The Maritime Alps, France



August 30 - November 18, 1944


An Introductory Summary  (by Ken Hesler, D Battery)


Less than two weeks after spearheading the airborne invasion of Southern France on August 15, 1944, two battle-tested battalions of the First Airborne Task Force, the 509th Parachute Infantry and the 463rd Parachute Field Artillery, were pursuing German forces eastward along the Riviera coast approaching the ancient port town of Antibes. Cannes had fallen August 24. 


What happened next is best told by William B. Breuer, military historian and author of Operation Dragoon:  The Allied Invasion of the South of France.  He writes that “...the Wehrmacht pulled back eastward to the Maritime Alps.  Then, like ripe plums, Nice and other towns along the Cote d’Azur fell, and the entire Mediterranean coast of France was in Allied hands by September 9.”  Breuer later called the Maritime Alps campaign the “Forgotten War.”


During that period, the nation’s newspapers and radio were reporting the liberation of Paris, Lt. Gen. George S. Patton’s armored thrust toward the German border, Russian offensive actions along the Eastern Front, and the capture of Grenoble, France, about 140 miles north of the Mediterranean.  The focus of the war was shifting rapidly toward Central Europe. 


As  Lt. Gen. Alexander M. Patch’s Seventh Army drove north up the Rhone River valley, its right flank was exposed to enemy forces with access through Alpine mountain passes along the Franco-Italian border.  To counter this prospect, airborne units of the First Airborne Task Force were moved into strategic mountaintop positions in the Maritime Alps to defend the major routes of possible attack by the enemy, a prudent action but one that shifted the traditional offensive role of these airborne forces to a holding action in a remote battleground.



William B. Breuer's book.

On August 30th, the 463rd  was relieved from the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, and attached to the 550th Airborne Infantry Battalion. Major Stuart M. Seaton, commander of the battalion after Lt. Col. John T. Cooper, Jr. suffered a badly-fractured ankle during the invasion jump August 15, was directed to move the battalion’s 450 men and equipment by truck convoy from Antibes some 200 miles to the northwest over a circuitous, zigzag mountainous route and assume positions in support of the 550th in the vicinity of Jausiers, France, not far from the Italian border.  Jausiers is a small village in a region of high mountains near the western end of the Ubaye Valley, a gateway to enemy forces then in Italy. Because of the terrain, the battalion was at times spread along a 12-mile front.




Jausiers, image taken from the South, situated 8km from Barcelonnette.



After a seven-week assignment in the Jausiers area, the battalion moved south to Menton, France, October 22 to support the First Special Service Force.  This event is noted in Lt. Col. Burhans' The First Special Service Force: A War History of the North Americans, 1942-1944:  “One fortunate note gave the Force considerable pleasure:  “the 463rd Parachute Field Artillery, old friends from Italy had rejoined to support with fire the final Force action.” 


Burhans also notes “Nice was the place, in those early December days, to say good-bye.  The artillerymen from the 463d were still around, the men who had become Forcemen for all practical purposes.  And there nights full of fighting in every square and bar when a parachutist would offer to remove a Forceman’s parachute pin.”  The FSSF was inactivated December 5, 1944.


On November 18, 1944, the 463rd was relieved by the 602nd Field Artillery Battalion and “dispatched to the Bivouac area in Gattières, France,” near Nice.


During the Maritime Alps Campaign, the 463rd and attached units fired 15,357 rounds, endured a blizzard that buried the guns of Battery "A" under eight feet of snow at an altitude of 10,000 feet, and, in mid-October, engaged in its largest single fire mission of the war.  Lt. Col. Cooper, who had returned to active duty as battalion commander just two days earlier, wrote of the October 15 action:  “The Germans launched a late evening attack aimed at securing two strategic peaks.  By firing five thousand six hundred (5,600) round of direct fire on the peaks, the attack was repulsed and the enemy driven back.” 




Doug Bailey : "Notice the two German Camouflage Shelter Half's, mine and Zafkes.
Since we did not jump with our own we picked up these two down somewhere on the outskirts of Nice.

Don and I shared a nice Hole in the mountain."


Although the mountain campaign had its share of steep narrow trails, enemy harassing fire, pack mules, suspected spies, and C-rations, the relatively short re-supply line, even though over difficult roads, provided “first class” battlefield service.  Consequently, baked bread, ground coffee, and 10-in-1 (7-in-1?) boxed rations containing cans of dried vegetables, bacon, and an occasional cut of boiling beef were a welcome addition to the battalion’s diet.


Of even more significance, was the re-supply of winter clothing with the as yet unknown Battle of the Bulge awaiting just a few weeks into the future. During the Maritime Alps campaign, four 75mm howitzers to make Battery D a firing battery, and the following items were items received by the 463rd



Wool Blankets 1612
Wool Socks 1550
Handkerchiefs 1500
Wool Gloves 1160
Wool Undershirts 1160
Wool Trousers 665
Wool Drawers 630
Wool Caps 630
Wool Overcoats 525
Tent Shelter halves 410
Raincoats 261
Wool Shirts 173
Herringbone Twill Suits 160
Field Jackets 105
Mackinaws 70
Howitzers, 75mm pack, M1A1 4
& Winter "shoepacs" ?

Ken Hesler : "we did get shoepacs before going to Bastogne, likely after coming off the line in Southern France. 
No official operational records were kept during such periods.

Shoepac is the historical correct designation for the wet/cold weather boot introduced in Europe in late 1944
with a rubber foot, leather top, and felt insole.  I may have called them “mudpacs” originally. 

They kept feet warm and dry while walking, but cooled off quickly if standing or sitting still. 
Feet would sweat in rubber shoe part while moving about, even in cold weather. 
We had standing orders to dry them every night in whatever fashion, even sleeping with them against the body if  necessary.  "


Following a bivouac of approximately three-weeks at Gattières, the 463rd traveled by truck to Toulon, France, and boarded box cars for a rail trip to Mourmelon, France, arriving there December 12, 1944. The battalion was billeted with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Mourmelon awaiting assignment to the 17th Airborne Division when, four days later, German forces unleashed a major counterattack into the Ardennes sector of Belgium.


Lt. Col.  Cooper volunteered the services of the 463rd to the 101st Airborne Division and the battalion was off to Bastogne and the Battle of the Bulge attached to the Screaming Eagles.


(Monthly narratives of the Maritime Alps Campaign and other documents follow.)

Award Recommendation


463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion
APO 464                         U.S. ARMY


                                            18 November 1944.


SUBJECT: Recommendation for Award.


TO     : Commanding General, 101st Airborne Division, APO 472,
         U. S. Army


  1. Under the provisions of War Department Circular 333, 22 December 1943, it is recommended that the 463rd parachute Field Artillery Battalion be awarded the first Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster to the Distinguished Service Badge.

  2. The 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion distinguished itself by extraordinary heroism in action in the Campaign for Southern France as follows:

  1. on 13 July 1944, the 463rd parachute Field Artillery Battalion received forty (40)-percent replacements to bring it up to full fighting strength, These replacements were trained, equipment drawn and packed and parachutes drawn and packed for a jump, in one months time. Thirty-three (33) days after C and D Batteries were organized from replacement personnel, they jumped Southern France. The personnel in the other three (3) batteries, made their first jump, during this operation, in over a year. There the organization was to function in combat as a complete Battalion, for the first time.

    The elements of the Battalion were divided into two (2) groups and took off from two different airports for strategical purposes. The entire Battalion was to be dropped on the same drop zone, however, at H minus four (H -4) due to an Air Corps mix up, only the group composed of A Battery complete and elements of headquarters and D Batteries were dropped in the correct area. This group, nevertheless had all of its guns together and were firing by 1200 hours or eight (B) hours after the jump. Several support missions were fired and the combat teams mission of cutting two important road and rail junctions and seizing the key terrain features was accomplished in such a manner that the forces advancing from the sea were enabled to speed straight through and make terrific gains on the first few days.

    The other half of the Battalion met with much greater difficulties. They were dropped on a small peninsular right on the sea, and consequently met a great deal of enemy resistance. In spite of this, Battery B had three (3) guns assembled and firing while Battery C had two (2) of their guns in position in the early hours of the morning. The first enemy contacted in any large numbers, surrendered immediately. Patrols from B and C Batteries ran across a fortified garrison and were forced to call for direct fire before the enemy inside would surrender.

    Another group, led by the Battalion S-3 and composed of Headquarters personnel, took one gun and although forced to fire from a prone position, destroyed two road blocks which were delaying the advance of friendly Infantry patrols. Later, patrols from the unit, fighting as Infantry captured ninety (90) prisoners in a strong garrison. By this time, the action from landing troops from the sea had caught up.

    The Battalion was credited with three hundred seventy-two (372) men and three (3) officer prisoners, more than the entire Airborne Task Force took on the first two (2) days.

    After seaborne invasion troops had driven past the Battalions position a hasty reorganization was made and two (2) days later the 509th Combat team, of which this unit was a part, was in position at Théoule-sur-Mer on the coast with the mission of pushing the right flank of the beach-head as far as possible. In the first eleven days of the push, the unit supported seven (7) Infantry attacks, sending an observer with each company to assure maximum observation and help. Targets of all types were successfully taken under fire.

    Then on 30 August 1944, the Battalion was suddenly shifted to the Alps in the North and attached to the 550th Airborne Infantry with the mission of cutting an important German escape route, from France into Italy. This was accomplished on the first day that the combat team moved into position. The enemy, however, dug in and prepared a defensive line generally opposite the line held by the combat team and the Free French Forces. Due to the extremely mountainous terrain, and such high angles of fire it was necessary to use great ingenuity in placing the batteries in position. Also, it became necessary to spread out the batteries in order to cover the necessary ground. At one time, the battalion front was better than twelve miles wide. Several times, one or two guns were moved into forward exposed positions in order to take observed targets, which were normally out of range, under fire. on 22 September 1944, the second gun section from C Battery moved into a position where they could fire on a known enemy OP, and put one hundred (100) rounds on the installations. It was three (3) weeks before the enemy had observation in this sector again. Two days later, one gun section from B Battery moved up ambushed a daily mule supply train, killing twelve mules and as many enemy soldiers. At another time, three guns displaced forwarded at the same time and one gun position, an occupied fort, and a command post, were taken under fire simultaneously. This resulted in great surprise losses to the enemy.

    Early in October the weather turned bad and A Battery, whose position was ten thousand feet above sea level, woke up one morning after a three day blizzard, to find their guns under eight feet of snow. It was three (3) days before snow plows could clear a road to the position. When it became necessary for A Battery to displace, they fashioned sleds from corrugated roof tops and pulled out all of their equipment to lower levels on the mountain. All of the gun crews and chiefs of sections showed great initiative during this maneuver.

    Halfway through the month of October, the Germans launched a late evening attack aimed at securing two strategic peaks. By firing five thousand six hundred (5600) rounds of direct fire on, the peaks, the attack was repulsed and the enemy driven back.

    On 22 October 1944, the Battalion went into position in support of the First Special Service Force, along the French-Italian border on the coast. When the Battalion moved into position, several main highways were being used by the enemy in plane sight of the observers. However, they were out of range. By moving all positions forward and directly behind the MLR, those highways were reached and subsequently all traffic on them ceased. Two attacks were repulsed, also.

    After ninety-five days, the outfit was relieved and taken from the lines. Three thousand fifty (3500) rounds were fired on targets of every possible type. Every time the Battalion was called on for either a routine or a different type of mission they came through with maximum efficiency.

  2. Among targets destroyed or neutralized by this Battalion in France, were the following; thirty-six (36) observation posts, thirteen (13) command posts, sixty-six (66) gun positions, nineteen (19) vehicles, five (5) mule trains, thirty-three (33) mortars, four(4) self propelled guns and one hundred twenty-seven (127) houses.

  3. This battalion has fired thirty-four thousand seven hundred fifty-nine (34,759) rounds of ammunition in France. Approximately one thousand missions were fired.

                             Officers    Enlisted Men

  4. Injured in action - - - - - 2             46
    Wounded in action - - - - - 3             25
    Killed in action  - - - - - 0              5
    Total casualties - 81


The 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion distinguished itself in many ways, in action in Southern France. They accomplished their support mission on the initial jump, in a superior manner, assembling all available equipment and personnel speedily and efficiently. Those elements which did not drop near the proposed drop zone, made the most of what they had and quickly cleared the area of St. Tropez, France, of all enemy strong points enabling seaborne troops to push on without trouble at that point. The number of prisoners taken exceeded that figure turned in by the entire Task Force for the first two days. When sent to the Alps and faced with many difficult missions they always succeeded in fulfilling highest expectations. Several times radical chances from routine procedure were necessary in order to continue operations. These departures were made and carried out speedily and efficiently. Again on the coast, great destruction was inflicted on the enemy over a sustained period while no casualties were suffered by the unit.


               JOHN T. COOPER, JR.,
               Lieutenant Colonel, Field Artillery,



The battle of Jausiers - S2 & S3 Reports.




From:  1200 15 Oct 1944

To  :  1200 16 Oct 1944

Unit :463rd Prcht FA Bn

Place: Jausiers, France

Date : 1300 16 Oct 1944


N0. 169

Maps: France, 1/50000, sheets XXXVI-39, XXXVI-38, XXXV-39 and XXXV-36.



    1. Strength, composition and disposition:

      1. Located and suspected gun positions: None reported.

      2. Observation and command posts: Air Observer reported occupied Ey OP at (32605489).

      3. Ammunition and supply installations: None reported.

    2. Enemy Counterbattery: None reported.

  2. AIR ACTIVITY: none reported.


  4. FRONT LINES: See overlay1

    Target          Coordinates    Observer        Effects
    Ey personnel    (55505179)     Lt. Eastman     Good
    Lt Austin. F0, reported ey attack at 2030 hour on our positions at (52864656).
    Our positions were receiving fire from machine guns and other small arms; also hand grenades. Lt Austin adjusted fire in area from (52864670) to (54264760) to (53494775) to (52684710) with the result of breaking up the attack at 2300 hour. One of our men was wounded. Ey casualties unknown. Strength of attack, one ey platoon. Light harassing fire vic Jausiers and our CP throughout the night. Lt Schoeneck, Air Observer reported occupied ey artillery position at (36325689) three mules and ey personnel entering position from south. Occupied defensive positions at (34405520). Ey living in house probably prefabricated at(33455580). Two large trucks on road between Col de Larche and Argentera.


    2d Lt., F.A.,

    Ass't S-2



From: 151200 Oct. 1944.       

To  : 161200 Oct. 1944.       

Unit : 463rd Prcht. F.A. Bn.,

Place: Jausiers, France.      

Date: 161300 Oct. 1944.       


N0. 169

Maps: France, 1/25000, sheets XXXVI-39, 3 & 4, 7 & 8 of Barcelonnette
and sheets XXXV-39, 1 & 2, 5 & 6 of Larche.


  1. Friendly situation - No change.

  2. Enemy Situation – 1 platoon, with two light MG’s attacked Pill Box at (52.80-4660) at (2030 hour). Artillery fire was called for and enemy driven back. Enemy casualties unknown, friendly casualties one wounded.


    Information of adjacent troops – No change.


    Weather – Cloudy and cool, visibility Fair.


    The 463rd Prcht. F. A. Bn., plus 1st Platoon, 2nd Chemical Bn., and 2nd Platoon, 645 T.D, Bn., fired in support of the 550th A/B Infantry Battalion. "C" Btry, 463rd Prcht. F.A. Bn. displaced two (2) guns to (5710-4330). They were in position and ready to fire at 0900 hour. 2nd Chemical fired at Ey Personnel at (5430-5040) with good effect. "B" Btry, 463rd Prcht. F.A. Bn., fired on Ey Activity at (5550-5179) with good effect. The Battalion fired on Ey Attack at (5710-4979) (5365-5120), (5380-4750), (5421-4750) and (5442-4764) with good effect.


  3. Own firing -

    A. Type of fire -
       Harassing - 2
       Registration - 2
       Call fire - 7

    B. Results - Good.

  4. Ammunition expended during this period.
                           M48   M54   M56   HE   WP   M66
       A Btry              685   299    98    0    0     0
       B Btry              913   146    15    0    0     0
       C Btry             1309     0     1    0    0     0
       D Btry              988   498   255    0    0    15
    Co. B, 645 T.D. Bn.,   118     0    38    0    0     0
    Co. D, 2nd Chem          0     0     0   41    0     0
                    Total 4011  1143   407   41    0    15

  5. Registration Ey air-ground method. Call fire by forward observation method.


Historical Narratives, September - November 1944.




463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion

APO 464                        U. S. Army




From 1 September 1944 to 30 September 1944


During the period 1 September to 30 September 1944 this Battalion fired in direct support of the 550th A/B Infantry Battalion and F.F.I.

During this period Co. "D", 83rd Chemical Battalion was relieved for operational control on 21  September 1944 and on 26 September 1944 First Platoon, Co. "D", 2d Chemical Battalion was attached for operational control. On 20 September 1944, one Platoon of French 105mm Howitzers was attached and reinforced fires of this Battalion. They were relieved on 23 September 1944.

There were several displacements of the Batteries during this period. On 5 September l944, Battery "A" moved into position at Casne de Restefond, France, (see overlay "A"), and fired on such targets as personnel, guns and vehicles. Part of the Fire Direction was moved to this position and operated as a unit. One gun of Battery "A" was moved forward into position (see overlay "B") to shell a pack train that was out of range for other guns. This gun moved 24 September and returned 26 September 1944. Approximately ten (10) mules and ten (10) enemy were killed while this gun was in this position. Battery "C" moved from position (see overlay "C") to position (see overlay "D") on 3 September 1944, and again to position (see overlay "E") on 30 September 1944. On 25 September 1944 Battery "D" was reorganized as a Howitzer Battery and went into position (see overlay "F") and moved again on 26 September 1944 -(see overlay "G").

This Battalion fired approximately 15,357 rounds of ammunition on the targets as follows, using ground and air O.P.'s:

Personnel - - - - - 32

Observation Posts - 20

Gun Positions and

     Machine Guns - 28

Mortars   - - - - - 15

Targets disabled, destroyed, or neutralized include one dugout, three (3) pack trains, one pill box and fired on forty-one (41) enemy patrols. This Battalion fired one preparation fire during
this period. The results obtained during this period were excellent.

The total casualties for this period include two (2) officers and one (1) enlisted man wounded.


The morale of this Battalion for this month was excellent and excellent work by Forward Observers and Observation post details continued.

For the Battalion Commander=
Major, F.A.,






463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion

APO 464                        U. S. Army


                          3 November 1944.




From 1 October 1944 to 31 October 1944


At the beginning of this period and occupying position as indicated on overlay A, the 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion with the 1st platoon, 2nd Chemical Battalion, and 2nd Platoon Company "B", 645 T.D. Battalion attached was firing in support of the 550th A/B Infantry Battalion. Positions as shown remained the same until 16 October 1944, when at this time an enemy gun battery was located by the air observer and was found to be out of range for the normal fire of this battalion. On this date two howitzers from Battery "C", were displaced well forward and occupied the position as indicated on overlay B. These two weapons remained in this position and fired on the enemy battery on 18 October 1944 with excellent results and closed in original position on this same date. Also on 18 October 1944, Battery "B" displaced one howitzer to position shown on overlay C, for the purpose of firing on targets out of normal range.


On 19 October 1944 the 1st platoon 2nd Chemical Battalion was relieved from attachment for operational purposes from this organization and displaced to Jausiers, France. On 20 October 1944 the 2nd Platoon, Company "B", 645 T.D. Battalion was relieved from attachment for operational purposes. Also on this date Batteries "B" and "C", complete, displaced from their position and moved into bivouac at Barcelonnette, France.


This battalion on 21 October 1944 was relieved by the Artillery of the DMM. Batteries "A" and "D" remained in position supporting the fires of the 4 DMM Artillery and Hq, "B" and "C" Batteries proceeded to Menton, France where they closed in positions on 22 October 1944 as shown on overlay D. At 1200 hour 23 October 1944 this organization assumed control of the sector from the 602nd Field Artillery Battalion, and fired in support of the 1st Special Service Force, Also on 23 October 1944, Batteries "A" and "D" displaced from position to Barcelonnette, France and on 24 October 1944 departed for Menton, France where positions were occupied as shown on overlay E, with one howitzer as shown on said overlay moving into the indicated position on 26 October 1944. Positions remained constant and on 29 October 1944, Battery "C", and on 30 October 1944, Battery "B", and on 31 October 1944, Battery "A" displaced to position shown on overlay F. During this monthly period this battalion, together with attached units, fired approximately 12,970 rounds of ammunition on the targets as follows, using ground and air OP's.

Personnel  - - - - - - 64

Machine Guns - - - - - 28

OP's and CP's  - - - - 11

Gun Positions  - - - -  9

Targets disabled, destroyed, or neutralized include sixteen (16) Machine Guns, nine (9) Enemy Gun Positions, five (5) self propelled guns, three (3) Strongpoints, ten (10) vehicles and nineteen (19) Mortars positions. In addition to these missions this battalion fired in support of two (2) Counterattacks. The results obtained throughout the month were excellent.

There were no battle casualties during this period, the moral of this battalion was excellent and excellent work by forward observers and observation post details continued.


For the Battalion Commander:


STUART M. SEATON,                

Major, F.A.,                     







463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion

APO 464                        U. S. Army


                         15 December 1944




From 1 November 1944 to 18 November 1944


At the beginning of the month of November this Battalion was occupying the position as indicated on overlay A and was firing in direct support of the First Special Service Force. This Battalion remained in this location and at 0800 hour 18 November 1944 was relieved by the 602d Field Artillery Battalion thus completing the combat service for the month of November 1944.


During the period 1 November 1944 to 18 November 1944 this battalion fired 4632 rounds of ammunition on the targets as follows, using ground and air OP's.

This Battalion fired approximately 15,357 rounds of ammunition on the targets as follows, using ground and air O.P.'s:

Personnel - - - - - 54

Observation Posts -  8

Gun Positions and

     Machine Guns - 30

Mortars   - - - - -  7

Targets, disabled, destroyed, or neutralized include one (1) mule train, two (2) machine guns, five (5 ) gun positions, two (2) mortars, one (1) road block, one (1) 75mm gun, two (2) vehicles,

There were no battle casualties for this period, the moral of the battalion was excellent and work by forward observers and observation posts details continued.


During the period one TOT was fired and on 12 November 1944 this battalion fired a mission of breaking up a German counter attack which was successfully repulsed.

For the Battalion Commander:


STUART M. SEATON,                

Major, F.A.,