In 1944, Peïra-Cava is a small village located at 1,500 meters above sea level at 5.5 miles (15 miles by winding road) from Lucéram. The job of the 517th up there consists entirely of a duel of patrols, "counter-patrols" and brief actions but one risks one's life there at any moment.
The enemy forces are very young, poorly equipped and inexperienced. In early September 1944, 1/517 was assigned to this area, Colonel Boyle took his troops through the wooded mountains where some Germans were dislodged from the village after a short fight, the battalion settled there while a platoon takes position on the Tête du Pin (1660 meters) the highest position occupied by the 517th PRCT in the combat zone! This platoon is assisted by a team of mules led by local mule drivers.
On September 7, documents taken from a prisoner indicate the presence of an enemy platoon near Turini, a patrol is sent there and after exchange of gunshots, the Germans leave the place, leaving cards, photos and important documents. On September 16th a reconnaissance patrol led by Sergeant Bob Maple spotted a 20-man German work party digging in front of Tete du Pin. The Germans had been planting "schu" (shoe) mines across the trail leading to Turini. Maple disarmed one and brought it to the Company CP. Since Germans were reported to be notoriously methodical, it was decided that they would be back to finish up the job next day. Two rifle squads set up an ambush near the minefield before daylight next morning. At 1100 a column of enemy troops arrived carrying shovels, pickaxes, and mines. The ambush party had planned to let the entire group go by before opening fire, but an enemy officer stepped off the trail. It was the last step he ever took. Six Germans were killed, five captured, and the rest fled.
That night three survivors came in to surrender at Tete du Pin. Another ambush was put out next day in the hope that the Germans would come to retrieve their dead, but the enemy failed to respond.
A spur east of Tete du Pin provided an ideal observation post with an excellent view of the Moulinet Turini road. On one occasion a 460th Forward observer at this OP saw two teams of Germans lined up, playing soccer near the Moulinet road. He called for "Battalion five rounds," without preliminary registration. The Fire Direction Center demanded justification and was told, "Jerries playing football." The mission was fired and the ball game broken up.
B, C & D of the 2nd Chemical Mortar Bn. served in several areas of fighting during the days following the rapid liberation of Lyon, Bourd, Besançon and Vesoul. On September 18th, from Vesoul, the battalion left to drive to Nice, where it was entirely attached to the First Airborne Task Force, for the defense of the Italian border. The situation is just a defensive position to protect the right flank of the 7th Army supply lines. Here, in the French Alps overlooking the blue of the Mediterranean, the 2nd Chemical Battalion establishes itself there.
B Company is then attached to the 517th PRCT and settles between Peïra-Cava and the Col de Braus. 3rd Platoon is located in Peïra-Cava.
The men of the 1/517 know that they will soon be involved in the battles of the Col de Braus and Peïra-Cava is a rather quiet place: " Peira Cava was too good to last.”
They were right, because on September 20th & 21st, 1944, they exchanged their position with the men of the 3rd Battalion of the 517th PIR (winners of "Ridge X" and the "Tête of the Lavina") who continue their missions of patrols, countries by the Germans.
On 23 & 24 October, the arrival of the 509th PIB on the Tête du Pin marks the end of the presence of the 517th RCT in Peïra-Cava.
From there, the Five O 'Niners began their attacks on the forts de l’Authion located 8km away. The winter of 1944, in the Alpes Maritimes, is not long in coming and the Gingerbread Men are found in Peïra-Cava with snow to the size, without equipment adapted to these climatic conditions.
At the end of October 1944, Colonel Edwin C. Mattick's 601st Field Artillery Battalion was attached to the 1st Airborne Task Force and supported the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion. The unit stands in the area of Peïra-Cava. Part of the mules of 601st FAB are parked in Lantosque.