Turini Pass & Massif de l’Authion

During the latter part of September month, as the climate begins to deteriorate, both sides limit their activities to patrol and exchange artillery fire. Defensive positions are reinforced by traps, minefields ... The old forts and hamlets are reoccupied and patrols are organized regularly to maintain the front line. Enforced enemy points are located by the patrols and artillery fire is made on the positions. The first snow begins to fall.

C Company of the 2nd Chemical Bn. join the 509th Combat Team and move into their new positions to support the elements on the front line. Until the end of September, activities are limited to artillery, mortars and patrols with high activity near Turini.

Patrols and artillery duels continue along the front line, in contact with the enemy at Turini and outposts along the Col de Braus and near Mount Caval and Mount Neigler near the mouth of the valley of Madonna della Finestra. This rather static situation continues until mid-October.

During these patrols, contacts are established with Mongolians from Russia. These soldiers had been captured by the Germans on the eastern front. Because they hated Russia and its inhabitants, they were ready to change sides and wear a German uniform. Many of them are killed or captured by patrols. On October 10 the 509th patrols sent to the Turini Pass must retreat.

On October 14, Yarborough is ordered to return to the US on temporary duty. He names Captain Tomasik as the 509th leader and is promoted to Major. Captain Charles W. 'Chuck' Howland then becomes the second in command of the battalion. The Team fight composed of the 509th and 551st PIB as well as the 550th IAB is divided into 3 units.

The 509th was composed of 705 men at the beginning of Operation Dragoon. On October 17, Tomasik has only 521 men to lead an attack. The bulk of the operations take place in the Turini area where the battalion is moving.

Such an approach supposes the relay of the forces already in presence. The closest unit to Turini is the 3/517th PIR, occupying the positions at Peïra-Cava, on the road to Turini. Rumors state that the 517th had already tried three times to remove Turini from the enemy's hands, but had failed to achieve their objectives. The 509th holds from October 24 the advanced positions of Peïra-Cava south of the Authion and Col de Turini. Following the report of Lt. Col. Yarborough to General Frederick, this one decides not to carry out attacks to capture the Col de Turini.

Long before the Battalion's engagement at Turini Pass, the 2nd Squad of the 3rd Platoon of the B Company of S/Sgt. Jim W. Nunn had already captured several enemy soldiers observing Lantosque's approaches.

However, on October 27, the Germans retreat from Sospel in the forts of Authion. On October 28, the enemy is observed moving on a Turini-Moulinet-Sospel line. Large explosions are heard throughout the day but the patrols have no contact with the enemy at Turini but collide with a forward at the junction at Fort Mille Fourches. The Germans are quietly yielding the growing pressure they have exerted because of the progress of the 509th by giving it a little more ground. On the 29, a nine-man patrol led by Sgt. James W. Bussey of the C Company leaves Peïra-Cava early in the morning, crossing Turini unchallenged and continues to Moulinet as ordered, without ever meeting an enemy soldier. This patrol confirms that the time had come for the 509 to move to Turini with vigor.

October 30 Frederick decides to seize the Authion massif to have an observatory on the area. C Company moved to Turini Pass on the same day and sent patrols north and east. Once again, the paratroopers make contact with the enemy at the junction of the road leading to the fort. Light weapon fire forces the enemy to retreat to its secondary positions. However, there are enemy movements in and around the fort and the barracks area at Mille Fourches. The snow mines and craters slow down the progression to Turini. C Company is digging and consolidating its positions in Turini's neighborhood. Mines and traps had been laid by the enemy in all positions and buildings.

A company is then withdrawn from its position and is sent as a combat patrol in the north and east zone of the Tête de Scoubayoun. Artillery fire forbids the Fort region and a Tank Destroyer starts firing directly into the casemates. About 60 centimeters of snow covers the area around Turini. Refueling and ammunition are transported by mule.

Late October and early November, when the A Company goes to Peïra-Cava and up to Turini, the men end up with snow to the waist and no winter gear. Patrols are forced to move slowly and cautiously. A mine and trap expert accompany each patrol and at least five types of different mines are reported. Although patrols often sink into enemy lines, there are not many casualties.

Patrols of the 509th establish contact with the German outposts at the junction of the roads leading to the forts of Authion, the summit of Tueis at more than 1900 meters above sea level.

On November 4, A Company sends a 15-strong patrol to Fort Mille Fourhces from the south east to test the defenses for the attack. The Germans let the paratroopers approach and open fire at close range and repel the patrol. Pvt. Herbert E. Fisher is killed and nine others are wounded. The Germans are bombarding the area with mortar but the 509th squad can still retreat thanks to an M10 from the 2nd Platoon of the 645th TD Battalion.

On November 5, Baker Company sent a patrol that managed to reach Fort de la Forca but was repulsed by the Germans after a firefight lasting one to two hours.
On November 6th Able Company takes over the Charlie Company in Turini. The troopers are subjected to violent artillery fire and are unable to attack the forts. A trooper is killed. Any frontal attack is doomed to failure despite the shots that fail to weaken the German forces entrenched in the massif de l’Authion.

'Raid Geronimo': the attack of the Turini pass

The Americans then change tactics, and the idea is given by 1st Lt. Harry W. Pritchett Jr. of the HQ Company. Major Tomasik approves this operation which receives the code name "Raid Geronimo". The objective is a wooden barracks used as dormitories by some of the enemy garrison. The plan is to set them on fire with incendiary grenades and then to bring down the fleeing occupants. Lt. Pritchett would lead the attack with 20 men, insufficient for this task. His section had been formed with men from both the A and B Company. Because the rest of the A and B Companies are not available, the C Company, kept in reserve at Peïra-Cava must provide the rest of the team.

On November 8, the Gingerbread Men are ready. They leave Turini at 18.15. The paratroopers are tense, it is a dangerous operation.
The patrol clears the German bunkers and continues to the designated positions. One of the men involuntarily makes a noise. An enemy soldier at an outpost shouted "Stop! And open fire. At this signal, the Americans open fire and throw grenades at him. To this, a German machine gun opened fire near Lt. Pritchett where he responded by sending a white phosphorus grenade, neutralizing the German position. The Germans believe in a general attack and put in position all their machine guns and mortars on all approaches to the fort.

The paratroopers manage to reach the camp of the Old Cabins where they kill 9 Germans and wound 8 others. The patrol retreats in good order and the German counterattack is stopped by an artillery fire 15 minutes after their withdrawal. The 509th has only 2 slightly wounded."Raid Geronimo" is a total success.
After this raid, the enemy activity increases and makes any operation impossible. They are content to fire mortar on the German positions until their relief on 17 November.

The campaign of 1747, in which the French had not managed to seize either the Authion or the Col de Braus and were blocked at Peira-Cava, was repeated.