The commemoration of the 69th anniversary of the landing in Provence in Theoule was held on August 15, 2013. It began by a wreath-laying ceremony at sea, at La Pointe de l’Esquillon where French forces set foot during the landing in Provence. On the ground, after a parade of military vehicles of the period, Mr Daniel Mansanti, Mayor of Theoule, gave a speech Place General Bertrand in the presence of Mr. Charles H. Rivkin, Ambassador of the United States of America in France, Navy Captain Robert Buzell, Naval Attaché to the U.S. Embassy in Paris, Navy Captain Craig A. Clapperton, Commanding Officer of USS Mount Whitney and Mr. Jehan Eric Winkler, Chief of Staff of the Sub-Prefect of the Alpes-Maritimes.
On the major operation of the landing in Provence, the allies chose Theoule as single point of landing in the Alpes Maritimes. The first to set foot on French soil were French soldiers, who met with a fierce resistance of the Nazi occupiers and appalling conditions of combat. On the boat that went to sea for the landing in Theoule tribute, were Mr. Daniel Mansanti, Mayor of Theoule, Charles H. Rivkin, Ambassador of the United States of America in France, Navy Captain Robert Buzell, Naval Attaché to the U.S. Embassy, and Navy Captain Craig A. Clapperton, Commander USS Mount Whitney. In the company with around twenty small boats, the crossing allowed the aprticipants to admire the USS Mount Whitney sitting in anchor in the bay.
The ceremony at sea was held La Pointe de l’Esquillon, where in tribute to combatants, wreaths were thrown in the sea off the place of landing in Theoule, facing the Cross of Lorraine, which overlooks the creeks. The wreaths were previously blessed by Father Angelo Lalaye. The ceremony at sea ended with American and French hymns, sung “a cappella”.
During the ceremony Place General Bertrand, many mayors of neighboring towns were present or represented, as well as Pierre Mehaignerie, Former Minister – Mayor of Vitré, Serge Dassault, Senator, Peter Van Santen, Consul of Netherlands and Cornelis Van Vliet, President of the Navy League.
Before a large and meditative public including flag-bearers, representatives of veterans groups, civil and military authorities, Mr Daniel Mansanti recalled the progress of the operations of the landing in Provence.
“Nancy has torticollis – Nancy has torticollis”. “The hunter is hungry …. The hunter is hungry.” These coded messages broadcast by Radio London for the Resistance in August 14, 1944, announced the French Forces of the Interior (FFI) imminent landing.
On the alert since the second week of August, the German General Staff is expecting it to take place on the Italian Riviera. But on the night of 14th, the Allied fleet, gathered off Corsica, suddenly heads towards Provencal coasts. The “DRAGOON” operation is launched.
On the night of August 14 to 15, off the Théouliennes shores is one of the French commandos of Naval Assault Group, from Corsica, under the command of Commander Seriot, which must intervene at the same time that the British airborne operation in Le Muy. This procedure should be done in the east, to the Pointe de l’Esquillon where the moving ceremony was held at sea. The mission of the ROSIE operation was to cut two routes connecting Cannes to Saint-Raphael.
The commander Seriot arrives first and indicates where the commando, consisting of 67 officers and sailors, has to dock with the famous inflatable boats “the rubber boats.” Unfortunately, on the ground, the operation turns into nightmare: halfway to the coast and the main road, the Commando rushes on a minefield that had been laid by the Germans a few days before. That night, 11 officers, noncommissioned officers and sailors will give on the Theoulien soil their lives to the motherland; 19 are wounded and 27 taken prisoner.
One day later, on the evening of August 16, the U.S. 141st Infantry Regiment entered Theoule and freed the city as well as the the wounded who had been left around the point of landing. Since the, the town of Theoule is present each year on the rendez-vous of remembrance and honor.
In his speech, Ambassador Charles Rivkin recalled the commitment of Theoule to commemorate the tragic battle that allowed its liberation, and stressed that this commémoraion is the symbol of a deep friendship between the two nations. Next year, for the 70th anniversary, Daniel Mansanti intends to reconstitute the landing and invited Ambassador Charles Rivkin to participate, on a Rubbert Boat.
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