Var River crossing

After August 27 when the German defenses of the Loup River fall into the hands of the First Airborne Task Force, his units must now cross the river Var. The 517th reached the river at Carros in the area north of the front on August 26th.

The advance to the Var River

A detachment of the Cannon Company of the First Special Service Force, accompanied by dismounted troops of the FSSF and by M10 Tank Destoyer of the 645th Tank Destroyer Battalion is sent in reconnaissance to Saint-Laurent-du-Var. The detachment enters the village of La Colle without encountering enemy resistance and continues in the direction of Saint-Paul to recognize the various points of passage of the Force. At St. Paul, they meet no resistance. Going to their next objective, which is a bridge, that one is destroyed and the detachment must cross to look for a road crossing that is not mined and in good enough condition The column take the direction of Villeneuve-Loubet liberate soon after their arrival and embark an entire Forcemen company after receiving a new mission from Colonel Walker, FSSF commander. An enemy armored column is reported, following the road from Saint-Laurent to Cagnes, where the detachment lay all the platoons of the company except one to protect their rear and hold the city. The detachment then continues towards the Var River where they meet a heavy enemy resistance, in the form of a deadly cross fire of several machine guns. The Forcemen platoon deploys on the left flank taking advantage of the cover given by the railway point and the embankment to the left of the road, firing with their light weapons towards the machine guns until the second half-track is put in position. to shoot them and destroy them. Simultaneously, the leading half-track engages the fight with the right machine gun forcing them to retreat. From there, the detachment continues its route towards Saint-Laurent. Here they join a group of French fighters who inform them of another machine gun further down the road. The two M10s remain behind because enemies are still there and the rest of the detachment continues to advance to destroy the position of machine gun.

After arriving at Saint-Laurent, the detachment does not see the enemy's armored column and has already traveled some forty kilometers beyond the front held by the FSSF. In need of ammunition, gas and medical services for the injured french, the detachment returns to Saint Paul where the FSSF CP is located.

On the 27th, the FSSF captures a Polish soldier who willingly gives them all the information they need to progress. On August 28th, the 1st Regiment progressed east towards Saint-Laurent from Cagnes this time releasing the city for good and then goes to the hills overlooking the Var in the afternoon. The next day, August 29, a patrol of the 3rd Regiment crossed the Var, reaching Saint-Isidore where the French Resistance gave captured German prisoners.

The Resistance sparked an insurrection in Nice early in the morning of August 28th. On August 28, when the insurgency begins in Nice, neither the FSSF nor the 551st PIB have reached the Var River yet, as both units are still patrolling and contacting the 517th PIR further north in the area. of Saint-Jeannet and that the 551st PIB reaches the mouth of the Var from Biot on the morning of the 29th.

Saint-Paul-de-Vence and Vence

FSSF’ 3rd Regiment, which had been held in reserve in Biot since August 24, is heading on the 27th towards Saint-Paul and Vence, first reaching Saint-Paul. The Germans had withdrawn from the village before the arrival of the FSSF’ Cannon Company Detachment. At dawn on August 27, the Forcemen fired on the Germans stationed at Vence, which withdraw. Lt. Col. Ralph W. Becket’ jeep is the first vehicle to arrive in Saint-Paul, who is offered a bottle of whiskey. Shortly afterwards, the advanced elements of the FSSF leave for Vence.

The liberation of the area around Vence is relatively calm. After enter into Vence on the afternoon of the 27th, the FSSF's 3rd Regiment advanced to positions overlooking the Var river during the day of the 28th, as did the men of the 1st Regiment at Saint-Laurent. The first patrols of the 3rd Regiment reaching the area of ​​La Gaude on the 28th report that the village is free.

On the Var River

The 517th crosses Grasse soon after being released by the FSSF and, as the FSSF moves towards the southern part of the Le Loup River, the 517th advance to the north sector where a patrol of 3/517 reaches Bar-sur-Loup on August 24 and the Regimental CP is installed there.

From Bar, they can see an important railway bridge that the Germans had not yet blown up despite being trapped. The bridge jumps a few moments later. For the next two days, the FSSF and the 509th PIB face a fairly serious German resistance on the defensive line of the river Le Loup and their progress is halted until 27 August. Meanwhile, the 517th overflows the German defenses to the north, penetrating the mountains, controlled by the Resistance. Not encountering any enemy force, the 517th thus advanced very quickly towards the east. On the 24th, after the bridge of Pont-du-Loup is destroyed, the 517th PRCT crosses Le Loup and goes up its valley to Courmes. On the 25th, they enter Coursegoules, Bézaudun and Le Broc. On the 26th, while the other units of the FABTF are still fighting on the Loup River, the 517th had already taken a big advance, having already reached the river at Carros.

Bluff on the Manda Bridge

When advancing in the Alpes-Maritimes, 1/517’s scouts landmark the Manda Bridge partially demolished on the Var. It is decided that the bridge is repairable and that it would be a great asset for the 517th if they can prevent the Germans from completing its demolition. The men of the C Company have the mission to secure this intact bridge. German retreating forces generally leave a rearguard troop on bridges like this one to blow up its structure. On other recognition, the Americans learn that there are indeed two guards officiating at the other end of the bridge.

Two men from the C Company, Cpl. Leslie Perkins and Pfc. Reginald Richards quickly volunteered to take a walk on deck hoping not to be recognized by the enemy during this risky adventure. The two men find a wheelbarrow where they hide their rifles under picks and shovels. They remove their shirts and cover their jump boots with their trousers and each put a bandanna around their head. The two men look like enlisted workers pushing their wheelbarrow on the Var bridge. Halfway through the bridge, the German guards begin to stir and show signs of anxiety. It was then that one of the two soldiers realized that something was wrong and began to shout "stop." The two Germans put their hands on their weapons, but the two paratroopers are faster than them and descend even before they could point their weapons on them. Perkins and Richards are the first Allied soldiers to cross the Var.

The Var is a river lying between Cannes is Nice and it must be crossed to take Nice. When they retreated, the Germans blew up most of the bridges that cross the river and dispute the advance of the Americans on any road. It should be noted that the infantry of the 1st Airborne Task Force is very slightly equipped, most men do not have a vehicle and motorize as they can with motorcycles, carts, some civilian cars and captured vehicles.

The attack of La Roquette-sur-Var

E/517th PIR has orders to take La Roquette on August 27 for the passage of the entire 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team, as this is the only place where a bridge is still standing.

A patrol is organized early in the morning of August 27 and surprises enemy soldiers at Le Broc who are responsible for demolishing the bridge with explosive charges. This enemy force is very determined to accomplish its mission. The bridge is protected by mortars and enemy machine gun emplacements. Each time the patrol has to go back because of the heavy fire. It is the F Company reinforced with a machine gun squad of the HQ Co. who is subsequently in charge of taking this bridge. Seeing the defense network of the bridge, the crossing is not worth the blow to have losses. This thought is shared by German defenders as the 460th PFAB guns and the 81mm mortars covering the Fox Company keep the Germans in their holes and prevent them from finishing their demolition work.

Capt. Robert H. Newberry’ Easy Company receives the order to cross the Var feet in the water at 2 o'clock on August 28 with Louie, a French Resistance, having the mission of infiltrated the enemy positions to then be able to attack at 16:30, in coordination with the Fox Company which must also attack the bridge in itself. The 1st Platoon is the one that opens the march and where the company commander is, the 2nd platoon is the one where the heavy weapons are and the 3rd platoon closes the march. During the crossing, two mortars of only 60mm are carried but four troopers lose their guns because of the current. They had been told that the water would only reach the ankles, but it would reach them to the waist.

After the crossing, the patrol must have passed through barbed wire and a minefield, all without revealing their presence. The patrol then moved to a place where, according to the FFI named Louie, no German passed by.

It is important for the peloton not to shoot to avoid being spotted. At 4:25 pm on August 28, the E Company's patrol went through the city under the cover of its two mortars, one of its servants was wounded because of a miss, but the tube continued to fire. The 3rd platoon leader is hit by a grenade and suffered a concussion. The Fox Company supported by the Dog Company in the south and the 460th PFAB artillery fire and 81mm mortars, crosses the bridge at 17h on 28 August and takes the heights east of the Var. The fighting is fierce and the E Company takes La Roquette, house by house, room by room. A total of 25 Germans are killed and 81 taken prisoner. The E Company has 10 wounded, but no killed, it is later praised by Colonel Rupert D. Grave and General Robert T. Frederick who hands him a Task Force Commendation. The capture of La Roquette is a total success, the 2nd Battalion of the 517th PIR had done wonders again.

The 1st Platoon of the 596th Airborne Engineer Company is the first unit of the 509th Combat Team to cross the Var because it must clear the riverbed. All 509th PIB crosses the Var on August 30th. They even have contact with First Special Service Force elements on their left flank.

Var River demining

The 517th PRCT had succeeded by his bold crossing of the Var, to capture the whole region of Levens without having a single man killed. Following this attack, the 596th Parachute Combat Engineer Company is tasked with removing a portion of the mines from the Var bed on August 30th.

The company has the heavy task of removing anti-glider obstacles. Shells of 155m are suspended from wires, stretched between two piles and three men are killed during these manipulations.