The Campaign for Southern France

Chapter VI
Isolating the Target Area

The first task of the ANVIL invaders was in some ways the most difficult. Transporting over 100,000 men across hundreds of miles of ocean and depositing them on a small number of beaches in a specific order in the space of about a dozen hours was no small accomplishment, even if there had been no hostile resistance. Yet it was during this period that the invading force was the most vulnerable. Although German weakness at sea and in the air made the sea journey a fairly administrative affair, the diverse capabilities of the German forces in southern France guaranteed that the reception of the Seventh Army divisions would not be so passive. Mines, coastal artillery, and radio-controlled air-to-surface missiles were only the initial concerns. A determined German counterattack at the beachline could prove disastrous, while the interdiction of the beach exits and the arrival of strong German forces, including artillery, on the surrounding hills could be equally fatal.

Although Allied intelligence had pointed out the disabilities of the German defenders, there was always the chance that ULTRA or the other intelligence sources had missed some critical last-minute German troop deployment and that the assaulting force might be in for a surprise. How fast, for example, could Blaskowitz move the vaunted 11th Panzer Division to the beachhead area? The Germans had defended all previous Allied landings on the Continent with great vigor, and there was no indication that they were about to change their policy in this regard. For this reason, the ANVIL commanders knew it was crucial to interdict German movement into the planned beachhead area with any and all means available. Without a successful lodgment, the Seventh Army would be unable to make advances toward Toulon, Marseille, Lyon, or anywhere else.

Prior to the actual landings, the primary Allied objective was therefore to neutralize the projected landing areas by making it as difficult as possible for Army Group G to reinforce their beach defenses or interfere with the Allied advance to the blue line. To this end the Allies sought to immobilize the German defenders throughout southern France in every way possible. This task was the common objective of the Allied air and naval campaigns in southern France, the FFI ground operations there, and,


closer to the beachhead, the activities of the airborne, ranger, and naval assault forces.

The French Forces of the Interior (FFI)

OVERLORD had provided a great stimulus to the FFI in southern France, and during June and July the southern FFI grew stronger and bolder as German fortunes waned.1 With Army Group G dispatching unit after unit northward to Normandy and concentrating much of its remaining strength along the coasts, the FFI took control over large areas of southern France, posing serious threats to Army Group G's two most important overland lines of communication, the Carcassonne Gap and the Rhone valley. As a result Army Group G had to assign an increasingly large number of tactical units to keep the gap open, and had to take even more drastic steps against FFI units threatening the upper Rhone valley.

One FFI force even established an open resistance government in the rugged uplands known as the Vercors, southwest of Grenoble, and marshaled a standing army of some 6,000 armed men to defend it. Coming out of the mountains to harass German traffic along the Rhone valley, these FFI forces, acting in concert with other guerrillas north of Lyon and in the Massif Central west of the Rhone, threatened to block the river valley. Alarmed by this threat, the Germans moved against the FFI concentration in late July with a force that included approximately thirteen battalions of infantry, a parachute battalion, a tank battalion, and supporting artillery. In the ensuing action, and in related expeditions north of Lyon and into the Massif Central, the Germans secured the Rhone valley, although they were unable to destroy the highly mobile French guerrillas. On the contrary, Army Group G soon found that its focus on the Rhone valley area only made it possible for the FFI to ignite countless brush fires throughout the rest of the region.

Sabotage rapidly increased far beyond the capacity of Army Group G to halt or control it, or even to keep up with the growing repair and reconstruction tasks. For example, between 1 and 15 August, the FFI cut rail lines in the Carcassonne Gap and Rhone valley over forty times and, during the same period, destroyed or severely damaged thirty-two railroad and highway bridges in southern France, most of them east of the Rhone. The FFI also established an almost daily schedule for cutting both underground and overhead telephone and telegraph lines; after 6 August Army Group G's telephone, telegraph, and teletype communications with its forces on the Atlantic coast and with OB West were, at best, sporadic. Because of interference from the mountains of southern France, radio proved an ineffective substitute, and Army Group G often found it easier to maintain wireless communication with Berlin than with OB West near Paris.


Meanwhile, the FFI had become so aggressive that Army Group G was able to move only large, well-protected convoys along the highways and railroads of southern France, and had to increase the number of guards at supply dumps, bridges, and headquarters installations. By 7 August the situation had reached the point where General Blaskowitz, commanding Army Group G, reported that the FFI no longer constituted a mere terrorist movement in southern France, but had evolved into an organized army at his rear. By 15 August the FFI had virtual control over southern France except for the Carcassonne Gap, the Rhone valley, and narrow strips along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. Although lacking the strength to stand up to the larger conventional German forces, the FFI severely limited the mobility of Army Group G.

Air and Naval Operations

While the FFI accelerated its activities, Mediterranean Allied Air Forces (MAAF) began a widespread air interdiction campaign against the German land communications networks, followed by concentrated attacks against specific targets in the coastal areas.2 By 15 August the MAAF had destroyed almost all important rail and highway bridges over the Rhone, Durance, and Var rivers, leaving intact only two or three highway bridges that were incapable of bearing heavy military traffic. From 10 August to 0550 on D-day, MAAF flew some 5,400 sorties and dropped over 6,400 tons of bombs on German coastal defenses from Sete to Genoa. Beginning at 0550 on D-day, MAAF planes flew 900 fighter-bomber and 385 medium- and heavy-bomber strikes against German positions in Seventh Army's assault area. Danger to Western Naval Task Force (WNTF) vessels close to shore somewhat curtailed the pre-H-hour air strikes in the area of the 36th and 45th Infantry Divisions' assault beaches, for low overcasts that extended out to sea obscured both the beaches and the offshore shipping. Therefore, although the air interdiction effort proved highly successful, the air attacks against German coastal artillery emplacements were less effective.

The results of the naval bombardment were also mixed. Before 0730, spots of low overcast, combined with smoke and dust raised by the air bombardment, forced naval gunships to resort to unobserved fire at many points. After 0730 visual conditions improved, and the support ships were able to move shoreward, concentrating observed fire against the landing beaches. At 0750 naval fire shifted to the flanks of the beaches, thereby helping to isolate the individual landing areas. Combined with air bombardment, the final naval shelling was generally effective in neutralizing the major beach defenses and in destroying underwater and beach obstacles or cutting paths through these obstacles. On the other hand, neither air nor naval bombardments detonated most beach-laid mines or mines laid in shallow water just offshore. WNTF ocean minesweepers began operations about 0300 on D-day, but


found no mines in the deep waters off the assault beaches or off the Hyeres Islands. Shallow-water minesweepers, operating closer to the beaches, cleared only a few mines and were unable to sweep the last 100 yards to the shoreline.

Guide boats that marked the transport assembly and unloading areas began taking station offshore about 0300, followed shortly by ships and landing craft bearing VI Corps assault units. Meanwhile, transport planes carrying the 1st Airborne Task Force had long since taken off from airfields near Rome and were winging their way toward the Le Muy drop zones; subsidiary operations of the 1st Special Service Force and French commandos had been under way for nearly three hours.

Rangers and Commandos

Task Force 86, with troops of the 1st Special Service Force and the French African Commando Group aboard, left Corsica on the morning of 14 August and hove to about five miles southeast of Levant island shortly after 2200.3 At 2300 1st Special Service Force troops began disembarking from APDs and LSIs into rubber assault boats, which LCAs and LCPRs then towed shoreward. Shortly after midnight the leading waves, carrying scouts and security detachments to serve as guides for the main echelons, started toward the islands. Cutting their tows 750 to 1,000 yards offshore, these detachments landed on Levant and Port Cros just after 0030, and the main assault waves arrived one hour later.

The 1st Regiment, 1st Special Service Force, went ashore near the northeast corner of Port Cros, while the 2d and 3d Regiments made their assault along the eastern shore of Levant. Despite the fact that the small garrisons on both islands expected an attack, the Germans offered no opposition to the landings, and tactical surprise was complete. In both cases the American rangers had deliberately landed under broken, rocky cliffs rising vertically forty to fifty feet above the water, which apparently the German defenders had seen no reason to secure.

Landing on Levant to the 2d Regiment's right, the 3d Regiment immediately swung northeast to take out a battery of German artillery emplaced at the island's northeast corner. Clearing its area of responsibility before 0630, the 3d Regiment found only cleverly camouflaged dummy artillery pieces. Meanwhile, the 2d Regiment had struck southwest, discovering German resistance centered in ruined fortifications and monastery buildings in the west-central section of the island. Most of the Germans surrendered during 15 August, and all fighting was over on Levant by 2030 that evening. The task had cost the 1st Special Service Force about 10 men killed and 65 wounded, for approximately 25 German soldiers killed and 110 captured.

On Port Cros, also scheduled to fall on D-day, operations did not go according to plan. Initially the 1st Regiment encountered little opposition


and by 0630 had secured the eastern quarter of the island. But the German garrison withdrew to prepared positions in thick-walled old forts and in an old chateau at the island's northwest corner. Infantry assaults against the structures proved useless and air and naval fire support ineffective--the 8-inch shells fired by the heavy cruiser USS Augusta during the afternoon simply bounced off the walls, and the rockets and light bombs that MAAF planes directed against the forts early on the 17th proved equally innocuous. Finally, late on the morning of the 17th, twelve rounds from the 15-inch guns of the British battleship HMS Ramillies convinced the Germans that further resistance was futile. The capture of Port Cros cost the 1st Special Service Force 5 men killed and 10 wounded, while the Germans lost 10 killed and 105 captured.

At Cape Negre the French African Commando Group encountered considerably more difficulty gaining the shore than the American rangers.4 The vessels carrying the French force broke off from the rest of Task Force 86 at 2155 on the 14th and started the commandos shoreward about 2230. Plans called for two LCAs to land some sixty commandos on a rocky, cliff-faced beach at the southeastern corner of Cape Negre at 0045. Meanwhile, a lone scout was to go ashore to mark landing sites for the main body at Rayol Beach, two miles east of Cape Negre; at 0050 two ten-man parties would follow to secure the rocky points off both flanks of Rayol Beach, and at 0100 the main force would land.

Chance and human error quickly upset these elaborate plans. A light westerly current pushed the leading Cape Negre craft off course, while a low haze made it impossible for coxswains to identify landmarks. The LCAs that followed also drifted to the west, with the result that all of the groups ended up landing a mile or so west of their objectives. But despite--or perhaps because of--the mixups, the commandos had a surprisingly easy time once ashore; several of the scattered teams caught the Germans completely unawares. The commandos on Cape Negre quickly overran some artillery emplacements,5 cleared five or six pillboxes or bunkers, and by daylight had established a strong roadblock on the coastal highway at the inland base of the cape, turning back a German counterattack at 1100. Meanwhile, those landing to the east of Cape Negre cleared the Rayol Beach area and established a second block on the coastal road. About



1300, troops of the 7th Infantry, 3d Division, reinforced the commandos at the roadblock.

In the meantime a third group of commandos had struck out north of the beach toward the town of La Mole, over three miles inland. Scattered German troops offered some resistance along the way, but by 1215 the commandos had cleared the town and had captured a battery of artillery emplaced on high ground nearby. Elements of the 7th Infantry reached La Mole shortly after 1630.

On the far right (northeastern) flank of the Seventh Army's assault area, the attempt by the French Naval Assault Group to complete the isolation of the main beaches encountered severe difficulties.6 Carried forward from Corsica aboard PT boats, the sixty-seven men of the French Naval Assault Group started ashore from rubber assault boats about 0140, disembarking on a rocky shore at Deux Freres Point, a mile south of Theoule-sur-Mer. But as the naval troops started inland toward the coastal road, a quarter-mile away, they walked into an extensive minefield only recently emplaced. The first detonation caused several casualties


and alerted the Germans; at daylight, still trapped in the minefield, the French group was forced to surrender.7 Nevertheless, although the naval soldiers had failed to establish a blocking position along the coastal road, their activities, along with those at Cape Negre, diverted German attention away from the main landing area.

The 1st Airborne Task Force

The paratroopers of the 1st Airborne Task Force had mixed success, and their assault was accompanied by the initial confusion that characterized most Allied airborne efforts during the war.8 Trouble began as the leading troop carrier aircraft came in over the coast of southern France and prepared to drop pathfinder teams that would mark the drop zones for the main force of paratroopers. The pilots found the area around Le Muy completely obscured by ground fog up to 800 feet thick, forcing them to drop the teams using only rough navigational estimates. Such dead reckoning inevitably led to error and was compounded when some planes went farther off course while attempting to find breaks in the inland fog. In the end, of the nine pathfinder teams that started dropping about 0330 on 15 August, only three, all from the British 2d Independent Parachute Brigade, landed in their proper drop zones. Two American teams landed on the northern slopes of the Esterel, thirteen miles east of Le Muy; another dropped into hill country eight miles east of the town; and three more, which landed closer to Le Muy, were unable to orient themselves on the ground until dawn.

The lack of pathfinders and the continued poor visibility over the drop zone severely hampered the main airborne assault. The pilots ferrying the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion and the 463d Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, the first sizable American units to drop, found no signals from the ground to guide them to the proper zone, which was centered in broken, partially wooded terrain about two miles southeast of Le Muy. Again using blind navigation, one group of aircraft of the 509th's serials sent two companies of parachute infantry and two batteries of artillery groundward over the correct drop zone at 0430. A second group of planes, however, strayed off course and dropped one infantry company and two artillery batteries into the hills south of St. Tropez, nearly fifteen miles southeast of Le Muy. In toto, only about half the 509th's battalion combat team landed in or close to its proper drop zone.

As the night wore on, the confusion grew worse. None of the troopers of the 517th Parachute regimental combat team landed on their assigned drop zones, which were centered on a


flat, cultivated area over two miles west of Le Muy. Exiting from their planes about 0435, most of the soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 517th Infantry, were scattered from Trans-en-Provence, four miles northwest of Le Muy, to Lorgues, six miles farther west. Much of the regiment's 2d Battalion landed one or two miles northwest of Le Muy in the vicinity of La Motte, but about a third of the battalion's paratroopers found themselves on rising ground east and northeast of the town. The 3d Battalion of the 517th dropped along an east-west line almost six miles long and about twelve to fourteen miles northeast of Le Muy, while approximately a battery of the regiment's 460th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion landed in rising ground just northwest of Frejus, some twelve miles southeast of its assigned drop zone. Still others were blown far and wide in ones and twos and, outside of a few that landed in the ocean, many had difficulty later reconstructing exactly where they had first touched down.

With two of its three pathfinder teams operating their ground radar sets to mark the drop zones, the British 2d Independent Parachute Brigade did a little better. Starting the assault about 0450, half of the 4th Parachute Battalion, one company of the 5th Parachute Battalion, and the bulk of the 6th Parachute Battalion, totaling something less than two-thirds of the brigade, landed in correct drop zones. Most of the remaining paratroopers were scattered over a wide area roughly nine miles northeast and northwest of Le Muy.

Once on the ground the paratroopers tried to regroup as quickly as possible. Most of the 1st and 2d Battalions, 517th Parachute Infantry, managed to reach their assigned assembly areas shortly after dawn on 15 August, and the British troops who had landed near Callas marched to their proper area later in the morning. But the bulk of the American and British troopers who had landed outside of the immediate Le Muy area were unable to join their parent units until D plus 1, and the 1st Airborne Task Force did not collect the last scattered elements of the parachute drop until D plus 5. A later count revealed that less than 40 percent of the paratroopers of the predawn lifts landed in the assigned drop zones, and by 0600, as dawn arrived, only about 60 percent of the men of the first parachute lifts had been assembled in the Le Muy area.9

Follow-up parachute and glider landings were scheduled to start at 0815 on 15 August, when gliders were to bring in artillery and antitank units of the 2d Independent Parachute Brigade. But fog still blanketed the landing areas north of Le Muy when the planes towing the brigade's gliders arrived. The aircraft, without cutting their tows, thereupon turned back to their Rome area airfields; ultimately they returned to release the gliders in the Le Muy area about 1800. The landings of other gliders carrying elements of the 1st Airborne Task Force headquarters and support troops were delayed about an hour, and did not start until about 0930. The 1st Battalion,



551st Parachute Infantry, jumped without incident into the 517th regiment's drop zone beginning at 1810, as planned, while the 550th Infantry Airborne Battalion came in via gliders at 1830, also on schedule. Other units that came in by glider late in the day--such as the 602d Glider Field Artillery Battalion--likewise landed on or near schedule.

The Germans had planted anti-glider obstacles throughout much of the Le Muy area, mostly using stakes about twelve feet tall and six inches thick, dug at least two feet into the ground. In some cases these sticks, deliberately sunk shallow and loose by French workers, served mainly as breaking power for the gliders, but in most instances the stakes snapped off the gliders' wings, caused ground loops, and otherwise made a shambles of the glider landing zones. More trouble stemmed from the fact that the first gliders to arrive set down in the best and clearest areas instead of in their assigned zones; as later groups arrived, they found the best spots already packed with grounded gliders, thus forcing the pilots to select less desirable, rougher areas. In the end, only 50 of some 400 gliders used in the airborne operation were salvageable. Fortunately, damage to cargo and passengers was minimal--only about 80 incapacitating casualties among the paratroopers and about 150 among the troops who came in by glider, not counting 16 glider pilots killed and 37 injured.


The total of about 230 jump and glider casualties represented only 2.5 percent of the nearly 9,000 airborne troops who arrived in southern France on D-day. Thus by 1900 on the 15th, D-day evening, about 90 percent of the troops and equipment borne by gliders were ready for action.

Fortunately for the paratroopers who landed early, German resistance was light, and, except in Le Muy proper, the troopers experienced only a few minor skirmishes as they moved to assembly areas and objectives. By the time German reinforcements began to trickle in late in the day, the paratroopers had secured high ground along both sides of the Argens River east of Le Muy, had occupied hills overlooking the Toulon-St. Raphael corridor in the vicinity of Les Arcs, five miles west of Le Muy, and had cleared several small towns of German troops. A formal juncture with the main ground forces began that night about 2030 when troops of the 509th Parachute Battalion met a patrol from the 45th Division's reconnaissance troop.

Le Muy itself remained in German hands for the time being. The commander of the 2d Independent Parachute Brigade judged that the scattered drop, together with the initial failure of the gliders to land his artillery and antitank weapons, left him insufficient strength to launch an attack against what appeared to be a strongly defended town. However, except for the seizure of Le Muy, the 1st Airborne Task Force had executed its D-day missions, establishing strong blocking positions along the Argens valley and further isolating the beach area. The scattered parachute drop had not appreciably affected the 1st Airborne Task Force's operations and may, on the contrary, have created diversions that helped confuse the German reaction to both the airborne and amphibious assaults.

Complementing the air, naval, guerrilla, commando, and parachute operations was a series of widespread deception efforts associated with almost every aspect of ANVIL. For example, in the weeks immediately preceding the invasion, the OSS and FFI had established dummy broadcast circuits and inserted an ever-increasing stream of false messages into their radio nets to mislead any German listeners regarding the focus of the Allied intelligence-gathering effort, thereby concealing the general landing area. The air attacks that were spread out along the coasts of southern France and northwestern Italy served the same purpose. On the eve of D-day, the Allies also arranged for the appearance of dummy, booby-trapped paratroopers, air-released strips of tin foil, and paraded a small boat flotilla past Marseille to simulate an invasion. To the east, another mock invasion fleet by U.S. Navy PT boats and other small craft led by Lt. Cmdr. Douglas E. Fairbanks (USNR), a well-known American cinema star, steered past Genoa and caused a ruckus near Cannes. However, although Radio Berlin later announced that the German garrison at Marseille had repulsed a major Allied invasion, neither the German radar operators nor the German commanders were taken in by these last-minute ruses.10


The First German Reactions

For the Germans, the first confirmation that a major Allied assault was imminent came about 2330 on 14 August, when ships of the Western Naval Task Force bombarded shore installations in the Marseille area, and MAAF planes began dropping dummy parachutists in the same region.11 Nineteenth Army staff officers first thought that the main Allied assault might come over beaches in the vicinity of Marseille, but the diversionary operations deceived the Germans for less than an hour. Next, reports filtered into the Nineteenth Army headquarters that attempted Allied landings at Cape Negre and on the Hyeres Islands had been repulsed. However, not until 0600 on the 15th did coastal defense units report that Allied troops were actually ashore on the mainland, and even these messages noted only that German forces were containing assault forces at Cape Negre.12

German intelligence regarding the airborne assault was not much better. News of the approach of troop carrier aircraft reached Nineteenth Army headquarters at Avignon and Army Group G at Toulouse about 0430 on the 15th from OB Southwest in Italy, and preliminary reports concerning parachute drops near Le Muy began arriving at Avignon around 0600. Meanwhile, both wire and radio communications began breaking down throughout the Nineteenth Army's area, and General Wiese, the army commander, continued to receive most of his information about the airborne operation through OB Southwest channels. Not until nearly 1030 on D-day did Wiese obtain local confirmation of the air drop.

One major reason for the delay was that the 1st Airborne Task Force had, as an unexpected consequence of its scattered drop, isolated General Neuling's LXII Corps headquarters at Draguignan, seven miles northwest of Le Muy, and the paratroopers had cut all wire communications within sight. As a result, Neuling soon lost contact with both Nineteenth Army and his two infantry divisions, although apparently he was able to direct the 148th Infantry Division to start its reserves toward Le Muy before his headquarters was completely cut off. Had Neuling carried out the Nineteenth Army's orders of 13 August to move the division's reserves into the Argens valley between Le Muy and St. Raphael, the task of the airborne force might have been much tougher.

Communications were much the same at Army Group G headquarters. Shortly after 0800 on the 15th the telephone lines between Army Group G at Toulouse and Nineteenth Army at Avignon went out, probably as the result of FFI sabotage. Radio communications between the two headquarters were also unsatisfactory during the day, and most of the information that General Blaskowitz, commanding Army Group G, obtained on the 15th


actually came from OB West headquarters near Paris, relayed there from the coastal area through German naval communications.

Out of touch with both Army Group G and the LXII Corps, General Wiese of Nineteenth Army had to act quickly and independently. Before the sun was well up, he had decided that the main threat lay in the Le Muy-St. Raphael region. The Allied airhead at Le Muy would make it relatively easy for Allied ground units to push inland from likely assault beaches in the Frejus-St. Raphael area, and would severely hamper his ability to assemble blocking or counterattacking forces in the Toulon-St. Raphael (Argens River) corridor just north of the Maures massif. Accordingly, Wiese's first priority was to find and assemble enough forces to clear the paratroopers from Le Muy as rapidly as possible.

Early on the morning of the 15th, Maj. Gen. Richard von Schwerin, commanding the 189th Infantry Division, had arrived at the 338th Infantry Division headquarters in Arles, on the Rhone River some twenty miles south of Avignon. A few days earlier, when the 338th Division was still scheduled to redeploy to Normandy, Nineteenth Army had directed the 189th Division to take over the 338th's sector astride the Rhone delta and to assume control of the 933d Grenadiers, 244th Infantry Division, which was moving into that portion of the 338th's sector extending from the Rhone east to the vicinity of Marseille. News of the invasion prompted OB West to cancel the 338th Division's redeployment northward, an action that enabled Wiese to hand von Schwerin the task of commanding the Nineteenth Army's counterattack forces. About 0900 von Schwerin moved to the LXXXV Corps command post about fifteen miles east of Avignon (and about seventy-five miles west of Le Muy), with orders to take command of a provisional division that Wiese was trying to assemble for the effort.

The provisional organization was to consist of the 189th Division headquarters (von Schwerin's original command); an understrength regimental combat team built around the 932d Grenadiers of the 244th Division; the headquarters of the 189th Division's 15th Grenadiers, controlling a total of three infantry battalions from the 189th and 338th Divisions; the 198th Division's 305th Grenadiers, which was still west of the Rhone; and, for artillery, the Luftwaffe's 18th Flak Regiment. Wiese directed von Schwerin to assemble and take charge of all or any of these units that were immediately available and mount a counterattack toward Le Muy from the vicinity of Vidauban, in the Toulon-St. Raphael corridor about eight miles southwest of Le Muy, in order to destroy the Allied airhead and to assist the presumably trapped LXII Corps forces at Draguignan.

The first unit von Schwerin could find was the regimental headquarters of the 15th Grenadiers, which had arrived from west of the Rhone during the morning. He quickly dispatched the unit sixty-five miles farther west to Le Luc, some six miles west of Vidauban, to act as an assembly control command. He then drove on to Vidauban himself, where he found a few service troops of the 242d Division as well as headquarters personnel of the 18th Flak Regiment, but no firing batteries.


Moving on to Le Luc, he found that the command elements of the 932d Grenadiers had arrived, but the unit's infantry battalions were still straggling eastward. It was now midafternoon and the only effective combat unit von Schwerin had under his command in the forward area was the assault company from his own division headquarters.

Meanwhile, events had moved so rapidly that the Nineteenth Army was about to change von Schwerin's orders. Wiese had learned that for the time being the LXII Corps headquarters was safe at Draguignan. However, his fear of a quick thrust up the Argens valley toward Le Muy by Allied troops now known to have landed near St. Raphael was becoming more pressing. Wiese thus directed von Schwerin to ignore Draguignan, and instead to push through the Allied paratroopers around Le Muy and then sweep down the Argens valley to turn back into the sea whatever Allied forces might have landed in the Frejus-St. Raphael region.

By the time von Schwerin had received and digested these orders, dusk was upon him, and the only additional combat strength that he had been able to assemble near Vidauban were parts of two battalions of the 932d Grenadiers. With little more than the equivalent of a disorganized regiment at his disposal, von Schwerin decided to ignore Wiese's new directive and continue preparing for an attack toward Le Muy and ultimately Draguignan to relieve the LXII Corps headquarters.

About the same time that von Schwerin started to go off on his own, the 148th Division, evidently having received new orders from either the LXII Corps or the Nineteenth Army, finally began moving a force equivalent to an infantry battalion (probably part of Regiment Kessler) toward Draguignan. Near Fayence, twelve miles northeast of Le Muy, the 148th Division's unit ran into trouble when it was halted by strong elements of the FFI, reinforced by British paratroopers who had landed in the Fayence area by mistake.

In the end, all German attempts on 15 August to mount a counterattack against the landing area failed and, for at least the first day, the Allied beaches appeared safe from outside interference. In the interior, the Allied deception operations, the air attacks against the Rhone bridges, and continued FFI operations against German communications made a quick response to the initial Allied air and sea assault difficult. Closer to the beachhead area, the French commandos and the American and British paratroopers had positioned themselves astride the main avenues of approach leading to the landing beaches from the west, effectively isolating the beachline. Meanwhile the main assault force, which had started ashore over the Cape Cavalaire-Antheor Cove beaches about 0800 on 15 August, was encountering unexpectedly weak opposition and had begun to penetrate inland faster and with greater strength than most planners had ever dared to hope.


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (5) * Next Chapter (7)


1. This section is based on Hamilton, "Southern France," ch. 8; and von Luttichau, "German Operations," ch. 6, "The French Resistance Movement." For detailed coverage of FFI activities throughout the southern France campaign, see Arthur L. Funk's forthcoming Special Operations and the Invasion of Southern France: SOE, OSS, and French Resistance Cooperation with the U.S. Seventh Army, January-September 1944.

2. This section is based on Hamilton, "Southern France," ch. 11; Seventh Army Rpt, I, 101-05; AAF III, pp. 420-26; and WF Rpt Southern France.

3. Material on the seizure of Levant and Port Cros is from TF 86 Action Rpt Southern France; 1st Sp Serv Force Unit Jnl, 14-17 Aug 44; and 1st Sp Serv Force After Action Rpt (AAR), Aug 44.

4. Material on the African Commando Group's operations is mainly from the following: Groupe de Commandos d'Afrique, Compte-Rendu d'Opns, 15- 24 Aug 44; Georges R. Bouvet, "Un Debarquement de Commandos (Nuit du 14 au 21 Aout 1944): l'Operation du Cap Negre," in Revue Militaire d'lnformation, No. 152 (April 1950), 15-20, and No. 153 (May 1950), 13-20; TF 86 Action Rpt Southern France; TG 86.3 Action Rpt Southern France; 7th Inf Jnl, 15 Aug 44; 7th Inf S-3 Rpt 1, 16 Aug 44; and Seventh Army Rpt, I, 108.

5. The commandos had landed expecting to find two to four coast defense guns in the 150-mm. to 167-mm. caliber range. But, as far as can be ascertained from official records and Bouvet's account, they actually found two empty emplacements that were probably alternate positions for 105-mm. artillery of the 242d Division. Jacques Robichon's The Second D-Day (New York: Walker, 1969) claims that three guns were destroyed at Cape Negre, one three-inch and two six-inch (pp. 112-13); but this is based primarily on interviews and differs from official records in many details.

6. Information on the French Naval Assault Group operations is from Groupe Naval d'Assault de Corse, Compte-Rendu d'Opns; TG 80.4 Opns Rpt Southern France; and 141st Inf Jnl, 16 Aug 44.

7. On 16 August, after elements of the 36th Infantry Division located some survivors, the roster of the French Naval Assault Group stood at 10 men killed, 17 wounded (and recovered), 28 missing (and presumed taken prisoner), and 12 unscathed (and recovered); two days later 6 of the missing turned up, leaving the total casualty list at 49 of the 67 who had landed.

8. This section is based on AAF III, pp. 427-31; G-3 HQ Rpt on A/B Opns in DRAGOON; and the official records of the 1st ABTF, the 517th Prcht RCT, the 509th Prcht Inf Bn, the 550th Gli Inf Bn, and the 1st Bn, 551st Prcht Inf. For a popular treatment, see William B. Breuer, Operation Dragoon: The Allied Invasion of the South of France (Novato, Calif.: Presidio, 1987).

9. The situation described here contrasts with the statement in AAF III, p. 428, that only 20 of the nearly 400 aircraft assigned to the parachute operation missed the proper drop zones by "an appreciable distance."

10. See Morison, The Invasion of France and Germany, pp. 249-50; Casey MS, pp. 2-3.

11. This section is based primarily on von Luttichau, "German Operations," chs. 9 and 10.

12. Times given in German sources are an hour later than those used in this text. In August the Germans operated on Zone A time, Central European Standard Time or British single daylight saving time, while the Allies operated on Zone B time, British double daylight saving time. The time difference sometimes causes confusion, but insofar as possible the text transliterates German times into the Allied clock.

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Jerry Holden for the HyperWar Foundation