Back to Fayence

On D-Day, many American and British paratroopers had been ‘abandoned’ to their fate in the Fayence-Callian area. Although many are wounded, many able-bodied men fight with resistance to harass Germans in every way possible and unimaginable.

On August 19, while the rest of the 517th PIR is in the Muy area, Howard Hensleigh is sent back to Callian and Captain Joe McGeever, with an officer and 602nd GFAB jeeps in Fayence to bring the wounded back to a hospital .

1st Lt. Howard Hensleigh of S-2 (Intelligence) departed with an old black sedan, provided by Colonel Graves. Unfortunately, the Germans still occupy the area. The inhabitants of Callian tell Hensleigh that the wounded of the drop were moved to Montauroux, a village still held by a great German force. An inhabitant of Callian, however, knows a way to enter Montauroux without alerting the Germans and offers to go with him.

Hensleigh finally arrives safe in Montauroux. The Germans load their trucks and are about to leave. The good news is that the Germans left the wounded in the small medical post in the valley below with Doc Plassman. When Hensleigh arrives in Montauroux, he finds Doc Plassman in his country hospital wearing a white coat surrounded by fifteen paratroopers wounded during the jump and others having taken refuge inside and a dozen German that he had also healed. He had treated several wounded German soldiers and carried out a rescue operation on one of their officers.

When the Germans leave, Hensleigh radioed the 141st IR colonel about not bombing the city and he could move safely and he needed an ambulance to bring back all his wounded.

In Montauroux a patrol of the 141st Infantry Regiment reported early in the afternoon of August 20 that the village is safe and is relieved by paratroopers. In Callian, the men of the Eitt Task Force are still fighting.

The 517th PIR’ return

Irony of fate for paratroopers of the 3rd Battalion who joined Sainte-Roseline after a forced march from Fayence, August 19 the 517th is ordered to go to Fayence and Montauroux to identify the elements of the 141st Infantry Regiment.

On August 20, not having released either Fayence or Callian, the Paratroopers of the 3rd Battalion do the reverse and return, but this time with the 2nd Battalion. 200 Germans are in Fayence and Callian. The 2nd Battalion goes through the same path previously crossed by the 3rd Battalion of Mel Zais, from Callas to Fayence, and the 3rd Battalion passes through Bagnols to Callian.

OSS Action

Callian and Montauroux now freed, there remains only a stubborn German garrison at Roche de Fayence having resisted several attacks of the resistance. Many Germans took up positions at Fayence where they were placed under the command of Major Paul Turnow, commander of the Reserve Grenadier-Battalion 327, one of the two battalions to be sent to Draguignan from Grasse on August 15th.

Following the miss drops in the Fayence area, several missing paratroopers from the 517th PIR joined the OSS team. During these fights, the paratroopers and the OSS team commanded by Lt. Walter C. Hanna rubs against the German soldiers of Turnow and finally organizes a possible surrender on their part.

Meanwhile, on the outskirts of Fayence is Dick Seitz and his 2/517 who has orders to take the village. He sends 1st Lt. Walter G. Irwin, commander of the Machine Gun Platoon of 2/517 in recognition. During his patrol, Irwin was caught under an intense 20mm fire and automatic weapons. While his patrol is grounded, Irwin advances alone and enters the city and mop for an hour from house to house arriving at located two 20mm gun. Spotted when he returns to his men, he is shot but continues to advance. He returned with precise information on the location of the 20 mm guns. On the evening of August 20, a great artillery fire from the 602nd GFAB is provoked on Fayence. Lt. Hanna sends a messenger to the city asking the Germans to send an emissary to discuss a surrender.

The paratroopers wonder if the German emissary would come on time but he arrives in a car of the Red Cross with Germaine Michel-Jaffard herself of the Red Cross who is also head of the resistance in Fayence. During the exchange, Hanna introduces the terms of the surrender and the German is initially reluctant to accept them until the OSS officer threatens to annihilate them if he does not. do not accept them. At the end of the encounter, the artillery fire miraculously ceases after Hanna told the German that the shooting would stop if the terms of surrender were accepted (Hanna had no contact with the bulk of the 517th PIR and did not know where the shells were coming from.)

In order to take the 400 prisoners, Hanna decides to contact the men of the 517th PIR to help them. Some members of the group leave to try to locate them but they return shortly after saying that they saw only ten on patrol and that they can not come. Hanna then says that there must be more nearby and went himself to see. He thus meets advanced elements of Dick Seitz's 2/517. The group commander is a friend of Hanna and promises him a platoon, after his men have rested, having not slept for several days after the jump. The surrender is scheduled at 9am and there is no time to lose. After resting, the group leaves by truck which breaks down 10 kilometers from the place of arrival. A decision is quickly made and Hanna with five other paratroopers get into a car and head to his headquarters five minutes before.

In the meantime, Germaine Michel-Jaffard, Fayence's resistance commander, put a white flag on a stick and climbs up to the rock, which is about 8 meters high. She begs the German commander to save the city from bombing by telling them that she would contact the Americans.

When Capt. Hanna's group arrives, the white flag floats at the top of the fort and the Germans descend without their weapons having been collected in a pile. That's when the 2nd Battalion is ready to attack by the south gate ... A column of 184 Germans out of the fort hands raised.

At noon on August 21st, the entire Fayence area in Callian is secure. The region of Fayence is definitely freed, the rest of the German troops having withdrawn towards Grasse.