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Operation Dragoon
Part of World War II
Operation Dragoon - map.jpg
A map of the operation.
Date 15 August 1944 – 14 September 1944
Location Southern France
Result Allied victory
Belligerents
 United States
 Free French
 United Kingdom
 Canada[1]
 Germany
Commanders
United States Jacob L. Devers
United States Alexander Patch
United States Lucian Truscott
Free French Forces Jean de Lattre de Tassigny
Nazi Germany Johannes Blaskowitz
Nazi Germany Friedrich Wiese
Nazi Germany Ferdinand Neuling
Strength
175,000-200,000 85,000-100,000 in assault area,
285,000-300,000 in southern France

Operation Dragoon was the Allied invasion of southern France on August 15, 1944, during World War II. The invasion was initiated by an amphibious assault by elements of the U.S. Seventh Army, with a follow-up force made up primarily of the French First Army.[2] Despite being a large and complex military operation with a well executed amphibious and airborne component, Operation Dragoon still remains largely unknown to this day.[3]

Contents

Background

During the planning stages, the operation was known as Anvil, to complement Operation Sledgehammer, which was at that time the codename for the invasion of Normandy. Subsequently both plans were renamed, the latter becoming Operation Overlord, the former becoming Operation Dragoon. An apocryphal story claimed that the name was picked by Winston Churchill, who was opposed to the plan, and claimed to having been "dragooned" into accepting it.[4] However, in reality it is thought the name for the operation was taken from a city near the invasion site named Draguignan (see "Landings" map below).

Operation Dragoon was a controversial military operation from the time it was first proposed. It highlighted a fundamental difference in opinion between the American military leadership and their British counterparts. Prime Minister Winston Churchill continually argued against Operation Dragoon on the grounds that it diverted military resources better used in the on-going Allied operations in Italy, favoring an invasion of the oil producing regions of the Balkans instead.[5] Churchill reasoned that by attacking via Italy into the Balkans, the Allies could deny Germany access to the valuable oil resources of the region, while simultaneously forestalling the advance of the Red Army and permitting the Western Allies a more favorable strategic position in post-war Europe. After the Normandy landings in June of 1944, a need for additional port facilities become painfully obvious. The port city of Marseilles in Southern France was an attractive possibility to the commander of the Western Allies in Europe General Dwight D. Eisenhower.[6] While having previously been undecided about the invasion of Southern France, General Eisenhower now came out in favor of the operation and Dragoon was put into action on short notice.[7]

The U.S. 6th Army Group, also known as the Southern Group of Armies and as Dragoon Force, commanded by Lieutenant General Jacob L. Devers was created in Corsica and activated on August 1, 1944 to consolidate the combined French and American forces that were planning to invade southern France in Operation Dragoon. At first it was subordinate to AFHQ (Allied Forces Headquarters) under the command of General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson who was the supreme commander of the Mediterranean Theater. One month after the invasion, command was handed over to SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces) under U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander of Allied forces on the Western Front. Task Force 88 was also activated in August to support the landing.

Landings

3rd Infantry Division landing.

The assault troops were formed of three American divisions of the VI Corps, reinforced with the French 5th Armoured Division, all under the command of Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.. The 3rd Infantry Division landed on the left at Alpha Beach (Cavalaire-sur-Mer), the 45th Infantry Division landed in the center at Delta Beach (Saint-Tropez), and the 36th Infantry Division landed on the right at Camel Beach (Saint-Raphaël). The 93rd Evac landed at Sainte-Maxime at H-6. At Cap Nègre, on the western flank of the main invasion, a large group of French commandos landed to destroy German artillery emplacements (Operation Romeo). These were supported by other French commando groups landing on both flanks, and by Rugby Force, a parachute assault in the LeMuy-Le Luc area by the 1st Airborne Task Force: British 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade, the U.S. 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team, and a composite U.S. parachute/glider regimental combat team formed from the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the glider-deployed 550th Airborne Infantry Battalion, and the 1st Battalion, 551st Parachute Infantry Regiment (Operation Dove). The 1st Special Service Force took two offshore islands to protect the beachhead (Operation Sitka). Operation Span, a deception plan, was carried out to shield the main invasion. Included in the invasion was the glider-carried 887th Airborne Engineer Aviation Company, which holds the distinction of being the only Airborne Engineer Aviation unit in the European Theater to carry out the mission for which it was trained – conducting a combat glider landing with engineer equipment.[citation needed]

Operation Dragoon Landings

Naval gunfire from Allied ships, including the French battleship Lorraine, British battleship HMS Ramillies, and the American battleships USS Texas, Nevada and Arkansas and a fleet of over 50 cruisers and destroyers supported the landings. Seven Allied escort carriers, along with land-based fighter planes from Corsica, provided air cover.

Over ninety-four thousand troops and eleven thousand vehicles were landed on the first day. A number of German troops had been diverted to fight the Allied forces in Northern France after Operation Overlord and a major attack by French resistance fighters, coordinated by Captain Aaron Bank of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), helped drive the remaining German forces back from the beachhead in advance of the landing. As a result, the Allied forces met little resistance as they moved inland. The quick success of this invasion, with a twenty-mile penetration in twenty-four hours, sparked a major uprising by resistance fighters in Paris.

Follow-up formations included U.S. VI Corps HQ, U.S. Seventh Army HQ, French Army B (later redesignated the French First Army) and French I and II Corps, as well as the 51st Evacuation Hospital[8]

Aftermath

Monument to the landings of Allied troops under General Patch on the beach of St Tropez, France.

The rapid retreat of the German 19th Army resulted in swift gains for the Allied forces. The plans had envisaged greater resistance near the landing areas and under-estimated transport needs. The consequent need for vehicle fuel outstripped supply and this shortage proved to be a greater impediment to the advance than German resistance. As a result, several German formations escaped into the Vosges and Germany.

The Dragoon force met up with southern thrusts from Operation Overlord in mid-September, near Dijon.

A planned benefit of Dragoon was the usefulness of the port of Marseille. The rapid Allied advance after Operation Cobra and Dragoon slowed almost to a halt in September 1944 due to a critical lack of supplies, as thousands of tons of supplies were shunted to northwest France to compensate for the inadequacies of port facilities and land transport in northern Europe. Marseille and the southern French railways were brought back into service despite heavy damage to the port of Marseille and its railroad trunk lines. They became a significant supply route for the Allied advance into Germany, providing about a third of the Allied needs.

References

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Notes

  1. ^ A significant number of Canadians also took part, both afloat and in the battles in southern France as members of the bi-national US-Canadian First Special Service Force (a.k.a. The Devil's Brigade).
  2. ^ Zaloga, Steven J: Operation Dragoon 1944 France's other D-Day, page 13. Osprey Publishing Ltd, 2009.
  3. ^ Zaloga, Steven J: Operation Dragoon 1944 France's other D-Day, page 5. Osprey Publishing Ltd, 2009.
  4. ^ E. M. Flanagan Jr. (2003). Airborne. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0891416889. OCLC 49327051. 
  5. ^ Yeide, Harry: First To The Rhine The 6th Army Group In World War II, page 13. Zenith Press, 2007.
  6. ^ Yeide, Harry: First To The Rhine The 6th Army Group In World War II, page 14. Zenith Press, 2007.
  7. ^ Yeide, Harry: First To The Rhine The 6th Army Group In World War II, page 13. Zenith Press, 2007.
  8. ^ [1]

Bibliography

  • Breuer, William (1996). Operation Dragoon: The Allied Invasion of the South of France. Presidio Press. ISBN 0891416013. 
  • Devlin, Gerard M. (1979). Paratrooper: The Saga of Parachute and Glider Combat Troops During World War II. Robson Books. ISBN 0-31259-652-9. 
  • Flanagan, E. M., Jr. (2002). Airborne: A Combat History of American Airborne Forces. The Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 0-89141-688-9. 
  • Harclerode, Peter (2005). Wings of War: Airborne Warfare 1918–1945. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-30436-730-3. 
  • Huston, James A. (1998). Out of the Blue: U.S. Army Airborne Operations in World War II. Purdue University Press. ISBN 1-55753-148-X. 
  • Ministry of Information (1978). By Air to Battle: The Official Account of the British Airborne Divisions. P. Stephens. ISBN 0-85059-310-7. 
  • Norton, G. G. (1973). The Red Devils: The Story of the British Airborne Forces. Pan Books Ltd. ISBN 0-09957-400-4. 
  • Otway, Lieutenant-Colonel T.B.H. (1990). The Second World War 1939–1945 Army - Airborne Forces. Imperial War Museum. ISBN 0-90162-75-77. 
  • Saunders, Hilary St. George (1972). The Red Beret: The Story of the Parachute Regiment 1940–1945. White Lion Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0-85617-823-3. 
  • Thompson, Major-General Julian (1990). Ready for Anything: The Parachute Regiment at War. Fontana. ISBN 0006375057. 
  • Yeide, Harry (2007). First to the Rhine: The 6th Army Group In World War II. Zenith Press. ISBN 978-0-7603-3146-0. 
  • Zaloga, Steven J. (2009). Operation Dragoon 1944: France's other D-Day. Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84603-367-4. 

External links


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