Winston Churchill disparaged Operation Anvil-Dragoon, the Aug. 15, 1944 Allied "second D-Day" invasion of Southern France. Churchill joked that he was "dragooned" into an unnecessary invasion. D-Day, June 6th, had breached Fortress Europe. A French Riviera "pincer" was folly.
However, the Allied senior commanders who dragooned the Prime Minister obeyed an old military axiom: Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals study logistics.
The Germans destroyed Normandy's Port Cherbourg and blocked Antwerp. Supplies over beaches barely met daily needs. The George Patton-led U.S. 3rd Army's August 1944 armored dash stretched supply capacities. Patton's high tempo strike at the Reich required more gas and ammo.
Anvil-Dragoon targeted Toulon and Marseilles' seaports. By May 1945, around a third of the total supplies for Allied forces in Western Europe came through Southern French ports.
The plan was sound. U.S. VI Corps, commanded by Major Gen. Lucian Truscott, would land with a minimal armor and vehicle transport. Corps' divisions (3rd Infantry Division, the 45th ID and the 36th ID, the Texas Division) would assault Riviera beaches. French Army units, under U.S. 7th Army command, would follow the initial assault.The French had sealift priority on tanks and trucks. Mobile French soldiers would roll west and seize the ports with their facilities intact. Third ID would support the French along the Rhone River.
A veteran Wehrmacht division worried Allied planners: 11th Panzer. Commanded by the able MG Wend von Wietersheim, the Ghost Division was an Eastern Front legend. Though understrength, Panther tanks bolstered its battle groups. Panther frontal armor deflected U.S. 75 mm rounds; most U.S. Shermans in August 1944 carried 75 mms. The 76 mms on U.S. M-10 tank destroyers penetrated Panther side armor. However, tank destroyers had thin armor. Aug. 15 VI Corps landed. Third ID took St. Tropez. The 36th had a stiff fight at Frejus Gulf. The 45th defeated two grenadier regiments. Truscott ordered the corps inland.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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