzer Division, currently crossing the Rhône, would play no more than a defensive role.  He knew from local Intelligence that the destruction of bridges was already hampering the German retreat.  The bridges over the Rhône and its tributaries in the fortnight before D Day had become major targets for Allied planes and members of the Resistance.

          Of enormous importance for ANVIL were the bridges over the Drôme River between Crest and the confluence, near Loriol and Livron, where it joins the Rhône.  Two major bridges spanned the Drôme in this area, a railway bridge and the vehicular bridge on N7, the principal route for a German withdrawal from the southeast.

         On August 13, waves of heavy bombers struck at a railway bridge at Crest, but unhappily caused more damage to the town and its population  than to the bridge.  On D + 1, August 16, bombers flew in again and this time inflicted serious damage on the railway bridge at Livron.

        The highway bridge was left to the Resistance.  Back in July, Commandant de Lassus had consulted with one of his capable subordinates, Henri Faure, head of SAP for the Drôme and Ardèche Departments, whom he charged with responsibility for blowing the bridge when ordered.  On D-Day, de Lassus gave Faure the green light; he also ordered Captain Pons, comanding the 10th Company (Buckmaster-Roger)  to put two smaller bridges near Crest out of action.

         Faure gathered a large amount of explosives which he kept hidden.  (To Christine:  you might use the terms use by Faure in his report: "J'avais réuni une grande quantité d'explosifs que Pierre Chabanne avait enterrés à sa ferme de Soulier." See "Pour l'amour de la France"  379 et les pages suivantes)  On the night of 16 August, he posted half a dozen men with machine guns at each end of the bridge while the rest of his 20-man commando sneaked past the German guard and quietly set their charges.  Fortunately for the guerrillas, the Germans had posted no sentries but remained inside a shack with the blinds closed.  By one o'clock in the morning, the plastic had been set in place.  Faure lit the fuses and led his men away from the bridge.  Half an hour later, a violent blast shattered the southern arch, leaving a gap of 27 meters, more than the German engineers could span with temporary girders.

         Destruction of the bridge caused an enormous traffic jam of German vehicles that, because of Hitler's retreat order, were beginning to rumble northward on N7.  The Germans tried to place planks on the railway bridge, and they began to construct fords in the Drôme, which in summertime sometimes, if rainfall is slight, becomes quite shallow.  Some tanks could cross, but lighter vehicles bogged down.  Three days later, when Task Force Butler's first artillery reached Crest, the shells that poured down on the retreating columns turned the bottleneck area into a cauldron of blood and destruction.  The damage might have been even heavier except for the almost impossible task of ferrying gasoline and ammunition over mountainous roads from a beachhead 400 km away

          It was not until the evening of August 20 that General Butler received an official command to leave Aspres and proceed along N93 to the Rhône.  He immediately ordered the 117th Cavalry to move.  Anticipating that they would be leading their troops to the west, Capt. John L. Wood, commanding Troop B, and Capt. William E. Nugent of Troop C drove to Crest, on August 20.  They found no Germans along this important artery.  Butler has left his own impression of the road:

        "The route lay over a formidable mountain range with a twisting road cut into the side of the cliffs.  Movement off the road would have been impossible.  Our path could have been blocked in any one of scores of places, but no enemy action developed, nor had demolitions been executed.  Whether we have the Maquis to thank for this free open road I do not know, but open it was. . . .  I was horror-struck at the grade and nature of the road but all elements had made excellent time and none of the heavy vehicles had succumbed."

          At Crest, Wood and Nugent had no trouble in making contact with Captain Pons, whose men had been armed over the previous months with the help of Cammaerts.  Pons relates: "Le 19 août, vers 7 heures du matin, une Jeep arriva à mon P.C., amenant deux officiers qui, dirent-ils, venaient prendre contact avec moi.  Tous les hommes se précipitèrent. Les premiers soldats de l'armée américaine!  Cette première Jeep, autour de laquelle ils tournaient, leur paraissait un animal fabuleux longtemps rêvé. Ce premier contact, cette poignée de mains amicale, sans arrière-pensée, qui abolissait en une seconde quatre ans de combats dans l'ombre.  .. . . .

     'Quelle est la situation dans votre région?'

     Je dus très vite faire le point car, le lendemain, leurs propres troupes devaient arriver.

      'Depuis Barcelonnette nous n'avons pas tiré un seul coup de fusil. Les maquis étaient partout. Voyez-vous, commandant, c'est merveilleux. Tous les endroits qui pouvaient être dangereux nous ont été signalés ou avait été dégagés par les maquis avant notre passage. Quel temps nous avons gagné!' "      [Pons 21]

          Pons put them in touch with a resident of Crest, M. Hoffète, with whom they spent the night.  They were also quickly in touch with the recently promoted Colonel de Lassus, the Drôme commander, who designated one of his officers--actually a priest, Captain XAVIER (Lucien Fraisse)--to serve as liaison with the Americans.

          On the next morning, Wood's troopers, having left Aspres at first light, reached Crest around 9:00.  With guides provided by de Lassus, two platoons of Troop B headed south to Puy-St.-Martin, then southwest across the Marsanne Plain to the outskirts of Montélimar.  Between the plain and the Rhône River, the protective hills of the Marsanne forest extend to Savasse, about five kilometers north of the town.  As an FFI officer put it, "this is as far as we control things."

         The Resistance forces that would be most involved in the battle of Montélimar were those of the south Drôme's 4e Battalion, headed by Captain Bernard, who had taken over a reorganized command only two days before the Allied landings. The battalion, with headquarters near Marsanne, included about 1000 men and comprised five companies: 7th (Bonfils), 13th (Didio), 14th (Apostol), 17th (Vernier--known also as Vallières), a Corps Franc (Rives) and 8th in reserve (Rigaud--known also as Georges).

          Wood proceeded close enough to Montélimar to note that the perimeter was guarded by German road-blocks too strong for an attack.  He reported to Butler and withdrew to Savasse, along with the 13th and14th companies, awaiting reinforcement.

         The main body of Task Force Butler had meanwhile followed.  General Butler had consulted with FFI leaders, who explained to the Americans the tactics used by the German convoys traveling north on N7.  With the forces at his disposal, Butler could harass the German movement, and he could test the possibility of throwing road-blocks across the highway, but he could not attack in force.

         Butler established his CP near Marsanne, nestled in the eastern slope of wooded hills about halfway between Montélimar and the Drôme River.  From there, as he waited for the 36th Division to reinforce his widely dispersed units, he sought ways and means of accomplishing his mission:  denying N7 to the enemy.

        To the north, he had Nugent's C Troop carry out a reconnaissance along the north side of the Drôme toward Livron.  This was the area assigned to Pons' company, which had been regularly ambushing and attacking German traffic on N7.  At this time, several days before the German rear guard reached the Drôme, the retreat was disorganized and erratic--sometimes a car, sometimes a convoy of trucks, horse-drawn wagons, individuals on foot and on bicycles.

          Knowing that the Americans would soon be coming, Pons and his captains, Fié, Antoine, and Didelet, carried out raids on 20 August, both south and north of the Drôme, destroying trucks and soldiers.  At dawn, Didelet, only thirty meters from the road, knocked out three German cars with his machine gun.  Luckily he escaped back into the woods with no casualties.

           Encouraged by this raid, Pons decided on a daylight attack with several hundred maquisards toward Fiancey, about eight km north of the Drôme.  By 14h30 he had hidden his men in the orchards and small hills facing the town.  An hour later, the company struck a convoy of twenty German trucks, hitting them with salvos from a bazooka, six machine guns, and small-arms fire.  The attack played havoc with the Germans, but with their habitual resourcefulness, they quickly counterattacked, driving Pons' men back into whatever shelter they could find.  Struggling back to Allex, about eight km from N7, they were reinforced by some of Captain Bentrups' 6th company and Captain Chapoutat's 2nd company of about eighty men--which were in contact with platoons of Nugent's Troop C.

         Troop C had reached Crest shortly after 9:00, and Nugent had cautiously started west toward the Rhône, outposting one platoon to the north as protection for his right flank and reaching Allex with the other two.  He encountered no Germans.  If his actions seemed overly cautious to the French guerrillas, it should be remembered that Nugent was in completely strange country with only that information about the Germans he obtained from the FFI.  In describing their contact with the Americans, the French spoke of  "chars,"  but Nugent knew that his M8 armored cars, with their 37-mm. guns, were not tanks and would be excruciatingly vulnerable if faced by a German Mark V Panther.

         After considerable discussion with the French and checking by radio with Butler, Nugent and the FFI moved west, one platoon toward Livron and the other toward Fiancey.  With the earlier raid of Pons and the afternoon attack, the combined efforts left 50 to 60 enemy trucks destroyed.  However, with his cars and jeeps stretched out over fifteen km, Nugent prudently withdrew his units back to Crest for the night, leaving the maquisards to trudge back as best they could.  He reported to Butler, now at Marsanne, what he had observed.

         Meanwhile, Butler had been deploying his forces in order to hamper German traffic on N7.  He had the report from Captain Wood of Troop B that Montélimar was defended with road-blocks.  With the advice of FFI members, Butler placed his heaviest unit, an infantry battalion, at Condillac, in the forest about halfway between Marsanne and the Rhône, where the chateau served as an ideal CP.   From Condillac there is a long descent to N7, which runs at this point through the village of La Coucourde.  The Marsanne hills crowd the highway, the railroad, and the river into a passage less than a thousand meters wide, and on the farther side (in the Ardèche Department), a flat area permits only2000 meters of passage before hills rise steeply from the valley bottom.  The Germans retreating northward had to work their way through this pass or seek an alternate route across the Marsanne plain in the direction of Crest.  Butler knew he had to place an effective road-block at La Coucourde and throw a defensive line along the Roubion River which, flowing  from Manas westward to Montélimar, provides a natural barrier of 20 kilometers..

         To the north, Butler kept the 117th Cavalry's Troop C along the Drôme River, and he also heeded the recommendations of Captain Bernard, leader of the Drôme's 4th Battalion, to deploy the 117th's tanks and artillery in the hills north and east of Cliousclat, a few kilometers from Loriol.  Bernard assigned the Corps Franc along with his 7th and 8th companies as support to the American guns. From their hill position the assault guns found targets beyond belief among the German forces backed up into the flat ground for miles around the knocked-out Loriol bridge, but shortage of ammunition kept them from making full use of this opportunity.  While the Ameerican tanks laid down their barrages, the FFI carried out raids in the direction of N7.  

       On the evening of the 21st, Captain Pons' company had withdrawn to Crest, where the men tried to get some rest after their open fight with the enemy.  That night, an American officer took Pons by jeep to see General Butler.  A veteran of guerrilla warfare, Pons could hardly believe what he saw at the American CP:  "Nous nous trouvions au milieu d'une véritable mer de véhicules. Le général était absent. En attendant son arrivée, nous admirâmes, le mot n'est pas trop fort, les véhicules évoluant dans un silence absolu. Pas un choc, pas un cri. Chaque chauffeur semblait savoir, à un centimètre près, où se placer, et cependant il y avait là, dans cette plaine, des centaines et des centaines de véhicules de toutes sortes, qui évoluaient: camions, chars, auto-mitrailleuses, auto-canons, Jeeps, ambulances, artillerie tractée, etc.  J'avais connu l'armée française et vu l'armée allemande, mais quelle différence avec ce que j'avais sous les yeux."      [Pons 223]

          When Butler returned, he told Pons he was aware of the operation the French guerrillas had just carried out, and asked him to attack again the next day at the same place--Fiancey.  He promised armored support, and Pons with considerable hesitation agreed to assemble his men next morning at the same positions, ready for an attack by 14:00 that afternoon,the 22nd.

           Colonel de Lassus also discussed the situation with Butler that same evening.  Since Sisteron, Butler had continued to be in touch with the regional FFI commander, Colonel Constans, who had now established a CP east of Montélimar at Dieulefit.  Butler also had available Captain Leger, the French-speaking OSS representative of 4-SFU, who remained in touch with Constans as well as with Captain XAVIER (Father Lucien Fraise), the Jesuit liaison officer.  De Lassus had some doubts regarding FFI collaboration with the Americans, whose reliance on artillery, air strikes, and rapid motorized deployment facilitated by radio communication differed vastly from the hit-and-run guerrilla tactics his men were capable of.

          Nevertheless, on the 22nd, Pons deployed his men once more along the approaches of Fiancey, beyond the several wooded hills that might have provided cover.  Early in the afternoon, a convoy approached, but this time guarded by tanks--identified by Pons as Tigers--against which the embattled guerrillas had no recourse but to withdraw to the woods halfway back to Allex.  About 17:00, a platoon of Wood's Troop C hove into sight, began firing, and the Germans withdrew.  Wood set up defensive road-blocks around Allex but did not believe he had enough power to take offensive action.  There is nothing in the American records that suggests he had been ordered to coordinate an attack with Pons' company.  Fortunately, Pons was able to return to Crest with no men killed, although seven were seriously wounded.

           It was clear to Colonel de Lassus that there should be a better understanding between his forces and the American command.  He wrote to Pons: "Nous ne sommes pas à l'Entière Disposition des Américains, qui ont tendance à engager nos troupes comme l'infanterie d'une armée régulière. Vous ne dépendez que de vos chefs FFI. Mes ordres sont inchangés. Opérations offensives vers l'ouest en guérillas.  Je sais le beau combat que votre Compagnie a fait près de Fiancey. Au moment des récompenses, elle ne sera pas oubliée. Pour l'instant, nous sommes engagés dans une lutte dont peut dépendre l'avenir du pays. Malgré leur fatigue, renvoyez vos hommes en embuscade."

           De Lassus' criticism of Butler is justified.  In all his task force, Butler controlled only one battalion of infantry and he desperately needed more.  Learning of the withdrawal at Fiancey, Butler despatched an urgent message to Dahlquist, whose 36th Division was supposed to reinforce him:  "French infantry support proving absolutely unsatisfactory.  Request one battalion infantry by motor without delay." When one recalls that Butler, with an American battalion and field artillery concentrated on la Coucourde, could not keep a road-block there because of German counterattacks, one has to place his criticism in context.  If the super-armed Americans could not stand up against German Mark V Panthers, what could be expected of French guerrillas with Bren guns and an occasional bazooka?  So urgent did Butler find the need for infantry, he even brought his engineer company into the line with results so disastrous he was severely criticized (in postwar unpublished memoirs) by Colonel Hodge, commander of the 117th Cavalry, then serving on Butler's staff.

          On the previous evening, August 21, having been relieved at Gap, Captain Piddington brought his Troop A into the new battleground.  On the 20th, reinforced by a mini-task force of Sherman tanks and tank destroyers, he assumed responsibility for guarding the north bank of the Roubion River, a stretch of about 12 km between Manas in the east and Sauzet on the west.  For a cavalry troop of 125 men with a handful of armored cars and jeeps, together with six tanks and two tank destroyers, this meant small patrols with large gaps in the line.  Piddington had the assistance of several hundred maquisards from Captain Bernard's 4th Battalion of FFI.

         What neither Butler nor Piddington knew was that General von Wietersheim's formidable11th Panzer Division, charged with the defense of the Nineteenth Army's flank, was carrying out reconnaissance missions, probing Allied positions along a 150 km stretch.  The most northern patrols had actually crossed the Roubion and, before Piddington deployed his units, had penetrated beyond Puy-St.-Martin in the direction of Crest.  This fluid situation was well attested to by Captain Dominique Hepp (HENNEQUIN), parachuted into the Drôme as head of an Equipe d'Encadrement: "Avec mon chauffeur Popaul, je revenais à mon PC suivi par une Jeep de l'E. M. du général Butler, occupée par un officier américain et son chauffeur.  A Puy-Saint-Martin, pris entre le feu des FFI placés sur les hauteurs et celui d'une colonne de Panzer qui arrive, nous devons abandonner nos véhicules criblés de balles. . . . Après nous avoir fait prisonniers, les Allemands décident de nous fusiller tous les quatre .  . . . Le péloton d'exécution est en place lorsqu'un char, destroyer, américain tire sur le village, semant la panique chez les Allemands.  . . .L'officier qui allait commander notre exécution nous fait monter dans une grand voiture 'Viva, grand sport.'  La colonne allemande reflue alors vers la Bégude (et nous avec elle) .   . . .

        Les Allemands avaient volé du vin rouge. . . .Nos têtes reposent sur les bouteilles couchées à l'arrière de la voiture lorsqu'une balle de mitrailleuse U.S. les traverse. Nous sommes aspergés. Le feldewebel, prenant ce vin pour du sang, relâche sa surveillance. Je fais alors signe à Popaul qu'il faudra sauter et l'explique en anglais aux Américains mais ceux-ci refusent, confiants en l'application de la convention de Genève qui oblige à respecter les prisonniers.  Le lendemain on trouva les corps de nos deux amis tués d'une balle dans la nuque, malgré leur uniforme de l'armée américaine."              [Drôme history, 425-26]

 

The 36th Division arrives

 

          The first elements of the 36th Division did not begin to enter the battle zone until the afternoon of 22 August.  Until the 36th's commanding officer would come on to the scene the following day, Butler remained in charge. The first unit of the 36th to arrive, the141st Regiment's 2nd Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. James Critchfield, was ordered by  Butler  south to the hills around Savasse to reinforce Troop B and the FFI.  For the next two days, Critchfield's men tried to attack toward Montélimar but were thrown back by elements of the11th Panzer Division.

         In the hard-hitting duel between tanks and artillery around Savasse and in the Marsanne forest at Cliousclat, neither the 117th Cavalry troopers nor the FFI could bring much to bear. Nevertheless, they did their best.  On 23 August, the 7th Company  commander, Bonfils, carried out under heavy fire a reconnaissance on N 7 and brought back  intelligence which enabled American tanks to enfilade and destroy numerous vehicles.  A second patrol farther north sent information to battalion HQ which, by means of the GIP-radio given to Captain Bernard, alerted the American artillery to potential targets..

         On the 23rd, General Dahlquist and the remaining battalions of the 141st Regiment had arrived in the battle zone.  Dahlquist had been given a hard time by Truscott who, hoping to cut off the Germans at the Drôme, blamed him for dispersing his forces and not moving them rapidly enough to Crest. 

         In actual fact, considering the availability of trucks and fuel, the 141st Regiment had moved as fast as it possibly could.  Truscott had conferred with Col. John W. Harmony, the capable and highly esteemed commander of the141st, on the road to Aspres and, in Dahlquist's absence, ordered the 141st to Montélimar. By nightfall the 141st had already engaged the enemy.

         On arriving in the battle zone, General Dahlquist told General Butler to maintain his dispositions until he became oriented.  Taking over in the afternoon of 23 August, Dahlquist set up his CP near Marsanne but next day moved  to La Répara about eight km south of Crest. 

         By this time, Truscott had decided to throw the entire 36th Division into the Montélimar battle, while Butler's Task Force would be dissolved but held in reserve.  The 141st Regiment, already in place, would try to block highway 7 north of Montélimar, especially at the narrow passage south of La Coucourde.  The 142nd, coming in from the Nyons road to the southeast, would take over a defensive line along the Roubion River.  As to the 143rd, the 2nd Battalion already made up part of Task Force Butler, while the other two had just occupied Grenoble.  Truscott decided to send the 179th Regiment (45th Division) up to Grenoble to relieve the 143rd Regiment, which would in turn then come back southwest to the battle area.  This caused logistical strains, but had the advantage of enabling the Texas Division (the 36th) to fight together as one unit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 12       Montélimar and Valence

 

          When General Truscott ordered Colonel Adams, whose two battalions were in Grenoble, to join the rest of the 36th Division, a new attack possibility opened up.  The shortest route from Grenoble to Montélimar follows the Isère Valley to the Rhône, and then joins N7 at Valence.  Valence, a major objective of the politically minded Resistance, stood directly in the way of Truscott's effort to reach Lyon.  Dahlquist wondered whether Adams' two battalions, cooperating with de Lassus, whose FFI controlled the feeder roads to the east, could take Valence from the Germans and place a block across N7.

         A few kilometers northeast of Valence, on the Isère River's northern bank, lies the town of Romans and, on the south bank, Bourg-de-Péage.  Another fifteen km to the east, in the Vercors foothills, stretches the Royans area where Commandant Geyer (THIVOLLET) had reassembled his 11th Cuirassiers Resistance fighters after the Vercors debacle.  On the 22nd, at his own initiative, attacking Romans with his own and other groups, he was able after some sharp fighting  to occupy the town and take over 100 prisoners, mostly administrative personnel who, in spite of the peoples antipathy to the occupier, were treated according to the Geneva Convention.

         For Truscott and Dahlquist an opportunity seemed to beckon. If the Germans had seen the need to evacuate Grenoble and did not vigorously defend Romans, might they not also be leaving Valence?    The plan also appealed to de Lassus and to Colonel Constans, who had established his command post at Dieulefit.  De Lassus conferred with Constans on the 22nd, reporting on the general situation, and in particular on the anticipated arrival of the American 36th Division into the battle area.

          When de Lassus returned to his CP, he learned that FTP leaders, irked that Geyer had occupied Romans without consulting them, had undertaken an attack by 350 maquisards on Valence.  The Germans had definitely not withdrawn from Valence and repelled the FTP units with artillery and machine-gun fire.

          Butler knew quite well that there was a strong force in Valence: he had reviewed a French report of the 22nd that approximately eight batteries of antiaircraft guns were protecting the Chabeuil airfield southeast of the city.  But Butler's superior, General Dahlquist, not yet in the battle zone, thought that Valence could be taken.  At the same time, the Seventh Army operations officer (G4), Colonel Clyde E. Steele, made contact with De Lassus, who recalled:

"Voulant avoir des renseignements auprès des prisoniers pris à Romans, il m'y emmena dans sa jeep par Léoncel et Saint-Jean.  Nous n'y trouvions pas le commandant Thivollet parti ailleurs, mais nous laissions l'ordre de nous faire parvenir pour le lendemain matin tous les prisonniers. Notre arrivée à Romans avait soulevé d'abord une crainte passagère, les habitants ne connaissant pas l'uniforme et les voitures américaines, mais dès qu'ils nous eurent reconnus, un enthousiasme indescriptible souleva la ville; nous eûmes toute la peine du monde à repartir.  En repassant par Saint Jean, le colonel Steele fit un discours devant le monument aux morts, à toute la population rassemblée; au moyen d'un interprète, il annonça avec grandiloquence que les successeurs de La Fayette venaient délivrer le peuple française."

         On the following day, August 24, having taken over from Butler,

Dahlquist assured  Truscott that in spite of the delayed arrival of his full division, he could block the Germans escaping on the east side of the Rhône. He believed he could also take Valence, although Truscott was not sure the plan was feasible. They both agreed that Task Force Butler had fulfilled its mission and should be held in reserve.

        With Truscott's unenthusiastic approval, Dahlquist then authorized Colonel Adams, who had only reached recently-liberated Romans/Bourg-de-Péage at noon on the 24th, to carry out an attack, together with the FFI, against Valence.  By this time, the Germans had withdrawn from the airfield at Chabeuil, which became the command post for Adams and Colonel Steele, along with Constans and de Lassus.

        There were others besides Truscott who had misgivings.  The FFI had agents inside Valence, and possessed solid information concerning the German tanks and artillery defending the city.  When the Pons company learned of the impending operations, Lieutenant Armand, who had recently verified the German dispositions, sent a message to Pons:

"Je ne comprends pas qu'avec les renseignements que je l'ai donné, l'on tente un pareil coup, car aucune pièce d'artillerie que j'ai signalée et pointée sur la carte, n'a été déplacée. Je suis persuadé que l'on va à un échec, mais je pars avec les chars américains."

         Another officer in this area also thought that better use could be made of Adams' force.  This was Commandant NOIR (Vuchot), sole remaining member of Jed VEGANINE, who had more or less abandoned his Jedburgh role by taking command of an FFI battalion in Drôme Nord.  (His somewhat ambiguous relations with Huet, commanding in the Vercors, and with de Lassus, commanding in the Drôme, need not concern us here.)  Learning about the capture of Romans, he realized that control of the heights at nearby  Tain l'Hermitage, with artillery  overlooking the gorge, could make passage along N7 virtually impossible.  When Adams came to Romans, NOIR talked to him:

"I asked him if he could not come near the banks of the Rhône, and he replied that he had his orders and that he was going to attack Valence.  I made the point that it was perhaps not very useful to take Valence, Tain, or any other town on N7, that the Germans would certainly use sufficient strength to force the passage, but that it would be extremely useful to have a few ambush tanks, hull down amongst the hills on the banks firing down N7 and that he would then produce quite different results than with our small arms, and compel the Germans to use minor roads."  Had the Allies held on to Romans, they  might have inflicted heavy damage to the Germans as they retreated through the gorge at Tain.  In postwar questioning, General Blaskowitz affirmed that failure to do this was one of Truscott's major errors.

         Much as Adams might have liked to heed NOIR's advice, there was no time to make any changes, and the order to attack Valence remained firm.  Adams dined with de Lassus on the evening of the 24th, but only told him at 18 h 30 that he planned to attack at 20 h. "Je me récriais alors," recalls de Lassus, "lui disant qu'il ne m'était pas possible de prendre mon dispositif d'attaque pour 20 heurs.  . . .Il fut décidé que l'attaque commencerait à 22 heures."

        "Le dispositif suivant fut adopté:

         a) - une colonne au nord sur l'itinéraire Alixan--RN92, Saint-Marcel-lès-Valence; cette colonne serait protégée par deux chars TD. Elle comprendrait les compagnies Morin, Sabatier, Chrétien et Sanglier.

         b) - une colonne au centre sur l'axe Chabeuil-Valence était composé par le gros des forces américaines [les deux battaillons de Frazior et d'Andrews]: colonel Vincent (36th division chief of staff) avec 2 bataillons de chars TD, - 1 bataillon d'Infanterie porté; les compagnies Perrin et Kirsch accompagneraient les bataillons de chars.

         c) - une colonne au sud sur l'axe Beaumont-Valence, protégée par 3 chars TD et comprenant les campagnies Roger, Pierre, Wap, Chapoutat, Brentrup, Pequiniot et Pons.  . . .

          Vers 22 heures, accompagné du colonel Saint-Sauveur (Constans), qui était revenu me voir, je me trouvais au PC du colonel Adams dans une baraque de l'aérodrome de Chabeuil. . . .Deux groupes d'artillerie américaine en batterie près de Chabeuil arrosaient les défenses est de la ville de Valence. Vers 23 heures 30, alors que l'attaque progressait, quelques pièces allemandes de 88 situées dans les faubourgs, entrèrent en action. 3 chars américains flambèrent. La réaction américaine fut immediate: Le colonel Adams abandonna la partie sans essayer de poursuivre l'attaque."

          Adams' unwillingness to renew the attack left his French allies at a loss. Adams explained that at the very beginning of the attack he had received a message from General Dahlquist: "You must have bulk of your force in Crest by daylight 25 August 1944 "  At the insistence of de Lassus and Constans, Adams enabled the French leaders to query  Dahlquist directly by radio. But the 36th division commander was adamant, only permitting Adams to leave a tank battalion and some artillery in the Valence area.

          Fortunately, the disengagement had brought few casualties: one wounded for the French, and for the Americans, one killed, 20 wounded, and 28 missing.  Of the Americans who lost contact with their units in the dark, some were captured, several made their way to Romans and Grenoble (two wounded were hospitalized in Romans), and another group of eight joined the Resistance!   This latter group included Steve Weiss, then 18 years old, whose unusual story has been told in detail in Vincent Lockhart's T-Patch to Victory. The group found refuge with a farmer who, through contacts with the Valence police, enabled the American soldiers to be ferried across the Rhône to Saint-Peray, where they joined a maquis under Colonel Binoche, in charge of FFI operations in that part of the Ardèche.  Later they were attached to an OG operating south of Lyon.

        In ordering Adams to pull back and come to Crest, Dahlquist had  very good reasons. He knew that his operations order for August 25 had been captured, and he believed that the Germans, possibly the 198th Division and elements of the 11th Panzer, were assembling for a major attack.  The general realized that his southern defense along the Roubion River would be particularly weak, since Truscott had ordered the 117th Cavalry's Troop A (Piddington) out of the line for patrol duty on the Italian frontier.  Dahlquist concluded that, needing all the force he could muster, the fighting in the Montélimar area took priority over Valence.

        In sending Piddington's Troop A back to Gap, Truscott assumed that the remaining regiment of the 36th division, Colonel George E. Lynch's 142nd, would be able to defend the north bank of the Roubion.

But the 142nd had suffered from Dahlquist's indecision, and on 22 August was still patrolling east of Gap, waiting to be relieved by elements of the 45th division. Finally, late on the 22nd, Dahlquist ordered Lynch to proceed toward Nyons.

        Situated about 40 km east of N 7, Nyons controlled two important highways, D 94 and D 541, that could enable American forces to reach the German retreat route. Recognizing this possibility, General Wiese wanted elements of the 11th Panzer division to maintain flank protection in that area. The only opposition encountered by the Germans had come from the Maquis Ventoux, which had blocked the route to Nyons by way of Vaison. Now, as they moved along the Orange-Nyons road (D 94), the Germans were again being hit by the FFI: the first and second battalions of Commandant Girard's 1er Régiment FTP sud-Drôme.  There was sharp fighting throughout the day of 22 August, but the Germans were too strong. Constans sent an urgent message to Butler, explaining in detail the German dispositions, and asking for armored cars, tanks, and gasoline.  As reported in the Drôme history:      [427]

        "Les FFI attendent, une attente lourde de menace qui les prend à la gorge, ils obervent, guettent le moindre bruit, ils savent que ça va recommencer. A 7 heures du matin, le 23 août, un bruit qu'ils ne peuvent identifier s'amplifie puis le canon tonne, des obus éclatent sur . . .les positions ennemies!  C'est le 142e régiment US du colonel Lynch qui, sur l'ordre du général Dahlquist, est venu à toute vitesse depuis Gap, passant à Serres, à Monclus, pour parvenir à Nyons par la RN 94. Les Allemands se replient. Il était temps. Nyons est sauvé. La population accueille comme des héros les maquisards qui entrent dans la ville."

       Nevertheless, Dahlquist did not immediately order Lynch to the Montélimar area, leaving the 142nd to patrol west and south of Nyons for a day before he had them move north. Lynch made full use of FFI support, as attested by his official journal:

"0230, 24 August 1944.  . . . German self-propelled guns 900 yards west of roadblock approximately 8 kms west of Dieulefit. Partisans holding that block with one 37-mm gun and 30 men. Approximately 250 partisans had been ordered to take security post south of the route of advance between Montjoux and Montbrison with orders to follow behind our column if ammunition was available to them. 3rd Bn route: Between three and four hundred partisans are ordered to take security positions protecting the right flank east and west of Novecar with same orders as other partisans."

        Throughout the night of 24/25 August Lynch's 142nd moved into the battle area, taking up positions betwen Cléon and Puy Saint-Martin.

 

Montélimar          

 

          Dahlquist was finding that the Germans not only protected their retreat, but were in a position to attack.  On August 25, with the American operational order available to him, General Wiese planned a thrust across the Roubion River.  Traffic to the north virtually stopped as the Nineteenth Army massed for a three-pronged offensive:  one, across the Roubion near Cléon where a weak corridor had existed until the arrival of Lynch's 142nd Regiment from Nyons; two, thrusts north of Montélimar to dislodge the American forces holding the hills south and west of Condillac; three, an attack eastward from Loriol along the Drôme River toward Allex and Grane, ultimately to Crest.  By this time, the full strength of the German 198th Division and Von Wietersheim's 11th Panzer Division, with the 305th Division not far behind, were available, while the Americans had but one division (plus artillery) and a 400 km supply line.

        During the afternoon of the 25th, the Germans pushed across the Roubion well up into the Marsanne Plain, but were stopped by Frazior's battalion of Adams' 141st, one of the units pulled back from Valence. But the strong German attacks  toward Sauzet and Condillac had the Americans and their FFI allies reeling back from their hill positions.

        The Resistance forces were sticking firmly with the Americans.  On the 24th, a service platoon of the Secret Army's 14th company had crossed the Rhône to try to destroy the roadblock on the far side of the river.  An FFI officer, Lieutenant Gerard, was taken prisoner but managed to escape, bringing with him information about German artillery emplacements.  But the following day, the beginning of the German offensive, was a grim  one for both the FFI and the Americans.  At the request of the U.S. commanders, the 13th company withdrew from the Savasse area to provide protection for the artillery batteries in the Marsanne forest.  Lieutenant Apostol's 14th company, having also pulled back, was surprised by a German patrol and lost two men.  Later in the day, Commandant Bernard's entire 4th Battalion withdrew eastward for twenty-four hours of much-needed rest.

         In the north, along the Drôme valley, the Germans launched a thrust with 100 vehicles and tanks toward Allex and Grane.  Dahlquist called up Task Force Butler, which had been held in reserve near Puy-St.-Martin, to rush toward Grane, on the south bank of the Drôme. Here Captain Omer Brown, who had commanded the 117th Cavalry's assault guns at Gap, was killed while trying to insert a grenade into a German tank.  On the northern bank of the Drôme, the Germans were held by  elements of the 45th Division's 157th Regiment, sent over by Truscott to hold Crest at all costs.  Even then, the  threat forced a rerouting of American supply trucks.

        The German offensive continued through the 26th until the 27th when the American lines were restored.  In the north, Grane and Allex were retaken as well as the hills along the Rhône; in the south, the Germans had been forced back across the Roubion.  The situation had been desperate but not hopeless.

         While the German offensive failed in opening up an alternate escape route across the Marsanne Plain, it did succeed in enabling forward units of the11th Panzer Division to cross the Drôme and forge ahead toward Lyon.  Although the vehicular bridge at Livron could not be used, German engineers had fashioned four or five fords that enabled the bulk of the Panzers to cross at night.  Late on the 26th, torrential rains poured across the battle area resulting in floods, which made the fords unusable for several days.  By that time, however, although losses in trucks, cars, mobile artillery, and railroad guns were enormous, many of the Nineteenth Army's troops had escaped the trap and were aleady stretched out on roads to Lyon and beyond.  Concerned about his eastern flank, General Wiese sent elements of the 11th Panzer to Romans, which was reoccupied on 27 August, preventing patrols of the 45th US Division, still in Grenoble, from making any impact on the main German body. Incidentally, because of the fair treatment German prisoners had received at the first liberation, the Germans perpetrated no reprisals against the population. A Romans historian acknowledges that "les unités de la Wehrmacht qui ont réoccupé Romans du 27 au 30 août sont encore organisées, disciplinées, bien différentes de celles en déroute sur la N 7."

         By the 27th, units of the German 198th Division were fighting rearguard actions around Montélimar, which had now been reached by reconnaissance patrols of General O'Daniel's 3rd Division, pressing up the Rhône Valley from the south. Hundreds of motionless  and wrecked vehicles had piled up along N 7 and some US road-blocks were finally thrown across the road.

         Nevertheless, although the Germans had been pushed back across the Roubion, they still held  ground east of Montélimar on the road leading to Dieulefit.  Fighting side by side with elements of Lynch's 142nd Regiment, Jean Abonnenc's FFI 11th company (3rd Battalion) pressed an attack against the perimeter of the German defensive circle.  In Abonnenc's words: "La compagnie a reçu l'ordre de reprendre La Bâtie-Rolland. A l'entrée, du côté Est, un piton paraît être fortement tenu par les Allemands. 'Il faudrait le prendre à l'assaut, pense Jean, à la française, mais il y aura de la casse.' Au moment où il va prendre ses dispositions d'attaque, un officier américain lui dit: 'Laissez-nous faire, ramenez votre compagnie en arrière.'  Quelques minutes après, l'artillerie US se déchaîne. Les obus incendiaires mettent le feu à la colline, les autres bouleversant le terrain oû les Allemands avaient déjà creusé tranchées et abris autour du piton. A ce moment, Jean réalise la terrible efficacité de cette armée moderne, économe des vies humaines."

          On the 28th, the 3rd US Division occupied Montélimar and from the east poured in the valliant  guerrilla companies of Bernard's 4th Battalion, Noël's 3rd Battalion, and Girard's FTP regiments, to be met by enthusiastic citizens who, for the first time in weeks, could open their shutters and breathe the heady air of freedom.  On September 3 the Resistance forces paraded triumphantly through the city, reviewed by de Lassus and Constans, who awarded decorations and gave due recognition to the commanders.

          However, although the Germans had withdrawn from Montélimar, they still had numbers of troops south of the Drôme.  General Wiese ordered the 11th Panzer to serve as rear guard and hold a ring around Livron and Loriol until noon of the 29th, with all remaining units  to try to escape to the north as best they could.

          Dahlquist brought everything at his disposal to attack the  passage: three battalions of the 157th Regiment, together with elements of Task Force Butler and all the 36th Division regiments.  But in spite of this massive assemblage of fire power, the Germans managed to hold the Allied forces at bay long enough to get sizeable numbers of personnel--if not equipment--across the Drôme. On the 29th, the Germans holding the flank position at Romans blew up bridges across the Isère, and next day withdrew in the direction of Beaurepaire. They had not been attacked by Allied forces.

          By the 30th the last Germans departed from the Drôme and the battle of Montélimar was over. It was a victory for the American foreces and their FFI allies, but it was not decisive.  The Germans  may have lost thousands of men killed, wounded, and captured, and seen 2,000 vehicles and over 300 pieces of artillery destroyed, but  General Blaskowitz' Army Group, which still counted 130,000 troops, including the almost intact 11th Panzer Division, had not been destroyed, and was digging in around Lyon, with retreating groups still stretched over  hundreds of kilometers.  Advance units had already  passed Bourg-en-Bresse and were heading for Mâcon.    

         With the Germans withdrawing north, de Lassus planned again to move on Valence, where the departmental Committee of Liberation could take over, and the Resistance prefect, Pierre de Saint-Prix, already chosen, could replace the Vichy appointee.   De Lassus did not plan his attack this time in coordination with the Americans, although he remained in touch with Colonel Steele, who since August 24 had succeeded the wounded Colonel Harmony as commanding officer of the 141st Infantry.  De Lassus organized his companies much as he had during the fruitless effort six days earlier, and began moving into Valence during the early hours of August 31.  Colonel Steele also sent a reconnaissance company, with two tank destroyers, into the town, but the patrol was not coordinated with the FFI.  Resistance ended around noon, with about 600 Germans in FFI custody.

      De Lassus, along with Colonel Constans (whose command extended  only to the Isère River), kept themselves occupied with liberation celebrations throughout the department and with military reorganization.  Among the final acts de Lassus was able to perform in his role as Colonel Legrand, Chef FFI Drôme, were three in which he took particular pride, enough for him to record them in his memoirs: one, persuading the pro-Vichy bishop to celebrate a mass "en honneur de notre victoire et du rétablissement les lois de la République," two, cutting through formalities to enable government functionaries to be paid, and finally, presenting his wife and  revealing his real name, J. P. de Lassus Saint-Geniès, along with his daughter Dominique, born five days after Valence was liberated.

         Today a magnificent monument, overlooking N 7 some fifteen km south of the Drôme river, stands as a memorial to those who here gave their lives.   From the official text: "Le choix du site est hautement symbolique puisqu'il domine la vallée où la XIXe armée allemande fut mise en déroute après l'action d'éclat du commando F.F.I. Henri Faure qui réussit à faire sauter le pont de Livron à la barbe des Allemands.  . . . Le monument a 16 mètres de haut et s'élève comme une flamme de pierre, comme une Drôme debout, fière, combattante, ceint d'un mur aux 1300 noms gravés à tout jamais."

         The list of1300  includes not only  French names but American names as well. In October, 1996, the monument was visited by a delegation of the US 117th Cavalry, headed by Colonel Harold J. Samsel and Colonel Tom Piddington. This unit had received in 1946 the Croix de Guerre avec Palme, signed by Juin and Bidault, for contributing to "L'anéantissement de forces importantes dans la région de Montélimar" and working "en liaison étroite avec les éléments des résistance locaux et a heureusement coordonné l'activité des Maquis qui sont joints à lui." During the battle Samsel was executive officer for Task Force Butler and Piddington, commanding Troop A, had defended the north bank of the Roubion. After the visit, Samsel wrote: "We were deeply impressed by the majestic monument that represents the dedication to the memories of so many fallen French Resistance fighters and American soldiers. We received a list of the Americans whose names are inscribed along a wall. There were more than 250 names of American soldiers, mostly from the 36th division, and two names of members of the 117th."

         la bataille de Montélimar fut véritablement une opération de symbiose entre les Français et les Américains, qui furent particulièrement reconnaissants de l'appui des maquisards. Dans ses mémoires, le général Butler évoquait leur soutien: "Les Maquis ont renforcé les maigres effectifs de notre infanterie dans les moments critiques et ont protégé nos lignes de communication sur nos arrières. Il est certainement juste d'affirmer que, sans les Maquis, notre mission aurait été beaucoup plus difficile, sinon impossible." 

 

 

Chapter  13      The Southern Alps

 

             Patch, Truscott, and the ANVIL planners had never been too much concerned with the threat of a German attack across the Alps from Italy.  From his experience with the mountain fighting in Italy, Truscott could well assess the problems the Germans would face in sending reinforcements through the southernmost passes, the Tende, the Larche, and the Montgená_ávre.  Not only were there formidable gorges and hairpin curves in the French Alps, but on the Italian side, assuming forces were based logistically on Cuneo or Pinerolo, there still remained many miles of mountain roads before reaching the passes.  1

It did not seem logical or likely, in the early part of the ANVIL campaign, that the Germans would rely on other resources than the two divisions already in place.  A Seventh Army intelligence officer commented:

 

             We were told by the G-2 of the Army several weeks before the invasion that    there was no need to put men on the Italian border.  As a result, we placed all our     situation on that border was dangerous and when we found we had no one             covering the strategic points.   2

 

To be sure, SPOC, not SSS, had agents in the area--half a dozen British Liaison Officers, several Jedburghs, and an OG--but these were "operations," not primarily gatherers of intelligence.  Nevertheless, it is clear enough that neither Patch nor Truscott believed it would be necessary to make an offensive move toward the passes as long as reconnaissance patrols and air observation failed to report evidence of a threatening enemy move.  This meant that, except for small scouting expeditions, the Seventh Army was content until regular French troops would come in to leave the Alpine passes to SPOC and the French Resistance.

SPOC had long since included Alpine operations in its plans, especially with Operation TOPLINK and the dispatch of the British officers.  There were schedules to send even more agents into the Alps, where they would operate under the general supervision of Francis Cammaerts.  Up until August 13, the date that Cammaerts, along with Fielding and Sorenson, fell into Gestapo hands at Digne, SPOC had already placed in the Alpine area two Jedburgh teams and half a dozen British agents.  On the day of the ANVIL/DRAGOON landings (while Cammaerts remained in prison), these missions were deployed as follows:

The Jedburghs:  CHLOROFORM (McIntosh, Martin, Sassi) had just destroyed the bridge over the Durance River at Savines, and had returned to L'HERMINE's headquarters in the Champolá,áon Valley northeast of Gap.  NOVOCAINE (Gennerich, LeLann, Thompson) had carried out a similar mission, blowing up a bridge at Prelles, south of Brianá‡áon, after which they returned to their camp at Vallouise.

The British Liaison Officers:  Of the TOPLINK group, Hamilton, injured in an accident, was hospitalized at Aiguilles, while his colleague O'Regan, keeping in touch with Gilbert Galetti in the Queyras, patrolled on the Italian side of the frontier.

Major Purvis and John Roper maintained their CP at Vallouise, in contact with Maquis in the area.  John Halsey remained near the Larche pass, with his headquarters near Barcelonnette.  He kept in touch with Captain Bureau, commander of the FFI, and also with Christine Granville, who at the time of the landings was doing her utmost to get Cammaerts released.  Havard Gunn, working with Lá,ácuyer from their CP at Valberg, had been the first to make contact with Allied troops shortly after the first wave of paratroopers came in.

Cammaerts, imprisoned at Digne from August 13<196>17, had missed the excitement that followed as news of Allied landings spread to the north.  On his return to his headquarters at Seyne, he found that several missions had already arrived and needed instructions.  The first to come in were a Jedburgh team, EPHEDRINE, and an inter-allied mission, both of which had orders to go north.

EPHEDRINE was led by the French Capt. L. Rabeau, whose teammate was an American, Lt. Lawrence E. Swank of Washington, D.C., "Larry" to his friends McIntosh, Gennerich, and Bank with whom he had trained in the States and at Milton Hall.  The radio operator was French:  Corporal J. Bourgoin.<M^>3<D>

Shortly after they landed, a few miles west of Seyne in the small hours of August 13, another group from Algiers, the PROGRESSION mission (a continuation of UNION), an Englishman and a Canadian together with five French officers, were parachuted to the Drop Zone.  The British officers were Maj. D. E. F. Green and Canadian Maj. C. B. Hunter, whose objective was to get to the Savoie Department, many rugged mountainous miles to the north.  Along with the personnel came over fifty containers. The landscape was strewn with unopened cylinders that needed to be stored, together with the broken contents of others that were poorly packed or whose parachutes failed.  The reception committee had not been prepared for either the number of men or the number of containers.<M^>4<D>

Late in the afternoon of the 13th, having learned that Cammaerts had been arrested, the entire group<197>Green and Hunter, the three Jeds, and the five Frenchmen<197>decided to move toward Barcelonnette and the Larche pass, but having run into Christine the next morning, they decided on her advice to join those groups already in Vallouise.  While Christine embarked on her efforts to get Cammaerts released, the ten men, in a charcoal-burning truck, turned north from Barcelonnette, and started up the road toward Guillestre.

About 9 <MS>P.M.<D>, near St.-Paul, a tragic accident occurred.  One of the French instructors, Lieutenant Hook, had left his loaded gun stacked in the trunk and a sharp turn caused the rifle to discharge.  The bullet struck Swank, who died several hours later.  He was buried in the local St.-Paul cemetery on August 15<197>D Day<197>while the ANVIL forces began their landings many miles to the south.  Three days later, the remaining men reached Vallouise, and joined forces with Roper, Purvis, Gennerich, and the other contingents keeping an eye on the Montgená_ávre pass.

Among these contingents in the area were the fifteen American paratroopers of OG NANCY, led by Captain Arnold Lorbeer and 1st. Lt. William F. Viviani, who had been dropped the same night as Swank's EPHEDRINE.  Although NANCY, as an Italian-speaking group, had been assigned to operate at the Montgená_ávre pass, the section was dropped at Armature, the area at Lagarde where Constans had the day before conferred with Cammaerts.  Armature was too rocky for personnel drops and over 200 miles from the Italian border, but the group suffered only minor injuries and camped out in the area along with the airmen stranded when the rescuing Dakota had to leave them behind.

The question posed itself:  How was NANCY to get from Lagarde to the Montgená_ávre pass?  The official report best describes this effort:

 

            After a little haggling with the local Maquis, we obtained a good-sized wood-    burning truck with three guides.  Our sleeping bags and ruck sacks were used to        line the sides of the truck, and then men were crowded in the center prepared to      fire through cracks.  A tarpaulin was placed over the truck and we departed that            night [14 August].  15 August--It was a highly uncomfortable, but at the same         time exciting 250 mile trip.  At first flat tires and lost guides jinxed us, but    the        truck continued on, often along main roads under the noses of German patrols   and garrisons, without being stopped.  At Sisteron, our guides bribed the local             gendarmes to let us cross the Durance river.  From there to Guillestre it became a   parade of wine and roses.  It was D-Day, and the radio was calling upon southern             France to rise and oust the Germans.  The spectacle of 15 Americans traveling this        far north a few hours after the invasion of southern France created a tremendous    impression.

             At Seyne, we unexpectedly contacted Christine, famous secret agent.  The stories         of her womanly charms had not been exaggerated.  At Guillestre we met Lt. Volpe   [radio operator] of the Anglo-American mission.

 

Lorbeer and his men did not go to Vallouise, where the other groups watching the Montgená_ávre pass were camped.  Instead, he took a road east of the main highway to Brianá‡áon, and established a command post at Cerviá_áres, set in the mountains just south of the Montgená_ávre pass, about ten miles east of Vallouise.<M^>5<D>

While the British, American, and French agents in the field knew that the invasion was imminent, none of them knew the date or place of the landings.  The increased bombing raids provided some indication, but more specific were the warning messages that gave notice of action to follow.  For example, on the day of the landing, SPOC ordered the Alpine area:<M^>6<D>

 

             This is the plan for cutting the roads and principal Alpine passes which are:        Mont-Cenis, Montgenèvre, Col de Larche, Petit Saint-Bernard.Following phrase    will indicate temporary obstruction in 24 hours:  "Le Vésuve fume" [Vesuvius is          smoking]. Following phrase will indicate destruction prolonged blocking and must          be carried out in 48 hours:  "Voir Naples et Mourir" [See Naples and die].

 

 On the next day, August 16, not only was the "Naples" message broadcast over

 the BBC, but SPOC dispatched a specific exhortation: 

 

            "Operation Col de Larche being primordial, I agree on its rapid execution. Let us           however take all measures to protect the civilian population from reprisals."

 

            In carrying out these orders, Commandant Bureau worked closely with John Halsey and Fernandez, who had been in the Barcelonnette area for over a week, surveying the region and, with their limited supplies of explosives, destroying bridges and roads.  Together they had agreed on a demolition plan that, on August 14, ruptured the road to Larche just south of Meyronnes.  In the town of Larche (which lies some four miles below the pass at the frontier), there was a small German garrison of 150, of whom about a third were Poles whose hostile attitude toward their German superiors paralleled that of the Resistance.  Around August 12 or 13, Christine Granville had gone up to Larche with a <MI>gendarme<D> to persuade the Poles that, when the time was right, they should sabotage the military installations and join the FFI.<M^>7<D>

Two developments precipitated action:  the Allied landings on the 15th and the decision of the German commander to force the citizens of Meyronnes to repair the road.  When work on the road began, Halsey, Commandant Bureau, and the <MI>sous-prá,áfet<D> Jean-Pierre Cuin, after some deliberation, mustered about 50 <MI>maquisards<D> to threaten the Germans in charge of the work crews.  Shots were fired; a German soldier was wounded.

            The German commander faced an impasse:  Half his garrison was mutinous; the Resistance had cut his communications to higher command; he had no assurance that reinforcements would come from Italy; he needed a doctor for his wounded soldier.  Faced with an ultimatum, he agreed to confer, but only with regular officers, not with the FFI.  All parties concurred that they would meet at Meyronnes in the evening of August 19<197>about the same time that the garrison in nearby Digne was surrendering to Task Force Butler.  To this meeting proceeded a firm Allied front:  Roper, Fernandez, and <MI>sous-prá,áfet<D> Cuin in uniform, together with one of Lá,ácuyer's men, Bob Ceccaldi, who for the occasion donned the uniform of a Chasseurs Alpins Captain.  John Halsey reported what happened:

 

             After an hour's talking the German commander refused to surrender so I suggested       very forcibly that I, Rudolph [Fernandez] and Bob should dine at Larche as the         enemy had plenty of food there.  To my surprise the German commander agreed,      and we went up by bike.  After the meal the commander assembled practically the         whole garrison in the hotel and we argued. . . .  The Poles deserted with all their           arms, and at 0230 hours the German commander accepted my terms and I took        him away with his dog which I have kept to this day.

 

Before they deserted, the fifty-odd Poles, as admonished by Christine, had removed the breech-blocks from the heavy guns, bringing with them some mortars and machine guns.  They were incorporated into Bureau's FFI as a heavy-machine-gun company, and fought with the French <MI>maquisards<D> in their attempt to keep Larche from being reoccupied.<M^>8<D>

            With news of the Allied landing, Bureau's companies increased in number, and he was able to deploy his men in small groups along the road from Meyronnes up to the Larche pass.  The Germans still occupied the pass, and began to move in troops and artillery, which they mounted on the ridges overlooking the Ubaye Valley.  Bureau did what he could to prevent the reoccupation of Larche and Meyronnes, but he had only meager supplies of guns and ammunition.  He had not obtained any materials from Algiers and, while he knew that Allied troops had liberated Digne and Gap, he had received no assurance that an American relief column would be coming to help.  John Halsey alone provided a slender link with the Allies.

            While Halsey negotiated the surrender of the small German garrison at Larche, John Roper was playing a similar role at Mont-Dauphin.<M^>9<D>  After seeing Butler at Sisteron with the Hautes-Alpes Resistance chiefs, early in the morning of August 20, he and Gilbert Tavernier, on their overworked motorcycle, rode beyond Gap up the road to Guillestre.  Just beyond Embrun, they met Gilbert Galetti together with Lieutenant Braillon of the FFI and a German interpreter.  As Roper recalled:

 

             I accompanied these two French officers to Fort Mont Dauphin where we had an         interview with the garrison commander who agreed to surrender the next day,        which he did.  Major Purvis came down for the ceremony on 21st August.

 

As in all these instances, the Germans, numbering eighty-six, wished to surrender only to authentic Allied officers, not to the Maquis chiefs.  Roper insisted that the German officer in charge surrender to the French, and after some hesitation, he agreed to do so.  For the surrender of the garrison, not only did Purvis make an appearance, but also Captain Lorbeer with some of his men from OG NANCY.  Lorbeer reported:

 

             The terms were simple.  The prisoners were permitted to take all personal        belongings and were moved to Chateau Queyras, later to be gathered in by Allied         troops.  Weapons were left to the Maquis.  Except for the officers, the garrison       consisted of old customs officials in ill-fitting army uniforms, and they left no       doubt about their contentment at this turn of events.  It was a Hollywood scene     with general handshaking, flag-raising, and conducted tours of the spacious German quarters.  10

 

Several days earlier, Lorbeer's group had withdrawn from their camp south of Brianá‡áon and, on Major Purvis' advice, were now bivouacked at one of Galetti's posts, the chalets above Bramousse about halfway between Guillestre and Cháƒáteau-Queyras.  From this camp, they patrolled down the road that Germans would have to mount if they came over the Larche pass in force.  Although Gap had now been liberated and American road-blocks set up, no evidence had reached the embattled FFI in the high Alps that Allied reinforcements were on the way.

 

 THE AMERICANS AND THE FFI AT LARCHE AND BRIANÇON

 

While Colonel Adams' 143rd Infantry moved into Grenoble on the 22nd, Col. George E. Lynch's 142nd had assembled in the Gap area.  (The remaining regiment of Dahlquist's 36th Division, the 141st, had struck westward to reinforce Task Force Butler.)

Lynch, understanding that he should patrol north and west of Gap, sent elements of his 2nd Battalion, under Lt. Col. David P. Faulkner, east to Embrun.  It was there, early on the 22nd, that the regular military forces began to meet up with the irregulars<197>Gennerich (of Jed NOVOCAINE), McIntosh (of Jed CHLOROFORM), Lorbeer (of OG NANCY), Purvis, Roper, Hamilton, and Halsey of the BLO group, and the Maquis.  Unfortunately Cammaerts, who would have been the person most competent to coordinate the actions, had been summarily dismissed by General Butler and was on his way to see General Patch at St.-Tropez.<M^>11<D>

After participating in the surrender ceremony at Mont-Dauphin, John Roper went along the road to Gap with the intention of locating American troops, which he knew had liberated the town.  At Embrun he met Colonel Faulkner, who had been ordered to carry out reconnaissance toward the Alps passes.  Faulkner's forces included two tank destroyer companies, three antitank batteries, and three infantry companies, including jeeps with machine-gun mounts.  Roper rode with them toward Guillestre, where Faulkner established his CP.  From Guillestre he sent patrols up toward Brianá‡áon and into the Queyras where, guided by Purvis, his men found Major Hamilton at Aiguilles.  Hamilton had injured his leg in an automobile accident and was recovering in a hospital.  Another patrol under Lieutenant Frank motored south to check on enemy dispositions in the St.-Paul, Meyronnes, and Larche areas.

At 10 <MS>A.M.<D> on August 22, orders came through from Dahlquist:  "142 Inf will force and take Brianá‡áon and establish road blocks in that vicinity."  Faulkner was already getting information from Gennerich, Purvis, and Roper, and was testing the roadbeds and bridges to see if his heavy tank destroyers could proceed north.

Then everything came to a halt.  Dahlquist had not perceived, as Truscott had, the great opportunity of cutting off the Germans at the Rhá“áne.  He had permitted his 141st Regiment to sit idle, he had sent two battalions up to Grenoble, and he was preparing to throw another battalion at Brianá‡áon.  New to the command of troops in battle and not privy to ULTRA, Dahlquist had given emphasis to his role of protecting the flank.  Truscott was furious and wrote him an angry letter:  12

 

            Apparently I failed to make my mission clear to you.  The primary mission of the            36th Infantry Division is to block the Rhone Valley in the gap immediately north      of the Montelimar.  For this purpose you must be prepared to employ the bulk of        your Division.  If this operation develops as seems probable, all of your Division            will be none too much in the Rhone Valley area. . . .  The elements of your    Division now in Grenoble should be moved without delay to the area now     occupied by the Butler force. . . .  On the roads in the vicinity of Gap and east   thereof, I desire that you employ blocking forces only.  Keep in mind that your    primary mission is to block the Rhone Valley.

 

By noon of the 22nd, Dahlquist had ordered:  "Due to critical shortage of gasoline the use of motor vehicles will be held to an absolute minimum," and two hours later, the mission to take Briançon was called off.  By nightfall, orders directed the 142nd Infantry to move west from their current position, although Faulkner's 2nd Battalion would continue at Guillestre until relieved by elements of the 45th Division.

            In spite of the limitations on gasoline, Faulkner did his best during the 23rd to push patrols in all directions.  Purvis accompanied one to Brianá‡áon, where they made contact with another recon that had come over the Lautaret pass from Grenoble.  Gennerich's Jedburgh team with 250 <MI>maquisards<D> moved toward the town, and Captain Frison with over 1000 FFI took up positions in the area.  The appearance of the American armored patrols alarmed the Germans, and around noon, they began to withdraw as the Resistance forces swelled.  Although the American attack had been called off, Frison and the FFI decided to attack the town<197>carefully, because although the Germans may have left, they still occupied the forts above the city and controlled the Montgená_ávre pass.<M^>13<D>  Purvis reported:

 

             The reception was terrific.  The Germans had left two hours before.  They had blown the road at Fort des Salettes with the town water supply on leaving. . . .         Found it very difficult to have any defensive units put out toward Montgenevre    as Americans had left for Grenoble.  Town was in a very natural state of hysteria            and those responsible thought more of wreaths on monuments than any possible    return of enemy.

            CONFESSIONAL [Pelletier, head of the mission] and Captain Frison arrived late        evening.  While going to Grand Hotel for night, CONFESSIONAL was             accidentally shot in shoulder by a boy with a revolver who had been in F.F.I. one     hour.  This proved serious and he took no further part in the mission.

 

Faulkner also sent a recon under Lieutenant Frank to the Larche road to verify whether an enemy column was coming over the Larche pass to threaten the FFI defensive positions.  In the small hours of August 23, Frank returned to report that indeed the Germans had broken through several road-blocks and were approaching the Ubaye Valley.  Faulkner had promised Roper that he would send a mini-task force to Larche, but having received orders that his division was moving west, had to cancel the mission.  Nevertheless, as Roper recalled:  14

 

            Captain Lorbeer . . . and I took a subaltern of Colonel Faulkner's staff down to the        Larche valley and as far up it as Meyronnes where, by close reconnaissance and     resulting fire, we convinced him of the presence of Germans who had, in fact,       advanced through Larche to Meyronnes that afternoon.  The local FFI under     Captain Bureau of Condamine were in disorderly retreat.

 

Although the bulk of the 142nd Regiment had already moved west to the Rhône, Faulkner remained in the Guillestre area until he was relieved by elements of the 180th Infantry under Col. Robert L. Dulaney.  Roper and Lorbeer continued their reconnaissance with one of Dulaney's officers, Major Smith, and planned countermoves against the German advance.

Farther to the south, at Barcelonnette, John Halsey was equally concerned that, with Bureau's conservative reluctance to face the Germans, no American help had yet come to the rescue.  On the night of August 22/23, he drove off to Embrun to see what he could do.  Not having come into contact with the helpful and sympathetic Faulkner at Guillestre, he ran into reluctant cooperation.  As Halsey reported:<M^>15<D>  "[at Embrun] the Lt. Col. in question was so disinterested that he would not even get out of his bed and more or less said he did not believe that there were any enemy within a hundred miles of his troops."  In any case, the division was moving out, so there was no point in trying to get reinforcements.  Halsey had better luck with the units that were coming in:

 

            I contacted one of the [45th] Infantry battalion commanders who was most        understanding and introduced me to the divisional [sic.  Should be regimental]           infantry commander Colonel Dulaney, who promised me all his help.

 

True to his word, Dulaney sent reconnaissance patrols out on the night of August 23 to St.-Paul ("everything quiet"), to Guillestre (contacted Lorbeer's Operational Group at Bramousse), to Condamine ("Halsey talked to the FFI at Larche on the telephone"), and to Brianá‡áon (in touch with Purvis).  However, at ten o'clock next morning (August 24), everything once more ground to a halt.  A command from Division Headquarters read:  "All vehicles in the Division in this area except those necessary for water and LOs [Liaison Officers] are grounded.  No rations or gasoline will be drawn until the dumps are moved up."

            Clearly the requirements of the battle on the Rhône took priority over operations in the eastern Alps.  The lower command echelons would not have known what Patch learned through ULTRA.  On August 22, a message had notified him:  "157 Division . . . ordered to retire to pass line Mt. Blanc-Montgenevre leaving rearguards in regiment strength at Grenoble and sufficient forces to control roads leading from Grenoble to the passes."  On the next day, a signal mentioned that the formidable 11th Panzer Division would be in the area of Nyons,<M^>16<D> the position to which Faulkner had been ordered.  The highest priorities kept supplies shuttling to the Rhá“áne; the Alpine passes would have to wait.

Again, Truscott faced an important decision.  All of the 3rd and 36th Divisions were now concentrating their efforts on the German retreat up the Rhá“áne.  Truscott had two regiments that were relatively unengaged:  Colonel Meyer's 179th in Grenoble and Colonel Dulaney's 180th at Gap.  Until the battle at Montá,álimar was resolved, he could not afford to send these regimental combat teams farther north, yet he would require them for the major task of attacking the main German column if it escaped the trap and proceeded toward Lyon.  He did not want the 180th to involve itself too much in the Alps, but he needed reconnaissance in the area.  Indeed, Truscott was well aware of the embattled FFI effort to harass the Germans.  Under date of August 24, he wrote in his memoirs:<M^>17<D>

 

             I stopped at Aspres to see Eagles [Commanding General, 45th Division]. . . .   Eagles was having his troubles with the Maquis who were active in all the border     towns, and badgering Eagles to send American troops to support them.

 

 To relieve some of this pressure, Truscott decided to send part of Task Force Butler over to the Alps.  The unit he chose was Captain Piddington's Troop A of the 117th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron.

Although Piddington was already heavily engaged in holding a line on the Roubion River northeast of Montá,álimar, he disengaged on the 24th and backtracked to Gap, the town he had liberated only four days before.  Here he reported to Dulaney, who ordered him to send one platoon to Barcelonnette, while he with the remaining two platoons would patrol from St.-Paul to Brianá‡áon.

At the same time, Halsey learned that Dulaney was unable, because of the orders to ground all his vehicles, to send any assistance.  As Halsey recalled the situation:<M^>18<D>

 

 Accompanied by Major Fielding who had just arrived, I went to Gap and contacted L'Hermine who let me have 60 maquisards (commando-trained) commanded by Lt. McIntosh [of Jedburgh CHLOROFORM] and then proceeded to 45th Division HQ and demanded an interview with Major-General Eagles to whom I and Major Fielding explained the situation.  It is doubtful today even in my mind whether it was an act of the Almighty or whether the General understood the situation but on my return to Colonel Dulaney's HQ there was a message for me to pick up an armoured car reconnaissance patrol and take them to the Larche area.

 

 Of course it was neither the Almighty nor Eagle's wisdom; it simply happened that Piddington and his Troop A, already ordered to patrol to the east, were ready and available.

            For the Larche mission, Piddington assigned his second platoon, commanded by Lt. Kenneth Cronin, who was ordered to make a "show of force" in the Barcelonnette area, to coordinate his activities with McIntosh, and to remain until relieved by the First Airborne Task Force.  The platoon, which consisted of three M-8 armored cars, firing 37-mm. cannon, and a half-dozen jeeps, could not, because of bridge demolitions, follow the direct route to Barcelonnette but took all day, traveling about 200 miles from the Rhá“áne, to reach its destination.  About five miles west of Barcelonnette, Cronin met McIntosh and Martin of Jed CHLOROFORM, with their company of <MI>maquisards<D>.  Cronin recalls meeting McIntosh:  "He is a Georgian [actually from Florida] with the most southern accent I have ever heard and who spoke French exactly as he spoke English but the Maquis understood him, and were quick to obey his commands."<M^>19<D>  (With the two other members of CHLOROFORM being French, there was never a communication problem.)

Once in Barcelonnette, Cronin and McIntosh quickly got in touch with John Halsey and Captain Bureau, who now had six companies spread out in the valley facing the German positions in the mountains.  For the next few days, the FFI, the American platoon, and John Halsey patrolled the road between Jausiers and Condamine, "moving around," as Cronin put it, "a great deal to give the appearance of more strength than we actually had."  The Germans showed no signs of an offensive but, with 110-mm. howitzers in the mountains, could put down a deadly barrage.  At one time, Halsey and Cronin together salvaged a jeep that had been abandoned by its driver.  With the rescued jeep "going like hell to town," Cronin spotted a little movement up on the mountain<197>either a machine gun or observation post.  "In order to lay the gun on the target," he remembered,

 

I had to elevate to maximum elevation since it was so high up on the mountain.  I put a couple of rounds into the suspected target and [Halsey] who was sitting next to me and who was supposed to be keeping an eye on the field above the embankment to keep anyone from sneaking up on us, was sitting there watching the gunnery and saying "Lovely, lovely, lovely," as only a Brit can say it.

 

Meanwhile, John Roper had been cooperating with patrols from the 2nd Battalion of the 180th Regiment, up to Brianá‡áon and across the Col de Vars to St.-Paul and to that same road net, St.-Paul<196>Condamine<196>Meyronnes, which Halsey, Cronin, McIntosh, and Bureau were keeping under observation.  The British officers deplored the caution of the Americans and the Maquis:  the former being under orders to carry on reconnaissance but not to attack, and the latter realizing how vulnerable they were to a German barrage.  In any case, although the Germans did not mount a serious offensive from the Larche pass, they reoccupied the villages along the Larche road and kept up such intensive shelling that the Allies, without heavy reinforcements, could do nothing except maintain contact.

On August 25, Patch ordered General Frederick to send elements of his Airborne Task Force up to the Larche pass.  This meant that, as soon as Lt. Col. Edward Sach could move some of the 550th Glider Infantry Battalion to Barcelonnette, Cronin would rejoin Piddington north of St.-Paul.  During the days between the 25th and the 28th, when the first Glider troops came in, the Germans almost closed the road between Jausiers and St.-Paul by their bombardments.  To quote Cronin:

 

 The Germans didn't react until we started to move north . . . then everything hit the fan.  The enemy had those roads leading to the pass taped and registered with artillery and really let us have it.  We beat a hasty retreat into Condamine and the artillery followed up.  We finally had to retreat behind a small mountain spur to the rear of Condamine to get into a defilade position.  Luckily no injuries were sustained except to our feelings.  One thing was certain; we weren't going to be able to get jeeps through that pass.  It would have to be armored cars traveling at high speed to make it and that was problematical.

 

Cronin did take an armored car up to St.-Paul, where he met Piddington, who told him to have the platoon make a dash for it.  Knowing that the airborne forces would possess much more offensive power than a recon platoon, Piddington's superiors believed that the entire troop would be more useful in the Guillestre--Briançon area.  Cronin returned to Barcelonnette, bringing with him the regional military delegate, Willy Widmer, who would be conferring with NOEL and Bureau about further actions.<M^>20<D>  On the next day, August 28, Cronin's platoon made a run for it and rejoined the other units of the 117th Reconnaissance Squadron at Voiron, north of Grenoble.  That evening, the first elements of Colonel Sachs' battalion moved into bivouac around Barcelonnette.

            The historian of these events would like to report that, with tanks and howitzers reinforcing Bureau's FFI, the Allies soon repulsed the Germans and raised a triumphant banner on the Larche pass.  This did not happen.  Although Bureau's FFI expanded to more than twelve companies with over a thousand maquisards, the Germans made ever more vigorous efforts to hold the pass, with artillery emplacements along ten miles of mountain crests.  Halsey and Jed CHLOROFORM patrolled and advised, the Airborne battalion did what it could, the Allied air force bombed enemy installations, and beginning on September 6, elements of the French regular forces--the 2nd Moroccan Division--reinforced the line.  By the end of September, these French units had relieved the weary <MI>maquisards<D>, who had fought in the high mountains for two months.<M^>21<D>  Even then this Alpine campaign, possibly the least celebrated of World War II, would continue through the frigid winter and well into the spring of 1945.

 

 TASK FORCE BIBO AND BRIANÇON

 

Since the Larche area had been assigned to the First Airborne Task Force, VI Corps now had to be concerned more with the passes to the north, the Montgená_ávre (controlled by Brianá‡áon) and the Modane and Mont-Cenis passes, approached by way of St.-Michel in the Maurienne.  Truscott decided to pull the 180th Infantry out of the area, so that it could follow the 179th to Grenoble.  The 2nd Battalion of the 180th still had one platoon at Brianá‡áon.

On August 27, Truscott ordered Lt. Col. Harold S. Bibo, of the Headquarters staff, to organize a task force to relieve the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 180th.  The Task Force was to consist of Troop A of the 117th Recon Squadron, already in the area; a Chemical battalion; two platoons from the 180th's Anti-Tank Company; one battery of 105s from the 171st Field Artillery Battalion.<M^>22<D>

In the evening of August 27, Bibo was briefed at VI Corps headquarters at Aspres and, around midnight set off toward Chorges, to confer with officers of the 180th Regiment, which his task force, officially designated as PFPF (Provisional Flank Protective Force), was to relieve.  Captain Piddington, whose Troop A was operating north of the Col de Vars in the Guillestre/Brianá‡áon region, conferred with Bibo on the road to Brianá‡áon.<M^>23<D>

Clearly, Brianá‡áon, which guarded the Montgená_ávre pass and which had already been occupied by Maquis along with Jedburghs and one platoon of the 180th's 2nd Battalion, was the key point of Bibo's responsibility.  Consequently, after a conference with his officers early in the morning of August 28, Bibo drove up to Brianá‡áon and set up his command post in the Grand Hotel.  There were many Maquis forces in and around Brianá‡áon, under the general command of Captain Frison, who had outposts and road-blocks in the mountains near the town, at Cerviá_áres, and along the road from Brianá‡áon to the German-held pass at Montgená_ávre.<M^>24<D>  The members of the NOVOCAINE Jedburgh team, Lieutenant Gennerich and his French colleague, Lieutenant LeLann, were there, together with the British officers Major Purvis and Captain Roper, and an American, Lt. Mario Volpe, the radio operator for the CONFESSIONAL (UNION III) mission.

During the night of August 28/29, German elements occupied strong points around Brianá‡áon and in the morning they began shelling the town.  With bombs falling in the vicinity of the Grand Hotel, Bibo ordered his headquarters to withdraw, around 11:00, to positions at Le Monáˆátier, about twelve miles on the Grenoble road.  All the American outposts were overrun, and company C of the 83rd Chemical Battalion was surrounded.  Its losses were heavy:  three officers, fifty men, twelve 4.2 mortars, and about twenty-five vehicles.  Some men from the company were able to straggle through and escape the German patrols.  The Resistance also suffered.  Ten men from Captain Cá,áard's company, driving up to the Fort des Táˆátes, were intercepted and summarily executed by the Germans.  At the fortress, Paul Baldenberger, a member of the local Liberation Committee, was shot.<M^>25<D>

The Germans had indeed occupied the area and on the next day, August 30, rounded up 250 able-bodied citizens from whom the officer in charge, Major Schneider, chose twelve hostages.  Two townspeople, a physician, Dr. Lepoire, and an attorney, former public prosecutor Daurelle, sought to save the hostages by guaranteeing the town's neutrality.  For the next few days, terror reigned:  German soldiers requisitioned what they chose and destroyed buildings<197>wantonly it appeared to the citizens.  Until the local German forces were reinforced by Afrika Korps elements from the 90th Panzer Grenadier Division, Brianá‡áon had no power, no water, no telephones, and little food.<M^>26<D>

Early in the morning of August 30, Bibo did in fact receive corps orders (issued the previous day) that he would be relieved very shortly by the French.  While Bibo's CP was now at Lauteret, Piddington's was about halfway between Lauteret and Brianá‡áon, in the shadow of mountains, which showed patches of snow and glacier even in summertime.

That evening, Major Howes, from Seventh Army, turned up at Bibo's CP with a French liaison officer to make preliminary arrangements for the relief by the French.  With knowledge that his task force would soon be relieved, Colonel Bibo went to Chambá,áry, north of Grenoble, to meet with French Colonel Bonjour, whose forces would be taking over the northern sector.<M^>27<D>  While he was away, Troop A patrolled and skirmished around St.-Chaffrey, with the 2nd Platoon generally under fire.  Jed NOVOCAINE participated in the patrols.

Bibo returned to his headquarters late in the evening of September 1 with word that everything was ready for the French takeover.  All units were to be prepared to leave and rejoin their parent units on the following day.<M^>28<D>

In Brianá‡áon, by September 3, some order had returned:  Electricity had been restored, and the hostages had been released.  The Germans, although reinforced, did not intend to attack, simply to safeguard the escape routes along which stragglers from the Maurienne were still limping eastward.  In any case, elements of the French 4th Regiment of <MI>Tirailleurs Marocains<D>, forerunners of General Dody's 2nd Moroccan Infantry Division, had now reached the outskirts of the mountain city.

On September 5, the Germans withdrew back to the forts protecting the Montgená_ávre pass, leaving only rear guard units that were captured on the next day when the Moroccans, along with Frison's FFI, entered Brianá‡áon.  For the second time, the townspeople hailed their liberation, this time without fear of reoccupation; but the pass remained in German hands until the following spring.

 

Chapter 14       Cannes and Nice

 

Although General Truscott had not been able to cut off the retreating Germans at Montélimar, General Patch could view the accomplishments of his Seventh Army with a certain satisfaction.  The move north had been accomplished in record time, far ahead of schedule, and the whole of southern France required only a mopping-up of stragglers.  With Toulon and Marseille besieged by de Lattre's Army B, it was simply a matter of time before the ports would fall into Allied hands.  Hitler had no way of reinforcing the two divisions that stubbornly carried out a last-ditch defense.

On the other hand, the Germans could, if they chose to do so, reinforce their 157th Division (Pflaum) and their 148th (Fretter-Pico) across the Alpine passes.  Patch had good reason however, through air reconnaissance and ULTRA, to believe that the enemy would continue to withdraw, not mount a counteroffensive, in the east.

On August 20, a stream of ULTRA reports from Bletchley had come through.  One of these, dated 1:20 <MS>P.M.<D> London time, revealed that the German High Command had ordered General Fretter-Pico to pull back toward the Italian border.  The part applying to the eastern flank read:

 

 148 Reserve Division to defend area around Grasse as long as possible without running risk of annihilation.  Then to withdraw with main forces via Nice, Breil, Cuneo to take over new sector with left boundary coast at Menton, right boundary Embrun, Chianale-Varaita valley.  If situation allows, groups to be pulled back fighting into Tinßéße and Var valleys as far as Larche-Condamine to bar a possible Allied outflanking thrust across Maddalena [Larche] Pass. . . .

 

 At 0900 August 19, leaving strong rearguards in contact with Allies, main body 148 Division to withdraw from evening 19th onward first to east bank of the Var sector and to start from there movement ordered into new sector.  In no circumstances to let Allies push them back by outflanking movement to north.

 

Late in the evening, another long message was deciphered.  It mentioned that LXII Corps (whose headquarters had already been overrun) "will gradually be withdrawn to former Franco-Italian frontier and employed in its defense."  It continued:  "148th Division's task is to defend possible retreat route Grasse to Cannes."  The 157th Reserve Division "to withdraw when pressed, behind 19th Army, to line Brianßçßon<196>Chambßéßry<196>Aix-les-Bains.  Later task to defend Alpine Sector, left at Embrun, right at Mt. Blanc."<M^>1<D>

Patch certainly gained reassurance from these messages, but was disturbed that de Lattre had protested vigorously against having his divisions bottled up against the Alps.  Patch had however accepted General Devers' suggestion about transforming the First Airborne Task Force into a regular offensive unit.  The official orders for the FABTF to relieve Dahlquist and assume responsibility for the eastern flank reached General Frederick late on the 19th.  The British Second Brigade would leave the theater, but it would be replaced by the "Black Devils," the First Special Service Force, a Canadian<196>U.S. Commando of regiment size that had previously served under Frederick's command in Italy.  Now under Col. Edwin A. Walker, the Special Service Task Force had reduced off-shore batteries on islands near Toulon  and  had been held in reserve since D Day.  Frederick would "establish and hold defensive flank along the general line Fayence<196>La Napoule," positions occupied by the 36th Division.<M^>2<D>

The "general line" must not be thought of as a 1914<196>1918 length of trenches.  Beyond the coast lie valleys and hills, dotted with small villages, served by a labyrinth of winding dirt roads.  In some of the hill towns, a German garrison might hold out for days while traffic continued unopposed on nearby roads; elsewhere demoralized Axis troops, preponderantly made up of impressed Poles, Ukrainians, and Cossacks, eagerly surrendered when they had the chance.

The left, or northern limit of Frederick's responsibility, Fayence, had held out until the 21st, when the Germans surrendered to Jedburgh team SCEPTRE.  Another stubborn defense took place at Callian.  This was a little perched village where some of the wounded paratroopers had been left, and where patrols of the 141st Regiment's 2nd Battalion, under Lt. Col. James Critchfield, had penetrated as early as D + 2.  With a French Resistance contingent ready to help, the Americans found themselves faced by a garrison unwilling to surrender.  It finally took a mini-task force under the battalion's executive officer, Maj. Herbert Eitt, to subdue the Germans.  The 141st, which controlled the Route Napolßéßon (N85) from a point a few miles northwest of Grasse all the way to Digne, began to move out as the paratroopers took over their positions.<M^>3<D>

The Airborne Task Force now assumed responsibility for protecting the Seventh Army's eastern flank.  General Frederick moved his headquarters to the Hotel Courier in St.-Raphael.  Just outside the city limits, at Valescure, the OSS men, Captains Geoffrey Jones and Alan Stuyvesant, set up a headquarters.  It was here that Jones joined forces with Pierre Escot, director of a Gaullist intelligence network that possessed wide information sources in the direction of Cannes and Nice.  With Frederick now responsible for offensive moves eastward, the association with Escot became extremely valuable, and he was absorbed into a burgeoning SO/SI type of operation attached to Frederick's G-2.<M^>4<D>

General Frederick now deployed his units along the highways leading to Italy.  By the 22nd, the Airborne's line ran just a few miles west of Cannes, extending northwest until it reached N85, the Route Napolßéßon, several miles south of Castellane.  The Germans still held some rear guard units in Grasse, the celebrated perfume center on the winding Cannes<196>Castellane road.  As Frederick's troops moved east, they approached the boundary between the departments of Var and Alpes-Maritimes.  The 509th Parachute Battalion, outside Cannes, had already crossed the border.

All this movement seriously affected Commandant Lßéßcuyer, who since early August had been FFI chief for Alpes-Maritimes and who, as ORA regional chief, knew the area extremely well.  Many of the mountain towns had been or could be liberated by the FFI, and he realized the strategic significance of the Var River, which meets the Mediterranean just west of Nice, the departmental seat.  While the Germans were strongly fortified around Nice, they had only small garrisons in towns beyond a twenty-mile defense line.  Lßéßcuyer believed that troops could reach the little town of Plan-du-Var, where a wide flat valley extends to the south with mountains to the north, without encountering serious resistance.

Since the landings, Lßéßcuyer's companies had plagued German garrisons in the Alps, striking at German concentrations toward the Italian border.  The French knew, at a time when American plans had scarcely been formulated, that key positions in the high valleys had to be controlled if the Germans were to be forced out of France.  The valleys and ridges lie at right angles to the coast, and make a series of potential defensive lines north of that Riviera coastline stretching from Nice to Monte Carlo.

By August 19, Lßéßcuyer could be assured that no German troops remained in the mountain quadrilateral roughly defined by the Italian border in the north, by the Tinßéße River in the east, and the Var River on the south.  (By this time the U.S. 36th Division occupied the territory to the west.)  The last of the German garrisons in the Tinßéße Valley, those protecting a hydroelectric plant at Bancairon, had just surrendered to three of Lßéßcuyer's companies.  Lßéßcuyer himself had gone there to accept the enemy commander's surrender, explaining to the German officer that, while his Maquis uniform was somewhat improvised, he was indeed a legitimate French officer.

East of the Var<196>Tinßéße line, a series of ridges running north<196>south could serve the Germans as defensive bastions.  East of the Tinßéße Valley, the next strategic positions lie along the Vßéßsubie River Valley, marked by the town of Lantosque and farthest north, St.-Martin-Vßéßsubie, ten miles (as the crow flies) from Italy.  On August 17, a band of Lßéßcuyer's <MI>maquisards<D>, Groupe MORGAN (Foata), entered St.-Martin and forced the garrison to surrender.  The conquest was short-lived, however, since German plans were being formulated to hold the Tende pass, and elements of the 90th Panzer Division were beginning to take up positions along the border.  On the 21st, the Germans reoccupied St.-Martin.<M^>5<D>

Havard Gunn, now at Thorenc (Lßéßcuyer's CP), understood the implicit strategic import of St.-Martin and did his best to persuade the FFI into another assault.  Several Resistance groups responded.  (One of these, known as the <MI>Battalion<D> HOCHCORN from the code name of its leader, Commandant Dormois, included in its heterogeneous makeup a section of navy firemen, <MI>marins pompiers<D>, from Marseille.)<M^>6<D>  Gunn went to St.-Martin and later succinctly reported:

 

Entered town.  Tried to organize FFI who were very disordered and very political.  Largely FTP.  Gained very interesting military information.  Entered all villages not occupied by enemy along frontier but position obviously very insecure.  Enemy patrols all along parts of Italian frontier and raiding villages, etc.  Left St.-Martin for Plan-du-Var.

 

 Both Gunn and Lßéßcuyer believed the Americans should be advised that it might be possible to reach Plan-du-Var from the north.

Organizing a small convoy, Lßéßcuyer, Gunn, and some staff on motorcycles set out for the Allied CP and finally reached General Frederick at his headquarters in St.-Raphael.  While he agreed with the possibilities of an attack from the north, General Frederick explained that his orders required a defensive position, with only reconnaissance to Grasse and Cannes.<M^>7<D>

            Frederick told Lßéßcuyer and Gunn that, even though he was supposed only to recon toward Grasse, he was going to attack it the next day.  He did also obtain a modification of his orders.  The written version (Patch Field Order No. 3, 6, August 25, 1944) read:

 

 FABTF:

(1)  Seize and hold the West bank of the VAR in zone.

(2)  Protect the right (East) flank of Seventh Army along the general line:  LARCHE PASS (incl)--TOUDON--West bank of the VAR river to its mouth.

(3)  Reconnoiter to NICE.

 

             Patch had of course been able to digest the information, derived from the ULTRA decrypt of August 20 ordering a German withdrawal.  Thus, on the twenty-third, as Frederick prepared to take Grasse, Patch possessed a reasonably good assessment of what the enemy might do on the Italo-French frontier.  Knowing that Generalmajor Otto Fretter-Pico, the 148th Division Commander, would hold the east bank of the Var, he could readily authorize Frederick to go that far, and then wait and see.

Patch gave Frederick responsibility also for the Larche pass, where Piddington's Troop A, John Halsey, and Jedburgh team CHLOROFORM had been giving what support they could to Captain Bureau's embattled FFI.  Frederick detached Colonel Sach's 550th Battalion, which in the next few days made its way to Barcelonnette and began taking up positions along the roads leading to the pass.<M^>8<D>

When Lßéßcuyer and Gunn told General Frederick how free the mountain roads were, they were somewhat disconcerted when the general told them he would look into it if the intelligence they brought could be verified.  While Frederick's immediate objectives were Grasse and Cannes, and his orders limited him to reconnaissance no farther north than thirty miles, Lßéßcuyer and Gunn were describing a route via Puget-Thßéßniers on the upper Var, more than fifty miles from the coast.  Lßéßcuyer pointed out that over the lower Var no bridge remained intact except at Plan-du-Var, where the Var Valley mountain road emerges onto the plain less then twenty miles from Nice.<M^>9<D>

In the event, General Frederick chose not to take the northern route to the Var River, which made it more imperative in Gunn's and Lßéßcuyer's view that the Maquis must at all costs hold the bridge at Plan-du-Var.  By this time, Commandant Sorensen (CHASUBLE) and Xan Fielding, the officers who had been imprisoned with Cammaerts, had joined them.  Ostensibly, Sorensen was FFI chief, as Constans' deputy, for the eastern part of R-2, and he needed to develop familiarity with the Alpes-Maritimes.

Meanwhile, the 517th and the First Special Service Force struck at Grasse on August 24, entered the town without opposition, and moved ahead to the German defensive positions along the Loup River.  On the next day, August 25, Frederick transferred his Task Force headquarters to Grasse.  With this move went Captain Stuyvesant, the SSS officer responsible for intelligence and contacts with French agents, as well as Capt. Geoffrey Jones, who had been providing various liaison and other services for FABTF since he joined them on D Day.<M^>10<D>

Along the coast, Yarborough's 509th Regiment, having reduced the German strong points west of Cannes, by-passed that most elegant of Riviera resorts and the nearby resort of Antibes, so that the troops could take a shorter route to Nice and the Italian border.  Therefore, while patrols of the 509th probed along the coast road at Mandelieu and La Napoule, others sounded out German defenses away from the coast.

On August 23, a three-jeep party had encountered members of a Cannes Resistance patrol outside the city, where Germans were entrenched with mortars and heavy machine guns.  Reinforcements came up, but a sharp fire-fight, in which both Americans and FFI took casualties, enabled the Germans to hold on.

The German group, however, formed no more than a rear guard for the withdrawal from Cannes of the German garrison, under Colonel Schneider, planned for the dawn of the 24th.  The Resistance within Cannes had long prepared for this opportunity, with MUR forces under Vahanian in the city's western sector, and those of Miniconi (FTP Commandant JEAN-MARIE) in the east and north.  Schneider had orders to destroy the city before he evacuated it, but, either because of Resistance pressure or from repugnance toward such useless and savage destruction, he left the hotels and civic structures intact.  On the 24th, the Germans withdrew, leaving the city to a rejoicing population, to the FFI, hailed as liberators, and to the Committee of Liberation, headed by Gabriel Daville, an officer in one of Miniconi's FTP companies.  Yarborough's 509th came along without opposition, joined in the parade, and hastened on to their next objective, Nice.<M^>11<D>

To attack Nice it would be necessary to cross the Var, which, with its bridges blown, provided a nasty obstacle.  Ironically, while the ABTF had not yet crossed the Var, Resistance forces planned an attack in a strategic area fifty miles ahead, the value of which the Americans would appreciate three weeks later when they<197>and the FFI<197>would face the German decision to hold the ridges north of Monte Carlo.  This defense line lies barely five air miles east of the Vßéßsubie Valley, and the leaders of Lßéßcuyer's groups, Foata (Group MORGAN) and Mazier (Group FRANßÇßOIS), having control of the Vßéßsubie, believed the Germans might be prepared to relinquish positions around Turini.  Should these strong points be grasped, the way might be open to Sospel, a key point on the road to Italy.  Unfortunately for Foata and Mazier, the Germans saw control of the passes as essential to their defense:  They undertook to reoccupy St.-Martin and to reinforce their defenses at Turini.  The Maquis attack turned into a disaster.  Gunn, then at Plan-du-Var, learned of the effort too late:

 

 Knew this area heavily defended by German Alpine troops.  Tried to change orders but SAPIN [Lécuyer] left no competent staff officer in charge.  All his staff moved to Nice.  Left to contact US forces.  Crossed Var river, found US regimental HQ [presumably Col. Graves' 517th regiment]; colonel commanding promised to give small mixed patrol for dawn next morning for recce of valleys concerned also make enemy think Americans advanced farther than they had.  My idea also was to try and support FFI attack on Turini at dawn if I was unable to get troops orders changed.  Given jeep.  Tried all night to cross river Var to reach Nice, impossible because of mines.  Returned lead patrol up valleys.  FFI had attacked Turini before my arrival.  Complete defeat and ten killed.  Operation very rash and badly managed.<M^>12<D>

 

For Gunn and Lßéßcuyer, the bridge at Plan-du-Var still offered a great possibility for Frederick's paratroopers.  Although in summertime the Var River is no more than a trickle threading its way through a vast pebbly riverbed, the Germans had sown mines that would make a precarious crossing for men and vehicles.

Operational Group RUTH had now joined Lßéßcuyer.  Under the leadership of Lieutenants Brandes and Strand, the group had worked with Task Force Butler until Digne was liberated, and was then reassigned to the area in which Gunn and Lßéßcuyer were operating.  They never did locate Gunn, but, after a conference with Lßéßcuyer and Sorensen at Thorenc, they joined the Maquis units that were protecting the bridge at Plan-du-Var.  Although the Germans held Levens, from where they could fire toward the bridge, FFI units and members of OG RUTH harassed them so effectively that they could neither occupy the bridge nor destroy it.

            Meanwhile, although he had not accepted the northern approach, on the 26th, Frederick ordered the 517th Regiment to fan out along the Loup River, crossing it to the north in the direction of Coursßéßgoules and Bßéßzaudun, and to the south toward Vence (the picturesque old village where Matisse would later decorate his celebrated chapel).  Advance elements reached the Var, where they could fire across the river at the German installations; and on the next day, the three battalions of the 517th occupied Bézaudun and Le Broc.

Lieutenant Gautier (later general) recalls:

 

 The American command understood that we held Plan-du-Var and maintained contact with the eastern bank.  Artillery was placed at my disposal and its accurate fire hit the German positions.  On the evening of the 27th the Americans crossed the Var, and, guided by a number of our people, took Levens and La Roquette [two miles south of Levens].  The crossing of the Var had taken place just as, to the south, another American group reached the river banks. . . .  We had succeeded in what we wished, that is to get the Allied forces east of the Var, although their mission at this moment did not extend beyond this line.<M^>13<D>

 

The other "American group" was presumably Lieutenant Brandes and OG RUTH, which encountered advance patrols from the 517th parachute regiment on the 27th.  When Brandes reported to the Regimental command post in Grasse, Colonel Graves sent an anti-tank company to relieve the OG.  By this time, Geoffrey Jones, attached to the Task Force's G-2, had moved his headquarters to Grasse.  He found a truck for the well-worn group<197>they had been in the field for almost a month<197>which reported back to 4-SFU.<M^>14<D>

Captain Jones became more and more useful to General Frederick by providing accurate information about enemy dispositions.  Although originally trained as an artillery paratrooper, Jones moved readily into the SI (intelligence) sector, where his energy and knowledge of the area enabled him to feed valuable information to Frederick's G-2.

 

 LIBERATION OF NICE

 

On August 27<197>as German forces evacuated Nice and an insurrection began.  Jones obtained a copy of General Fretter-Pico's field order for the day.  Jones recalls the situation:

 

 An SO probe of young agents behind enemy lines in Nice ambushed a German command car and brought back a bloody knapsack full of papers.  As we began to sort out this lode with the help of a (I will never know why he was visiting us) British officer, we made an astounding discovery:  these "papers" were the just written plans for German forces on the eastern flank to withdraw for the next three days to fortified positions on the Italian frontier<197>and the Field Order and maps to carry them out!  Working all night by candlelight, we translated/processed a complete report that by early morning was ready for me to wake up the General, who immediately gave me his L. S. aircraft and had me flown to General Patch's headquarters.

 

The order made it clear that the 148th Reserve Division would pull back toward the Italian border, but would hold a line roughly ten miles west of the frontier, blocking the coast to Italy at Monte Carlo, and defending the mountain road leading by way of Sospel to the Tende pass.  The order warned:  "Watch out<197>terrorists are everywhere. . . .  Do not go singly, only armed and in groups. . . .  Skirt the terrorist infested city of Nice."<M^>15<D>

The liberation of Nice, the largest city on the French Riviera, provoked for the French not only joyous celebrations, but also the beginning of intense political infighting.  Whether the new administration would be Gaullist or Communist provided heady grist for the mill of a local power struggle.  If Nice had been the same as other liberated cities, then, as the Germans withdrew, Frederick's airborne troops would have made a token parade through the city and then passed rapidly ahead in pursuit, even as Truscott and de Lattre would by-pass Lyon.  Happily or unhappily, as the case may be, the Americans became more immersed in Nice than they anticipated.

The protracted mountain stalemate, which kept the First Airborne Task Force in the area until mid-November, meant that Nice, within 25 miles of the front lines, of necessity became Frederick's headquarters and the nearest center for rest and recreation.  The attractiveness of this celebrated resort, which even in wartime gushed with enough wine to inspire the term "Champagne campaign," stood in marked contrast with the deadly Alpine conflict so close at hand.

Like all departments, the Alpes-Martimes (of which Nice was the prefectural seat) had produced a Departmental Committee of Liberation (CDL).  However, well before the August 15 landings, a split between those who looked for a people's insurrection led by FTP units and those who wished to cooperate with the FFI and Gaullist appointees had developed.  As Frederick's Airborne Task Force approached Nice, the department had become divided:  pro-Communist political leaders and the FTP dominating Nice, the administrative center; and in the mountains, the FFI structure of Sorensen, Lßéßcuyer, and the latter's deputy, Pierre Gautier (MALHERBE), maintaining control.

It took some time before Nice settled down to something resembling normalcy.  On August 27, with the Americans still on the Var's western bank, the CDL called for insurrection.  Fortunately (as the Allies knew from Fretter-Pico's captured "Order of the Day"), the Germans were withdrawing.  The Nazi departure kept bloodshed at a minimum, and the uprising prevented the Germans from destroying important hotels and other facilities.  On the next day, as Maquis and paratroopers paraded in the streets, hysterical Gallic joy poured forth in ecstatic exuberance.  Some rioting and vandalism continued for several days.<M^>16<D>

Sufficient order had been established in Nice by September 5 for General Frederick to move his headquarters from Grasse to the resort city.  While the Leftist CDL professed no great affection either for the Americans or for the ORA domination of Maquis units fighting in the Alps, the city administration cooperated to the degree necessary to continue the fight against the Germans.

 

 THE STRUGGLE ON THE FRANCO-ITALIAN FRONTIER

 

General Frederick, at the beginning of September, now witnessed a third evolution of his troops from, first, a contingent of paratroopers with the mission of seizing a limited strategic objective, second, an infantry division in pursuit, and now a group of mountain fighters holding a line (memories of World War I), with continual patrols and limited offensives.  The "line" concentrated on three passages into Italy:  along the coast, beyond Monaco as far as Menton, the Tende pass 30 miles north, and finally, northwest, the Larche pass.  Between Tende and Larche, along the Italian border, stretch miles and miles of snow-capped roadless Alpine peaks.

By September 6, the disposition of the Task Force covered a front, which would be held for months to come:  Based on Menton on the Mediterranean, Frederick's troops controlled l'Escarßèßne, Luceram, Peira Cava, and ultimately Turini.  The brunt of fighting developed in the 517th Combat Team area, with efforts to break through German defenses on the road to Sospel.

Alongside the G.I.s, units of the FFI continued to fight.  Noteworthy among those was the Hochcorn group, which had chased the German garrison out of St.-Martin de Vßéßsubie a week before the Allies reached Nice.  The group worked especially with the Special Service Force and is recognized in the Force's history:<M^>17<D>

 

 Shortly after crossing the Var, Lieutenant Colonel Becket received a visit from Major Hochscorn who came to offer the services of his battalion.  Hochscorn Battalion was put to work on several reconnaissance missions, the first near l'Escarene and later with Second Regiment on patrols in strength around Mt. Agel [west of Roquebrune].  Veterans of two and three years clandestine resistance against Germans, the Hochscorns performed courageously and well while under Force command.  Their main limitations were lack of unified training, lack of uniform ordinance, and lacks in warm clothing and proper supply in the mountains.  Both discipline and command were good.  The lieutenants were mostly graduates of St. Cyr, and most of the officers and NCO's had gone through the invasion of France with regular regiments.

 

Appreciating the needs of the FFI, Havard Gunn continued to act as liaison between Lßéßcuyer and the Allied Command.  Early in September, he went to Brignoles, where 4-SFU had established its CP, and consulted with Colonel Head about reorganization in the Alpine area<197>from the coast to Larche<197>where the ABTF had responsibility.  Although the arrangement arrived at did not change the situation already in existence, 4-SFU established an "Interallied Mission" in which the two British officers, Gunn and Halsey, would continue "operational" liaison, and the American, Geoffrey Jones, would concentrate on intelligence (which he was already doing in cooperation with Frederick's G-2).

Major Gunn developed a staff that included Capt. Yves Hautißèßre (VESTIAIRE, who had been dropped with Major Fielding), Lieutenant Etienne, and others.  Halsey was technically part of Gunn's group, but he remained at Barcelonnette in a liaison capacity with the FFI and with the Americans after Colonel Sach's 550th arrived.  The Gunn group did its best to provide arms and material to the FFI fighting with the ABTF, remaining in operation until October 10.<M^>18<D>

Capt. Geoffrey Jones continued to work in coordination with the Airborne Task Force's G-2.  He had in fact made his services invaluable.  General Frederick, while at first somewhat indifferent, was impressed by Jones providing the German operation order, and also by the expeditious way in which he later obtained information about the port at Nice.  As Jones recalled:

 

 Frederick never really accepted us until after the German defense plans were authenticated.  Of course, I never asked him if he was pleased with us because he was a formidable gentleman, but the very fact that he began to use us for something besides translating and running errands showed that he felt that we were a tool he could rely upon.

 

From modest beginnings at Valescure, where he first became associated with Pierre Escot, Jones built up a considerable organization for providing intelligence to Frederick and to Colonel Blythe's G-2.  Again in Jones' words:

 

We were able to build up a multinational group of over 120 volunteer men and women from local indigenous and refugee resistants<197>who served as translators to cooks and couriers to counterintelligence and coup-de-main agents<197>complete with its own network of clandestine radios (built from local materials) and behind the line infiltration systems by sea and mountain pass.  We also had our own ski patrols (with uniforms homemade from sheets) and a small fleet of sail and motor boats which supplied from tactical targets for naval guns to guerilla groups for sabotage actions.  And from our first typed notes of August 19th, we eventually provided General Frederick and/or his G-2 with over 500 properly processed (i.e., translated, evaluated, etc.) reports of all types of special operations and intelligence from French, Italian, Polish, Russian and even refugee German informants . . . we were able to recruit/direct in support of the FABTF.

 

By mid-September, Jones was setting up chains out of his headquarters at the Manoir Belgrano in Nice to obtain information about enemy positions and intentions in Italy.  He also developed special missions, such as JARGNAC into the Po Valley, TALBOT into Monaco, and HENRI to Sospel, and he remained in touch with John Halsey at the Larche pass and with the Hamilton mission farther north.  Another group, mission MICHEL, provided intelligence and guides for the 517th's 3rd Battalion under Lt. Col. Melvin Zais.  The work done was complex, in Jones' words, "a classic example of how an SO operation can be equally effective in the SI field during its operations."<M^>19<D>

After September 15, when General Devers, as commanding general, Sixth Army Group, began liquidating OSS operations in southeastern France, Frederick requested that Jones<197>but not Stuyvesant<197>be exempted from the recall and transferred to the First Airborne Task Force, as head of the Strategic Services Subsection.  "The organization which he has developed," read the request,

 

 is a coordinated, energetic, dependable group of French and Italian people, many of them working without remuneration for the Allied cause.  This headquarters desires to retain this organization and the benefits of its activities.  The organization depends entirely upon the energetic leadership of Captain Jones, and it is believed that it will dissolve without his continued presence.

 

             The request was approved, and Jones continued his work on the Italian border, even after the Airborne was relieved, until March 1945.<M^>20<D>

            The month of September 1944, which witnessed the final activities of SPOC and 4-SFU, brought about inevitable changes among the Resistance fighters.  With Paris liberated and with the provisional government installed, de Gaulle wasted no time in either liquidating the FFI or bringing them under regular army command.  In theory, the FFI ceased to exist after August 27 (before either Lyon or Nice had been liberated), and the Resistance regions, such as R-1 and R-2, became once more traditional military districts.  By the middle of September, the government had decided that <MI>maquisards<D> who wished to continue fighting should be reassigned, after formal agreement to enlist until the end of the war, to regular army units.

            It goes without saying that confusion was rampant as old organizations persevered alongside the framework of new ones, and in places the Maquis simply disregarded orders, fighting in the mountains under their old chiefs.  Although all Resistance fighters, AS, <MI>Corps Francs<D>, FTP, and ORA, came under the government's decrees, clearly the more manageable units, as far as amalgamation was concerned, were those already under regular army officers and, in particular, the ORA.

In eastern R-2, for which Commandant Sorensen held responsibility as representative of            Colonel Constans (chief, FFI, R-2, under General Zeller, chief FFI Southeast) and General Cochet (Military Delegate, Operations South), the various FFI units were amalgamated into seven battalions to form a "Southern Alpine Group" (<MI>Groupement Alpin Sud<D>), attached to de Lattre's French First Army.  Assigned to the command was a rigid regular officer, Colonel Lanusse.  Commandant Lßéßcuyer served as Lanusse's deputy, and Lieutenant Gautier took charge of several of the newly organized battalions fighting in the Alps with the FABTF.  The combat elements remained essentially the same, but their designations changed.  Later, the Alpine Group South was absorbed into the 3rd RIA [Alpine Infantry Regiment], under the command of Colonel Lelaquet, former FFI chief in the Var Department.  Gradually, French divisions took over the combat in the Alps, but Americans, first the FABTF, then elements of the 19th Armored Division, kept fighting along that "forgotten front" until March of 1945, when the units facing Italy all became French.<M^>21<D>

 

 

 

 

Chapter 15         TOULON and MARSEILLE

 

While O’Daniel’s 3rd Division prsued the Germans north beyond Avignon, de Lattre’s Army B was organing for attacks against Toulon and Marseille.  The latter had special significance for the Resistance as headquarters of R-2, and potential seat of the regional Commissaire de la République.

In the area was an SOE circuit, GARDENER, heaed by Major Robert Boiteux (FIRMIN), and Cammaerts had some contacts in the area.  SPOC also supported a French DGSS anti-sabotge project of trying to save the ports of Toulon, Marseille, and Sète from being destroyed by the departing Germans.  The plan originated in the French navy or, more precisely, in the Aeronavale, which assigned the teams and placed the operation under the command of Capitaine de Corvette L. P. A. Allain (LOUGRE). According to the official report:

        "Après avoir reçu l'instruction de parachutiste, de commando, et de sécurité au Club des Pins, le groupe d'officiers et d'officiers-mariniers a étudié à fond les méthodes de sabotage employés par les allemands dans les divers ports méditerranéens liberés et plus particulièrement dans celui de Naples.   . . . Les équipes sont réparties de la façon suivante:

    Région de TOULON  1ère équipe - L.V. de la Ménardière (SAMPAN)

    Région de MARSEILLE  2ème équipe - I. M. P Parayre (CAIQUE)

    Région de SETE  3ème équipe - I. M. P  Kervarec (SCHOONER)

Les ordres de mission sont établis en accord avec le BCRA, les représentants anglais et américains du SPOC, et le représentant délégué par la Marine, Capitaine de Frégate Trautman.                         

          The first group, SAMPAN, parachuted into France in the middle of June 1944.  It consisted of Lieutenants de la Ménardière (SAMPAN), Midoux, and Sanguinetti, with a radio operator, all of whom soon made contact with FFI regional ORA head Jacques Lécuyer, with the Toulon FFI chief, Salvatori (SAVARY), and with sympathetic French naval officers stationed in the port.  Allain remained in Algiers, where he and another member of the Toulon team, Enseigne de Vaisseau Jean Ayral, stood by, not certain whether they could get to mainland France prior to D Day. (Ayral était l'ancien délégué de Jean Moulin en zone occupée.)

          SAMPAN collected a considerable amount of information but, while the team could transmit messages by radio, it had no way of sending maps and photographs, which would be of tremendous value when the Allies attacked Toulon.  With a quantity of these materials, Midoux made his way in early August to ARCHIDUC's CP in the Vaucluse, 160 km north of Toulon, where he took the next flight out; but when he reached Algiers he learned that the invasion was under way, and that Allain had already been dropped in France. (Allain in fact had been dropped near Draguignan in a mission related to the Airborne attack, and did not reach Toulon until 23 August. His adventures are related elsewhere in this narrative.)

       Leaving Allain with the Airborne Paratroopers, we must comment briefly on team GEDEON, which included Enseigne de Vaisseau Ayral, Sub-Lt. Horace Moore of the British navy, a radio operator and three French quartermasters.  They landed north of Toulon  on August 12 and, in the next few days, allied themselves with Maquis groups in the area of Signes (not yet known as a German execution spot) as well as with Ménardière and his SAMPAN team.

             After the port's liberation, Seventh Army engineers, working with French personnel, were able to get the base in operating condition by September 20.

          Meanwhile, on July 18, the mission (CAIQUE) destined for Marseille, headed by an engineer, Parayre, was dropped about 100 km north of the port and soon learned about the arrests that the Gestapo had made.  The team managed its clandestine movements with great care, and by the time of D-Day, had made contacts with ARCHIDUC  for further drops, with the Toulon team, and with sympathetic French naval officers within the Marseille port.

Unfortunately, Parayre did not receive his action messages on time, and after the landings, the Germans increased their security arrangements.  Realizing that the Germans, if defeated, would try to sink vessels in the channel entrances, Parayre hoped to scuttle ships that might be available for this purpose.  Needing an armed group to protect his engineers, he met Major Boiteux on the 19th and obtained from the SOE agent fifty kilograms of explosives, but by the time he was able to muster the necessary people, he learned that the Marseille Resistance was planning an insurrection.  If this took place, the Germans would certainly impose such security measures that the antisabotage plans would be useless.

It may be well at this point to review what had been happening along the coast.  General de Lattre, restless because the American divisions had landed before his, wanted to get his forces into action.  Four days after the landings, both de Lattre and Patch agreed that the French should move all out against Toulon and Marseille, while the American 3rd Division would proceed in the same direction just to the north.<M^>4<D>

When he received Patch's order, de Lattre had available to him General Brosset's 1st Free French Division, General Magnan's 9th Colonial Infantry Division, and General de Monsabert's 3rd Algerian Infantry, all of which began an encircling movement against the French naval base at Toulon.  Before he began his attack, de Lattre had received Sanguinetti, of the SAMPAN team, who had come through the German lines.  De Lattre recalled the young officer as "something thin and feverish looking like a Corsican bandit," who told him about the German dispositions.  The report impelled de Lattre to waste no time and to strike before German Admiral Ruhfus had deployed the 242nd Divison to points of maximum effectiveness.<M^>5<D>

De Lattre analyzed the Toulon operation as consisting of three phases:  the <MI>investment<D> (August 21<196>22), in which Monsabert covered the north while General de Larminat coordinated actions of Monsabert and Magnan; second, the <MI>dismantling<D> (August 22<196>23), during which the French regular forces broke through the outer belt; and third, the <MI>final reduction<D> of the inner defenses, primarily the work of the 9th Colonial Infantry, ending with Admiral Ruhfus's surrender on the 27th.<M^>6<D>  It was during the "investment" that groups of the Resistance and members of the SAMPAN and GEDEON teams met the first <MI>Bataillon de Choc<D> troops as they filtered into the city.  Unfortunately, when he was carrying out a liaison mission to General de Linarßèßs, Ensign Ayral, not properly identified, was killed in error by French soldiers.  The remaining members of the team fought side by side with the FFI and with the regulars during the street fighting that followed.  This effort, combined with artillery and bombardment from sea and air, brought the great naval base into allied hands.

While the fighting at Toulon continued, de Lattre fixed his attention on his next objective, Marseille, which with its outlying forts and suburbs, stretches along fifteen miles of coastline.  He did not have to concern himself immediately with Sßèßte, 100 miles west of Marseille, where the third antiscorch team, SCHOONER, had gone, because the Germans abandoned Sßèßte on the 20th.<M^>7

General de Lattre did not wish to attack Marseille prematurely, wanting assurance that Toulon posed no threat to his flank and guarantees that sufficient fuel would be available.  However, events caught up with him as a workers' strike and popular insurrection demanded the presence of the regular army.

Within Marseille, in spite of its population of almost a million, the Resistance was so divided, so disorganized, and so poorly armed that scarcely 500 FFI could provide a "fifth column" to hamper German defenses.  Part of the disorganization had followed the arrest, in July, of Burdet, the regional military delegate, and Rossi, the regional FFI chief. The local Resistance, dominated by Communists and fellow-travelers, did not recognize either Widmer or Constans as replacements, with the consequence that the city had two rival FFI chiefs, Commandant Pierre Lamaison (VAUBAN), supported by  COMAC and the Departmental Liberation Committee, and Jean Comte (LEVIS), head of the Bouche-du-Rhßôßne <MI>Groupes Francs<D>, who had contacts that might have enabled him to get more arms and explosives than the FTP.  The rivalry produced a fundamental strategic difference, whether to foment a city-wide insurrection or, in line with a long-standing SOE policy, to concentrate on guerrilla attacks especially in the countryside.  The insurrection, which would be dominated by leftist and FTP elements, could mean popular support, after liberation, of a local Communist government. Whether it would save German demolitions, as it did in Cannes and Nice, would depend on how rapidly the Germans evacuated the city.  In the cases of Toulon and Marseille, where Hitler had ordered the garrisons to hold on to the last bullet, an insurrection would only increase security measures and reprisals.  Nevertheless, it was Lamaison (VAUBAN) who was generally recognized.  Comte sought out Constans, whom he found at Dieulefit, too late for an effective intervention.<M^>8<D>

Parayre, of the Marseille antiscorch team CAIQUE, had learned that the German engineers responsible for destroying the port facilities were berthed in Hangar Three.  He arranged for an attack only to find the engineers had been moved to more secure facilities.  Meanwhile, in Parayre's words,

 

I received a visit from VAUBAN, chief FFI Marseilles. . . .áI asked him to hold off the insurrection planned for the night Sunday/Monday [20-21 Aug.] to avoid increased German security measures. . . .áHe agreed and asked me to wire General Cochet.  However, access to the port . . . became practically impossible by the 21st.  On the 22nd the insurrection began.

 

Although Parayre possessed plans of German defenses in the port, he considered an FFI attack certain to fail; it would be better to wait for the regulars, especially since General de Monsabert's  troops were already in the outskirts.

With the insurrection in progress and the FFI calling for help, Monsabert could scarcely hold back.  Taking advantage of "an opportunity," Colonel Chappuis, commander of the 7th Regiment of <MI>Tirailleurs Algßéßriens<D>, moved into the city on the 23rd, beginning an occupation that took another five days to complete.  great havoc<197>there was "an indescribable chaos of twisted ironwork, shattered concrete, and entangled cables."  Without the efforts of the CAIQUE team, however, the damage would have been worse.  By pouring cement into the primer ducts leading to preset charges, Parayre had thwarted the demolition of several quays.  His people also prevented complete destruction of facilities at Port du Bouc, which, because it served as a pipeline terminal, was of crucial importance for Seventh Army operations.  There, three tankers were sunk in such a way that they could be refloated.

The Germans had sunk over 75 ships in the channels, mined the basins, and sabotaged 257 cranes, but Marseille was so important to the Allies that an all-out effort began at once to make the harbor usable, to make the basins safe, and to get pipelines in operation.  Engineers found that, in some cases, Liberty ships could pass around the sunken vessels; by September 30 they declared one basin to be free of mines and serviceable.  Within three weeks of liberation, a Liberty ship was unloading directly alongside a Marseille quay.<M^>10<D>

For the French, the liberation of Marseille brought forth an enormous emotional outpouring. Although Paris had been freed at the same time, Marseille had fallen in consequence of an entirely French attack, the second city (after Toulon) in France to recover its independence in this manner.  Although already planning maneuvers far to the north, de Lattre returned on the 29th to participate in a victory parade that included de Gaulle's ministers for war and interior.  There they listened to the <MI>Marseillaise<D>  in the city that had given the national anthem its name, and they watched

 

 the unforgettable and poignant procession of all the makers of this second victory<197>the <MI>tirailleurs<D>, the Moroccan Tabors, troopers, zouaves, and gunners<197>followed by the motley, fevered, bewildering mass of the FFI, between the two lines of a numberless crowd, frenzied, shouting with joy and enthusiasm, whom the guardians of order could not hold back.<M^>11<D>

 

 

 Chapter 16      Across the Rhône--The Ardèche

 

            Although a super highway, constructed since the war, now carries north–south traffic along the Rhône River at incredible speeds, in 1944 the two lanes of the principal highway, N 7, were strained to capacity during the retreat of General Wiese's XIX Army.  Day and night the German convoys streamed northward, two and even three abreast when one–way traffic would permit.  For the Germans, N 7 held an enormous strategic significance because their best divisions, the 198th, the 338th, and the powerful XI Panzer, had all been deployed east of the Rhône to confront the attacking Allies.

            On the western side of the river ran another road,  

 N 86, which would serve many of those German forces, some largely administrative, which had been stationed farther south and along the Pyrenees.  Germans obliged to escape by this winding route would find N 86 and its feeder roads unpleasantly hazardous to traverse due to the aggressive hostility of Maquis encamped in the mountainous Ardèche and Loire Departments.  For a hundred miles along the Rhône from Pont St.–Esprit to Serrières, N 86 is never far from the wooded hills in which lurked bands of 50 to 100 guerrillas whose constant ambushes and sabotage had made the Ardèche so inhospitable to German garrisons.

            Recognizing the strategic importance of the Rhône Valley, SPOC had given the Drôme and the Ardèche Departments (which straddle the river) a high priority for supplies and missions.  In the weeks before the ANVIL landings, however, SPOC had not been able to send as much support as the original planning called for.  Granted the strategic importance of the Ardèche, SPOC had to give more attention, during the first week after the landings, to the action zones well east of the Rhône.

            What Allied representation existed in the Ardèche had been there for some time––before the Normandy landings.  The PECTORAL mission, headed by Major Chassé and Commandant Vaucheret, had grown by the beginning of August to about twenty persons.  Also operating in the area were OG's LOUISE and BETSY, as well as Jedburgh WILLYS.  Nevertheless, although SPOC sent virtually no persons to the Ardèche in July and early August, it kept the missions well supplied with explosives and weapons.

            The abundance of materiel coming into drop–zone TANDEM, near Devesset, produced in fact some altercations between the GI's and Commandant Vaucheret, who considered the distribution of arms to fall within his responsibilities.  It should be emphasized that OG's operated quite differently from inter–allied missions and Jedburghs, whose members were all officers well indoctrinated in the political as well asmilitary features of the campaign.  The OG's on the other hand were commandos, trained to fight with bazookas, machine guns, and light cannon, led generally by lieutenants.  As military units they were subordinate to the FFI area command.  There was no question, therefore, but that Lieutenants McKensie and Rickerson of LOUISE, and Lieutenants Boutreau and Barner of BETSY, took orders from Vaucheret and from the Ardèche FFI Chief, Commandant Calloud.  It is also understandable that, from the point of view of the OG officers, they would assume that equipment dropped at Devesset belonged to them, with any surplus going to the Maquis.  The French themselves were far from clear as to distinctions in authority between the "delegate," who generally came in from the outside, and the "FFI Chief," generally a local leader.  There was also confusion between the powers of the delegate as contrasted with those belonging to the leader of an inter–allied mission.1

            Major Cox, who had command of the OG's dispatched from Algiers, later stated that "French officers sent in on missions tended very quickly to lose their identity as Allied leaders and become French political chiefs instead.  The employment of only American and British personnel in the coordination of the Maquis efforts in support of the Allied Armies could have prevented a great deal of political difficulties."2  It may be observed in passing that to theeast such a situation had existed in the person of Francis Cammaerts, but had been obliterated when Cammaerts was summarily dismissed by General Butler and not reinstated by General Patch.  The uncertainty of command relations simply emphasizes the fact that no one at the top Seventh Army planning level, in spite of the existence of SPOC and 4–SFU, had given serious and adequate attention to the complex problem of coordination with the FFI.

 

Allied Strategy

 

            There were no regular American troops west of the Rhône.  The basic plans called for Truscott to remain on the eastern bank at least until Lyon was reached.  Patch altered the overall troop disposition on August 25 when he agreed that de Lattre, once the French controlled Toulon and Marseille, could cross the Rhône and "reconnoiter in force" northward along the west bank.3  Now grasping an opportunity he could exploit, de Lattre quickly decided to dispatch a task force, under the general command of Major General du Touzet du Vigier, which would rush elements of the First Armored Division across the Rhône as fast as possible.

            De Lattre knew that he had to complete the occupation of Toulon and Marseille, and he champed restlessly at thebit when fate kept him from rivalling Truscott's northward advance against the main German forces.  Unfortunately de Lattre, who was completely dependent on the U. S. Seventh Army for supplies, could not take the chance of committing all his forces unless he knew he could make certain the gasoline and ammunition would be forthcoming.  He had very few trucks at his disposal and, until port facilities at Marseille began functioning, could not count on an improvement in logistic support.  De Lattre was hampered further by the lack of bridges across the Rhône.  He could use temporary bridges to transport personnel and light equipment, but his tanks and howitzers had to wait for days before an adequate bridge became available.  He continually badgered Patch and Devers for a more meaningful share in the campaign.4

            It was not until 28 August, while the rearguard battle of the German XIX army at Livron was being fought, that Toulon and Marseille finally surrendered, releasing French troops for further assignment.  General Patch accompanied de Lattre in a tour of Toulon and later that day issued orders which outlined the next phase of the campaign.

            The new instructions, Field Order No. 4, regarding which de Lattre had not been consulted, assigned Army B responsibility for the Alpine flank, not only as far as Switzerland but beyond, to Bourg and Besançon.  It alsoapproved the French moving across the Rhône, cleaning up areas to the southwest as far as the Pyrenees, and instructed them to advance "thereafter rapidly North along the West bank of the Rhône and assist in the capture of Lyon."  The order called upon Truscott's VI Corps to capture Lyon and advance toward Beaune and Dijon.5  Thus de Lattre's Army B would be split into two parts, but after Lyon was taken, one part (II Corps) would range to the east, with Truscott on its left flank.  At this time of course Patch did not know whether General Wiese would elect to hold Lyon, which could entail a major siege, or simply pass through to a defense line farther north.  Patch had good reason to believe the latter, as an ULTRA message received on 24 August had affirmed that the German defense line would lie along the Seine and the Bourgogne canal, with XIX Army passing northwest of Dijon.6

            De Lattre seized the opportunity, the following day, to obtain a clarification of Patch's orders when he met General Patch, General Devers (who would later assume overall command when the 6th Army Group was formed), and Supreme Mediterranean Commander, General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson.  At the conference if was made clear that the French would not simply "assist" in the capture of Lyon, but would have responsibility for the encirclement of the city on the west and northwest.  As Lyon is split in half by the Rhône, thisclarification provided some assurance that at least part of the city would lie within a French sphere.  (As it turned out, the Americans elected to bypass Lyon, leaving the entire control to the French.)  De Lattre also used his considerable persuasive capabilities to avoid responsibility for the Italian frontier south of the Larche pass––in his words, "the most thankless and paralyzing of tasks."7  Accordingly this area remained with General Frederick's Airborne Task Force, whose actions there have been already recounted.

 

Operational Groups in the Ardèche

 

            With the rapid advance of the Seventh Army, there had to be concern within SPOC, back in Algiers, as to its best policy.  The two teams in the field, 4–SFU and SSS, while coordinating the moves of various agents, would shortly reach the northern limit of their responsibilities.  General Cochet, theoretically in charge of SPOC's contacts with the FFI, had come ashore on August 21, along with Colonel Bartlett, head of 4–SFU.  Yet there were still Jedburghs and Operational Groups in Algiers, in training there long before the landings, eager to see action before the front line receded beyond aircraft range.

 

            The Americans in OSS were particularly anxious for the OG's, specially trained volunteer OSS paratroops, to be tested.  Colonel Russell Livermore, in charge of OG forces in the Mediterranean, from his command post in Corsica, urged Major Alfred Cox, the OG officer in SPOC, to get his men to the mainland.  Uncommitted on the ANVIL/DRAGOON D–Day, four OG teams, two Italian–speaking and two French–speaking, waited their turn.  Cox had tried to send in one of the Italian groups, HELEN, led by Captain Leslie Vanoncini, to the Larche area on August 11, and he had personally seen the men take off; but, prevented by overcast from making the jump, the team returned to base.  There they waited.  As Vanoncini put it:  "Day after day operations alerts would come up, only to be scrubbed later on in the day."8 

            After D–Day, in the dark moon period, few teams left Algiers for France.  Only the Ardèche Department, with its convoluted forested hills ideal for guerrilla warfare, and the Drôme, offered suitable targets.  It was therefore to these two departments, lying adjacent to each other on opposite sides of the Rhône, that SPOC concentrated its efforts.  At DRAGOON D–Day there were only two OG's, LOUISE and BETSY, in the Ardèche.

            From one point of view an emphasis on the Ardèche did not make sense because the FFI had already taken over mostof the towns when the German regular garrisons began to depart early in August.  There were only isolated enemy groups still in the department, and most of these, with high concentrations of Russian and Polish troops––"Mongols" the French called them––were willing to surrender, indeed even to join the Resistance.  But with Hitler's retreat order of August 17, German contingents from the south began moving in north–bound convoys.  Most of these had either crossed the Rhône to march up N 7 or had avoided the mountainous Ardèche by travelling via Clermont toward Dijon and Besançon.9  There still existed the possibility, however, that major forces would be using the west–bank highway N 86, and this possibility became reality when on August 20 a new threat developed from the south.

            Just as it appeared that most German garrisons had left, the Ardèche Department became the focus of heavy combat.  Lieutenant McKensie, in charge of LOUISE and then at already–liberated Privas, learned on August 22 that a German column had been reported about 35 miles to the south.  Furthermore some elements of the German Nineteenth Army had crossed the Rhône at Montélimar and were pursuing their flight north in small groups along the west bank.  The FFI chief, Commandant Calloud, alerted several AS groups, among them Lieutenant Charles Escudier's 51st and 52nd companies, which he ordered to set up a road block at Baix, aboutmidway between Montélimar and Loriol, but on the opposite bank.  For several days they tried to stop the Germans but, exhausted and famished, the maquisards had to break off and fall back.10

            The column reported to McKensie included forward elements of an entire German corps, the IV Luftwaffenfeldkorps, commanded by General Petersen, which had been stationed between Narbonne and Carcassonne, 100 miles from the Spanish border.  The corps, which included paratroopers, airport defensive units, and trainees, consisted of about 20,000 men, streaming north by two routes, one along the Rhône and the other inland, toward the Ardèche by way of Montpellier, Alès, Aubenas.  The convoy extended for some 30 to 40 miles, its rearguard crossing the Gard River, west of Avignon, while its advance units probed the roads around Les Vans.  As some elements pushed through the area which Jed PACKARD surveyed, between Uzès and Alès, Captain Aaron Bank tried to persuade de Lattre's staff to send a regular army force against them.  But the French, short of gasoline and with only a few troops across the Rhône, were not yet in a position to take up the pursuit.  Almost 100 miles north, forward German elements reach St. Peray, across the Rhône from Valence, on August 25, the day after Colonel Adams and Commandant de Lassus had made their premature attempt to seize Valence.11

            Approximately halfway between the forward and rearguard units of Petersen's Corps, the FFI had spotted several German convoy groups apparently headed for Aubenas, about ten miles beyond which lay Vaucheret's headquarters at Vals.  Captain Georges Picard (code–named GEORGES), the FFI chief in whose sector the threat was developing, called upon Lieutenant Escudier, whose maquisards had just fallen back on Privas, to move over to Vals, and upon Lieutenant McKensie to block the fork about twenty miles farther south, where the Germans might choose Route N104 to Aubenas or N579 to Villeneuve–de–Berg.

            Other German troops, some of them disbanded garrison forces, were coming in from the west toward Les Vans, where they joined up with columns making their way north, producing perhaps another 15,000 men in addition to Petersen's Luftwaffe Corps.

            Commandant Calloud alerted many companies, AS and FTP, and they kept harassing the straggling Germans as best they could.  Even though the Germans were not front–line combattants, they nevertheless possessed enough mortars and field guns to prevent the maquisards from completely blocking their path.12

            McKensie set up his headquarters ten miles south of Aubenas and posted two sections of his LOUISE paratroopers, under Lieutenant Rickerson, a few miles farther south, eachwith one of two 37–mm. guns.  There was only a little action during daylight but throughout the night of 24 August a blacked–out German convoy took two hours to pass by.  In the morning the FFI reported that there were 1500 Germans at Vallon, just northwest of the spectacular Ardèche River gorges.  McKensie ordered the 37–mm. guns mounted above Vallon, commanding the town and its approaches.  He was startled at the enemy numbers:  "Instead of the reported 1500 Germans at Vallon, there were 10,000."  Nor were they ready to surrender.

            The Resistance forces around Vallon consisted mostly of FTP units under Captain Ollier de Marichard, but they lacked the fire power to make a significant impression on the enemy columns.  The 37–mm. guns of LOUISE provided the only real threat available to the Ardèche Maquis.

            The Operational Group knocked out three trucks, some half–tracks and guns, and killed possibly 200 German troops.  But the enemy countered the fire, flanked the position, and after a day–long fight forced McKensie, Rickerson, and their men, together with those FFI who stuck with them, to withdraw.  The Germans captured the two 37–mm. guns.  Escudier meanwhile had gone to Vals but, learning the Germans had taken a more easterly route, withdrew toward Privas.  He skirmished with Germans southwest of Privas and took 80 prisoners.13

            On this same day, August 25, Major Alfred Cox, the OG officer at SPOC, parachuted into Devesset with a seven–man French–speaking Group, LEHIGH, headed by Captains Morin and Hamblet.14  Realizing that there had been some friction between McKensie and Vaucheret, Cox hoped to resolve the problem as well as develop better coordination of guerilla activity.  Vaucheret had come to Devesset, where he and Cox (who incidentally equalled him in rank) came to an understanding.  Out of the discussion Cox learned something of the French attitudes.  Vaucheret told him that the department, with 5,000 armed men, was essentially liberated except for the escape route by way of Privas and Route N86 along the Rhône.  Cox and Vaucheret then drove to Vals, now FFI headquarters, where he met other members of the PECTORAL team, as well as Captain Montague (of Jedbergh team WILLYS) and Major Carl Nurk, a British officer of Russian ancestry,15 sent in by SPOC to subvert the Poles, Cossacks, Ukrainians––the "Mongols"––who made up a fraction of the German army of occupation.  Later Cox met with McKensie and his men who had to withdraw to a position south of Aubenas.  He learned quickly about the recent operations and returned to Vals prepared to restructure his command by assigning OG's to specific sectors and by establishing a central reserve.  He knew that two or possibly three more OG's would soon be coming in.  He could not tell, however, how long theGermans would continue to move through the Ardèche, or when units of the regular French army would arrive.

            Cox would soon find out about Germans.  He and his team, learning from the FFI that "a huge German column" (the head of Petersen's IV Luftwaffenkorps) was headed for Tournon, on the Rhône's west bank, drove at once to a hilltop observation point.  In Cox's words:

 

Unfortunately we did not know that the column had left the Rhône to by–pass a blown bridge, and was headed west on the same road on which we were proceeding.  We had good distance, about 40 or 50 yards between men, with two men on each side of the road.  I had reached a point approximately 125 yards from a tunnel carrying an aqueduct over the road when the advance guard of the column––two open cars and a double line of foot troops––pushed through the tunnel.  They deployed and opened fire immediately and machine guns opened up at almost the same moment from flank patrols, about 150 out in each flank . . . .

 

            The fire was intense and too damned close for comfort,  with mortar shells beginning to drop fairly close . . . We dropped into a ditch, lying in water up to our chests, and covered ourselves with brushwood.  The fire continued for quite some time and several flank patrols passed near us, but did not discover us.  The German advance guard was fighting very intelligently . . . .  Their air protection, march discipline, and camouflage were excellent.  Time and time again, Allied planes flew overhead and it was heartbreaking to see that they had not spotted the column.  The column was moving by foot, bicycle, motorcycle, horse cart and motor car and was setting a fast pace of march.

 

            Cox and the men with him finally made their way to a French farmhouse where the family, at the risk of their own lives, sheltered them until morning.  Then, disguised incivilian clothes, they darted through a gap between the German convoys, took to the cover of adjacent hills, and ultimately found their way back to Devesset.  Major Cox had very rapidly learned about the Maquis, the heroism of French civilians, the competence of the Germans, and Ardèche terrain.  Cox estimated the enemy column, which took four days to pass through Tournan, as numbering 50,000.  "Some of the equipment," he noted, "indicated that in addition to an infantry division many of the service units, Ordnance, Q. M., etc. from the south of France were included in the column.  There was no armor, a few half–tracks and artillery, but in the main, foot troops and bicyclists."16

            Without heavy weapons neither the OG's nor the FFI could directly confront the Germans, but they could observe and possibly take prisoners if they could find isolated groups or garrisons––especially those with a high proportion of disgruntled Slavs.

            While Major Cox was observing the main German column passing through Tournan, and while the men of OG LOUISE busied themselves assembling a third recently dropped 37–mm. gun, the German column harassed at Vallon continued to press on toward Privas.  Although weakened by lack of food and motorized transport, the column of possibly 7,000 still possessed artillery and around 500 vehicles, many of them horse–drawn.  As they struggled northward, they wereconstantly attacked by over fifteen AS and FTP companies which Calloud had managed to deploy in the hills on either side of the German escape route.  On August 29 some maquisards blew three bridges in the vicinity of Darbres, ten miles southwest of Privas.  In the ravine–studded country, the lack of bridges caused a complete bottleneck for vehicles and heavy guns, many of which had to be abandoned in riverbeds.  The Germans scattered, some to the hills where they were taken prisoner––over a thousand––by the maquisards.  The principal column, numbering about 5,000, pressed on, seeking to bypass Privas to the south, hoping to join the main convoys––such as Major Cox had encountered––working their way along N 86.

            By August 30, still hounded by the Maquis at their heels, this group reached Chomerac.  Ahead of them lay more hazards, and having lost their heavy guns, they had no advantages over Resistance forces armed only with small caliber weapons.  Among the FFI groups east of Privas were George Maleval's 6th and 7th AS Companies, together with some members of OG LOUISE and one 37–mm. cannon.  (The newly–arrived gun, however, with parts damaged in the drop, did not fire satisfactorily.)17

            On this same day, LAFAYETTE, an Italian speaking OG commanded by Lt. Odilon J. Fontaine and Lt. Leonard Rinaldi, had dropped into Devesset and had been ordered by Major Coxto join LOUISE at the Maquis command post north of Privas.  Learning from the Maquis that Germans had been reported a few miles east of Privas, Fontaine and Rickerson (of LOUISE), with an FFI patrol under Captain Maleval (MARGUERITE), drove out to investigate.  They soon found a prisoner held by some FFI, and through him finally made contact with a German colonel who had five battalions scattered in the hills, including a "Mongol" company which wanted desperately to join the Allies.

            This group represented a majority of the worn–out Germans, who were determined to make a last stand at Chomerac.  The German colonel expressed willingness to negotiate if he could obtain the approval of his battalion commanders, and if he would have a guarantee he was surrendering to the American Army, equipped with artillery, not the Maquis.18

            At the moment the highest–ranking American officer in the area was Major Cox, who had gone to Devesset for a rendezvous with the newly–parachuted OG's.  An urgent phone call brought him quickly over the fifty miles of winding mountain roads which separate Devesset from Chomerac.  The artillery was a different matter.  The Americans could come up with nothing more formidable the a 37–mm. gun.  However, word had come in that advance units of the regular French Army had reached the Ardèche Department the day before.  Aresourceful French engineer, Raphael Evaldre, jumped on his bicycle and pedalled fifteen miles (downhill) to Le Teil, where he encountered advance units of Combat Command Sudre.

            When Major Cox arrived at Chomerac, he explained to the German colonel that his forces were surrounded.  Finally, late in the afternoon, a French tank appeared and with a few shots persuaded the weary German officer to surrender.  The OG's and FFI rounded up groups of enemy troops scattered among the hills, to a grand total of 3,824, including two colonels, six majors and ten captains.  Unable to cope with such numbers, the OG's stood by while the FFI rounded up the prisoners.

            In most instances, the FFI abided by the Geneva Convention regarding prisoners, even though the Germans, when they caught "terrorists," invariably executed them, sometimes after abominable torture.  Unknown to the Americans, who had guaranteed proper POW treatment, maquisards summarily executed some of the Germans.  Reports reached the Americans that two colonels, a major, and 150 German prisoners had been killed.  Lieutenant Escudier comments on this incident:

 

“The prisoners were taken to Privas, Vals–les–Bains,  Aubenas, Largentière, and a number of other places.  A  German colonel was executed in the neighborhood of Privas, by Captain Maleval, known as "Marguerite," responsible for the Privas sector, under the orders of Commandant Calloud, FFI chief for Ardèche.  This colonel was responsible for the massacre at Nîmes––they called him the "Butcher of Nîmes."  At Vals–les–Bains, 54 prisoners were executed by Commandant André Bourdin  (code names:  Richard, Dina) . . . the total was 54 Germans shot (150 is a fabrication).  The Interallied Commission [i.e. PECTORAL] was opposed to these executions.”  19        

 

            The capture of over 3,000 Germans proved to be the final operation for the two OG teams LOUISE and LAFAYETTE.  With the prisoners in FFI custody, members of these groups finished up their duties, bade farewell to their FFI comrades–in–arms, and reported to Grenoble for debriefing.  The remaining OG's prepared for the assault on Lyon.

 

 

 

Chapter 17       North of Grenoble  

 

 Pflaum evac 231

Ortiz     233

Progression     233-35   Maurienne

 

Isere Dept  North to Lyon    235   move to  Bourgoin  contact with Descour

 

 

 

 

Planning the Liberation of Lyon:  the Resistance

 

            The French held Lyon in a very special regard..  Lyon was not simply the third city of France (after Paris and Marseille), nor simply the prefectural seat of the Rhône Department, it represented for the south what Paris was to the north.  It was in the south, before 1943, in the Unoccupied Zone, that organized Resistance had begun.  When the three southern Resistance groups, Combat, Libération and Franc–Tireur had coalesced into the MUR––Mouvements Unis de la Résistance––Lyon became the center for clandestine action in the south.  When late in 1942 the Germans swept into the previously unoccupied Vichy–dominated area, Lyon provided them a center for administration:  it was here that the notorious Klaus Barbie concentrated his efforts to destroy Jews and resistants; it was here that Jean Moulin, de Gaulle's choice to unify all Resistance movements, had been arrested and tortured; it was at Lyon where the stark Montluc prison, holding hundreds of political prisoners, represented for all Frenchmen a horrible symbol of Nazi persecution and cruelty.

            The enthusiasm for liberating Lyon, manifested throughout the FFI ranks outside, pulsated as well in the hearts of those residents within the city who for two years had suffered under Nazi domination. The popular opposition surfaced especially among workers, many of them Communists, whose ranks had been thinned by forced labordeportations.  On the morning of August 24, even though the German garrison remained intact, workers and FTP guerrillas in the Villeurbanne section began an uprising.  The action was premature:  with thousands of German troops now streaming through Lyon, General Wiese could scarcely brook a movement that might jeopardize his use of the Rhône bridges.  The insurrection was quickly and ruthlessly put down.23

            The uprising in Lyon brought into focus a fundamental issue:  should an internal insurrection liberate a city, or should the citizens wait for regular Allied troops.  Communists and leftists, supported by FTP guerrillas, saw the first alternative as a means of seizing political power before the armies arrived, whereas de Gaulle, with the backing of the FFI and de Lattre's army, exerted every effort to ensure order by means of authorities whose loyalty to his provisional government could not be questioned.

            So far as Lyon was concerned, the issue divided itself neatly into east and west.  Alban Vistel, recognized as the regional (R–1) FFI chief, exercised authority over his subordinates Henri Provisor, west of the Rhône, and Marcel Descour, on the east. Provisor, whose forces were heavily FTP, advocated an insurrection within the city, while Descour, a regular army officer, already in touch with VI Corps commanders, preferred an attack from outside.  There is a certain irony that a high OSS involvement––theOG's under Major Cox––should have been giving support to a command strongly influenced by the Left.

            Vistel found himself on the fence, but he could not help but be impressed by the strength he observed building up in the east.  As reports of Allied successes multiplied, many Frenchmen, previously uncommitted, left their homes to join the constantly swelling ranks.  Vistel considered the Villeurbanne insurrection thoughtless and premature, and while he harbored some doubts about an outside FFI attack, he could not conceal his pride when he counted the numbers, perhaps three or four thousand, bivouacked within fifty miles of Lyon, increasing constantly as veterans and recruits poured in from south, east and north .25

            From the Vercors came those forces, Geyer's 11th Cuirassiers, Costa de Beauregard's 6th Battalion of Chasseurs Alpins, as well as Colombe de Lyautey's (LE BARBIER) Charteuse section, which had fought with Colonel Davison's battalion around Romans and Bourg–le–Péage.  When Huet went to Grenoble, operating side–by–side with Colonel Meyer, he left the Vercors group command to his deputy, Colonel René Bousquet (CHABERT) and himself became Descour's deputy.  The American, André Pecquet, provided liaison between the French leaders and the Americans––General Eagles of the 45th Division, Dahlquist of the 36th, and ultimately Truscott himself.26

            Bousquet also absorbed Maquis groups from the entire region east of Lyon as far as the Chartreuse mountains.  When Bourgoin fell he moved his command post there, not far from Descour's headquarters at Les Abrets.  With over a thousand enthusiastic guerrillas, he was ready to attack Lyon, even though an entire American division had not been able to break the 11th Panzer's defense of the German flank, and de Lattre's Army B had not yet reduced Toulon and Marseille.  On the 23rd, Descour had asked Vistel's opinion and two days later wrote him:  "I have proposed a plan to the Americans.  I hope it will be adopted . . . our dispositions are tightening around the city hour by hour."27

            Vistel, who remained in Lyon trying to coordinate all the guerrilla activity, could not too well comprehend the American strategy, but he had no illusions about German strength.  On August 27 he wrote Commandant Raymond Basset (MARY) who commanded FFI forces in the Rhône Department northwest of Lyon:  "It is urgent that you make contact with Romans and send a liaison officer to him . . . .  We ask you to carry out a series of raids on the outskirts of Lyon to hold down the German troops which remain in the city, estimated at about 3,000."

 

 

Ain and Isère Departments: North to Lyon

 

            "Romans" was Colonel Henri Romans–Petit, commanding FFI forces in theAin Department.  The insurgent forces of the Ain have justifiably taken their place in Resistance history as tough, resolute, and well organized.  They had become hardened from innumerable skirmishes with Germans, and by the time of the Normandy landings, had virtually liberated two thirds of the department, especially in the mountainous east.  The Ain, as well as the Jura and Haute–Savoie Departments, was covered by the CANTINIER/XAVIER  mission, with two able agents, one French, Jean–Paul Rosenthal (CANTINIER), and one British, Robert Heslop, whose code name XAVIER in R–1 matched in celebrity that of ROGER, his colleague Cammaerts working in R–2 farther south.  A third member of the team, the radio operator, was American:  Denis Johnson, who over the months graduated from his communications role to become liaison officer, organizer, and in the absence of Heslop, chief of mission.

            The team worked closely with Romans–Petit, bringing about such formidable parachuting of weapons and explosives that, unlike many other Maquis, those of the Ain were unusually well armed.  In spite of this, they suffered greatly when, after the Normandy D–Day, General Pflaum's 157th Division, based in Grenoble, undertook to regain areas of which the Germans had lost control.  In a disastrous ten–day period after July 9, Germans forced the guerrillas out of Bellegarde, Hauteville, Pont d'Ain, back into the easternhills.  Then, later in July, determined to scotch the flaunting independence of the Vercors, Pflaum withdrew most of his forces, attacked the Vercors and let Romans–Petit gradually regain what he had lost.  So complete had been Resistance control of some areas that Romans–Petit in fact had taken over administrative as well as military duties.  This act did not endear him to persons like Yves Farges, who deemed it essential that he, Commissaire de la République, must reestablish in the name of de Gaulle a civilian authority.29

            Romans–Petit believed that guerrilla forces should do what guerrillas do best:  ambush, attack, disappear.  But when news that American troops had reached Grenoble spread northward, it became clear, even as Alban Vistel and Descour had analyzed the situation, that cooperation with the Allied regular army was essential.  Such cooperation would naturally first develop with Roman's southern group, headed by Commandant CHABOT (Girousse), who had moved his command post to Ambérieu, in the foothills about forty miles north of Bourgoin.  Some of CHABOT's men had helped in the defense and liberation of Bourgoin, and it was CHABOT, with Denis Johnson, who first made contact on August 27 with elements of the 45th Division.  By this time, CHABOT had about 2,200 men under his command, of which some 1,200 were deployed in the area being approached by the 179th and 180th regiments.30

            Although uncertain about the feasibility of attacking Lyon, Romans directed CHABOT to move toward the outskirts, establishing command posts in key areas.  Accordingly on the 25th, CHABOT had Captain Clin in Meximieux with Lieutenant Roger Giraud taking up defensive positions northeast of Lyon.  This roadblock would protect the lower reaches of the Ain River which running north and south, might serve as a dividing line between Germans and Allies.

            On August 28, Alban Vistel began sending orders to the FFI leaders regarding an attack on Lyon.  A study of these orders helps to clarify the relations between the Resistance and the Allied regular forces.  This one was sent to Commandant Basset:

 

According to the latest news a powerful Allied force is now at Bourgoin, but it does not seem about to adopt an offensive deployment.  I just received a liaison agent from Colonel Bayard [Descour], who confirms this news and lays out a possible plan of action.  Bayard will move into the south of Lyon  . . . You will come in from the north . . .

Villeurbanne has been evacuated.  I am ordering the FFI to move to the outskirts to establish liaison with all the columns coming from the outside.  You must push reconnaissance along your axes and in the course of the 29th all our liaisons must be completed.  All our detachments must be deployed around the city by the 29th evening.

The attack order will be given by the regional commander [i.e. Vistel] when all liaisons have been  established and account taken of theposition of the Allied Armies.  I am asking Colonel Bayard, regional chief of staff, to assume overall command.

 

            At the same time, Vistel tried to bring about a closer association with the leaders west of Lyon.  Although he was in constant touch with Descour, he had not seen Henri Provisor in two weeks, and he deplored the lack of coordination, the unwise premature insurgency, and the apparent absence of a sense of responsibility among his Resistance colleagues.

            Provisor shared Vistel's concern for uncoordinated actions, but held Vistel to blame for not including the FTP contingents in his plans and for his unwillingness to cooperate with FFI units within the city.  On August 28, Provisor and Bourgès–Maunoury attended a meeting, at which the FTP was represented by Colonel Guillemot, military commissioner for the southern zone.  Guillemot set forth a plan in which guerrillas within the city would block roads with tram cars, and concentrate on the Rhône bridges.  The command post for the operation would be at Yzeron, located in the hills at the center of roads approaching Lyon from the southwest.  Date for the operation:  dawn of September 1.

            This plan embodying an effort to control points within the city, could not be adapted to that proposed by Vistel. When the western group received Vistel's plan, they found it completely unacceptable:  Descour, tainted in their view by his ORA affiliation, must not exercise the overall command; Romans–Petit was suspect because of his British connections; and the idea of the FFI units already in the city pulling out to the suburbs completely vitiated the concept of blocking the bridges.

            Alban Vistel continued, nevertheless, to support Descour as overall commander of operations, and he himself intended to remain in Lyon.  It appeared that two separate operations, one from the east and one from the west, uncoordinated, might develop to the disadvantage of both.  A last minute conference of Vistel with the western leaders came to nothing except for a mutual agreement to postpone the attack date until September 2.

            By the first of the month, thousands of FFI had encircled the city, but it had now become clear on both sides of Lyon that the Resistance attack should be geared to that of the regular Allied forces.  On the western side, advance patrols of the French First Armored Division had reached St. Etienne, fifty miles from Lyon, and on the eastern side, Dahlquist was on the outskirts prepared to move on the city if Truscott gave the order.

 

Planning the liberation of Lyon:  the Allied Army

 

            While Vistel and all the French would have liked an immediate Allied attack on Lyon, Truscott had no desire to get bogged down inside a city unless he possessed clear indications that the Germans intended to make a stand there.  With the last rearguard German units crossing the Drôme bottleneck on August 28, Truscott, while disappointed in his failure to destroy the Nineteenth Army, had to plan his next moves.  He was operating under orders to advance north toward Dijon and to capture Lyon.  By the same orders, Patch had directed de Lattre to advance along the west bank of the Rhône and assist in the capture of Lyon.

            On August 29, when he received these orders, Truscott was not yet in a position to move on Lyon, which in any case he was reluctant to attack if it meant possession of a sack with the contents gone.  He had held the 179th Regiment at Grenoble from the 23rd until the 27th while he shunted all the available gasoline and ammunition to Dahlquist during the Montélimar battle.  With the last German elements crossing the Drôme, Truscott found himself still unable to pierce the flank protection which the Eleventh Panzer so ably provided.

            The mobile armored defense extended all the way to Bourg–en–Bresse.  It ran roughly about fifteen miles east ofthe Rhône, and when the Rhône axis veered east–west at Lyon, followed the Ain River to Meximieux and Bourg.  Truscott saw no way of penetrating this line south of Lyon, and on the 26th had already authorized General Eagles to start pushing advance patrols out from Grenoble, seeking weakness in this long stretch––some 100 miles from Romans to Bourg–en–Bresse.

            The first major unit to move from Grenoble, Colonel Philip Johnson's 3rd Battalion (of Meyer's 179th Regiment), set up road blocks around Bourgoin, already liberated a few days before and serving as headquarters for Bousquet's (CHABERT) FFI.35

            Bourgoin, lying midway between Grenoble and Lyon, straddled the defense line which General Wiese hoped to control.  On the 28th, the Germans dispatched a small force to retake the town.  (André Pecquet recalls how all the French flags came down and the populace disappeared as the German threat drew close.)  But Johnson's roadblocks reinforced Bousquet's guerrillas and the counter–attack was repelled.  A grateful French government later awarded Colonel Johnson the Legion of Honor.  The citation (with slight errors of dates) reads in part:

 

 

At the request of the French Forces of the Interior his battalion moved to BOURGOIN the 24th of August at the farthest point of the Allied advance.  The city had been liberated the day before and his energetic and daring entry into action permitted the conquered ground to be held.  The moral and material assistance given to thetroops of Commandant CHABERT [René Bousquet] permitted the intensive guerrilla action which terminated in the taking of Lyon the 2nd of September.

 

The 3rd Battalion remained in the Bourgoin area until August 31 (leap–frogged by the other two battalions), safeguarding the highway from Grenoble northward to the Rhône.

            Colonel Descour hoped that the battalion was being readied to spearhead an Allied thrust toward Lyon.  With his headquarters at Les Abrets, only fifteen miles north of the 45th Division command post, Descour, through André Pecquet, maintained constant liaison with General Eagles.  He also kept in touch with Raymond Basset, to whom he confided his hopes for American cooperation:37

 

. . .  If the Germans resist [at Lyon] the FFI can seize Lyon only in cooperation with American troops.  But it may be that with the pressure on them, the Germans will not try to hold Lyon.  It thus follows that the FFI should take advantage of the situation offered to them to liberate the city themselves, to take as many prisoners as possible and reduce the sufferings of the population.

 

            But Truscott had no intention of deploying the 45th Division against Lyon:  if it should prove necessary to move into the city he would use Dahlquist's 36th Division coming up along the Rhône.  Furthermore, he had good information from Seventh Army G–2 and from French agents about the German defenses.

            Some of Truscott's intelligence came from espionage sponsored by OSS.  One of the members of the Strategic Services Section (SSS) team, Justin Greene, had been attached to the 36th Division since the landings.  He had met Colonel Daviron (ORA chief in the Hautes Alpes) after Gap had been liberated, and the two had gone along to Grenoble on the following day.  Once in Grenoble Greene was able to round up a number of French agents who had been working for OSS, and obtain intelligence data from the Rhône to the Alps.  Among the agents were two from Penny Farthing, Henry Hyde's most successful circuit.  Greene infiltrated them into Lyon where they obtained "the complete defense plan" of the city, which in due course was delivered to General Dahlquist as his division moved up to the outskirts.  The General "was very happy and called the captain of the team in to compliment him on the material".38

            The plan about an uprising in Lyon was transmitted to Patch's headquarters.  It may have been discussed on August 29 when Patch went over his tactical plans with General Sir Maitland Wilson, General Devers, and others at St. Tropez.  Later in the same day the group met with de Lattre.  According to the Seventh Army history, regarding Lyon:  “General de Gaulle's military representative warned against premature action.  On 30 August the FFI at Lyon was given orders to be ready to establish contact with Allied columns, which were rapidly approaching the outskirts.  The enemy was to beharassed but not actively engaged.  An all–out attack was to take place only in cooperation with troops of the American and French armies.”

             Truscott received Patch's order during the afternoon of August 30.  Subsequently, according to Truscott, Patch "ordered me that, for political reasons, it would be desirable to permit the French forces to enter Lyon first."  This order, exactly what Truscott wanted, came at the crucial time when the VI Corps commander was galvanizing his forces for a strong thrust northward.41

            Truscott could assume that the German Nineteenth Army, once through Lyon, would go straight north to Mâcon, Chalon–sur–Saône, then to Dijon or Besançcon, ultimately to the Belfort Gap.  In keeping with past experience, Truscott could also expect a flank protection by the Eleventh Panzer Division some 20 to 30 miles east of the main column.  This would presumably mean defense of the main highway from Lyonto Bourg, N 83, with possible patrols to the east.  Truscott could send his troops more safely along the Grenoble–Bourg road––the Route Napoléon, N 75––to the east beyond reach of enemy patrols.  Along this thoroughfare he had General Eagles send Colonel Dulaney's 180th Regiment.  To Dulaney's left, protecting the 180th's flank, would go Colonel Meyer's 179th.

            General Wiese viewed the situation much the same as Truscott.  He had to hold the Lyon–Bourg road as flank protection for his main body.  He ordered von Wietersheim to prevent the Americans from crossing the Rhône or, assuming they may have in any case crossed farther east, to hold a line of defense along the Ain River, with destruction of all bridges.42

            The tactical maneuvering consequent to the German and American decisions brought elements of the Eleventh Panzer and the 179th RCT into a confrontation which climaxed at Meximieux, a small town lying twenty miles northeast of Lyon, a few miles west of the Chazey bridge over the Ain.

            In the midst of this confrontation fought several hundred maquisards of the Ain, Rhône, and Isère Departments.  Certainly the FFI irregulars and American GI's had fought together from the first days of the landings––at Digne, Grenoble, Montèlimar, Bourgoin, along with hundreds of other skirmishes and ambushes––but the combats at Meximieux andits approaches were unique in the almost spontaneous way in which maquisards and Americans came to be fighting side by side. Unlike other battles, there had been no agreed–on strategy at higher staff levels, for indeed the 179th was pressing north, and the French guerrillas were moving southwest toward Lyon.  Chance brought them together when the German Panzers struck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 18:      End of Dragoon: Meximieux and Lyon

 

            It should be borne in mind that a Maquis needs concealment––in mountains or forests where German patrols find themselves at a disadvantage.  The guerrilla pounces from an ambush and withdraws before the enemy can reorganize.  But as the prospect of liberating Lyon beckoned them, the FFI came out of the hills and, reinforced by sédentaires and new recruits, deployed their poorly–armed thousands across that gently rolling farmland which lies east of Lyon.  Vulnerable outside their normal habitat, they could be easy prey for Nazi patrols.  What could happen was sadly demonstrated at the Camp Didier Maquis, north of Lyon, just before the action at Meximieux.

            This Maquis had been named in honor of Commandant Chambonnet (code–named DIDIER), former FFI Chief in R–1, who after a period of imprisonment at Montluc had been executed in July.43  The Maquis, containing about 800 men, was located in the small Noyer forest, scarcely ten miles from the city.  On August 27, while the northern exodus of theGerman army still remained a trickle, a group of twenty maquisards from Camp Didier ambushed a three–truck convoy proceeding toward Bourg in open country.  Reacting to the attack, the Germans quickly surrounded the over–zealous young patriots and killed them all except one who, hiding in a ditch, escaped.  The guerrillas executed a quick reprisal, however, when a few miles along the road another group surprised the convoy, killing some German soldiers and capturing almost 100.

            It was clear to the leaders at Camp Didier that their forest, no more than a few square miles in size, could provide scant cover for a determined enemy patrol.  They therefore decided to evacuate unarmed maquisards, about 300 in number, and send them east toward Camp de la Valbonne, where Lieutenant Giraud of the Ain FFI would determine their further deployment.  Under the command of a young lieutenant, Raymond Mollard, they set out on August 31, keeping to the woods, avoiding the highways.  Late in the afternoon they heard gunfire and soon afterward near La Valbonne, came into contact with an American patrol which directed them to Meximieux.  There, in the town's chateau, they bedded down for the night.

            Lieutenant Giraud had been ordered to guard the road at La Valbonne by his superior, Captain Clin (code–named COLIN), whose command post was located at Meximieux.  WhenRomans–Petit decided to participate in the liberation of Lyon he sent his southern group, under CHABOT, with headquarters at Ambérieu, in the direction of Lyon.  Clin's advance section, which would fight with the Americans in the Meximieux area, had taken up positions there on the 30th.  At that time Clin had at his disposal six companies:  Giraud's 60 men already in the roadblock at the Camp de La Valbonne; Mazaud (SIGNORI), whose 118 men came mostly from a military prep school; a company from CHABOT's headquarters (that of Marcel Vion, known as CHOUCHOU); and three others, Philippe, Martin, and Gabriel.  Altogether, the Maquis companies accounted for somewhere between 300 and 400 men.44  These maquisards were all armed, if not with cannon and tanks, with small arms, grenades, machine guns, and bazookas.  And they all remembered vividly the atrocities perpetrated on them and their families over the months of occupation.  "Never before", recalled Colonel Grace of the 179th 2nd Battalion, "have I seen a body of men with such an honest desire to kill."  As Grace moved on  beyond Meximieux to Chalamont, he left his F Company at La Valbonne to support the FFI roadblock.   45

            Confident that Dahlquist's 36th Division could control the situation around Lyon, Truscott resumed the race northward.  On August 29, he ordered the 45th Division to lead the advance.  Colonel Meyer, commanding the 179th RCT, had his 2nd Battalion start for the Rhone, where advance patrols from Johnson's 3rd Battalion had found that the bridge between Pont-de-Charuy and Loyettes stood intact and defended by Maquis guerrillas of Martin's Company (French Forces of the Interior).  The FFI had repaired a small airport close by which served thereafter as a base for Piper Cub observation and liaison planes.  A jeep patrol sped up to Meximieux and encountered no enemy.  On the next day, Capt. Fred Snyder drove his jeep just beyond Meximieux up to the old medieval fortress town of Pérouges, where he signed the "Golden Book" of the Hostellerie de Vieux Pá,árouges:  "We are happy to be in France."

            Behind Snyder, on the 31st came the 1st Battalion, taking over at Meximieux, with  the 2nd Battalion already ahead at Chalamont, seven miles farther on.  Philip Johnson's 3rd Battalion remained behind at Loyettes, protecting the bridges over the Rhone and Ain, and safeguarding the line of supply.

            Colonel Meyer and his deputy Col. Preston Murphy spent the night of August 31-September 1 at Meximieux, now occupied by Lt. Col. Michael Davison's somewhat depleted 1st Battalion.  When the 2nd Batalllion passed through Meximieux, Colonel Grace had been ordered to send F company to reinforce an FFI road-block at La Valbonne.  The FFI company, about 100 men under Lt. Giraud, had occupied the area, a military encampment and small town, several days before.  When Grace inspected it, Captain Snyder recommended that the whole battalion should be posted there but Colonel Meyer, having no information about Germans to the west, was anxious to push on to Chalamont. To replace company F, Davison had released B company to Grace's battalion.  Since he had left company C to guard his rear, this left Davison with only companies A and D , Headquarters company, and two tank destroyers.

Colonel Meyer had outposts and artillery around Meximieux, but assuming the German threat, if any, would come from the west, he had not kept a guard at the Chazey bridge, due east of Meximieux.  During the night, German forces moved on the bridge, encountering only a small group of maquisards who unfortunately mistook them for Americans.  Five of the guerrillas, members of the Martin company, were killed.  Blowing the bridge shortly before dawn, the German troops then prepared to strike Meximieux with an encircling movement from from the northeast, east ande west.  Elements of the 11th Panzer Division took the offensive at Pont d'Ain and Meximieux, but also attacked the bridges to the south at Pont-de-Chazey, Loyettes and Port Galland and in the west, following National Route 84 from Lyon, the 111th Panzer Grenadier Regiment moved toward La Valbonne.  The Americans could count on help from the 160th Field Artillery batteries emplaced along the Ain River.

            F Company arrived at La Valbonne in the late morning of 31 August, about 160 men, supported by two tank destroyers from the 645th tank battalion.  Giraud, heading the FFI group, placed himself under the command of the Americans and was ordered to set up defenses south of the RR tracks. F Company was divided into three groups,  one at the "Cité des Bains," one on the wooded plateau of Fouilloux, and one, as reserve, in the town itself.  The TDs were deployed in strategic positions. The American CP was located at the Café Central.

            During the afternoon of the 31st the Germans moved closer to La Valbonne. One of the TD s made a direct hit on a German tank, and this discouraged them from continuing the direct advance, but during the night they moved some forces to Bressolles, about two km to the north.  

           No clear word had reached Colonel Meyer about the bridges at Pont d'Ain and Chazey, nor did reports from La Valbonne suggest a major enemy thrust.  "My rest was quite complete," he recalled.  "I found there was no news, everything was going as scheduled, so I mounted the jeep and in high spirits took off up north to watch the action of the [2nd] battalion which was `up front'."   When he heard firing behind him, he thought "a group of wandering or waiting Germans must have picked a scrap with some of Mike's [Lt. Col. Michael Davison] men."   Meyer then learned from his executive officer, Colonel Murphy, that "there was a distant threat of tanks to the southwest. . . .  Then the communications went out."

            Around 9:00, about 150 Germans began an attack from the southwest toward the railroad station where Davison had his command post.  The German infantrymen had support from tanks, but when a Panther was knocked out by 155-mm. artillery fire, the remaining tanks kept their distance.  The S-2 journal reported "3 enemy tanks 800 yards southwest.  Look like vultures awaiting the kill."  With the tanks not joining in, Davison's men, with FFI <MI>maquisards<D> alongside, repulsed the threat in a heavy fire-fight.  By 1:00, the Germans had withdrawn<197>but only to regroup.

By 10 <MS>A.M.<D>, Murphy knew that he had to cope not with a group of "wandering" Germans, but with a full-fledged assault supported by formidable Mark IV and Mark V Panther tanks.  Left in command at Meximieux, Murphy established his headquarters in an old convent.  Unable to reach Colonel Meyer, he sent a message to Colonel Grace, ordering his 2nd Battalion back to Meximieux.  Meyer did not learn of the order until noon but, with faith in Murphy's assessment, did not question it.  Murphy also requested General Eagles, then at the 45th Division CP at Voiron, to divert some tank destroyers and antitank guns from the 157th Regiment, which he knew was moving rapidly north behind the 180th.

Murphy realized he would be confronted shortly with another attack.  Although the morning thrusts from east and west had been turned back, Murphy now knew that a sizeable German force had surrounded Meximieux and had captured some outposts.  Wounded men from company F and from Giraud's FFI section were coming into the convent, cared for in the basement by French and American doctors.  The FFI group at Pá,árouges, where Captain Snyder had been posted with two tank destroyers, had been attacked.  The tank destroyers, one out of gas, the other with its turret jammed, were abandoned.  (Two Germans siphoned gas from one to the other and later drove it around town.)  The Cháƒáteau north of Meximieux had come under attack.

Colonel Murphy, still without word from Meyer or the 2nd Battalion, repeated his appeal to General Eagles for reinforcements and pulled in his outlying positions for a defense of the town.  Colonel Davison deployed the few forces he controlled as effectively as possible.  His men<197>interspersed with <MI>maquisards<D><197>fought from roof tops, windows, behind walls, and in railway cars pulled up on a siding.  He stationed his two tank destroyers near the City Hall back to back on Meximieux's main street, the <MI>Rue de Gená_áve<D>, where they commanded the two roads leading into town.

The German attack developed about 2:30 <MS>P.M.<D>, when six tanks, with infantrymen aboard, rumbled into town from the south, continued under heavy fire, which dispersed their riders, and turned into the main street heading for the City Hall.  A shell from one tank struck the City Hall tower and killed the observer posted there.  Davison later recalled what happened:

 

The first tank, knocked out by the M-10 [tank destroyer], burst into flames and ran into the lobby of the Lion d'Or.  Then the second was hit.  The third and fourth got into high gear and charged the tank destroyer, scraping the paint as it went.  But the other tank destroyer knocked it out.  Number 4 tank went by the TD:  Number 5 not sure.  Meanwhile the tank destroyer was re-loaded and hit No. 4 and "D" Company hit No. 5 with a mortar, and blew it all to hell.

 

The hulks of these monsters, charred and smoking, remained as silent testimony of a German last effort to protect the Nineteenth Army retreat.  Another tank, coming in from the east, was hit, turned tail, and rejoined others that stood guard but did not enter the town.  Two great 105-mm. self-propelled guns had tried to set up positions south of town, only to be knocked out by bazookas.

By late in the afternoon of September 1, the Germans began to withdraw.  General Wiese had given the order for all troops defending Lyon to pull out during the night of September 1<196>2, and he needed the 11th Panzer Division for a defensive ring around Bourg.  Wiese had received only fragmentary reports about the fighting along the Ain River, but he had enough information to believe "that the Americans had given up the plan to proceed to Lyon and instead would shift their attack to the north, advancing from Ambá,árieu."<M^>4<D>

Although many German tanks and infantrymen withdrew, a token force remained along the Ain River into the night, trying to pull a last-minute victory out of what had become a stalemate.  With six smoldering hulks<197>tanks and self-propelled guns<197>left in the Meximieux area, the Germans, although unwilling to risk another strike against the American tank destroyers and artillery, left two tanks to support the riflemen closing in on stubbornly held positions.

The Germans kept hammering into the evening .  They directed artillery fire at the Cháƒáteau, where a group of Americans and FFI, including the company of Chouchou (Marcel Vion), had been holding out during the day.  While trying to repair his machine gun, Vion was killed by an exploding  shell.  The defenders repelled a series of attacks until finally the tank destroyer, abandoned at Pá,árouges and now manned by Germans, moved in and, with infantry surrounding the post, forced the garrison's surrender.

Late afternoon also saw the death of another Maquis officer, Lieutenant Giraud, whose group had fought at La Valbonne, and later, side by side with Americans, at the convent.  He had gone on an exploratory patrol and died instantly from a direct hit near the square that now bears his name.

The final stage of the Meximieux battle was unique in the way French <MI>maquisards<D> and G.I.s became completely brothers-in-arms as they defended themselves from a desperate assault on the convent.  Neither tanks nor artillery could be brought to bear in the semi-darkness of hand-to-hand fighting.  As reported by the FFI commander, Captain Clin:

 

 In front of this big building is a rather large courtyard.  In accord with Colonel Murphy, . . . Colin  [Captain Clin] transformed the convent into a fortress.  The Maquis lads were at all the doors, all the windows.  The order was to hold until reinforcements arrived, but not to waste ammunition.  An enemy detachment climbed over the walls, slid into the courtyard and deployed in ditches.  After heavy firing, the barrage stopped all of a sudden.  The Germans let us know through prisoners that they demanded our surrender.  They advised the "terrorists" not to obey their chiefs because they are all sleazy foreigners.  Maybe they believed it, but they were quickly interrupted by a loud "merde."  Gunfire sprayed from all the windows.  One of our patrols sneaked into the courtyard, and moved up within a yard of the Germans, whose chief was knocked out by one of our lads.  Ten minutes later, we had chased off all our assailants. A second attempt to climb over the wall was stopped cold by our machine-guns.  Colin sent out a strong reconnaissance detachment.  He got word back:  the Germans were withdrawing.<M^>5<D>

 

By two o'clock in the morning of September 2, all the German forces were pulling back to the Lyon<196>Bourg road.  Although the bridges at Chazey and Pont d'Ain had been destroyed, the 11th Panzer had failed to cut those at Loyettes or Poncin, and the way was clear for Truscott to keep moving on toward Bourg.

Meximieux stands as a unique monument, however, for FFI and American cooperation.  Obviously, only American tank destroyers and artillery could oppose German tanks and self-propelled guns, but at the level of infantry combat, the <MI>maquisards<D> fought side by side with the G.I.s and with equal valor.  The French had possibly 300<196>400 deployed, numbers comparable to those of the Americans who were engaged.  One estimate, for the final fight in the convent, has 150 Americans and 150 <MI>maquisards<D>.  In casualties, the French counted 39 killed, 40 wounded, and 12 prisoners; the Americans 11 killed, 30 wounded, and 50 prisoners.

The citizens of Meximieux keep alive the memory of American participation in this engagement.  Colonels Murphy and Davison were made honorary citizens, and Colonel Davison (in 1972 a general in command of U.S. forces in NATO) is commemorated by "Place Davison," named in his honor.

 

 THE LIBERATION OF LYON

 

Following the advice of the regular army commands, both east and west Resistance groups postponed the date for attacking Lyon from September 1 to September 2, and then to September 3.  On the morning of the 2nd, however, Lyon's streets showed no signs of German occupancy; during the night, the rear guard had blown all but one of the many bridges over the Rhá“áne, and a good many over the Saá“áne.  Had  the Resistance armies been so ordered, they might have entered early on the second, to be confronted only by some scattered <MI>Milice<D> fire and by a few Germans left behind.<M^>6<D>

   General Dahlquist, whose command post was then several miles south of Lyon, learned about the German withdrawal that same morning.  With his entire 36th Division advancing to the outskirts, he could have pressed on and entered the city.  The southeast part of Lyon forms a quadrant bounded on west and north by the Rhá“áne, which makes its right angle turn in the city's heart.  Outside the arc, about four miles from the center, perimetered by what is now the Boulevard Laurent-Bonneray, advance patrols mapped out bivouac areas for the half-tracks, trucks, and armored cars that would be moving in around noon.

   One 142nd Regiment patrol, under Lt. James R. Crocker, guided by Tony Brooks (of SOE's PIMENTO circuit), reached the city's center around 11:30 and reported the Germans had left, but had blown up the dozen Rhá“áne bridges that separate the eastern half from the "peninsula."  One of Crocker's guns, aiming at snipers, set the roof of the Há“átel Dieu on fire.  German artillery, he reported, still protected the rear guard, menacing the French and Resistance elements to the west.<M^>7<D>

   Truscott saw no reason for American troops to enter Lyon.  The only problem for the VI Corps would occur if Lyon, an administrative and rail center, would become so entangled in local riots that logistic support would be impaired.

   Dahlquist, however, had received no orders to move, either into or away from Lyon.  A patrol, returning from the city around 5:00 in the afternoon, confirmed that no enemy forces remained in the section east of the river.  By this time Truscott had informed Dahlquist definitely that he should not enter Lyon but could send some engineers to examine the bridges, as well as some light forces to reinforce the FFI.

Shortly before dark, Lt. Weldon M. Green, of the 142nd Regiment, led a company of infantry and tanks as an honor guard (and as a protecting show of force) for the new administration.<M^>8<D>  Alban Vistel had taken over the prefecture and notified Yves Farge, <MI>Commissaire de la Rá,ápublique<D>, that he should openly assume his new responsibilities.  The Lyonnais populace was in the streets, shouting and rejoicing.  Nevertheless, although the eastern sector was clear, and many of Descour's men held key positions, the official date for the FFI attack remained the same:  dawn of the following day, September 3.<M^>9<D>

  Meanwhile, the Allied special forces were receiving reinforcements from the pool of OGs, Jedburghs, and other agents remaining in Algiers.  In the week prior to the attack on Lyon, almost forty people were dropped by parachute into the Ardá_áche Department:  one individual, two operational groups, and two Jedburgh teams, all coming into the drop zone near Devesset in the early hours of August 30.

Air force Lt. Paul C. Sheeline, unconnected with any field unit, had been sent to help resolve the reported friction between Vaucheret and OG LOUISE.  Sheeline met both Vaucheret and Major Cox when he landed, and quickly obtained assurances that the problem had already been resolved.  Vaucheret asked Sheeline to remain on his personal staff in a liaison capacity.<M^>10<D>

After a few hours' sleep, Sheeline accompanied Vaucheret to Henri Provisor's CP at Yzeron, west of Lyon, where he learned that the FFI leaders, in planning the assault on Lyon, wanted the participation of as many OGs as possible.  Major Cox believed that, while some of his men would be needed to help with the German prisoners, he could send Lieutenant McKensie and a crew to Lyon with one of the 37-mm. guns, as well as the other OGs.

Landing at the same time as Sheeline, OGs LAFAYETTE and HELEN, and Jedburghs SCION and MASQUE hoped they could serve some useful purpose before their value would be lost.<M^>11<D>  One of the OGs, LAFAYETTE, reinforced LOUISE; the other, HELEN, was immediately assigned to the projected assault on Lyon.  Led by Captain Vanoncini, the team marched to St.-Etienne, southwest of Lyon, where it joined the Maquis battalion commander, Captain GEORGES [Georges Picard], and his next in command, Charles Escudier.

Of the two Jedburgh teams, SCION was Franco-British (Maj. O. P. Grenfell and Sergeant Cain with French Captain Revard), and MASQUE Franco-American, Capt. N. Guillot and Sergeant Poche (U.S. Army in spite of their French-sounding names), and French Captain de Gramont.  These teams landed far too late to carry out the instruction and leadership expected of the Jedburghs, and simply became attached, more or less as observers, to Commandant Vaucheret's staff.

These units did not comprise all the special forces in the area.  Another Jedburgh team, JUDE, had been sent to the field from England on August 15, along with part of a French SAS (Special Air Service) unit.  The team consisted of British Capt. W. L. O. Evans and Sgt. A. E. Holdham, together with French Capt. J. Lavisme.  They had been attached to Colonel Basset's (MARY) FFI force north of Lyon and accompanied his forces when the city was liberated.

In addition to the Jedburghs, OGs and inter-allied missions, there was a scattering of downed airmen and isolated G.I.s who had joined up.  Among these must be counted Stephen Weiss and seven companions who had become separated from their unit during the attack on Valence.  They had been taken in tow by the Resistance, ferried across the Rhá“áne, and attached to Binoche's sector for several days before joining an OG.<M^>12<D>

In the course of September 2, the Maquis forces, the OGs, the Jedburghs, and French regular troops moved into position, mostly in the hill country directly west and northwest of Lyon.  Since this deployment was of course west of the Saá“áne River, the French could readily occupy the heights commanded by the great Fourviá_áre basilica, but they would still have to cross the Saá“áne to reach the "peninsula," where the City Hall (Há“átel de Ville) was located, and again, cross the Rhá“áne to reach the prefecture.

On the morning of September 3, section after section of Maquis fighters poured into Tassin and the entire western section of Lyon bordering on the Saá“áne River.  Only a few isolated German positions remained, but there were still pro-German members of the hated <MI>Milice<D>, sniping at the oncoming guerrillas from windows and roof tops.

The Jedburghs and the American OGs advanced toward Lyon alongside their French comrades.  The Jedburghs MASQUE and SCION joined the Ardá_áche FFI commander Calloud at Dentilly, northwest of Lyon.  HELEN and BETSY came up just south of the FFI CP at Yzeron, along with McKensie and the gun crew from  LOUISE.  Lieutenant Sheeline went back to Devesset in an attempt to shepherd another OG, WILLIAMS, just landed, toward Lyon.  Unfortunately, with no transport available, he had to leave this section, which only reached Lyon the day after its liberation.  Major Cox and the LEHIGH group joined Captain Vanoncini's section (HELEN), which was traveling with Lieutenant Escudier's company from Privas.

Although the Germans had left the city, some danger remained from the <MI>Milice<D>, whose sniping provided a macabre counterpoint to the general happy rejoicing.  As Major Cox, describing the actions of HELEN and LEHIGH, recalled it:<M^>13<D>

 

 Somehow or other we got out in front of the attacking Maquis who were still forming up, and had to fight our way through wildly cheering crowds to get to where we wanted.  We reached the Cathedral overlooking the city just about as the first Maquis and French Army units arrived at the river bank below us, and for half an hour enjoyed the spectacle. . . . The Germans had blown all RHONE bridges (although one still was usable for foot traffic), and all but two SAONE bridges.  When the French Armored Cars began to cross on our bridge, we dashed across on the other, and aided them in hunting down the Milice. It would be interesting to record something of the mad hysteria that sprang up in LYON.  The Milice were hunted down and killed with mad displays of hate.  The actual battle casualties consisted of one or two Maquis and one or two civilians, but for the next two or three days, simply pointing a finger at a person and yelling "Milice" was enough to have him torn limb from limb. . . .  The FFI as quickly as possible regained some semblance of control, and the sporadic firing gradually died away.

 

In the course of the day, both Major Cox and Lieutenant Sheeline were able to locate 36th Division headquarters and confer with General Dahlquist's staff.  The general himself sneaked into the city for a quick look-see.  He wrote his wife:<M^>14<D>

 

 I went in . . . unofficially because I was not supposed to be there even though my patrols had been in the night before.  The reception was tremendous.  When they found I am a "General" which none of them believe (I guess I do not look the part) they really let loose.

 

General Dahlquist, however, could not tarry.  On that day, Truscott was already laying siege to Bourg-en-Bresse, forty miles to the north.  He needed the Texas Division for pursuit, not for the good life in France's third city.  By September 4, the men of the 36th Division had put Lyon behind them and were entering Bourg.

With the date September 3, the liberation of southeastern France, objective of Operation ANVIL/DRAGOON, comes to an end.  The basic directive did not consider actions beyond Grenoble and Lyon, and the jurisdiction of SPOC over special operations extended no farther.  Except for those involved in combats along the Italian frontier, the OGs, the Jedburghs, the inter-allied and liaison missions, and 4-SFU could consider their work completed, and their activities overrun.  For many of the Maquis, the war also was finished, but for others, the liberation of the southeast meant joining the French regular army or becoming immersed in local politics.  In any case, the heroic days were over.

 

 

Chapter 19      Epilogue:  The Push toward the Vosges

 

       Aft