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World War II, Allied Forces, Southern France

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 15 Aug 1944 to 14 Sep 1944
Location: Provence, Francemap
Surnames/tags: France World_War_II Operation_Dragoon
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Southern France Campaign, World War II
15 August-14 September 1944

1944 the Allies came to the rescue of France. [1] The Allied invasion of southern France in the late summer of 1944, an operation first code-named ANVIL and later DRAGOON, marked the beginning of one of the most successful but controversial campaigns of World War II. However, because it fell both geographically and chronologically between two much larger Allied efforts in northern France and Italy, both its conduct and its contributions have been largely ignored. Planned originally as a simultaneous complement to OVERLORD, the cross-Channel attack on Normandy, ANVIL actually took place over two months later, on 15 August 1944, making it appear almost an afterthought to the main Allied offensive in northern Europe. Yet the success of ANVIL and the ensuing capture of the great southern French ports of Toulon and Marseilles, together with the subsequent drive north up the Rhone River valley to Lyon and Dijon, were ultimately to provide critical support to the Normandy-based armies finally moving east toward the German border.

Source: U.S. Army Center of Military History by Jeffrey J. Clarke. Endorsed by GORDON R. SULLIVAN, General, United States Army, Chief of Staff; https://history.army.mil/brochures/sfrance/sfrance.htm

Operation Dragoon (initially Operation Anvil) was the codename for the landing operation of the Allied invasion of Provence (Southern France) on 15 August 1944. The operation was initially planned to be executed in conjunction with Operation Overlord, the Allied landing in Normandy, but the lack of available resources led to a cancellation of the second landing. By July 1944 the landing was reconsidered, as the clogged-up ports in Normandy did not have the capacity to adequately supply the Allied forces. Concurrently, the French High Command pushed for a revival of the operation that would include large numbers of French troops. As a result, the operation was finally approved in July to be executed in August.

Going Ashore Initial operations commenced on August 14 with the 1st Special Service Force landing in the Îles d'Hyères. Overwhelming the garrisons on Port-Cros and Levant, they secured both islands. Early on August 15, Allied forces began moving towards the invasion beaches. Their efforts were aided by the work of the French Resistance which had damaged communications and transportation networks in the interior. To the west, French commandos succeeded in eliminating the batteries on Cap Nègre. Later in the morning little opposition was encountered as troops came ashore on Alpha and Delta Beaches. Many of the German forces in the area were Osttruppen, drawn from German-occupied territories, who quickly surrendered. The landings on Camel Beach proved more difficult with severe fighting on Camel Red near Saint-Raphaël. Though air support aided the effort, later landings were shifted to other parts of the beach.

World War II: Operation Dragoon, landing in Southern France, 1944

Unable to fully oppose the invasion, Blaskowitz began making preparations for the planned withdrawal north. To delay the Allies, he pulled together a mobile battle group. Numbering four regiments, this force attacked from Les Arcs towards Le Muy on the morning of August 16. Already badly outnumbered as Allied troops had been streaming ashore since the previous day, this force was nearly cut off and fell back that night. Near Saint-Raphaël, elements of the 148th Infantry Division also attacked but were beaten back. Advancing inland, Allied troops relieved the airborne at Le Muy the next day.

The Big Picture The goal of the invasion was to secure the vital ports on the French Mediterranean coast and increase pressure on the German forces by opening another front. After some preliminary commando operations, the US VI Corps landed on the beaches of the Côte d'Azur under the shield of a large naval task force, followed by several divisions of the French Army B. They were opposed by the scattered forces of the German Army Group G, which had been weakened by the relocation of its divisions to other fronts and the replacement of its soldiers with third-rate Ostlegionen outfitted with obsolete equipment.

Ostlegionen, (eastern legions) Turkestan Legion in France

The Ostlegionen ("eastern legions"), Ost-Bataillone ("eastern battalions"), Osttruppen ("eastern troops"), and Osteinheiten ("eastern units") were units in the Army of Nazi Germany, during World War II that were made up of personnel from countries comprising the Soviet Union. They represented a major subset within a broader number of the Wehrmacht foreign volunteers and conscripts.

Some members of the Ostlegionen units were conscripted or coerced into serving: others volunteered. Many were former Soviet personnel, recruited from prisoner of war camps. Osttruppen were frequently stationed away from front lines and used for coastal defence or rear-area activities, such as security operations

World War II weapons of USA

Hindered by total Allied air superiority and a large-scale uprising by the French Resistance, the weak German forces were swiftly defeated. The Germans withdrew to the north through the Rhône valley, to establish a stable defense line at Dijon. Allied mobile units were able to overtake the Germans and partially block their route at the town of Montélimar. The ensuing battle led to a stalemate, with neither side able to achieve a decisive breakthrough, until the Germans were finally able to complete their withdrawal and retreat from the town. While the Germans were retreating, the French managed to capture the important ports of Marseille and Toulon, putting them into operation soon after.

The Germans were not able to hold Dijon and ordered a complete withdrawal from Southern France. Army Group G retreated further north, pursued by Allied forces. The fighting ultimately came to a stop at the Vosges mountains, where Army Group G was finally able to establish a stable defense line. After meeting with the Allied units from Operation Overlord, the Allied forces were in need of reorganizing and, facing stiffened German resistance, the offensive was halted on 14 September. Operation Dragoon was considered a success by the Allies. It enabled them to liberate most of Southern France in a time span of only four weeks, while inflicting heavy casualties on the German forces, although a substantial part of the best German units were able to escape. The captured French ports were put into operation, allowing the Allies to solve their supply problems soon after.

A significant benefit of Operation Dragoon was the use of the port facilities in southern France, especially the large ports at Marseille and Toulon. After Operation Cobra and Operation Dragoon, the Allied advance slowed almost to a halt in September due to a critical lack of supplies. The ports were quickly brought back into service, together with the railroad system in southern France. Thereafter, large quantities of supplies could be moved north to ease the supply situation. In October, 524,894 tons of supplies were unloaded, which was more than one-third of the Allied cargo shipped to the Western front.

The Allies and United States, Great Britain invaded France from Normandy and other spots and managed to expel those conquerors, the overbearing Germans.

June 6, 1944 - Was the day of the well known D-Day landings on the northern coast of France.the Allies. The United States, Great Britain invaded France from Normandy and S. France and managed to expel the overbearing Germans as well as Vichy government to free France.[2]

Operation Dragoon also had political implications. Two days after the landing, the Germans proceeded to dismantle the French State. Members of the Sicherheitsdienst stormed French government institutions and moved French officials, including Philippe Pétain, to Belfort in Eastern France. Later, they were moved to Sigmaringen in Germany, where they acted as a government in exile. With the collapse of the Vichy regime, troops of the Provisional Government of the French Republic re-established control of the French political institutions. Antony Beevor comments, "The landings in the south of France prompted a rapid German withdrawal and thus reduced the damage and suffering done to France."

Despite these successes, criticism of Dragoon was made by some Allied generals and contemporary commentators such as Bernard Montgomery, Arthur R. Wilson and Chester Wilmot in the aftermath, mostly because of its geostrategic implications. Dragoon was argued to have diverted highly experienced men and much-needed materiel away from the continuing fighting at the Western front that could have been used, instead, to bolster the Italian front or to hasten the advance towards the Rhine by the Overlord forces. The resulting loss of momentum gave Stalin on the Eastern Front a free hand to pursue his offensive efforts with more determination, allowing him to win the race towards Berlin and occupy the Balkans. Dragoon, therefore, had consequences reaching into the Cold War.

Full list of sources described in Wikipedia. Listed on WikiTree to provide context for ancestor military efforts.

Sources:

  • ThoughtCo: World War II: Operation Dragoon, Going Ashore [3]
  • The United States Army: World War II: Southern France, 15 August-14 September 1944 [4]
  • Wikipedia: World War II: Operation Dragoon [5]




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Categories: France, World War II