Operation Dragoon

Operation Dragoon (initially Operation Anvil) was the code name for the landing operation of the Allied invasion of Provence (Southern France) on 15 August 1944. The operation was initially planned to be executed in conjunction with Operation Overlord, the Allied landing in Normandy, but the lack of available resources led to a cancellation of the second landing. By July 1944 the landing was reconsidered, as the clogged-up ports in Normandy did not have the capacity to adequately supply the Allied forces. Concurrently, the French High Command pushed for a revival of the operation that would include large numbers of French troops. As a result, the operation was finally approved in July to be executed in August.

Operation Dragoon
Part of the Mediterranean and Middle East Theatre and the European Theatre of World War II

The Operation Dragoon invasion fleet off the coast of Southern France
Date15 August – 14 September 1944
Location
Southern France, Côte d'Azur
43°14′N 6°40′E
Result Allied victory
Territorial
changes
German forces withdraw from most of Southern France to the Vosges region.
Belligerents
 United States
France
 United Kingdom
 Canada[note]
Air support:
 Australia
 South Africa
Naval support:
 Greece
 New Zealand
 Germany
Commanders and leaders
Jacob L. Devers
Alexander Patch
Jean de Tassigny
Henry Kent Hewitt
John K. Cannon
Johannes Blaskowitz
Friedrich Wiese
Units involved

Sixth Army Group

FFI
Eighth Fleet
MAAF

Army Group G

Strength
Initial landing
151,000 personnel[1]
Entire invasion force
576,833 personnel[2]
French Resistance
75,000 personnel[3]
Initial landing
85,000–100,000 personnel[4]
1,481 artillery pieces[5]
Southern France
285,000–300,000 personnel[4]
Casualties and losses

15,574 casualties[6]

  • 7,301 killed[6]
more than 10,000 casualties[7][8]
Total: ~25,574
7,000 killed
~21,000 wounded
131,250 captured[8][9][10]
1,316 artillery pieces[11]
Total: ~159,000

The goal of the invasion was to secure the vital ports on the French Mediterranean coast and increase pressure on the German forces by opening another front. After some preliminary commando operations, the US VI Corps landed on the beaches of the Côte d'Azur under the shield of a large naval task force, followed by several divisions of the French Army B. They were opposed by the scattered forces of the German Army Group G, which had been weakened by the relocation of its divisions to other fronts and the replacement of its soldiers with third-rate Ostlegionen outfitted with obsolete equipment.

Hindered by Allied air supremacy and a large-scale uprising by the French Resistance, the weak German forces were swiftly defeated. The Germans withdrew to the north through the Rhône valley, to establish a stable defense line at Dijon. Allied mobile units were able to overtake the Germans and partially block their route at the town of Montélimar. The ensuing battle led to a stalemate, with neither side able to achieve a decisive breakthrough, until the Germans were finally able to complete their withdrawal and retreat from the town. While the Germans were retreating, the French managed to capture the important ports of Marseille and Toulon, soon putting them into operation.

The Germans were not able to hold Dijon and ordered a complete withdrawal from Southern France. Army Group G retreated further north, pursued by Allied forces. The fighting ultimately came to a stop at the Vosges mountains, where Army Group G was finally able to establish a stable defense line. After meeting with the Allied units from Operation Overlord, the Allied forces were in need of reorganizing and, facing stiffened German resistance, the offensive was halted on 14 September. Operation Dragoon was considered a success by the Allies. It enabled them to liberate most of Southern France in just four weeks while inflicting heavy casualties on the German forces, although a substantial part of the best German units were able to escape. The captured French ports were put into operation, allowing the Allies to solve their supply problems quickly.