Serial 5 & Saint-Tropez

As the Serial 5 approach the coast, the planes suddenly make a turn to the west. Ack ack is active. As soon as the airplanes begin to fly over the land, green lamps up and everyone jumps into the total darkness, gray with fog.

The Serial 5 jumps at 4 hours 30 between 600 and 1000 feet. Due to navigation errors and fog, they land 12 miles from the DZ. Major Cooper, commander of the 463rd PFAB, broke his ankle during the jump. The zone is occupied by enemy forces: two coastal batteries, one anti-air battery, and two garrisons of IV./GR 765 troops (one of which is an Ost-Battalion composed of Poles, Armenians and Azebaijannais) One located at the citadel of Saint-Tropez and the other at the Latitude 43 hotel.

More than 300 paratroopers gather in the Saint-Tropez region. A plane dropped is stick over the sea, there is no survivor and the Baker Company has just lost its commander, Captain Ralph Miller. Other paratroopers land in the water, but get along, like Harvey Sutherland of B/509. A stick of the 463rd PFAB also landed in the water, but all are doing well. The paratroopers who are not victims of the parachuting error landing within a radius of 11km around the DZ C. Captain Jess Walls and the whole of his Charlie Company are dropped near the coast in the woods and hills nearby The Bellevue-Sainte Anne district on the outskirts of Saint-Tropez.

“Third platoon was split up in two planes, I was the jump master in one while my assistant platoon leader, Lt Nick Martinez served in the other plane. When we approached the coast of France, the red light turned on as the signal to get ready. I gave the command to, "Stand up and hook up" then "check equipment and sound off for equipment check" and finally "stand in the door" I stood in the open door hoping to recognize some terrain features but all I could see were clouds. The green light went on as the signal to jump. I did not jump, but waited to see something besides clouds. After 10 or 15 seconds, someone said, Lt., the green light is on, we have to go". I said "OK, lets go" and led the jump. It was still dark and it seemed to take a long time to reach the ground. I think they dropped us around 2000 feet rather than 700. I landed in a grape vineyard, a soft landing but I was flat on my back.

I tried to unhook my harness, but it was so tight I was unable to do so and I couldn't get off my back. I reached in my knife pocket and found my English seamans knife and cut my harness off. Just at that time, a shot rang out and I dropped the knife (and lost it). One of my men had shot another because the

trooper had forgotten the countersign. Fortunately, the wound was not serious but it was a bad case of "trigger happy" nervousness.

Dawn soon revealed that we were close to the ocean and near the town of St Tropez. Capt Bing Miller, B company CO, apparently jumped on the green light and the whole stick jumped into the ocean. The were never found. I firmly believe than my delay kept my stick out of the water.”

René Girard of the French resistance of Saint-Tropez is awakened when he hears the sounds of plane. Immediately, he sent one of his men to contact the paratroopers. Some of the resistants, such as Girard, are taken to the highest ranking trooper in the area: Capt. Jesse Walls. Walls immediately asks where he is. Girard answers "St. Tropez". Lt. Raymond Ruyffalaere, who speaks fluent French, asks Girard how far they are from Le Muy. The Frenchman gives the distance in kilometers, and it is a long distance. He also says that there is no road directly connecting St-Tropez to Le Muy. Thus, Walls abandons the idea of joining Le Muy and prefers to stay here in order to cause maximum damage to the Germans.

Marc Rainault, leader of the french FFI in Saint-Tropez contact Capt. Jesse Walls just after the drop and joins the fight. He is touched in the neck, but after receiving first aid, finds himself again in the heat of the action.

While gathering his troops, Walls is joined by Ferris Knight of the B Company and a squad on Belle Isnarde Hill. From there, they can see the landing troops. Knight says that Miller was dropped into the Mediterranean with all his stick. Walls then took command of the troops dropped on Saint-Tropez. It was then 1st Lt. Leslie D. Winship who took command of the B Company.

Girard says there are two main groups in Saint-Tropez. The largest is in the citadel, the other group is the opposite of the city at Latitude 43. Girard tells Walls that the citadel would be the hardest to take and make it its priority. He suggested that hostilities should begin as soon as possible.
But Walls has two big problems. The first is that he has very little man with him, he thought he could have more than one company. The second problem is that he does not have heavy weapons. Two 463rd PFAB batteries are supposed to have jumped with him. But Major Vincent Garrett, Battalion S-3 of the 463rd has difficulty locating its guns and ammunition. Finally, he locates one of his guns and assembles it.

At 6 o'clock in the morning, a tremendous explosion followed by chain explosions shook the atmosphere. The Germans in garrison at Saint-Tropez were ordered to destroy the harbor facilities.

A handful of B and C Batteries from the 463rd PFAB under Lt. Saunders fight the infantry and three coastal batteries inflicting heavy casualties and capturing many prisoners. Major Garrett moved northwest towards a position in Saint Tropez with a team from the B Battery where he shot at close range on two enemy casemates. This single 75mm howitzer, fired by machine guns and small enemy weapons, fired two shells at each of the three bunkers, forcing the enemy to surrender.

With this support, Walls decides to help the French and to make an assault on the city. He sends a few men forward of the bulk of the troops to locate the locations where the Germans Girard has given him. The information that the latter gave him is reliable, but there could be some German wanderers in the city.

Prior to the landing of the 3rd Infantry Division, it was imperative for the 509th Combat Team in Saint-Tropez to demonstrate their presence while avoiding revealing their positions to the German troops. They succeed in identifying themselves by deploying orange canvas panels forming a "US" made with the aid of parachute of container deployed on uncovered ground. Between 5.50 and 7.30 am, they undergo the aerial and naval bombardment before the assault of the 3rd Infantry Division on the beach of Pampelonne.

A 463rd B Battery patrol is sent to the beach to try to contact the amphibious forces. Seeing that no landing had yet taken place, they joined a C Battery patrol and attacked an enemy troop stronghold covering the beaches where the amphibious landing of the 3rd Infantry Division was to take place. After two enemies were killed, the remaining (about 90 Germans) surrender.

At 8:30 am the column of paratroopers entered the city and separated in two, one went west and the other eastward into the streets of the city. Those in the east are progressing cautiously, they can be confronted with the Germans at any time. Those encountered are totally surprised and try to escape, paratroopers replicating. Very few manage to escape.

Shortly afterwards, the paratroopers were in sight of the citadel and saw machine-guns pointing in their direction, beginning to shoot at them: the battle for the liberation of Saint-Tropez had begun. The citadel is a military structure surrounded by thick walls, 400 years old, separated from the first houses of the village by a steep and open ground.

The paratroopers tried to make an assault on the citadel but quickly realized that there was too much space to go, with no cover and too many machine guns pointing in their direction.
Moreover, they lacked firepower to dislodge the enemy troops from their positions, since none of the 463rd PFAB's batteries could be located. From 3:30 pm, they received reinforcements from the 15th Regimental Combat Team (3rd Infantry Division) landed on Pampelonne beach.

At around 4:30 pm the troopers are gradually retreating towards the hill outside the village where the defensive conditions are much more favorable. At 5:00 pm, thinking that the attackers were retreating to allow the US Navy to bomb the citadel, the commander of the citadel ordered white flags to be deployed on the ramparts.

This is the squad of Sgt. Boggs Collins of the 3rd Platoon, C Company which the one who accepts the surrender of the occupants of the citadel. Collins is a "Nazi-fighter" who has no sympathy for the Germans and for him, accepting the demands of the defeated is not paramount. The German commander begins to leave the citadel with a white flag and Collins sets out to meet him. “I will not surrender to a sergeant," the German said, "only to a high-ranking officer. Have you commanding officer come forward." Enraged, Collins jabbed the muzzle of his tommy gun hard up against the officer's stoach. "Here's the high-ranking officer right here ! You may not want to surrender to me, but you sure as hell better surrender to this!" This encouraged 60 other Germans to join their commander.

At the end of the day, the Americans make 190 German prisoners and the paratroopers deplore three killed and several wounded. Only a few elements of the 463rd PFAB actually participate in the fighting in Saint Tropez. The artillerymen have two killed and a dozen wounded.

Marc Rainault, boss of the FFI in Saint-Tropez was awarded the Silver Star for his action on D-Day.