Jointly with French Battalion du Choc to attack German installations
and impede the evacuation of the German 90th Panzer Division from Sardinia
along the East coast of Corsica. Train the local patriots in use of
demolitions and weapons.
After Italy entered the war, its army occupied Corsica with the tacit
agreement of the Vichy government. The two French Brigades were dissolved.
Their bases were primarily on the coastal areas. The German presence
was only at several radar sites. The center of the island was in the
hands of the patriots named “Maqui,” named after the high
dense shrubbery covering the sides of the mountains. The patriots also
had a strong presence in the area around Ajaccio. Small arms were being
smuggled to them by the SOE. OSS agent “Tommy,” on friendly
terms with the French Deuxieme Bureau, was able to organize a small
group (code named Pearl Harbor) that was infiltrated late in December
1942 and transmitted important intelligence until the summer of 1943
when the chief operator was captured. Sometime later the French Army
sent an expeditionary force to take over the island. General Donovan
ordered Carlton Coon to accompany it together with a small group with
both an SI and SO mission. With them they brought arms, including bazookas
and demolitions. He assumed the rank of Major, most of their time spent
in obtaining housing, transportation and getting organized. On September
23, 1943 an SOE mission headed by Major Andrew Croft headed for Ajaccio
from Algiers, eventually establishing a base In Calvi on the north central
coast. After the Italian surrender September 8, 1943 the Germans started
to move their troops from Saridinia, including the crack 90th Panzer
Division. To avoid Allied air attacks they were not moved by sea but
overland across the straits of Bonifaccio into Corsica. The Maquis broadcast
an urgent appeal for help. The French hastily prepared the elite Battalion
du Choc to which AFHQ was asked to furnish a token force of from OSS
to accompany them.
OG Corsican Operations:
1. General Donovan picked Italian Group 4 headed by Captain James Piteri.
They arrived in Ajaccio September 28 and reported to “Major”
Coon who had arranged for two Italian trucks to transport them to temporary
2. The OGs were split into several groups
and assigned to teach the Goums in the use of bazookas only the batteries
were run down and they had no replacements.
3. One section under Lt. Thomas Gordon was
assigned to attack a German unit moving towards Barchetta, a strategic
pass, to protect the flank of German troops moving up the east coast
from attack. It was supposed to be coordinated with a Coom unit. Gordon’s
group attacked a German armored car and trucks using satchel charges
and hand grenades destroying the armored car and a truck. They held
their position until forced away by intense mortar fire. One round landed
near Gordon and two of his men, killing them. A French officer who saw
the action called it the bravest thing he ever seen. Posthumously Gordon
was awarded the DSC and the French Legion of honor with palm. The two
enlisted men were T5 Rocco Grosso a TF Sam Maselli. they were awarded
4. Lt. Victor Gianinno’ section was
split up by Coon assigning them to teach demolitions to the Goums. This
may have resulted in a protest by Capt. Piteri, the section was reunited
and attached to a Goum headed toward Calvi.
5. A section commanded by Lt. Vincent Russo
was attached to the original French force headed north toward Corte
and then heights overlooking Bastia. The French were constantly changed
orders and came under intense mortar fire; Russo took the unit to St.
Florent using a boat. There they met Coon. They entered Bastia, October
4, 1943 and found a ghost city, the Germans had already left the island,
and the Allies had unnecessarily bombed it.
6. Circa October 7, Col. Livermore arrived
in Ajaccio. When Coon saw the Colonel’s orders he and his group
took the first plane back to Algiers but was ordered to write a report
of the OSS operations in Corsica including those of the OGs. The OGs
were moved to Ile Rousse, the rest of the company moved there Oct. 21;
it became their base for the next nine months.