Champagne Campaign

Principal commitment
Dates
The liberation of Fayence area August 19th - 21st, 1944
Saint-Cézaire August 21th, 1944
The battle for Cannes August 20th - 24th, 1944
Grasse August 23th - 24th, 1944
Villeneuve-Loubet August 24th - 27th, 1944
Var crossing August 27th - 30th, 1944
Barcelonnette & Jausiers August 31th - October 23th, 1944
Nice August 29th - 30th, 1944
To the Italian border August 31st - September 7th, 1944
Col de Braus and the siege of Sospel August 31th - October 28th, 1944
Roya & Bevera Valley September 1st - November 10th, 1944
Peïra-Cava September 3rd - November 23th, 1944
Vésubie & Tinée Valley September 10th - November 17th, 1944
Turini and the Massif de l'Authion October 10th - November 17th, 1944

When the paratroopers begin their journey towards the Riviera, the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team is facing a major objective: Saint-Cézaire. On the night of August 15, some Allied paratroopers had been dropped far from their jump areas and had landed on the western side of the the Siagne Valley. On August 20th, the FABTF’ march in the Alpes-Maritimes begins. On August 21st, the paratroopers arrive in force and seize the village during the day.

Further south, the 509th Combat Team, composed of the 509th and 551st PIB as well as the 463rd PFAB and fights on August 20 on the coast at La Napoule where paratroopers come in fac to the the defenders of Cannes. On August 21st, the the first attack on Mandelieu immediately ended with the retreat of the German forces, in accordance with the orders received. The same day, the paratroopers successfully attack their objective suffering heavy losses. The 509th then leads ahead of Cannes over the next three days entering the city on August 24th.

General Frederick then requested permission to continue eastward to extend the protection perimeter beyond the intended area. The danger of any counter-attack seemed remote. On August 25, General Patch commanding the 7th Army chose a line of defense to protect the right flank of the VII Army along a line from the Larche Pass to the mouth of the Var. On the coast of the Alpes-Maritimes, the progress stops 20 kilometers further east on the bank of the Var river and only reconnaissance is authorized beyond the river in the city of Nice.

In the central area of ​​the Task Force's deployment is the First Special Service Force which must eliminate small defensive points located between Siagne River and Grasse. The city of Grasse falls into the hands of Forcemen in the wee hours of August 24th. The FSSF and the 517th PIR then continue to advance eastward where the First Special Service Force meets the next German line of defense on the Loup River. As for the 517th, it advanced in the mountains where he met no German resistance to the banks of the Var on August 26th.

It is in Villeneuve-Loubet that the fighting on the Loup river is the most violent. The First Special Service Force seized Villeneuve-Loubet on August 24 without firing a shot but wiped an enemy counter-attack the rest of the day. The FSSF also advances to La Colle and the 517th PIR crosses the Loup River by meeting no resistance.

To the north, Frederick's troops are ordered to push to the passes, travel more than 80 kilometers of mountainous areas to block the Larche Pass, which is an essential crossing point to Italy. For General Frederick, this new mission considerably reduces his defenses, not to mention the problem of the lack of concentration of his already small artillery that follows. The problem is above all the construction of a reliable line of defense, in easily defensible positions, involving the arrest of troops. He entrusted this mission to the 550th Infantry Airborne Battalion which was held in reserve. The 550th Infantry Airborne Combat Team is then created with the 463rd PFAB and the unit arrives at the Larche Pass on August 31st.

During their eastward move, the vehicles of the First Airborne Task Force are still in transit. Paratroopers are mostly on foot but some enemy or civilian vehicles are "liberate" by paratroopers. The vehicles are all different, these range from bikes to sedans to charcoal trucks and even Mercedes. All units do what they can to move and transport their equipment. The 596th Parachute Combat Engineer Company placed all its equipment in captured enemy vehicles. The 509th PIB trip by GMC "borrowed" to the 443rd AAA Bn. The 509th mobile hospital is also a captured German truck. It seems that to overcome this problem of vehicle, the 676th Medical Collecting Company dispatches its jeeps in different units to transport the paratroopers.

Var river is reached only in the night of August 25 to 26 when the Americans arrive at the edge of the river in Gilette. They then make their junction with the FFI who have difficulty with the sector under the pressure of the German forces. On the 27th, after several attempts to cross the Var near the Charles-Albert bridge, the American accept in violation of Frederick's orders and take La Roquette-sur-Var and Levens in the night of the 27th to the 28th, guided by the FFIs where the 2/517 captures 87 prisoners. On August 27, the Americans reached the Var river in the coastal sector.

This progression along the coast of Cannes towards the Var only gives rise to fighting retarders, the losses are essentially because of land mines. At that time, knowing that the allies are on the banks of the Var river, Nice act against the occupier and on August 28, several units of the FABTF converge towards Nice and "liberates" the city.

On August 31, the FABTF units advance north and east of Nice in pursuit of the Germans on the ledges of the Riviera towards the Italian border who were ordered to remain on their positions and to send only patrols before finally being ordered to advance to the Italian border.

As it progressed, FABTF advanced into a heavily mined region in which almost all bridges were destroyed. On August 30, his units are warned that corpses can be trapped, especially between the road between Vence and Coursegoules. On the 31st, an engineer officer reported cases of German corpses of Germans and trapped partisans. In addition, the terrain is often hilly, or even mountainous, the roads wind and the Germans are organizing a strong defensive point significantly reducing the advance of Allied troops.

In the mountains

On August 31st, the First Special Service Force reached Touët-de-l'Escarène located at the bottom of the Col de Braus, the Forcemen confront the German troops in this sector and capture the head of the Lavina without much resistance.

Four days after the FSSF took control of the Col de Braus, the command of the First Airborne Task Force changed the areas of responsibility of its units on the front line. The 509th Combat Team has to move from the north coast between the 517th PRCT and the 550th IAB in Barcelonnette. After taking Tête de la Lavina, the FSSF must travel south to the coast, starting from l’Escarene area and the Col de Braus, leaving this area under the "control" of the 517th PRCT.

Until September 18, the battle of the Col de Braus rages and then follows a war of position on the Germans entrenched in Sospel.

Not far from the 517th PIR positions, the First Special Service Force is deployed between Menton and Castillon on a ridge line from Mount Meras to Monte Grammondo where it is between these two mountains Fort Castillon that the FSSF faces during almost two months.

At Peïra-Cava, the 517th holds the Tête du Pin, where it has a view of the valley to the north. A patrol and counter-patrol war ensued until the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion arrived in the area to try to take the Turini Pass and the Massig de l’Authion.

In the center area is the 509th Combat Team which is deployed between the Vésubie Valley and Tinée where the Combat Team installs many outposts to observe the enemy on the border and are greatly aided by the resistance.
With the arrival of snow in early October, the 551st PIB inove ski patrols in the Tinée valley.

The most northerly men on the frontier are the 550th Infantry Battalion's Glider Riders and the Parachute Field Artillery Battalion parachutists at Barcelonnette and Jausiers, where they are helped by the french resistance.