Recovery in the Maritime Alps and along the French Riviera
Compared with the gruelling time spent in the Vosges, the assignment to guard a 18-mile stretch of Franco-Italian border to prevent enemy troops moving into southern France seemed like a rather easy task. It was this perceived ease that gave this mission its nickname: the Champagne Campaign.
After 25 days of continuous combat in the Vosges mountains, the 100th/442nd returned to the south of France. However, with over 1800 men scattered over hospitals in France, Italy and the UK, they were far from regimental strength. Replacements would come from newly drafted mainlanders.
While a full-on invasion across this border was improbable – but not impossible! – small scale trespasses by German and Italian spies were an ongoing occurrence nevertheless.
The 2nd and 3rd Battalions rotated between the mountain towns of Sospel, Peira Cava and L’Escarène. On occasion, they would brave the cold of the Maritime Alps to give skiing a go.
The 100th found itself in the coastal resort town of Menton. From there, they would hike east to relieve the 1st Special Services Force . Anyone complaining about the mountain climate was quickly reminded of Bruyères…
The appearance of a German mini-submarine in the bay of Menton in mid-December caused some hilarity by being mistaken for a tasty-looking ahi.
The Christmas Party
The most enduring memory of the 442nd’s presence in the town of L’Escarène during the so-called Champagne Campaign is no doubt the Christmas party organised by I Company for the village children.
The war meant that by 1944 many of the kids had to do without nice things for Christmas. Under the guidance of the Padre, the men from I company pooled their provisions and shared them out. An act of kindness still remembered by the families today.
As a result, any Nisei tour groups are always warmly received by those children, now grandparents themselves! During the 75th Anniversary Tour of France, Brian Yamamoto showed the group’s appreciation for the luncheon hosted by the town.