Hannes Trautloft's picture

This video presents the story of Operation Dragoon in World War II. The original title of this video is: "Command Decision: The Invasion of Southern France (1963)". The documentary is a part of "The Big Picture" series produced by the U.S. Army.

About Operation Dragoon:

Operation Dragoon was the Allied invasion of southern France on 15 August 1944, during World War II. The invasion was initiated via a parachute drop by the 1st Airborne Task Force, followed by an amphibious assault by elements of the U.S. Seventh Army, followed a day later by a force made up primarily of the French First Army. The landing caused the German Army Group G to abandon southern France and to retreat under constant Allied attacks to the Vosges Mountains. Despite being a large and complex military operation with a well-executed amphibious and airborne component, Operation Dragoon is not well known; it came in the later stages of the war and was overshadowed by the earlier and larger Operation Overlord.

During planning stages, the operation was known as "Anvil", to complement Operation Sledgehammer, at that time the code name for the invasion of Normandy. Subsequently, both plans were renamed, Sledgehammer becoming Operation Overlord, and Anvil becoming Operation Dragoon.

Operation Dragoon was controversial from the time it was first proposed. The American military leadership and their British counterparts disagreed on the operation. Churchill argued against it on the grounds that it diverted military resources that were better deployed in the on-going Allied operations in Italy; instead, he favoured an invasion of the oil-producing regions of the Balkans. Churchill reasoned that by attacking the Balkans, the western Allies could deny Germany oil, forestall the advance of the Red Army of the Soviet Union, and achieve a superior negotiating position in post-war Europe, all at a single stroke. At the time Operation Anvil was first considered, the Allied landing at Anzio had gone badly and planning was put on ice.

The operation, now renamed Dragoon, was revived after the successful execution of the Normandy landings, which freed vital amphibious assets. In addition, the Allies were struggling to resupply their growing forces in France, because the Germans had destroyed the port facilities at Cherbourg and a storm had damaged the artificial harbour at Omaha Beach. This made seizure and control of the French ports at Marseilles and Toulon increasingly attractive. The French leaders pressed for an invasion in southern France too. Finally on 14 July 1944 the operation was authorized by the Allied Combined Chiefs of Staff.

Prior to the main invasion, the navy insisted that the Hyères Islands, Port-Cros and Levant, had to be neutralized. The guns of the German garrisons on both islands could reach the proposed Allied landing area and the sea lanes that the troops would follow. The First Special Service Force, a joint U.S.-Canadian special forces unit trained in amphibious assault and mountaineering, received the order to take the islands as part of Operation Sitka.

The preceding bombing missions together with resistance sabotage acts hit the Germans badly, interrupting railways, damaging bridges, and disrupting the communication network. The landing started on the morning of 15 August. The landings were overwhelmingly successful. On Delta and Alpha beaches, German resistance was low. The Osttruppen surrendered quickly, and the biggest threat to the Allies were the mines. A single German gun as well as a mortar position was silenced by destroyer fire. The Allied units in this sector were able to link up with the paratroopers very quickly and succeeded in capturing the nearby towns. Only on Camel Beach did the Germans put up some serious resistance. This beach was secured by several well emplaced coastal guns as well as several flak batteries. Here too, the Osttruppen surrendered quickly; the German artillery formed the main opposition and some bunkers provided heavy resistance.

The most serious fighting was on Camel Red Beach at the town of Saint-Raphaël. A bombing run of 90 Allied B-24 bombers were used against a German strongpoint here. But even with the assistance of naval fire, the Allies were not able to bring the landing ships close to the beach. They decided to avoid Camel Red and land only at Camel Blue and Camel Green, which was successful. The Allied casualties at the landings were very light, with only 95 killed and 385 wounded... (see more at: http://en.wikipedia.org/)


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