The Operation Dragoon ( English for Dragoons was) one during the Second World War, carried out from 15 August 1944 operation to land two armies of the Western Allies on the French Côte d'Azur between Toulon and Cannes and expulsion of German troops from southern France. It formed the southern counterpart to Operation Overlord, which began on June 6, 1944 with the landing in Normandy .
The starting point for this operation were originally two completely different concepts on the Allied side: the British and the Americans agreed that the fight against Germany should be given priority over the fight against Japan . That is why they were ready in principle to accommodate Stalin's insistence and to establish a second front in the west. In addition, there were significant differences: while the US General Staff, led by General George C. Marshall, called for a direct attack with a rapid advance in northern France in order to advance eastwards to Germany, the British, especially Winston Churchill , preferred because of them Experiences in the First World War a peripheral approach in which the Allies could bring their superiority at sea to better advantage. With the landing in southern Italy, Churchill had hoped to be able to advance quickly into the soft abdomen of southern Europe occupied by Nazi Germany and from there to the Balkans and on to southern Germany in order to forestall a further advance of the Soviet Union to the west. Churchill later testified that these were "the first major strategic disagreements between us and our American friends." In the British concept, the attack across the English Channel was the final blow, which should be preceded by attacks on the opponent's weakest points. These two different concepts initially resulted from the British naval blockade and the Allied air raids on German industrial and settlement centers. In 1942 and 1943, the lack of resources forced a periphery approach because at that time there were not enough troops, equipment and ships available for a massive landings in France.
The first half of the war, during which the Wehrmacht constantly expanded the sphere of influence of the Third Reich, was characterized by continuously lengthening German supply routes, growing transport problems, increasing partisan attacks on the long supply routes and a constantly increasing need for occupation and reserve units of the Axis powers . The British concept, on the other hand, required an enormous increase in war production on the Allied side in the second half of the war in order to be able to regularly supply the distant theaters of war in Europe and Asia with weapons, supplies and reserves via the extremely extensive supply routes. As long as the French colonies in North and West Africa and Madagascar were under the control of Vichy France and Indochina under the control of Japan - i.e. the Axis powers as a whole - these extensive transport routes from the USA to Europe were mainly limited to the North Atlantic to Great Britain and the USSR; there they were initially easily attackable by German submarines (see Atlantic battle ). It was only with Operation Torch , the landing of the Allies in French North Africa (i.e. in Morocco , Algeria and Tunisia ) in November 1942, that the Western Allies gained additional bases on the periphery of Europe, which enabled them to carry out land-sea operations, in particular the establishment of further fronts against the Axis powers Italy and Nazi Germany made possible. The subordination of Dakar , French West Africa , in November 1942 (1940 unsuccessful attempt at conquest) and Diégo-Suarez (Madagascar) on May 6, 1942 under General de Gaulle was important for securing and strengthening allied transport routes .
In this context, different strategic planning staffs had drawn up different plans to tie up German forces in southern France before or during Operation Overlord. In addition, all amphibious abilities of the Allies, which were not needed in Operation Overlord, were planned for Operation Anvil. The mountainous terrain of southern Italy gave the Wehrmacht advantages, which at the beginning of 1944 successfully fought against the amphibious operations of the Allies near Anzio . Extended, bloody battles, such as at Monte Cassino, threatened to turn the Allied advance into Italy into a war of attrition, in which the advance would come to a standstill. As a result, many Americans saw the Italian advance as a strategic dead end.
The American proponents hoped that the operation would result in the rapid capture of two large ports - Toulon and Marseille - whose capture would greatly facilitate the supply of supplies to the troops fighting in France. In fact, until the port of Antwerp was repaired at the beginning of December 1944, around a third of all supplies for the Allied troops in northern France could be transported from Marseille via the Rhone route, including repaired bridges and railway lines.
The Germans had based their defense strategy on the hypothesis that the Allies would not be able to prepare and carry out two landing operations in France at the same time. They had gathered troops at Marseilles and Toulon and tried to make a landing at the other places considered improbable by fortified bases. " Rommel asparagus ", posts below the waterline that were supposed to detonate if touched by a hidden explosive charge, were to provide a deterrent against landing in Provence with trenches and gun emplacements along the beaches and an approximately 32 kilometers inland defense line.
Planning and preparation
Originally the operation was supposed to be called Anvil (= anvil) - in keeping with Operation Hammer , which then became Operation Overlord due to the delays . The name was changed by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to keep the operation secret despite the many changes to the start date. For a long time he opposed Operation Anvil because he thought it was more important to proceed via northern Italy towards Hungary and the Balkan Peninsula, so as not to let this region fall completely into the hands of the allied Soviet Union . He claimed that he had been harassed for so long (not least because General de Gaulle had threatened to withdraw the French units from Italy ) until he accepted the invasion. On July 2, 1944, the Combined Chiefs of Staff instructed the Allied Commander in Chief in the Mediterranean, Henry Maitland Wilson , to prepare a landing in southern France with the target date August 15.
From the end of April until the landing, the Allies flew more than 10,000 bomber missions over the Côte d'Azur and systematically attacked all batteries and minefields of the occupiers with a total of 12,500 tons of bombs.
When the BBC a dozen messages, the most famous of which are " Gabi there dans les herbes " (Gaby sleeps in the grass), " Nancy a un torticollis " (Nancy has a stiff neck) and " Le chasseur est affamé " (The hunter is hungry) , sent, the Resistance knew that the invasion was imminent within the next 24 hours and then blew up bridges, cut telephone and power lines, and attacked factories and German warehouses.
Participants and course
The US 6th Army Group , also known as the Southern Army Group, commanded by Lieutenant General Jacob L. Devers , was set up in Corsica at the end of July and activated on August 1, 1944 to bring together the French and American units responsible for the invasion of southern France in the Operation Dragoon were planned. During the operation, the Army Group was to remain subordinate to the Allied Forces Headquarters (AFHQ) under Henry Maitland Wilson and only after contact was made with the Allied troops in northern France under the command of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) under US General Dwight D. Come Eisenhower .
The operation involved 880 Allied ocean-going vessels, including nine escort aircraft carriers , six battleships , 21 cruisers and over 100 destroyers , a total of 34 French ships and 1,370 landing craft and around 5,000 aircraft. Vice Admiral H. Kent Hewitt , Commander in Chief of the 8th Fleet , commanded all naval operations. A special task force ( Western Naval Task Force ) was formed for this purpose. Major General John K. Cannon , Commander in Chief of the 12th US Air Force , was responsible for the air operations in support of the landings , the main task falling to the XII Tactical Air Command under Gordon P. Saville .
- the 3rd Infantry Division , reinforced by parts of the French 1st Panzer Division , landed on western Alpha Beach near Cavalaire-sur-Mer ,
- the 45th Infantry Division on the middle Delta Beach near Saint-Tropez and
- the 36th Infantry Division on eastern Camel Beach near Saint-Raphaël .
They were supported by commando units and airborne troops. French commandos landed on both sides of the Allied bridgehead to secure the flanks and the First Special Service Force occupied two offshore islands to secure the bridgehead. In the hinterland between the places Le Luc and Le Muy in the Argens Valley, a provisional airborne unit of division strength - the 1st Airborne Task Force (Rugby Force) - was set down under the command of General Robert T. Frederick . The task was to occupy the Massif des Maures , from whose heights one could see the Allied landing beaches at Saint-Tropez and Saint-Raphaël. This association consisted mainly of the British 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade , the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team , the 509th and 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion and the 550th Airborne Battalion (550th Glider Infantry Battalion). More than 94,000 men and 11,000 vehicles were brought ashore on the first day on a 55 km wide coastal strip.
As they moved inland, the Allied troops encountered little resistance from the Wehrmacht , because they had previously relocated a large part of their troops to fight the Allied landing forces in Normandy. About 250,000 men (with 186 aircraft) faced the Allies; among them were tired and sick soldiers. The German secret service estimated around 500,000 men on the Allied side. In Dramont and Agay , there were fierce fighting between German and American units. A French commando, which had been deployed on the first day at the Pointe d'Esquillon in order to prevent German reinforcements by explosions in the Massif de l'Esterel , landed in an area recently mined by German soldiers, which killed, injured or killed many parachutists were captured. After the successful landing, the attack troops were followed by the headquarters of VI. US Corps and the US 7th Army as well as the French B Army commanded by General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny (later renamed the French 1st Army ) - consisting of the I and II French Corps - with a total of seven divisions .
Just two weeks after the start of the landing operation on August 15th, Provence was taken. On August 17 the command of was OKW to the Army Group G , promulgated for the evacuation of southern France after the troops in northern France after the formation of the boiler of Falaise could only try with the least possible losses on its retreat.
Larger ports on the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts were to be kept occupied and made unusable in hopeless locations. French troops succeeded in liberating Toulon on August 23 and Marseille on August 29 without major damage. In Toulon, the 6e régiment de tirailleurs sénégalais under Colonel Raoul Salan fought on the front line.
Advance units of the VI. US Corps reached Grenoble on August 23, 83 days ahead of schedule. At the end of August there was a major battle near Montélimar in the Rhône valley after the Allied advance troops had blocked the German retreat through the Rhône valley at the Drôme tributary . The German 19th Army made a breakthrough with high losses. On September 1st, after fierce street fighting between the Resistance and German troops, Nice was liberated, and French units entered Lyon two days later . The rapid retreat of the 19th Army, only temporarily delayed by the 11th Panzer Division , gave the battle the smack of a race hurrying northwards through the Rhone Valley. Troops of the French 1st Infantry Division moving northwards met reconnaissance units of the 6th US Armored Division from General Patton's 3rd US Army in Saulieu , west of Dijon , on September 11 - 77 days earlier than planned. At the same time the right wing of the 7th US Army had reached the Burgundian Gate at Montbéliard .
60th anniversary celebration
The ceremonies for the 60th anniversary of the landing in Provence took place in succession on August 15, 2004 in Le Muy , at the Draguignan military cemetery , in Saint-Raphaël, in Cavalaire-sur-Mer and in the roadstead of Toulon on board the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle instead. French President Jacques Chirac , in the presence of sixteen African heads of state and government, honored the immense sacrifice of the forces of freedom who took part in the Provence landings sixty years ago. In the presence of around 200,000 spectators on the coast of Toulon, the President honored 21 war veterans, mainly Africans. He awarded the Legion of Honor Cross to the city of Algiers , which had been the capital of fighting France during World War II until the liberation of Paris , for its role in hosting the French Committee of National Liberation .
- Christian Zentner : The Second World War. A lexicon. Tosa, Vienna 2003, ISBN 3-85492-818-1 .
- Jeffrey J. Clarke, Robert Ross Smith: Riviera to the Rhine . Part of the series: United States Army in World War II - European Theater of Operations. Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, Washington DC 1993.
- Gassend Jean-Loup: Autopsy of a Battle, the Liberation of the French Riviera. Schiffer, Atglen 2014, ISBN 978-0-7643-4580-7 .
- www.us-history.com: Operation Anvil-Dragoon (English)
- The Axis situation in Provence (English)
- The monument for the landing in Provence at 'chemins de memoire'
- Commander Army Area South of France: Final report for the period from July 1st to September 2nd, 1944
- Countdown to Doom - The Long End of World War II September 2, 1944. at 29 min. 30 sec.
- see also the report of the commandant of the Army Area in Southern France (July 1 to September 2, 1944) ( Memento of the original from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (Rhone Valley order of August 18-19, 1944)
- LDH Toulon of August 26, 2004: Demba et Dupont: le retour… ( Memento of June 15, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Article of the French League for Human Rights on the dedication of August 23 as a memorial day journée du tirailleur in Senegal