Les Arcs

The village of Les Arcs is located about six and a half kilometers southwest of Le Muy and at the intersection of the N7 road and a road from Trans-en-Provence to Vidauban. Just south of Les Arcs a railroad runs along the north of the N7. For D-Day, Les Arcs is an objective of Melvin Zais’ 3/517. Having landed 40 kilometers from the planned area, an another regiment have to seize Les Arcs.

‘Wild Bill’ Boyle’s Alamo

William Boyle, who has landed north of the village, finds half a dozen troopers and Frenchmen who tell him about the direction of Les Arcs. On the morning of D-Day at about 11:30, Major Boyle, and elements of the 1st Battalion and other units scattered, enter the village with about 40 men. With him is Captain Young, Battalion S-3 and Captain James MacNamara's Surgeon Assistant. No German is at Les Arcs, having left the area the day before.

Boyle moves south-east across the railroad into a valley north of his goal. Here, they are wielding heavy light arms fire because of the German counter-attack that makes them return to the edge of Les Arcs to form a defense perimeter. The enemy is in full swing, coming and going by shooting.

Most of the built-up area is along the north-south road across the railway line. At the southern end of the agglomeration. Major Boyle and his men hold the Germans throughout D-Day by the south end of the buildings. Roque Rousse, a hill located east of Les Arcs, is one of the objectives of the 1st Battalion. The German garrison had left the village in the night of 14 to 15 August, to take position in the valley on the other side of the railway, holding the bridge. The enemy resists fiercely and is reinforced by the equivalent of an entire battalion. The next day, they attack the village from the southwest. Fighting intensifies and Boyle is nailed in the village.

German snipers infiltrate everywhere and the losses increase. Boyle resolves to evacuate his forces. He insists that no casualties be left behind. He scouts the rear under the enemy's fire while his men crawl one by one. Carrying the wounded, the little troop slips all day between different groups of Germans.

The 460th PFAB' C Battery rushes to provide artillery fire to reduce the pressure on Boyle's forces, mimicking the last resistance of Fort Alamo. When the guns are sent, everyone hit the dirt to take cover.

All day under the heavy fire, Boyle led his small troop out of the German encirclement. Wild Bill leaves the village at night in the darkness and retreats to a small farm to avoid being surrounded and cut off from other units.

The 2/517' relay

On Day D + 1, the 2nd Battalion has two missions: relieved Captain Fraser of his objective which was originally that of the 3rd Battalion (take the hill between Sainte-Roseline and Les Arcs) and to release Major Boyle and his Men of the Bows. Dick Seitz, which is 5 kilometers north of Les Arcs, is pushing with his battalion forward to join Boyle as the Germans begin to gather forces in the suburbs of the city for a mass counter-attack.

At approximately 9:00 am, two platoons of Lieutenant Loren James' D Company (Dave Armstrong was seriously injured during the jump) enter Les Arcs from the north. The 2nd Platoon moves to the southern end of the city and manages to contact some of Boyle's men and manages to set up a defense a few hundred meters from the station.

Skirmishes continue all day. The Germans' efforts to reform were divided by small arms and 4.2-inch mortars (from the 83rd Chemical Battalion) and P51 bombs weighing 500 kilograms along the tracks. Eight or ten men from the Dog Company are injured. With the help of a French doctor and German prisoners, a first aid post is set up in a hotel. In the middle of the afternoon, the Fox Company having liberated La Motte arrives taking position in the north of the village facing west, and the strength of Major Boyle can withdraw to Sainte Roseline.

At around 2 pm, the two exhausted columns of the 3rd Battalion of Melvin Zais, parachuted by mistake between Fayence and Callian arrive at La Motte and at 4 pm, they arrive at the castle Sainte Roseline ending a forced march of about forty kilometers made across the mountain.

Although they are exhausted, disorganized and run out of officers and men who have not joined those who have marched, the battalion receives the order to set out at the end of the afternoon to take the valley south of the railway and team up with the 2nd Battalion.

The D Company of 83rd Chemical Bn. a true hurricane of phosphorus sweeps over the Les Arcs valley just before the attack of the 3/517th at the end of the day on August 16th. The German prisoners then asked if they had mortars fed by "belts", so fierce and deadly fire.

The 3/517' attack

The 3/517 attacked from the east through a vineyard north of the railway which is infested with German machine gun nest and well covered by the enemy defenses set up behind the embankments of the railway. After cleaning the vineyard, Lt. Col. Zais who commands the battalion orders to go on the rails and very few do. Many are killed as the 1/Sgt. John E. Gaunce of the H Company and 2nd Lt. Harold M. Freeman who is shot in the head. Those who crossed then found themselves on the other side of the railway.

At his command post in Sainte-Roseline, Colonel Rupert Graves is very concerned that Les Arcs is still in the hands of the Germans. It becomes essential that the Germans be dislodged before the morning of August 17. A firing mission was then coordinated between Ray Cato's 460th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion and the D Company of the 83rd Chemical Battalion. Everyone on site, including the company officers is involved in the supply of guns. This allows a continuous fire on German positions, suspected to be strengths, of a thousand shells in just 20 minutes. The village is liberated on August 17 at the first light of day.