Operation Percy Pink

This was a US special forces operation to parachute a 13-man Office of Strategic Services group into the Gadouin area of German-occupied France to aid the local resistance forces (11/28 August 1944).

The fourth of eight Office of Strategic Services operational groups despatched to France from the UK, 'Percy Pink' had the task of operating with the French resistance movement in the département of Dordogne Department.

Commanded by 1st Lieutenant T. A. Legare, the 13-man group left the UK late in the evening of 11 August, and had an uneventful flight toward its designated area, although one of the four aircraft involved recognised the signals marking the pre-arranged dropping zone, where the men of the group came down at 02.00 near Gadouin. One man sprained his ankle on landing, but was able to continue with the group, while the radio transmitter was broken in the drop as as a result the group had no further contact with special forces group headquarters. The Americans were provided with food and accommodation by the resistance team which met them.

On 19 August the US group and the resistance fighters it was supporting learned that the 15,000-man German garrison of the Agen area was believed to be heading to the south-east to join other German forces in fighting the US and French forces which had landed in the 'Dragoon' assault on the south of France. Reaching Agen, the group found that the Germans had indeed departed, but left a large quantity of motor fuel, seemingly for use on their return. The group blew holes in the tanks and set fire the outpouring fuel with incendiaries.

Two days later, on being told that there was a German petrol train, with only a small guard detail, at Marmande, the group set off toward that possible target. The arrival of the group spurred the local population to attack and take prisoner the local Milice française paramilitary police of the Vichy French regime. Confident that the Germans would not return, Lagare decided not to destroy the train, but cut the railway tracks and thus immobilise the train.

The group then moved to Sauveterre, discovered that its German garrison had departed, and continued to Libourne. Here there was still a German garrison, and this had been surrounded by Forces Françaises de l’Intérieur units but refused to surrender to the French. Legare sent a message to the German commander but the message which arrived from him in the morning of the following day reiterated the refusal to surrender. It was now reported that Germans were retiring toward Angoulême, and only at this stage did Legare discover that the garrison had not been surrounded as he had been led to believe. Attempts to contact the retreating Germans failed.

On 27 August the group and the resistance force moved toward Bordeaux to ambush a convoy. At a point just to the south of the Dordogne river they fired a few bursts from their automatic weapons and hurled grenades into the convoy, but pulled back when they were pinned down against the bank of the river. The Americans again headed toward Bordeaux, and while they waited for a convoy a French crowd gathered and a near-riot broke out when a French girl was accused of embracing Germans and then Americans. When things calmed down all drove away.

The group entered Bordeaux on 28 August. Over the next few days the resistance either lacked plans for further operations, or just failed to support the group. Legare was contacted by a member of a 'Jedburgh' party operating in the area, and was informed that he was to return to the UK, which he reached via Toulouse, Marseilles, Casablanca, and Naples, arriving in London 10 October.