The 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.
Initially, 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.
During 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.
The 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.
Final 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 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 and 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 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 Cannes – Saint-Raphaël – Fréjus 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.
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 of 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.
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 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 priority 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 sub-task force, on the proper ship, for the designated beach. Each increment of supply was five days, based on a shipping turn around the 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 Ports of Toulon and Marseille were seen as required before any northward exploitation. This was estimated to happen by D plus 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 plus 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.
Logistical support for all forces was planned to come over the beaches until D plus 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.
Order of Battle – Operation Dragoon,
Organization for Combat
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. Medical 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. Signal Army Signal Battalion; 226th Signal Operation Company; Detachment, 163rd Signal Photo Company, and 982nd Signal Service Company. Miscellaneous Detachment, 72nd Liaison Squadron; 11th Postal Regulating Unit; Special Service Staff (OSS), and 28 Port Cos and 7 Battalion HQ Detachments
VI Corps CG Gen Lucian K. Truscott, HQs & HQ Co, VI Corps. Combat Command CG Gen Aimé M. Sudre, Combat Command Sudre, 1st French Armored. Attached 1st Co 9th Regiment des Chasseurs d’Afrique; Detachment 2/661 Co (Ordnance) Réparation Engins Blindés; 66th Ammo Co (-) and Detachment 705th Co, Fuel Supply.
Field Artillery HQs & HQ Battery, VI Corps Artillery; HQs & HQ Battery, 6th Field Artillery Group; HQs & HQ Battery, 35th Field Artillery Group; HQs & HQ Battery, 36-FAG; 2-FAOB; 36-FAB (155-MM GUN); 59-FAB (SP)(105-MM HOW); 69-FAB (SP)(105-MM HOW); 93-FAB (SP)(105-MM HOW); 141-FAB (155-MM HOW); 634-FAB (155-MM HOW); 937-FAB (155-MM HOW); 938-FAB (155-MM HOW); 976-FAB (155-MM GUN), and 977-FAB (155-MM GUN). Anti Aircraft Artillery HQs & HQ Battery 35-AAA Brigade; HQs & HQ Battery 5-AAA Group; HQs & HQ Battery 68-AAA Group; HQs & HQ Battery 105-AAA Group; 68-AAAGB (Mobile); 72-AAAGB (Mobile); 106-AAA-AW Bn (SP); 107-AAA-AW Bn (Mobile); 108-AAAGB (Mobile); 216-AAAGB (Mobile); 433-AAA-AW Bn (Mobile); 441-AAA-AW Bn (SP); 443-AAA-AW Bn (SP); 451-AAA-AW Bn (Mobile); 534-AAA-AW Bn (Mobile); 895-AAA-AW Bn (Mobile); 102-AAA Barrage Balloon Btry (VLA); 103-AAA Barrage Balloon Btry (VLA), and 104-AAA Barrage Balloon Btry (VLA). Armored 191-TB; 753-TB, and 756-TB. Tank Destroyer 601-TDB, 636-TDB, and 645-TDB. Cavalry 117-Cav Recon Squadron. Chemical 2-Chem Bn Motorized (- 1 Co); 3-Chem Bn Motorized; 83-Chem Bn Motorized (- 1 Co); 6-Chem Depot Co; 11-Chem Maintenance Co, and 21-Chem Decontamination Co (-3 Plats) (Smoke). Engineer 343-Engr General Service Regt; 344-Engr General Service Regt; Charlie Co (Bailey Bridge), 378-Engr Bn (Separate); Dog Co (Treadway Bridge), 378-Engr Bn (Separate); 1st Plat 424-Engr Dump Truck Co, Contact Platoon 469-Engr Maintenance Co; Survey Platoon 661-Engr Topographic Co, and 6617-Engr Mine Clearance Co. Military Police 206-MP Co. Medical 2nd Auxiliary Surgical Group; 14 General Surgical Teams; 3 Shock Teams; 1 Gas Team; 3 Orthopedic Teams; 2 Thoracic Teams; 2 Neurosurgery Teams; 3 Dental Prosthetic Teams; 2 Maxillofacial Teams; 10th Field Hospital; 6703rd Blood Transfusion Unit; 11th Field Hospital; 11th Evacuation Hospital (Semimobile) (400 bed); 93rd Evacuation Hospital (Semimobile) (400 bed), and 95th Evacuation Hospital (Semimobile) (400 bed). Ordnance HQs & HQ Detachment, 43-OD Bn; HQs & HQ Detachment, 44-OD Bn; HQs & HQ Detachment, 45-OD Bn; 14-OD Medium Maintenance Co; 45-OD Medium Maintenance Co; 46-OD Medium Maintenance Co; 87-OD Heavy Maintenance Co (FA); 261-OD Medium Maintenance Co (AAA); 3406-OD Medium Automotive Maintenance Co; 3408-OD Medium Automotive Maintenance Co; 3432-OD Medium Automotive Maintenance Co; 64-OD Ammunition Co; 66-OD Ammunition Co; 680-OD Ammunition Co; 143-OD Bomb Disposal Squad; 144-OD Bomb Disposal Squad; 145-OD Ordnance Bomb Disposal Squad, and 146-OD Bomb Disposal Squad. Quartermaster 46-QM Graves Registration Co (-1 Plat); Platoon 549-QM Laundry Company, and 3426-QM Truck Co. Signal 1st Signal Center Team; 57th Signal Bn; 3201-SIS Detachment; 4 Detachments, 163rd Signal Photo Co, and Detachment A, 117th Radio Intelligence Co. Naval 3 Naval Combat Intelligence Teams; Naval Gunfire Liaison Personnel, and 15 Naval Shore Fire Control Parties.
3rd Infantry Division CG Gen John W. O’Daniel. Organic Units HHC & Special Troops 3-ID; – 3-MP Plat; 3-Sig Co; 3-QM Co; 3-CIC Det; 3-Recon Troop (Mez); 703-OD Light Maintenance Co; 10-ECB; 3-Medic Bn; 7-IR; 15-IR; 30-IR; HHB 3-ID Arty; 9-FAB (105-MM HOW); 10-FAB(105-MM HOW); 39-FAB Bn (105-MM HOW), and 41-FAB Bn (155-MM HOW).
3rd Infantry Division (Beach Group) 36th Engineer Combat Regiment; 1st Naval Beach Battalion; 72nd Signal Company (Special); Detachment, 207th Signal Depot Company; Detachment, 177th Signal Repair Company; HQs & HQ Detachment, 52nd Medical Battalion; 376th Medical Collecting Co; 377th Medical Collecting Co; 378th Medical Collecting Co; 682nd Medical Collecting Co; 1st Plat & HQs Detachment, 616th Medical Clearing Co; Detachment Boat Guards; 157th MP Prisoner of War Detachment; 706th MP Prisoner of War Detachment; 790th MP Prisoner of War Detachment; Detachment, 377th MP Police Escort Guard Co; Able Co 759th MP Bn; 1st Platoon 21st Chemical Decontamination Co (Smoke); Detachment 63rd Chemical Depot Co; 3rd Platoon, 450th Engineer Depot Co; 69th OD Ammunition Co; Detachment 77th OD Depot Co; Detachment 977-OD Depot Co; 3407-OD Medium Automotive Maintenance Co (DUKW); 6690th Regulating Co; HQs & HQ Detachment 530-QM Bn; 4133-QM Service Co; 4134-QM Service Co; 4135-QM Service Co; 4136-QM Service Co; 3277-QM Service Co; 3357-QM Truck Co; 3634-QM Truck Co; HQs & HQ Detachment 52-QM Bn (Mobile); 3333-QM Truck Co (DUKW); 3334-QM Truck Co (DUKW); 3325-QM Truck Co (DUKW); 3336-QM Truck Co (DUKW); 3353-QM Truck Co (DUKW); 3355-QM Truck Co (DUKW); Section 3856-QM Gas Supply Co; 1 Platoon 93-QM Railhead Co; 332-AAF Beach Detail, and 111th Beach Section, RAF.
36th Infantry Division CG Gen John E. Dahlquist. Organic Units HHC & Special Troops, 36-ID; 36-MP Platoon; 36-Sig Co; 36-QM Co; 36-CIC Det; 36-Recon Troop (Mez); 736-OD Light Maintenance Co; 111-ECB; 111-Medic Bn; 141-IR; 142-IR; 143-IR; HHB, 36-ID Artillery; 131-FAB (105-MM HOW); 132-FAB (105-MM HOW); 133-FAB (105-MM HOW); 155-FAB (155-MM HOW).
36th Infantry Division (Beach Group)540th Engineer Combat Regt; 48th Engineer Combat Bn; 8th Naval Beach Bn; 74th Signal Co (Special); Detachment 207th Signal Depot Co; Detachment 177th Signal Repair Co; HQs & HQ Detachment 56-Medic Bn; 885-Medic Collecting Co; 886-Medic Co; 887-Medic Co; 89-Medic Clearing Co; 1st Platoon 638th Clearing Company; Charlie Co 759-MP Bn; 1 Section 377-POW Escort Guard Co; Detachment Boat Guards; 192MP Provisional POW Detachment; 601-MP Provisional POW Detachment; 3rd Platoon 21-Chem Chemical Decontamination Co (Smoke); Detachment 63-Chem Depot Co; 1st Platoon 450-Engr Depot Co; 603-OD Ammunition Co; Detachment 77-OD Depot Co; Detachment 977-OD Depot Co; 3405-OD Medium Automotive Maintenance Co (DUKW); Detachment 6690th Regulating Co; 1 Section 3894-QM Gas Supply Co; 2nd Platoon 94-QM Railhead Co; HQs & HQ Detachment 53-QM Battalion (Mobile); 3337-QM Truck Co (DUKW); 3338-QM Truck Co (DUKW); 3339-QM Truck Co (DUKW); 3340-QM Truck Co (DUKW); 3354QM Truck Co (DUKW); 3356-QM Truck Co (DUKW); HQs & HQ Detachment 259th QM Bn; 3286-QM Service Co; 3287 Service Co; 3288-QM Service Co; 3289-QM Service Co; 3299-QM Service Co; 3300-QM Service Co; 3427-QM Truck Co;
3360-QM Truck Co; AAF Beach Detail, and 111th Brick Section, RAF.
45th Infantry Division CG Gen William W. Eagles. Organic units HHC & Special Troops, 45-ID; 45-MP Platoon; 45-Sig Co; 45-QM Co; 45-CIC Detachment; 45-Recon Troop (Mez); 700-OD Light Maintenance Co; 120-ECB; 120-Medic Bn; 157-IR; 179-IR; 180-IR; HHB, 45-ID Artillery; 158-FAB (105-MM HOW); 160-FAB (105-MM HOW); 171-FAB (105-MM HOW); 189-FAB (155-MM HOW).
45th Infantry Division (Beach Group) 40th Engineer Combat Regt; 4th Naval Beach Bn; 71st Signal Company (Special); Detachment 207th Signal Depot Co; Detachment 177th Signal Repair Co; HQs & HQ Detachment 58th Medical Bn; 388th Medical Collecting Co; 389th Medical Collecting Co; 390th Medical Collecting Co; 514th Medical Clearing Co; 2nd Platoon 616th Clearing Co; Baker Co 759th Military Police Bn; 1 Section 377th POW Escort Guard Co; Detachment Boat Guards; 133rd POW Provisional Detachment; 175th POW Provisional Detachment; 191st POW Provisional Detachment; 3rd Platoon 21st Chemical Decontamination Co (Smoke); Detachment 63rd Chemical Depot Co; 2nd Platoon 450th Engineer Depot Co; 682nd OD Ammunition Co; Detachment 77th OD Depot Co; Detachment 977th OD Depot Co; 3487th OD Medium Automotive Maintenance Co (DUKW); 3633rd QM Truck Co; Detachment 6690th Regulating Co; HQs & HQ Detachment 147th QM Bn (Mobile); 829th Amphibian Truck Co; 830th Amphibian Truck Co; 831st Amphibian Truck Co; 832nd Amphibian Truck Co; 1 Section 3894th QM Gas Supply Co; HQs & HQ Detachment 240th QM Bn; 3250th QM Service Co; 3251st QM Service Co; 3252nd QM Service Co; 3253rd QM Service Co; 4053rd QM Service Co; Platoon 94th QM Railhead Co; 3425th QM Truck Co; AAF Beach Detail, and 110th Beach Section, RAF.
Groupe French Army B CG Gen Jean de Lattre de Tassigny. HQs & HQ Co French Army B 162/27 (-). French Second Army Corps CG Gen Edgard de Larminat. HQs & HQ Co, Second Army Corps 75. 1st French March Infantry Division, CG Gen Diego Brosset; 1st French Armored Division (-2 CC) CG Gen Jean Touzet du Vigier; 3rd French (Algerian) Infantry Division, CG Gen Joseph de Goislard de Monsabert; 9th French (Colonial) Infantry Division, CG Gen Joseph Magnan; 2nd French (Algerian Spahis) Recon Regiment; 1st French Group (Tabors Morocco); 3rd French Group (Tabors Morocco); 4th French Group (Tabors Morocco). Field Artillery HQs French Artillery Group; Detachment 1-FAOB (US); 1st French Colonial (Levant) Artillery Regiment; 3rd Group 65th French Artillery Regiment. Anti Aircraft Artillery Detachment HQs & HQ Btry, 34-AAA Brigade (US); 62-AAA Gun Battalion (US); Detachment HQs & HQ Btry 80-AAA Group (US); 893-AAA-AW Battalion (SP). Tank Destroyer French Chasseurs d’Afrique; 7th Regiment Chasseurs d’Afrique; 3rd Regiment Chasseurs d’Afrique. Engineer Engineer Topographic Co #31; 101st Engineer Regiment. Military Police 521st Company Highway Regulation; 2nd Company 11th Group of the Garde. Medical 401st Evacuation Hospital, Reanimation, Blood Transfusion #413/3; 405th Evacuation Hospital; 432nd Medical Battalion; 451/1 Advanced Depot; 422nd Field Hospital. Ordnance HQs 651st Ordnance Battalion; Company 652/1 Light Maintenance (Equipment); Company 652/2 Light Maintenance (Vehicles); Company 652/3 Light Maintenance (Vehicles); 64th Ammunition Company; 65th Ammunition Company. Quartermaster 1st Battalion 8th Regiment Pioneers Tirailleurs Sénégalais; Mess & Supply #323; Mess & Supply #325; Supply Company (Fuel). Signal 61st Communication Battalion (Army Corps); 6693rd Signal Detachment (Provisional) (US); 3 Detachments 163rd Signal Photo Company (US); 806th Construction Battalion; Detachment Group Army B; Exploit Company 827/1; Radio Listening Unit 828; Military Telegraphy Group 829; Transmissions Detachment 810; Transmissions & Technical Detachment 841. Transportation 11th Company, Transport Group 501
Mediterranean Allied Tactical Air Force CG Gen John K. Cannon. XII Tactical Air Command CG Gen Gordon P. Saville. 1st Fighter Group (P-38) (on loan to MATAF Aug 12/20 1944); 14th Fighter Group (P-38) (on loan to MATAF Aug 12/20 1944); 27th Fighter Group (P-47); 57th Operations Group (P-47); 79th Fighter Group (P-47); 86th Fighter Group (P-47); 324th Fighter Group (P-47); #251 Wing RAF (Supermarine Spitfire IX); #322 Wing RAF (Supermarine Spitfire IX); #324 Wing RAF (Supermarine Spitfire IX); 47th Bombardment Group (A-20 Havoc); 111th Recon Squadron (F-6A Mustang); 415th Night Fighter Squadron (Beaufighter VI); #225 Squadron RAF (Spitfire V); II/33 Escadrille (Spitfire V); Quartieme Escadre (P-47); 57th Bombardment Wing; 310th Bombardment Group (B-25 Mitchell); 321st Bombardment Group (B-25 Mitchell); 340th Bombardment Group (B-25 Mitchell); 5th Recon Squadron (F-5 Lightning); 23rd Recon Squadron (F-5 Lightning); #682 Squadron RAF (Supermarine Spitfire XI); 42nd Bombardment Wing; 17th Bombardment Group (B-26 Marauder); 319th Bombardment Group (B-26 Marauder); 320th Bombardment Group (B-26 Marauder); 31e Escadre (B-26 Marauder); 31st Fighter Group P-51 Mustang (Escorts/Airborne); 325th Fighter Group P-51 Mustang (Escorts/Airborne)
CG Air Vice-Marshal Hugh Lloyd 63rd Fighter Wing; #326 (GC 2/7 Nice) (Spitfire V and IX); #327 (GC 1/3 Corse) (Spitfire IX); #328 (GC 1/7 Provence) (Spitfire V and IX); 417th Night Fighter Squadron (Beaufighter VI); VOC-01 (F-6F Hellcat)(TBF Avenger); 350th Fighter Group; 345th Fighter Squadron (P-39 Airacobra); 346th Fighter Squadron (P-39 Airacobra); 347th Fighter Squadron (P-39 Airacobra); #272 Squadron RAF (Beaufighter X); 414th Night Fighter Squadron (Beaufighter VI); #256 Squadron RAF (Mosquito XII and XIII); #153 Squadron RAF (Beaufighter VI); #458 Squadron RAAF (Wellington XIV); #36 Squadron RAF (Wellington XIV); #17 Squadron SAAF (Ventura V); #45 Squadron (Supermarine Walrus); #14 Squadron RAF (Marauder I, II and III).
Provisional Troop Carrier Air Division CG Gen Paul L. Williams. 50th Troop Carrier Wing (C-47 Skytrain); 439th Troop Carrier Group; 440th Troop Carrier Group; 441st Troop Carrier Group; 442d Troop Carrier Group; 51st Troop Carrier Wing (C-47 Skytrain); 60th Troop Carrier Group; 62nd Troop Carrier Group; 64th Troop Carrier Group; 53rd Troop Carrier Wing (C-47 Skytrain); 435th Troop Carrier Group; 436th Troop Carrier Group; 437th Troop Carrier Group; 438th Troop Carrier Group.
Army Group B CG Gen Johannes Blaskowitz. 19. Army CG Gen Georg von Sodenstern. Group Weise CG Gen Friedrich Wiese. IV Luftwaffe Field Corps; 716.Infantry Division; 198.Infantry Division; 189.Infantry Division; LXXXV Army Corps. 338.Infantry Division CG Gen Baptist Kneiss. 244.Infantry Division CG Gen René l’Homme de Courbiére. LXII Reserve Army Corps CG Gen Hans Schaefer. 242.Infantry Division CG Gen Ferdinand Neuling. 148.Reserve Division CG Gen Johannes Baessler. LXIV Army Corps CG Gen Otto Fretter-Pico. (Note, Corps swapped units with the IV Luftwaffe Corps in September, 159.Reserve Division; Army Reserve; 11.Panzer Division). Group Wietersheim CG Gen Wend von Wietersheim. 157.Reserve Division; 158.Reserve Division (was in transition forming the 16th Infantry Division).
A significant asset, frequently overlooked or falsely attributed solely to the quality and competence of senior leaders, that was critical in performing this amphibious landing so successfully was the collective experience of the planners. The VI Corps staff and US assault divisions gained their experience in North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio. Coincidentally, the 30-IR (3-ID) was the only Army unit to have had any amphibious training prior to 1940. As Corps Commander, Gen Lucian K. Truscott indicated his G-4, Col E.J. O’Neill, and other staff members, had a vast experience in over-the-shore maintenance, which was gained in operations from North Africa to Anzio. This level of experience is probably the key ingredient that enabled the successful mounting of such an enormously complex undertaking in such a short period of time.
Extraction from Line in Italy
The Italian Campaign and other factors which prohibited any final decisions being made on Operation Dragoon made the identification of available units difficult. Although by June 16, the Army troop list was fairly complete, the order of withdrawal from Italy had not been decided. Time was a key element because previous estimates stated an absolute minimum of 38 days would be required to take a unit from the front, then train, refit and load out.
During the initial planning phase, when it was assumed that a two-division assault would take place, the two American divisions would be mounted in the Naples area and two follow-up divisions would be mounted from Sicily and North Africa. However, as planning continued, the withdrawal of any US forces in Italy was dependent upon the battle being fought there. Divisions could not be taken from Italy until the capture of Rome at the earliest, and troops could not be diverted from any other theater.
When the go-ahead was given for Dragoon by AFHQ, and forces could be withdrawn from Italy, naval ships, craft, and cargo aircraft were not in the theater to effect the removal. These assets had to be rushed back in order to meet the designated target dates. The VI Corps consisting of the 3-ID, the 36-ID, and the 45-ID, was mounted from Naples. The Combat Command of the 1st French Armored Division was mounted from Oran. The follow-up force of two Corps of seven French divisions was mounted out of Taranto – Brindisi, Oran, Corsica, and Naples.
Training for Dragoon
The initial success and rapid advance of the invasion of southern France can be attributed to the training received for the operation. The time available for training was limited because of a number of factors. However, the principal combat elements of the three American sub-task forces did undergo three weeks of refresher training in amphibious landings. The 36-ID and the 45-ID received their training at the Invasion Training Center in Salerno, Italy. The 3-ID was trained by its own Division Commander in Pozzuoli, Italy. A key element during this limited training was that both American and French units had prior combat experience. This was to be very important because of the limited training time available. The service units available had also worked with the divisions nominated for Operation Dragoon. The Naval and the Air Force units of the Mediterranean Theater had participated in a number of amphibious operations in North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio. The training was designed to be as realistic as possible and it concentrated on preparing the forces for the actual problems of landing. The forces were trained in the use of new equipment and coordination between different services, and a review on modern warfare.
The Invasion Training Center at Salerno was a key element in the training process. Officers from Dragoon units were trained in waterproofing and they, in turn, conducted schools to train other officers and key NCO’s in the 7-A service units. The center was moved from Port aux Poules, Algeria, to Salerno, Italy, during the spring of 1944. The Salerno site proved to be a realistic training base, and it helped develop an appreciation for the necessity for proper preparation.
The site was not only valuable because of its proximity to the sea, but its mountains proved excellent terrain for patrolling, wire and radio, as well as map and compass training. Sufficient ranges also were available for firing all types of weapons. Terrain models also were used to train soldiers. A key ingredient in the training was that the welfare of the soldiers was taken into consideration. As much rest and recreation as possible was provided during the training, considering the situation.
Infantry training was given in demolitions and amphibious assaults, as well as a review of basic infantry warfare. In addition to specialized training, the infantry schedule included road marches, close order drill, and calisthenics, as well as bayonet and gun drill, chemical warfare training, and various other subjects. Not only were the troops being trained, but their equipment was also brought up to standard. Artillery training concentrated on amphibious landings. This consisted of the loading and unloading of 105-MM (HOW) in DUKWS (amphibious trucks) on both land and water and using A-frames to unload the howitzers.
Naval and shore fire control parties were organized and trained to accompany infantry battalions to assist them prior to the artillery units going into action. Tank training involved the adaptation of tanks for use in amphibious operations. This proved very effective. However, one part of the training that did not go well was range firing. Field Artillery units were not able to secure adequate ranges, and therefore went into combat without ever firing a round of 105-MM at a target.
Engineer units went through very rigorous training because they were the crucial link in neutralizing the enemy defenses. A majority of the engineer units had a great deal of combat experience and were veterans of amphibious operations. This proved to be important since they were able to assist in the training of infantry, artillery, and other branches in demolitions, mine warfare, and the passage of obstacles.
Units were able to rehearse assault landings on a division scale, to include naval and air support. Efforts were made to simulate the exact conditions for the upcoming invasion. Obstacles were constructed resembling as much as possible those that could be expected on the beaches of southern France. The live firing of ammunition made battle conditions more dramatic and instructive. Detailed planning and executions were handled as if it were D-day.
Although training time was limited for the US 7-A’s invasion of southern France, it was realistic and effective. A key element of the training was the previous experience of the units involved. Their removal from combat and placement back into combat within a very short time was remarkable. On August 8, the US 7-A returned from final rehearsals and began loading out. In less than a week, the units were involved in the operation for which they had been practicing.
On the western flank of the main assault area, the 3-ID (Alpha Force) was to land the 7-IR on Alpha Red Beach (Beach 259 – Bay of Cavalaire) and the 15-IR on Alpha Yellow Beach (Beach 261 – on the Bay of Pampelonne) in order to overcome enemy resistance and to capture the towns of Cavalaire and Saint-Tropez. The 70-IR was division reserve, and to be landed at Alpha Red.
Having cleared the peninsula, the division would link up with the 45-ID to clear Beach 262, and from there advance to the west and southwest to join with the French Commandos (Romeo Force) and establish the Blue line on the west flank. Alpha Red beach was backed by a narrow belt of tree-covered dunes behind which ran a highway and a narrow-gauge railroad. To the southwest were wooded slopes and the town of Cavalaire-Sur-Mer. A few small streams traversed the area but provided no impediment to the advance of infantry. The defenses here were considered moderate with 3 or 4 casemates, a dozen pillboxes, and approximately 17 machine-guns. Eight light AAA guns were located on the high ground beyond the beaches, and on the far western edge of the beach, four fixed medium caliber guns were emplaced. Concrete pyramids out to 60 M from the beach had been constructed, and these were covered by artillery and machine-gun fire. Approximately 800 M of barbed wire ran along the width of Beach 259, and the area was thoroughly mined. Intelligence reports indicated up to 250 German troops, manned these defenses. Alpha Yellow Beach stretched 4500 Meters and consisted of soft sand and wooded slopes. Defenses, here again, were moderate, with a single row of piles about 45 Meters offshore. Pillboxes, wire, and minefields along the beach. Intelligence estimated about 400 men defending this area.
The New Year of 1944 was a dismal one for the German Army. The coming year would undoubtedly bring renewed assaults on the long Russian front where the Stalingrad and Kursk battles had caused irreplaceable losses. The growing strength of both the Allied Armies in Italy and the partisan movements in the Balkans clearly indicated increasing danger from these quarters. Both the great hope and the great danger were in the west. The Allied Armies building up in England must land somewhere in northwest Europe. If they succeeded, then collapse would inevitably follow. However, if they could be defeated, then the Germans could strip bare the western front and create the forces to stave off the vast Russian armies. A victory in France, however, remote the prospects, was the absolute last chance to avoid certain defeat. It was for these reasons that France, especially northern France, continued to receive reinforcements.
Since 1942, France had been a vast depot and training area. New formations were raised there; worn-out, fought-out divisions from the Eastern Front were reconstituted there; small, high-quality units were expanded there and then inevitably moved back to the active theaters. There were always large numbers of units in France, but they had little fighting capacity.
In the spring of 1944, the transfers slowed, then stopped. Every spare man and gun were sent to France, to include battalions of volunteers from Russia and the occupied territories of the East. The preparations were rushed and old stocks of French weapons, tanks, naval guns, field fortifications, and anti-invasion obstacles were brought to readiness.
Among the units brought to readiness was the German 19.Army. It was responsible for defending the coast of southern France from the Spanish border to the Italian border, a front of almost 650 Km. The 19.Army had the quietest of Germany’s quiet fronts. It was mostly a conduit for passing rebuilt units to the Italian theater. Its formations had a mixture of elder and junior age classes.
Discipline, especially among the German elements, was good. Officers were either young and inexperienced or old veterans no longer fit for service on the Eastern Front because of wounds, illness, or other infirmities.
The formations had been constantly levied for their best personnel and equipment. The commanders in southern France, Gen Johannes Blaskowitz (Army Group B), and Gen Georg von Sodenstern (19.Army) were no fools. Blaskowitz had been banished to southern France because of his public disapproval of the SS and its actions in Poland, where he had been the military commander. Distrusted and disliked by Hitler, Blaskowitz was a highly competent officer who lacked political prestige and influence.
Unlike Rommel or Model, Blaskowitz could not manipulate the priorities established by personalities in Nazi Germany. Von Sodenstern was so outspoken on the dismal prospects of a successful defense that he was relieved for reasons of health at the end of June 1944. Whatever its weaknesses, the 19.Army was faced with a formidable mission. It was expected to defend the French Mediterranean Coast and a small sector of the Pyrenees front, to hold the coast as long as possible in the event of an Allied landing and to throw the enemy back into the sea if possible, to reconnoiter the old French and Italian defense installations and positions in the Alps with a view to exploring their possibilities in the event of battles in upper Italy.
The German commanders considered an invasion of Southern France – Northern Italy a distinct probability, even before the Normandy landings. Such a landing would pin down local German forces and draw off reserves from the main battle area. It would also be able to use the extensive base complexes in North Africa, Italy, Corsica, and Sardinia. Finally, it would allow Allied reserves and amphibious forces gathered in the Mediterranean to be quickly infused into the decisive battle area. The Germans estimated there were three potential targets for an Allied landing, (a) an assault was possible on the west coast of the Gulf of Lyons in the region Narbonne, Bèziers, Sète to link up with an assault on the Bay of Biscay and advance up the Rhone. This was unlikely for a variety of reasons; (b) yet another possible point of attack was on the coast of the Italian Riviera centered on Genoa. This would unhinge the German defenses in Italy south of the Po River, and was a variation of the Anzio attack. While worrisome, this was not a direct threat to the 19.Army and could be fairly easily blocked along the coastal plain; (c) the most likely point was, of course, an assault east of the Rhone, then up the valley to the lower Rhine. This was the classic route into France used by Caesar, Napoleon, and ultimately, the US 7-A.
The terrain in Southern France favored a defense in depth. The broad coastline was indefensible, but farther inland the Rhone valley narrowed. The 19.Army repeatedly recommended the construction of fortifications in the narrow valleys cut by the Rhône River, the Iser River, and the Saône River. In front of these fortifications, but beyond the range of naval gunfire, the Germans would conduct a mobile battle. Berlin categorically refused such a plan as did Rommel when he came to inspect the defenses. The beaches were to be defended to the last man. Yet building materials were in short supply. Of 800 pillboxes planned, only 300 had been constructed and only 80 were armed over the 650 Km of the front. All of these installations were on the coast. When the invasion came, the order to retreat arrived from Berlin less than three days after the first allied soldiers landed.
It was not a lack of fortifications that limited the German defense; it was the lack of troops, especially good ones. After the Normandy invasion, Army Group G and the 19.Army were milked again for quality troops. Three infantry divisions and the 9.Panzer-Division were transferred along with equipment, mobile artillery, anti-tank and anti-aircraft battalions. The SS Panzer Corps went to the front from the neighboring 1.Army. Finally, only the 11.Panzer-Division was left in reserve for the Army Group. In exchange for its offerings, the 19.Army got more used-up divisions, from Normandy.
The 716.Infantry-Division, for example, arrived from Normandy, in the words of its commander, defeated and destroyed. No one had any illusions about the fighting strength of the eastern ‘volunteer’ battalions as well as the Italian gun crews on the coast artillery pieces. The main question from the Army commander on down was how to save the Army from useless extermination.
The impending invasion became steadily more obvious. The withdrawal of seasoned American units from the Italian front was noted. All French units and some Moroccan divisions in North Africa were being readied for shipment. The transfer of Allied close support aircraft to Corsica and Sardinia was also an indicator. Even the German soldiers in the streets could not help but notice the evacuation of civilians from the coastal areas and the rumors of an Allied attack on Napoleon’s Day, Aug 15, 1944. When one German Air Recon spotted the Allied fleet steaming north from Corsica on August 13, the 19.Army went on full alert.
D Day – H Hour
From 0710 to 0745 hours on D-day, shallow minesweepers cleared boat lanes from 1500 M to within 100 M of the beaches. Drone boats were used to clear the final 100 M. From 0750 to 0758 hours, naval fire support placed rockets and inshore fire onto the beaches, producing an even pattern of barrage fire for assaulting troop cover.
At 0800, the 7-RTC (Regimental Combat Team) struck Alpha Red Beach while the 15-RCT attacked Alpha Yellow Beach. Each included a smoke detail, amphibious trucks, tank destroyers, naval shore fire control parties, and an engineer section. The 7-RCT landed with the 3/7 on the left and 2/7 on the right, the 1/7 being the Regimental reserve. Several small landing craft were lost to mines during the assault, resulting in 60 casualties. One amphibious truck was also lost to mines. As the infantry moved out to the beach, it initially encountered no resistance but was slowed by wire and wooden box mines (shoe mine).
After amphibious tanks, tank destroyers, and howitzers had landed they encountered some small arms and mortar fire. Specially formed battle patrols consisting of 155 men each were employed in missions to neutralize the coastal defense systems at both landing sites, and as the infantry suppressed the small arms fire, the engineers began clearing lanes through the mines and wire.
At 0850, the beaches were effectively neutralized, and the 30-RCT (the division reserve) began landing and moving through the right flank of the 7-RCT. Eight successive waves landed on Beach 259, as the beachhead was steadily enlarged. The two RCT’s advanced rapidly inward. The 7-RCT turned westward with the 3/7-IR advancing along the coastal road to clear Cavalaire-Sur-Mer. By 1330, the 3/7-IR had linked up with the French Commandos near the Cap Nègre. The 2/7-RTC on the right had advanced through the town of La Croix-Valmer to the high ground two miles north of the town.
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 Highwav 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.
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 LCT’s 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.
By H plus 20, all but 5 LCTs were completely unloaded, but unloading of ocean-type ships lagged far behind schedule. By noon on D plus 1 (Aug 16), the lead elements of the 3-ID were 30 kilometers 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.
Failure 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 cue 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 the 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.
The advance along the 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 plus 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 the 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 plus 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.
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 the 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 were ordered into the areas, but they did not arrive with enough forces 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.
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 tee 3/30. As the attack began, 1/30 was attacked from the rear by enemy infantry, with strong armor support attacking down 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
On 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.
However, 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.
A 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.
The Battle of Montélimar
The 36-ID consolidated and held positions north of Montélimar, repulsing attack after attack. until Aug 26, when the Germans succeeded in breaking the Division roadblock on the east bank road. This happened to be the weakest point in the Division’s defensive perimeter, and the German breakthrough at this location was probably due to their knowledge of dispositions obtained from the captured order.
The Germans attacked continuously and hit everywhere in a desperate attempt to extricate their trapped forces. By Aug 27, the 3-ID was attacking northwest to clear the enemy out of the Orange, Nyons, Montélimar triangle and was encountering strong enemy delaying actions. Near Montélimar, the heaviest German motor movements yet reported, a large column of tanks, armored vehicles, self-propelled guns, and half-tracks, was observed filtering northward.
The 36-ID, although in an ideal spot for interception was unable to break loose from its own fight, and could not keep the enemy from filtering through.
Enemy prisoners reported that as of Aug 27, the bulk of the 11.Panzer-Division had succeeded in passing through, but that the 198.Infantry-Division was still trapped south of Montélimar. On this same day, the 3-ID broke through the delaying line against heavy opposition and captured a 2000 M long double column of German vehicles moving toward Montélimar. They continued their attack on the 28, striking Montélimar from the South, West, and North, and by noon on the 29, they occupied the city and all resistance east and south of Montélimar had ceased.
On the morning of Aug 29, the Germans strongly attacked north of Montélimar in an effort to break out with the remainder of the 198.Infantry-Division. The 3-ID repulsed the attack and captured the 198.Infantry-Division’s Commander, as well as vast stockpiles of abandoned equipment; yet many of the personnel in the trapped unit succeeded in escaping. The tactical situation now demanded that efforts be made to halt the enemy before he could complete crossing of the Drôme River further north.
Operations along the Drôme River represented the final phase of the Battle of Montélimar. This river was the last barrier in the German retreat northward to Lyon. The 36-ID repositioned its forces, and by Aug 27, they had narrowed German escape routes to one. Air support and artillery harassed enemy traffic and destroyed bridges, but the Drôme was fordable at most points during the month of August, so some forces still escaped.
Overall, allied forces inflicted heavy losses on the German Army at Montélimar.
They destroyed 4000 vehicles, tanks, and guns, as well as 2000 horses and 6 railway guns. By Aug 28, over 42.000 prisoners were taken. Only a small fraction of the German 19.Army was able to run the gauntlet at Montélimar and escape with their equipment, and no division, except the 11.Panzer-Division, escaped as an intact unit. The reasons for the success at Montélimar and the Dragoon Operation, in general, were basic and included:
1 – the use of battle-experienced commanders and troops; 2 – experienced planning staffs, most of whom had worked together in other Mediterranean operations; 3 – overwhelming air superiority; 4 – excellent Allied intelligence, in contrast to poor and inadequate intelligence on the German side; 5 – inherent weakness of enemy forces characterized by their lack of mobility, low morale, and low state of combat efficiency; 6 – the early breakdown of German communication, command, and control and 7, – aggressive exploitation by troops of the US VI Corps.
The Situation at the Close of the Battle
At the end of August, the 7-A had completed the liberation of southern France and was closing in on the city of Lyon. On the eastern flank, patrols of the 1st Airborne Task Force reached the Italian border. In the north, the 36 and 45-IDs had already crossed the Rhone River where it flows into Lyon from the high Alps to the east and were operating northeast of the city.
The 3-ID, after mopping up the Montélimar battle area, went into a reserve role near Voiron. On the west bank of the Rhone, below Lyon, units of the French Army were pushing the enemy northward, and French Reconnaissance elements were advancing along the Mediterranean coast close to the Spanish border. This marked the end of Operation Dragoon. From here on, the plan was to pursue the remainder of the German 19.Army, pushing it completely out of France, and to make contact with Gen Patton’s American Third Army.
Significance of the Action
There is no doubt about the tactical decisiveness of Operation Anvil/Dragoon. Enemy resistance was so slight as to permit immediate exploitation northward, through Grenoble towards Lyons, allowing a link-up with the US 3-A 28 days after the landing. The operation created a diversionary effect to assist Overlord, protected the right flank of the 3-A, and provided another major port on the continent. However, the rapid progress toward the north was so unexpected that plans had not been made for that eventuality.
For example, the AAF P-47’s operating out of Corsica had range difficulties by D plus 5. Fighter bombers were unable to operate at all in the northern sector near Grenoble. Logistics was supported from the assault beaches until mid-September when Marseilles and Toulon were seized. This created a supply line of 280 Km, one way.
Consequently, although allied forces took advantage of the opportunities presented, they were unable to capitalized fully on them. The immediate effect of the battle’s outcome to allied forces was the ejection of German forces from Southern France; the interjection of the Free French Forces into the fighting with corresponding enhancement of the political situation among the allies; the availability to the allies of two major port complexes (Marseilles and Toulon); the benefit deriving from two fronts in France; and the morale enhancing factor of a truly successful major operation. As far as the Germans were concerned, the impact of the operation was severe. The seven German divisions opposing the invasion were eliminated as fighting units. Most Axis troops in Southwestern France were surrounded and Germany was forced to divert its attention from Normandy.
The battle provided a significant disadvantage for the Germans. As Allan Wilt states in his book ‘The French Riviera Campaign of August 1944’, No matter how depleted the Axis forces were, the Germans still had to keep considerable numbers of formations positioned along France’s Mediterranean coast. In this sense, particularly after August 7, when the Germans knew that the allies were definitively building up their forces for an attack, Dragoon did restrain the Wehrmacht from sending additional men and material North. This, a threat alone would not have accomplished”. Also the inescapable fact remains that 79.000 prisoners were taken during the operation at a time when Germany could least afford it. In addition, the seizing, of Toulon and Marseilles precluded, almost completely, the use of enemy ships and aircraft in the Western Mediterranean.
There is some disagreement as to whether the outcome of the battle affected the long-term objectives of the allies. Churchill believed the Mediterranean invasion was unnecessary so far as it related to supporting the Normandy landings, and he believed the forces could be better used to support the allied effort in Italy, or even an invasion of the Balkans. Chester Wilmot, an Australian historian, believed that Operation Anvil/Dragoon distorted allied strategy in the Mediterranean and the West, to the immediate benefit of Hitler and the ultimate advantage of Stalin. The battle did not place the German Army in a position from which it could not recover, in the sense that they would have been ultimately defeated with or without a Mediterranean invasion. Such an outcome was simply a matter of time after the Normand’y breakout. By virtue of the same reasoning, the battle did not decide the outcome of the war. One can say that the outcome was the war in Europe was decided when Operation Overlord was approved for execution. The battle ranks in importance with the allied landings in Sicily, which were also a spectacular tactical success, but did not decide the outcome of the Italian campaign.