The First Special Service Force and the 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion arrived on the west bank of the Var river between August 28-29 and began to occupy defensive positions.
In the early hours of August 29, Captain Ed Hartman (551st Battalion S-2) insists on leading a patrol of five men. They arrive on a bridge destroyed on the Var and go to Nice, where they walk to the Place Massena to the town hall.
The next day, two FFIs, Lieutenant Joseph Amaldi and his sergeant Albert Le Large, report that, apart from a few isolated Germans, the city is free but rumors suggest that they would come back in strength and the FFI urge Americans to enter the city. The battalion was ordered to stay on the opposite bank to block any attempt at enemy counterattack. Since the FFI controls the city but fears a return of the enemy, the 551st is convinced, after much discussion, to enter Nice.
The FFI groups had chased the Germans around, and in the city, and on the morning of August 29, Jojo, Le Large, and two other Residents roamed Nice in a Citroen. The leader of the group fears an enemy counterattack, and orders to encourage Americans to take positions in the city! The resistance contacted the 551st at the Pont du Var and reported that the Germans leave Nice. However the parachutists have orders to remain on their positions outside the city and not to cross the Var which constitutes an excellent line of defense in case of enemy counterattack. Americans find the German evacuation suspicious. The Large therefore suggests to guide a soldier in the city. Americans accept but demand that an FFI stay with them. Jojo, who does not know how to drive, stays, while the other resistance fighters accompany the para in the main streets of the city. They do not fail to make him visit "La Madeleine", to worthily celebrate the liberation of the city, and he does it with fervor. Guided by Joseph Arnaldi, the American soldier arrives Bar-Grocery-Restaurant at Trombetta where the people celebrate. Alcohol flows! The FFIs bring him back to the American lines, totally drunk, he reports to his superiors: "Yes, free, Nice ... Good! Then he collapses so much he is drunk. As for Jojo, he goes back to town with another patrol.
Five O' Niner & Forcemen in Nice
In the afternoon of August 29th, Lt. Hugh Shaw, commander of the 509th Demolition Platoon, checks a bridge over the Var north of the city when a young woman from the Red Cross comes to him to tell him that the Germans have left the city. Seven men from the platoon board her truck and go to Nice where they are the first Five O 'Niner to enter the city drinking and celebrating the liberation
On August 29, the FSSF is also on the west bank of the Var in front of Nice and they also send men in recognition in the city. Colonel Jack Akehurst commander of the 1st Regiment also wants to enter Nice.
Approaching the Var river, the three men notice that the main bridge leading into town is partially destroyed. When they cross, they are greeted on the other side by a delegation of officials people from the city who brought with them a black convertible car in which they propose to bring them to their city.
Akehurst sat on the passenger side at the front and the other two men on the wings, Thompson in hand. When they enter the city, the streets are crowded with Nice waving flags and for others offering flowers or wine.
On August 30, General Frederick receives permission from General Devers to cross the Var and occupy the city where the French officially celebrate the liberation of Nice.
The column of the 509th enters the city by the avenue of California and France street where it crosses triumphantly the city invaded by a delirious population and continues its push towards the east towards Menton. Part of the column is sent north to St. Andrée to establish contact with the men of the First Special Service Force and the other progresses eastward through the various localities perched on the Cornices de la Riviera. The 509th Headquarters, in turn, moved to the Alambra Hotel, which later became the 1st Airborne Task Force Headquarters for the rest of the campaign.
Astor, Gerald. Battling Buzzards: The Odyssey of the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team 1943-1945 . Dell, October 9, 2001
Orfalea, Gregory. Messengers of the Lost Battalion. Free Press, New York, New York, 1997.
Doyle Charles, Stewart Terrell. Stand in the Door: The Wartime History of the Elite 509th Parachute Infantry Batallion. Phillips Pubns; Second Edition edition, June 1988