The original plans for Operation Dragoon (formerly called Anvil), the invasion of southern France, was to coincide with the landings at Normandy (Operation Sledgehammer), on the northern coastline. Due to the Allied invasion of Italy, which was taking longer than expected, the southern France invasion plan was put back until August, 1944. Both Sledgehammer and Anvil were then renamed Operation Overlord and Operation Dragoon, respectively. The landing groups consisted of the 3rd, 45th, and 36th Infantry Divisions of the 6th Corps on three beaches of the Var coastline, close to Toulon. These beaches were at Cavalaire-sur-Mer, Saint-Tropez, and Saint-Raphaël (codename Alpha, Delta, and Camel respectively). The 1st Airborne Task Force, meanwhile, would drop in at Le Muy, to engage the Germans, and prevent them from attacking the beach landings, while Task Force 88 at sea, would provide gunfire and air support. The Le Muy area was vital for capturing because it would help secure the beach landings, as well as provide a pathway into the Argens valley corridor. German defenses, during this time, consisted of one tank battalion of the 11th Panzer Division, and 11 divisions of Army Group G, thinly stretched over 56 miles on the coast. Many of the German forces had been moved north by then, to fight against the northern invasion at Normandy and surrounding areas.
On August 14th, the first landings began, starting with taking over the islands of Port-Cros and Levant, of the Îles d’Hyères, by the 1st Special Service Force. Much of the communications and transportation systems had already been taken out by French resistance fighters on land, while any battery unit installations on Cap Nègre were destroyed by French commandos, providing a fairly easy landing for those on Alpha and Delta beaches. Those landing on Camel, however, had far more resistance, and had to readjust to a different landing point. While some German troops surrendered to the Allies, as they moved inland the rest retreated north, with skirmishes along the way. Of importance, was the fact that when the railroads were destroyed in order to cut off supplies to the Germans before the invasion started, the Allies had to wait until they were re-established enough, including the opening of nearby ports, to get their own supplies rolling in again.
While Allied troops were attempting to cut off the escape route of the retreating Germans, French troops headed along the coast to Toulon and Marseille, engaged the enemy, and liberated both cities on August 27th. Mobile forces, along with the 36th Infantry Division, met up with the retreating Germans, who turned to take a stand at Montélimar. While both sides battled each other, neither could move one way or another until, finally, the Germans turned and escaped north. The Allies, now refortified with VI Corps and the French II Corps, captured Montelimar first, then liberated Lyon, as they gave chase to the retreating Germans, who finally escaped through the Vosges Mountains.
The invasion from the south, greatly assisted operations in the north in freeing France from the German occupation. This invasion and subsequent battle occurred between two larger events, the Battle of Normandy and the Invasion (Liberation) of Italy, and, therefore, is not discussed as much, yet has great importance to the success of the northern Allied endeavors in France. The Allied retaking of the railroads and sea ports, Marseilles in particular, allowed for reinforcements and supplies to be brought in and transported quickly to the front lines. With the Allies now controlling the Mediterranean, it was open waters for the Allies to push back the Germans into their homeland, and have enough supplies to do it. It should also be noted that the combined Franco-American forces were at their best during this time, mainly because the French were finally ridding themselves of the German fascist regime. The assistance from French resistance groups also helped immeasurably to get supplies from the locals, along with other assistance, which kept the forces going.
|Participants in Operation Dragoon|
|Allied Commanders||Axis (German) Commanders|
|Losses During the Invasion|
|Opening Counts of Soldiers in the Field|
|175,000-200,000 soldiers|| 85,000-100,000 at attack site
285,000-300,000 in region