The war-deadened French Riviera, pre-war Europe's smartest playspot for the international set, has come back to life as the "United States Riviera Rest Area" for war-weary U.S. soldiers. The Sixth Army Group started the revival last October. By last week, 6,000 G.I.s a week were flocking into 42 luxury hotels near the sunny sands at Nice. Shortening U.S.R.R.A. to "Heaven," they pronounced it the best thing the U.S. Army ever did.
They found clean clothes, clean sheets on real beds, the best French service, chamber music at lunch, tea dances, swing bands at dinner, concerts, movies, Cokes, local gin and beer. Signs grinned: '"No Saluting." For nothing or for a few francs, they could hire bicycles, sunbathe, play at the Lawn Tennis Club, take American Express tours in the big rolltop busses. There were canoes, pedallo boats and sloops with which to negotiate the blue Mediterranean. Most incredible of all: if any of them got taken drunk, gentle MPs put them gently to bed.
Having Wonderful Time. A typical G.I. evening on the Riviera runs as follows: dinner at 7, movie at 8, then to the Angleterre's Air Forces nightclub, where G.I.s jitterbug, watch a floor show which includes jugglers, acrobats, tap dancers.
Nice is strictly for G.I.s. Visiting brass hats were warned they might get informal treatment. General "Hap" Arnold, boss of the Air Forces, got it. Inspecting the town after recuperating from an attack of pneumonia, he walked past a happy G.I. Said the soldier, sticking out a friendly hand: "Name's Brown." Said the General, extending his own: "Mine's Arnold."
At Nice there are but three taboos: no swimming (the Germans broke the sewer conduits running into the sea); 2) no civilian guests above the first floor; 3) no visits to Monte Carlo. The only rule: curfew at 1 a.m.
Set up by Colonel Thomas F. Gunn, the Army's rest area expert, the G.I. Heaven is staffed with officers ready to do anything to make the soldier happy: they have even arranged weddings. G.I.s are charged a nominal 100 francs ($2) on arrival. Outside U.S.R.R.A. a black-market dinner might cost 1,500 francs; but on Heaven's reservation, the customers get a millionaire's vacation for peanuts.