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LST's loading invasion supplies and vehicles at the island of Nisida, Bay of Naples, Italy, 9 August 1944, just prior to the southern France operation. Note barrage balloons overhead. Ships loading on beach include (left to right) USS LST-1019; USS LST-504; USS LST-1020; and USS LST-995; among others. Passing by in center distance is LST-505

US 3-IDThe preliminary planning for Operation Anvil-Dragoon, an Operation first code-named ‘Anvil’ and later changed to ‘Dragoon’ because it was believed that the original name had been compromised, was for an operation to be conducted in conjunction with Operation Overlord which was scheduled for early May 1944. The plan envisaged a lift for an assault of either two or three divisions with a planned build-up to a total of ten divisions. The forces involved were to be American and French, but no definite strengths of units were defined. Initially, the headquarters planning the operation was designated, Force 163. The preliminary planning was based on several assumptions. These assumptions were 1, the Italian campaign would be the only offensive operation that the Mediterranean Theater would be involved in; 2, the internal security of North Africa would not limit the number of American and French Divisions available and 3, Overlord would take place prior to any other amphibious landing.

The initial planning for Operation Anvil stressed the need for planners to remain flexible. A lot of questions remained unanswered such as the assault divisions available, the influence of the Italian Campaign, and the objectives in Southern France after the landing. Priorities at this time were concerned with Operation Overlord. At times it appeared that Operation Anvil would not go at all. Initial outline plans were developed by Allied Force Headquarters, however, no commitments were made and no orders had been issued. The initial outline plans called for the early capture of a major port. The port of Toulon was considered temporarily adequate, but the port of Marseilles was to be the major base.

LSTs loading for Operation Dragoon at Naples-Bagnoli, Italy, 8 August 1944. They include LST-76, LST-286, and LST-174, among others. Note LCS(S)(2) on bow davits of LST-286 and LCVPs carried by other LSTs

US 7-AInitially, the areas of beaches considered most desirable were those of the Rade d’Hyères with the beaches of Cavalaire as the alternative site. However, after Gen Alexander Patch assumed command of the US 7-A on March 19, 1944, several key changes were made to the AFHO Outline Flans. The key objective was to make a successful landing and then secure a beachhead that would facilitate further operations as dictated by the mission. The joint planners considered the Rade d’Hyères as undesirable and agreed that an assault in the area located between Cavalaire and Agay was the most desirable. Among the several reasons for this change were that the Rade d’Hyères area was heavily defended, the assault beaches would be within the range of the coastal guns around Toulon, approaches were heavily mined and this congested area would hinder the maneuverability of our gunfire support ships. The Cavalaire – Agay area, because of the enemy defenses and dispositions, fewer enemy mines and coastal batteries, its good to moderate beaches, and its ability to support our forces, was selected.


US VI CorpsDuring the entire planning process, the enemy situation continued to change; thus, plans were altered as required. The planning process, as far as resources available, was often confused because of changes in target dates, ports to be used and units to be available. The Italian Campaign and logistical considerations were the key factors for not arriving at firm plans. AFHO directed on Feb 29, 1944, that planning proceeds on the assumption that forces available would be three US infantry divisions, five French infantry or mountain divisions, and two French armored divisions; and that the operations would be postponed a month until approximately Jul 1, 1944. Gen Eisenhower recommended that Anvil-Dragoon be launched no later than August 30 with a preferable target date of August 15. Three assault divisions were nominated by June 24, with the US VI Corps to be the assault Corps headquarters.

US 3-IDUS 36-IDThe American units were to be the 3-ID, 36-ID, and the 45-ID. The participation of French forces in Operation Anvil was an interesting facet. The French believed that they should command the southern invasion.
A key element here was national pride and honor for the French Army. However, after meetings between Gen De Gaulle and Gen Wilson, a satisfactory agreement was found and a French Army Headquarters was worked into the Anvil-Dragoon Operation. A primary factor in the initial planning was that with a lack of definite guidance and decisions the joint planners were about to develop detailed plans covering a variety of assumptions. The planners were extremely flexible, which allowed them to react to many changes.

Seen from the USS Tulagi (CVE-72), the convoy includes three other escort carriers and a large number of merchant ships. Aircraft on the flight deck are Grumman F-6F-H

Rear Admiral Calvin T. Durgin, USN, commander of a Task Force 88 (the Operation Dragoon carrier force) task group, which included two US Navy escort carriers. He is shown onboard the USS Tulagi (CVE-72), Aug 15, 1944FINAL PLAN – CHOICE OF THE LANDING AREAS

Because of the detailed planning performed initially, there was little confusion or delay in the final planning once higher headquarters gave the go-ahead for the Operation. It was during the final planning phase that the code name was changed from Anvil to Dragoon. The final plan called for the VI US Corps (Kodak Force), consisting of three US divisions and the French Armored Combat Command Sudre, to assault the beaches at H-hour on D-day and to capture Le Muy. They would extend the beachhead and secure the airfield sites in the Argens Valley against ground-observed artillery fire.
They were then to continue the attack to the north as well as to the northwest, after reorganization.

The First Airborne Task Force (Rugby Force) was to land in Le Muy at about first light on D-day and prevent any enemy movement into the assault area from Le Muy and Le Luc. The 1st Special Service Force (Sitka Force) was to assault the islands of Port-Cros and the Ile du Levant during darkness at H minus 1 on D-day, with particular emphasis to destroy the enemy coastal battery on the east end of the Ile du Levant.

The French Commando Group (Romeo Force) was to land in darkness on H minus 1 on D-day to destroy coastal defenses in the vicinity of the Cap Nègre, block the coastal highway, and then seize the high ground in the vicinity of Biscarre (La Môle). A demolition party from the French Naval Assault Group (Rosie Force) was to land near Le Trayas on the night of D minus 1 and execute demolitions on the CannesSaint-RaphaëlFréjus roads. The II French Corps (Garbo Force) was to debark after D-day within the established beachhead area then pass through Kodak Force, capture Toulon, and prepare to advance to the north and northwest.

The naval plan called for the establishment of the US 7-A ashore and to support its advance westward. It was to be responsible for the army build-up and maintenance on the beaches until after the capture and utilization of the ports. The air plan was broken down into four phases, air offensive operations prior to D minus 5; the period D minus 5 to D-day minus 0350 hours; the period D-day minus 0350 hours to H-hour, and the period after H-hour.

Scene in the USS Catoctin (AGC-5) combat information center on D-day of the invasion of southern France, Aug 15, 1944. The USS Catoctin was an amphibious force flagship for this operation


As Erwin Rommel is said to have observed, the battle is fought and decided by the quartermasters before the shooting begins. This thought was never closer to being applicable than in the case of Operation Dragoon. The logistics planning was plagued with the uncertainty of the operation and was characterized by insufficient, changing information on which to base requirements. In order to gain a flavor of the planning of the operation and establish a baseline for comparison, we can begin in mid-December 1943, as the Service of Supply, North African Theater of Operations United States Army (SOS NATOUSA) is informed of a proposed operation. The operational concept was for 450.000 men from three US infantry divisions, five French infantry divisions, and 2 French armored divisions to invade southern France on June 1, 1944.

The different planning staff members found themselves facing uncertainty and a lack of time. After receiving information as to the impending operation, the Commander of the Service of Supply NATOUSA first warned his supporting logistic organization. New York Port of Embarkation (NYPOE) of anticipated requirements on Jan 15, 1944. Three days later, actual requisitions for bulk supplies were submitted. This action was virtually imperative since the conservative estimate of the order-arrival time was 98 days. The June 1 target date just allowed sufficient time for the accumulation of necessary stores. Supply requirements were based solely on the initial guidance of force structure and composition. A troop list with any details would not be available for another two months. Almost from the beginning, shipping plagued the planners.

A view from the HMS PURSUER of other assault carriers in the naval task force for the landings in the south of France 7 August 1944

Dragoon as an operation had been relegated a distant backseat to Overlord, but of equal priority with the Italian Campaign. On several occasions, the type of forces and the date of attack would be changed or simply canceled because of a lack of shipping of landing craft. Of continuing concern was the requirement to increase the number of Liberty ships involved because of a lack of assault shipping. On April 14, the entire operation was canceled by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, resulting in the cancellation of all outstanding requisitions with the NYPOE; however, 208.000 long tons had been received of the 260.000 requisitioned prior to this. At this time, the Service of Supply NATOUSA, with the concurrence of the US 7-A, froze those stocks that had been received for use in Special Operations. The theater operated as if these supplies did not exist for the most part. Needless to say that the War Department took exception to this and ordered the release of stocks for normal consumption. This was not complied with in time for it to have any practical adverse effect. Dragoon and Task Force 163 remained top priorities within the theater. The Combined Chiefs of Staff made the decision to conduct Operation Dragoon on June 12. FM Henry M. Wilson, the Theater Commander received his instructions on July 2. The Service of Supply NATOUSA received the responsibility to support the US 7-A when activated. In fulfillment of this mission, all loading instructions for the first six, phases of the operation (30 days) were prepared in detail to enable requisitions to be distributed by the sub-task force, on the proper ship, for the designated beach. Each increment of supply was five days, based on a shipping turnaround cycle of five days.

The maintenance of two large operations in the same theater (US 5-A in Italy and the 7-A readying for southern France) certainly caused conflicts in support. For example, nearly everything, from communications to service troops had to be shared by the two armies, frequently in a manner unsatisfactory to both. However, the fact remains that only telephone wire was considered critical and not likely to be on hand at the time of the invasion. As is the case in all plans, the planner must make some assumptions from which to establish a framework for other actions. Dragoon was no exception. The Port of Toulon and the Port Marseille were seen as required before any northward exploitation. This was estimated to happen by D+40 and subsequent progress north would be slow. These assumptions certainly affected both logistic planning for the assault and its execution. Again, with time growing short, the troop list had grown to 521.858 troops and 100.576 vehicles. These were scheduled for landing prior to D+60. This resulting 14% increase caused the Service of Supply NATOUSA to effect increased shipments in order to maintain a twenty-day reserve and a ten-day operating level.

Soldiers and sailors singing hymns during religious services onboard an LST while en route to the invasion of southern France, August 13, 1944

Logistical support for all forces was planned to come over the beaches until D+20. This mission was in the hands of a beach group attached to each assault division. A beach group or Special Engineer Brigade organizationally corrected faulty unsatisfactory operation of beach unloading encountered during earlier amphibious operations. It was conceived by the Engineer School in the United States and successfully used in the Pacific Theater of Operations. The beach group used for Dragoon was a direct descendant of these specialized organizations. Their organization consisted of an Engineer Combat Regiment as a nucleus with necessary service troops and naval personnel attached. This placed responsibility for beach organization, operation, and coordination with a single unit and enabled the rapid receipt and onward movement of men, material, and equipment. In addition to the normally discerned tasks it also unloaded shims, operated supply dumps, evacuated casualties, and handled prisoners of war.

Organization for Combat

US 7-A
CG Gen Alexander Patch. Det. Army HQs & HQs Company & Special Troops, Det. HQs 7-A (Beach Control HQ)

1st Airborne Task Force
CG Gen Robert T. Frederick. HQs & HQ Co 1-A/B TF, 517-PIR; 509-PIB; 550-GIB (Glider), 1/551-PIB (Reinforced); 460-PFAB, 463-PFAB; 602-GFAB (75-MM HOW); 596-A/B Engineer Co; 887-A/B Engineer Aviation Co; 512-A/B Signal Co; 552-A/B AT Co; Able Co 2-CMB (Chem); Able Co 83-CMB (Chem); 645t-TDB; 676-Med Coll. Co; Provisional A/B MP Plat; Provisional Pathfinder Det; 172 Detail Issues Depot British Heavy Aerial Resupply Company; 334 QM Depot Co (-); 3358-QM Truck Co; Det 3-OD Co (Medium); 4-Para Bn (UK); 5-Para Bn (Scots); 6-Para Bn (Royal Welch); 172-Para Field Ambulance (UK); 300-Air Landing AT Battery Royal Artillery; 64-Air Landing Battery Royal Artillery; 2-Para Squadron Royal Engineers; 2-Para Independent Brigade Group Signal Company Royal Signals; 1-Glider Independent Squadron Army Air Corps; 23-Para Independent Platoon Army Air Corps (Pathfinders); 2-Para Independent Parachute Brigade Group Company Royal Army Service Corps; 751-Para Brigade Company Royal Army Service Corps; T Co Royal Army Service Corps; 2-Para Independent Brigade Group Workshop Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers; 2-Para Independent Brigade Group Provost Section Royal Military Police; US-Canadian 1-SSF (-) and French Groupe de Commandos (-).

Dog Co (Map Plat) 378th Engineer Battalion (Separate); 697th Engineer Petroleum Distribution Company; Mobile Laboratory 701st Engineer Petroleum Distribution Company; Survey Platoon 649th Engineer Topographic Battalion; Able Co Engineer Camouflage Battalion; 1202nd Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon; 1204th Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon; 1711th Engineer Map Depot Detachment and Special Platoon, 460th Engineer Depot Company

(Service Units)
Military Police 204th Military Police Company, 372d Military Police Escort Guard Company; 377th Military Police Escort Guard Company (-3 Sections); 504th Military Police Battalion (-2 Companies) and HQs & HQ Detachment, 759th Military Police Battalion
1st Advance Section, 7th Medical Depot Company
Quartermaster 94th Quartermaster Railhead Company (-2 Platoons); 138th Quartermaster Truck Company; 144th Quartermaster Truck Company; Detachment, 202nd Quartermaster Car Company (-); HQs & HQ Detachment, 528th Quartermaster Battalion, and 357th Quartermaster Truck Company
Army Signal Battalion; 226th Signal Operation Company; Detachment, 163rd Signal Photo Company, and 982nd Signal Service Company
Detachment, 72nd Liaison Squadron; 11th Postal Regulating Unit; Special Service Staff (OSS), and 28 Port Cos and 7 Battalion HQ Detachments

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