Waterproofed Jeeps of the 45-ID land on the French Riviera Beach

They were relieved by the 30-RCT at 1430 and thereupon turned to advance to the southwest toward La Môle and Highway 98 (D-98), following the 1/7-RCT. Shortly after noon, the 1/7-RCT had been relieved from reserve on the beach, had advanced inland for about 6000 Meters to Highway 98, then moved west along the highway to La Môle. By dark on the evening of D-Day, the 7-RCT held a line from west of Cap Nègre 7500 Meters inland to La Môle. On the right flank, of the 3-ID, the 15-RCT had landed on Alpha Yellow Beach and subdued all beach defenses within 40 minutes. The infantry continued to advance inland against light opposition. The 1/15 cleared an enemy strong point on the northern portion of the beach and attacked inland 7500 Meters to seize the high ground northeast of the town Ramatuelle. The 2/15 and the 3/15 moved to the north and northeast taking the high ground overlooking Saint-Tropez. By 1830, patrols of the 15-RCT had cleared the Saint-Tropez Peninsula of enemy troops, and after nightfall, the regiment assembled west of the town to march along roads to Collobrières on the Blue Line. The 30-RCT, after passing through the 7-RCT, moved inland toward Cogolin and Grimaud. At 2100, patrols of the 30-RCT contacted the 157/45-ID between Grimaud and Les Cadeous, thus securing the right flank of the Alpha Area.

A Navy beachmaster gives directions to an Army officer for the emplacement of his men after they had debarked from landing craft on the initial day of the invasion, 15 August 1944

CONSOLIDATION OF THE BEACHES

By 1200, on D-day, the assault units had reached their initial beachhead line and were advancing toward objectives on the Blue Line. Unloading of supplies and equipment was proceeding satisfactorily, although hampered by offshore bars at Alpha Yellow, minefields, and obstacles at Alpha Red. Difficulties did exist due to an unexpected lack of resistance. Three-quarters of the supplies loaded on the LCTs were ammunition and a minimum of gasoline. The immediate breakthrough and rapid advance altered the anticipated requirements, making gasoline a critical item. On Alpha Red, several disastrous encounters with mines occurred which resulted in the suspension of unloading on this beach until the mines were swept. Late in the afternoon of D-Day, difficulties with the contemplated line of supply began to improve.

Beach Engineers used their DUCKW to bring supply in from the LTCs

By H plus 20, all but 5 LCTs were completely unloaded, but the unloading of ocean-type ships lagged far behind schedule. By noon on D+1 (Aug 16), the lead elements of the 3-ID were 30 KM inland. The rapid advance was due to a thin German defense in the landing area. This was proven by the interception of a German high command radio transmission which said No counter-attack will be launched against the invasion forces until they have driven inland far enough so as to be out of effective range of the support of their own naval gunfire.

NaziFailure of the Germans to hold the forces in the immediate coastal area can be attributed to five major reasons, (1) they had placed their divisions with their reserves too far to the west; (2) additional troops were committed piecemeal, mainly due to route interdiction and motor transport shortage; (3) coastal units were weak and lacked air support, armor, and heavy artillery; (4) the German LXII Corps HQs was isolated from its command near Draguignan; (5) German defenders were harassed from the rear by French Resistance Force.

The initial momentum allowed the expansion of the beachhead on either flank and permitted exploitations to the west. The most logical entry into the interior was through the Argens River Valley, along Highway 7 (N-7), which ran from Fréjus west to Aix-en-Provence, and then northwest to Avignon. The 15-IR and 30-IR of the 3-ID would move along Highway 7, while the 7-IR would take the southern route, Highway 98 which connects Saint-Tropez with the town of Toulon.

Staff Studying the map of South France

The advance along Highway 7 met only light resistance. The German defense amounted to little more than guerrilla warfare from isolated groups in an uncoordinated hasty defense for the next two days. By noon on D+2 (Aug 17), the division had captured nine towns, and the front lines ran from Cuers, through Gonfaron, to Le Luc. This rapid advance ran into resistance at 1840 on Aug 17, when the 30-IR was stopped at the town of Brignoles, where the Germans were determined to block Highway 7. One day would be lost in preparation for the coordinated attack which would be necessary to take the town of Brignoles defended by approximately three battalions of Germans, mainly from the 338.Infantry-Division.

The plan of attack was to move astride the Flassans-sur-Issole, Brignoles road with the 1/30-RCT on the right on a flanking mission, and the 2/30-RCT on the left. H-Hour was set for 0600, on D+3 (Aug 19). The attack went as planned, and Baker Co went north to the town of Le Val to protect the right flank, as George Co moved west from Besse-sur-Issole to the high ground dominating Le Celle on the left flank. The main attack moved forward against heavy resistance. During the day Fox Co got around to the north of the town and cut the road to the west. During the night of Aug 18/19, the 3/30-RCT was committed to an envelopment to the north to cut the road west of town and continue toward Bras, as the 1/30-RCT and the 2/30-RCT worked into town. The attack was to begin at 0600, Aug 19. This was to be a three-pronged attack with companies attacking from the north, west, and south, to meet in the center of the town. This broke the enemy resistance and the town was cleared by 1100.

The Germans had established a strong defense at Brignoles in an attempt to prevent Toulon from being isolated from the north. Virtually the entire 2.Battalion, 757.Regiment of the 338.Infantry-Division was destroyed in this action.

On the German side, becoming a POW is more important than anything else - 6 years War has annihilated the morale of the Wehrmacht soldiers

Between noon on Aug 19 and noon on Aug 20, the division moved nearly 50 KM by marching and motor transport. The 7-RCT completed their mission along the coast road and moved inland to join the other regiments. The 15-RCT pushed on past Tourves and toward Gardanne. The 1/15 took Auriol with no resistance. The 2/15 found the town of Trets clear and moved on toward Gardanne. The 3/15 had taken Tourves early in the afternoon of Aug 19, after a 45-minute attack, and moved on toward the town of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume.

On the morning of Aug 20, the 3/15 moved by truck to the town of Trets. The 30-RCT reorganized in the vicinity of Brignoles, following the fight there, and moved out on the afternoon of Aug 19. The 1/30 and the 3/30 encountered no resistance as they moved along Highway 7 through Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume and on to Ollières before midnight. The 2/30 remained in reserve around Brignoles until 0400, on Aug 20, when they moved up to join their regiment. Aix-en-Provence was the most important town in the vicinity, and it appeared that the Germans were going to make another stand in this area. The fast movement of the 3-ID forced the Germans to abandon the Rhone Triangle Defense, and withdraw the slow-moving infantry up the Rhone. Elements of the 11.Panzer-Division was ordered into the areas, but they did not arrive with enough force in enough time. Near Aix-en-Provence, the 3-Recon Troop ran into an enemy roadblock late on the morning of Aug 20. The strong point was made up of at least two AT guns, two tanks, mortars, and infantry. The roads into the area were blocked by adjusted artillery and mortar fire. During the night of Aug 20, several enemy planes flew over the area and dropped flares.

EUCMH-Operation-Dragoon-3-ID-021-Destroyed German Armored Vehicle somewhere in the French Riviera

That same night, the 30-RCT established roadblocks to the west and south of the town. The 3/30 drove west on the north side of Highway 7 to the outskirts of the town where they were fired on about dark on Aug 20. The 1/30 swung north of the 3/30’s positions and then continued west. This allowed them to cut across four or five hub roads leading into the city. They established roadblocks about 15 KM north of the city and fought about fifty bicycle-mounted Germans coming in from the north during the night, and were preparing for a dawn attack. A coordinated attack began at dawn on Aug 21, with air support from the US 7-A. The 1/30 was to attack from the northwest, the 3/30 from the north, and the 2/30 from the east. The bulk of the armor was with the 3/30. As the attack began, 1/30 was attacked from the rear by enemy infantry, with strong armor support attacking Highway 7. The entire Battalion was needed to block this threat while the 3/30 continued the attack. The town was cleared of the enemy by 1000, on the same day.

The Overall Situation in the Midst of the Battle

US 3rd Infantry DivisionUS 75-IDOn Aug 21, 1944, the vigor and speed of the entire VI Corps attack had forced the Germans to withdraw northward out of southern France via the Rhone River corridor. The plan was for the 3-ID to pursue the Germans northward along the east bank of the Rhone, while Task Force Butler, a composite mechanized force, followed by the 76-ID, was to make a wide sweep to trap enemy units in the Rhone River Valley in the vicinity of Montélimar. Montélimar is a town on the east bank of the Rhone, about 160 KM northwest of Marseilles. Gen Truscott, CG VI Corps, determined that seizing Montélimar would block all German routes of withdrawal up the Rhone corridor. The victims of this envelopment would be the 11.Panzer-Division, the 198, 716, 189, and the 338.Infantry-Divisions. On Aug 22, Task Force Butler took up positions north of Montélimar.

US 7-A tank passes a destroyed German convoy littering road in a town north of Montelimar in southern France

US 36-IDHowever, the Germans still owned three hill masses just north of Montélimar which were the key to control of the town and the highways running north and east of it. The Task Force at this time was not strong enough to take the town or close the valley route completely. It attempted to hold its positions against the increasing blows of the northward fleeing Germans until Aug 24 when the 36-ID arrived and assembled its strength north and northeast of Montélimar; then Task Force Butler became the division reserve. It was about this time that a copy of the 36th Infantry Division order that detailed the placement of its regiments to hold the Montélimar route fell into the hands of the enemy.

As will be seen later, this plan was used to great advantage by the Germans. From Aug 24 to Aug 27, the 36-ID position at Montélimar was under constant pressure from the Germans. The first sign of what was to be the death trap of Montélimar was two trains destroyed by American artillery and tanks. By Aug 25, the 3-ID had advanced northward to Avignon. Now the Germans began to feel the pressure being applied from behind by the 3-ID.

FFIA major factor aiding the speed and success of the 3-ID’s northward advance was the activity of the French Resistance Groups. At the time of the Dragoon landing, there were about seventeen of these well-organized and disciplined groups operating in southern France. These groups, known as the FFI (Forces Françaises De l’Interieure), swung into decisive action to aid the 3-ID’s advance to Montélimar. For example, the FFI seized whole towns and held them to await the American coming. They also coordinated sabotage activities with the Division’s movement, set up roadblocks, laid ambushes, and more.

French FFI sorting usable weapons and equipment to pursue the liberation of their country with the Allied

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