Operations: Opson

Operation Dragoon (initially Operation Anvil) was the code name for the Allied invasion of Southern France on 15 August The operation was initially to take place in conjunction with Operation Overlord, the Allied landing in Normandy, but a lack of resources led to cancellation of the second landing.

Axis and Axis-aligned leaders. The Allied plan consisted of a three-division landing of US forces led by Major General Lucian Truscott to secure a bridgehead on the first day.

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Two German divisions the th and th were to retreat into the French-Italian Alps. The Allies were privy to the German plan through Ultra interception. The Germans started the withdrawal, while the motorized Allied forces broke out from their bridgeheads and pursued the German units from behind.

The rapid Allied advance posed a major threat for the Germans, who could not retreat fast enough. The Germans tried to establish a defense line at the Rhône to shield the withdrawal of several valuable units there. The US 45th and 3rd Divisions were pressing to the north-west with uncontested speed, undermining Wiese's plan for a new defense line. In the northeast, the German problems loomed as large.

The German troops in this area were exhausted and demoralized from the fighting against the FFI, so Taskforce Butler was also able to advance at high speed. Meanwhile, the disembarked French units started to head for Marseille and Toulon. The initial plan was to capture the ports in succession, but the unexpected Allied advance allowed the French commander de Lattre de Tassigny to attack both ports almost simultaneously.

He split his forces into two units, with Joseph de Goislard de Monsabert given the task to take Toulon from the east while Edgard de Larminat drove north to encircle the city at the flanks. The Germans had a significant force stationed in both cities, but they lacked the time to prepare for a determined defense.

At the same time, Monsabert swung around the city, enveloped it, and cut off the highway between Toulon and Marseille. The battle for Toulon cost the French 2, casualties, but they captured all remaining German forces, which lost their entire garrison of 18, men.

At the same time, Monsabert's attempt to liberate Marseille commenced. At first, a German force at Aubagne was defeated before French troops attacked the city directly. Unlike Toulon, the German commander at Marseille did not evacuate the civilian population, which became increasingly hostile. The resulting fighting with FFI troops further weakened the German units, which were exhausted from partisan fighting.

The Wehrmacht was not able to defend on a broad front and soon crumbled into numerous isolated strongpoints. The battle caused 1, French casualties, but 11, German troops were captured. While Marseille and Toulon were liberated, the German retreat continued. The 11th Panzer Division started several feint attacks toward Aix-en-Provence to discourage any further Allied advance.

Through the decryption of German radio communications, the Allied headquarters became aware of the German withdrawal plan.

They recognized the open German flank to the east of the Rhône at Grenoble due the retreat of the th Infantry Division towards the Alps. To seize this opportunity, Taskforce Butler was ordered to advance in this direction, paralleling the German evacuation effort and ultimately cutting them off further north.

While doing so, it fought some scattered German resistance, and finally, after turning left, found itself near Montélimar , a small city on the east bank of the Rhône River. This town lay directly on the German escape route.

Following Taskforce Butler was the 36th Infantry Division. However, after this speedy advance, the forward Allied forces suffered now from a serious lack of fuel and supplies, which made this task difficult. On 21 August, Taskforce Butler occupied the hills north of the town of Montélimar, according to revised orders from Truscott, as he considered it too weak to block the entire German force marching north.

From this position, Taskforce Butler fired on the evacuating German troops, while waiting for further reinforcements. The sudden appearance of this new threat shocked Wiese and the German command. The first of its units to arrive, together with several ad hoc Luftwaffe battle groups, were asked to deal with this new threat.

This hastily assembled force mounted an attack against Puy the same day, and the Germans were able to isolate Taskforce Butler from supplies. This success was, however, short-lived, and the Germans were pushed back soon after. The next day, the first units of the 36th Division arrived, reinforcing Taskforce Butler.

However, the Allied troops were still short of supplies and lacked enough men to directly attack the German escape route. During the next few days, more Allied men and supplies trickled in. For the rest of the day, only small skirmishes occurred between German and Allied forces. With his newly reorganised units, Dahlquist attempted a direct attack against Montélimar, which failed against the newly arrived German tank units.

The subsequent German counter-attack gained some ground against the hills occupied by the Allies. Its aim was to push the Americans from the hills north of Montélimar and to force the American artillery to move back out of range. This attack was, however, also a big failure. The Allies struck back and retook the hills north of Montélimar, and were able to establish a temporary roadblock on the German escape route.

Again, this Allied success also did not last long, as another attack led by Wietersheim reopened the passage at midnight.

At the same time, the Germans also reinforced their fighting force. Over the next few days, a stalemate emerged, with the Allies unable to block the retreat route and the Germans unable to clear the area of the Allied forces. However, on seeing the heavy terrain and shattered forces, he refrained and left the headquarters again.

The Germans suffered 2, battle casualties plus 8, POWs, while the Americans had 1, casualties. In the meantime, the Germans tried to continue with the evacuation through Lyon.

Behind their flight, the Germans destroyed bridges, hoping this would slow down the Allied advance. This again posed a threat to the German evacuation. At the same time, the main German units retreated through Lyon.

The next day, Lyon was liberated and 2, Germans were captured, but the rest had already continued their retreat north. Lyon celebrated for two days with the Americans.

As a result, the squadron was almost annihilated, and the German escape route was again open. The American units then retired to Marboz. Over the next two weeks, more skirmishes occurred and the Allies were not able to cut off a major portion of the German forces, but the Germans were also not able to maintain any stable defense line as planned. This, combined with the Allied need to reorganise their command structure as the forces from northern and southern France have now linked up, forced the Allies to stop their pursuit of the Germans, ending the offensive here.

During their fighting retreat up the Rhône, the Germans also withdrew their remaining forces from their garrisons in southwestern France. While they did not have to fight the Western Allies as much as the Germans had done at the Rhône, they still had to advance through French partisan-dominated terrain.

About 88, men moved north, leaving 20, in southwestern France behind. French resistance against the Nazi German occupation and the Vichy French puppet government increased drastically in the weeks leading up to the Dragoon landings. To fight the uprising, German units committed numerous atrocities and war crimes against French fighters, as well as civilians, in retaliatory acts.

The next day, that division murdered civilians in Oradour-sur-Glane during the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre and then proceeded to plunder and burn the town. German units also worked together with French collaborators to subdue partisans, for example against the partisan base at the Vercors massif , but with little lasting result.

Atrocities continued during the German retreat from southern France as German soldiers plundered and burned down towns. French civilians were brought before military courts and sentenced to death because of alleged partisan activities. These atrocities did not help to subdue the French uprising.

Instead, the German reprisals had the opposite effect and encouraged the French population to engage in partisan fighting. Operation Dragoon was considered a success by the Allied forces. It enabled them to liberate most of southern France in only four weeks, while inflicting heavy casualties on the German forces. The Allies had not anticipated the speed of their own advance, so could not adequately provide supplies and logistics to the leading Allied units.

A significant benefit of Operation Dragoon was the use of the port facilities in southern France, especially the large ports at Marseille and Toulon. After Operation Cobra and Operation Dragoon, the Allied advance slowed almost to a halt in September due to a critical lack of supplies.

The ports were quickly brought back into service, together with the railroad system in southern France. Thereafter, large quantities of supplies could be moved north to ease the supply situation.

In October, , tons of supplies were unloaded, which was more than one-third of the Allied cargo shipped to the Western front. Operation Dragoon also had political implications. Two days after the landing, the Germans proceeded to dismantle the French State. Members of the Sicherheitsdienst stormed French government institutions and moved French officials, including Philippe Pétain , to Belfort in Eastern France. Later, they were moved to Sigmaringen in Germany, where they acted as a government in exile.

With the collapse of the Vichy regime, troops of the Provisional Government of the French Republic re-established control of the French political institutions. Despite these successes, criticism of Dragoon was made by some Allied generals and contemporary commentators such as Bernard Montgomery , Arthur R.

Wilson , and Chester Wilmot in the aftermath, mostly because of its geostrategic implications. Dragoon was argued to have diverted highly experienced men and much-needed materiel away from the continuing fighting at the Western front that could have been used, instead, to bolster the Italian front or to hasten the advance towards the Rhine by the Overlord forces. The resulting loss of momentum gave Stalin on the Eastern Front a free hand to pursue his offensive efforts with more determination, allowing him to win the race towards Berlin and occupy the Balkans.

Dragoon, therefore, had consequences reaching into the Cold War. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Allied invasion of southern France on 15 August West European Campaign — Mediterranean and Middle East Theatre. Operation Dragoon order of battle.

Battle of Marseille and Battle of Toulon Eisenhower in War and Peace. The Second World War. The Allied Invasion of the South of France. Riviera To The Rhine. European Theater of Operations. The Liberation of Southern France Germany and the Second World War in German. First to the Rhine: Axis and Axis-aligned leaders. Bengal famine of Chinese famine of —43 Greek Famine of Dutch famine of —45 Vietnamese Famine of Retrieved from " https: Views Read Edit View history.

In other projects Wikimedia Commons. This page was last edited on 20 August , at By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The Operation Dragoon invasion fleet.

Date 15 August — 14 September German forces withdraw from most of Southern France to the Vosges region. Smolensk had been under German occupation since the first Battle of Smolensk in Despite an impressive German defense, the Red Army was able to stage several breakthroughs, liberating several major cities, including Smolensk and Roslavl.

As a result of this operation, the Red Army was able to start planning for the liberation of Belarus. However, the overall advance was quite modest and slow in the face of heavy German resistance, and the operation was therefore accomplished in three stages: Although playing a major military role in its own right, the Smolensk Operation was also important for its effect on the Battle of the Dnieper. It has been estimated that as many as 55 German divisions were committed to counter the Smolensk Operation — divisions which would have been critical to prevent Soviet troops from crossing the Dnieper in the south.

In the course of the operation, the Red Army also definitively drove back German forces from the Smolensk land bridge, historically the most important approach for a western attack on Moscow. By the end of the Battle of Kursk in July , Germany had lost all hope of regaining the initiative on the Eastern Front. Losses were considerable and the whole army was less effective than before, as many of its experienced soldiers were killed during the previous two years of fighting. This left the German army capable of only reacting to Soviet moves.

On the Soviet side, Joseph Stalin was determined to pursue the liberation of occupied territories from German control, a course of action that had its first major success at the end of with Operation Uranus , which led to the liberation of Stalingrad.

The Battle of the Dnieper was to achieve the liberation of Ukraine and push the southern part of the front towards the west. In order to weaken the German defenses even further, however, the Smolensk operation was staged simultaneously, in a move that would also draw German reserves north, thereby weakening the German defense on the southern part of the front.

Both operations were a part of the same strategic offensive plan, aiming to recover as much Soviet territory from German control as possible. This plan was enormous both in regard of its daring and of forces committed to it, was executed through several operations: The territory on which the offensive was to be staged was a slightly hilly plain covered with ravines and possessing significant areas of swamps and forests that restricted military movement.

In , the area was for the most part covered with pine and mixed forests and thick bushes. Numerous rivers also passed through the area, the most important of them being the Donets Basin , Western Dvina , Dnieper , Desna , Volost' and Ugra rivers.

Dnieper is by far the largest of them and strategically most important. The surrounding wide, swamp-like areas proved difficult to cross, especially for mechanized troops. Moreover, like many south-flowing rivers in Europe, the Dnieper's western bank, which was held by German troops, was higher and steeper than the eastern.

There were very few available bridges or ferries. For the Soviet troops, the offensive was further complicated by a lack of transport in the area in which the offensive was to be staged. The road network was not well developed and paved roads were rare. After rainfall, which was quite common during the Russian summer, most of them were turned into mud a phenomenon known as rasputitsa , greatly slowing down any advance of mechanized troops, and raising logistical issues as well.

The only major railroad axis available for Soviet troops was the Rzhev - Vyazma - Kirov line. The Wehrmacht controlled a much wider network of roads and railroads, centered on Smolensk and Roslavl. These two cities were important logistical centers, allowing quick supply and reinforcements for German troops. By far the most important railroads for German troops were the Smolensk- Bryansk axis and the Nevel - Orsha - Mogilev axis, linking German western troops with troops concentrated around Oryol.

In July the Soviet front line on this part of the Eastern Front was a concave with a re-entrant around Orel. The re-entrant exposed the Wehrmacht to flank attacks from the north but the offensive the main attack carried out Kalinin and Western Fronts would be quite difficult. As a result of the shape of the front, a significant number of divisions of Army Group Center were kept on this part of the front because of a quite legitimate fear of a major offensive in this sector.

The front had been more or less stable for four to five months and up to 18 months in several places before the battle, and possessed geographical features favorable for a strong defensive setup.

The density of firing points reached six or seven per kilometer 0. In some places, where heavy tank attacks were feared, the third set of trenches was in fact a solid antitank moat with a steep western side integrating artillery and machine guns emplacements.

The forward edge of the battle area was protected by three lines of barbed wire and a solid wall of minefields. It was protected with barbed wire, and also with minefields in some places where heavy tank offensives were anticipated. Between the outer and the second defense zones, a set of small firing points and garrisons was also created in order to slow down a Soviet advance should the Red Army break through the outer defense zone.

Behind the second zone, heavy guns were positioned. Finally, deep behind the front line, three or four more defense lines were located, whenever possible, on the western shore of a river.

For instance, important defense lines were set up on the western side of the Dnieper and Desna. Additionally, the main urban centers located on the defense line such as Yelnya , Dukhovshchina and Spas-Demensk were reinforced and fortified, preparing them for a potentially long fight.

Roads were mined and covered with antitank devices and firing points were installed in the most important and tallest buildings.

After a day of probing, the goal of which was to determine whether German troops would choose to withdraw or not from the first set of trenches, the offensive started on 7 August at Three armies were committed to this offensive: The attack quickly encountered heavy opposition and stalled. German troops attempted numerous counterattacks from their well-prepared defense positions, supported by tanks, assault guns, and the fire of heavy guns and mortars.

As Konstantin Rokossovsky recalls, "we literally had to tear ourselves through German lines, one by one". Despite violent Soviet attacks, it quickly became obvious that the three armies would not be able to get through the German lines.

Soviet commanders decided therefore to commit the 68th Army, kept in reserve, to battle. On the German side, three additional divisions 2nd Panzer Division , 36th Infantry Division , and 56th Infantry Division were sent to the front from the Oryol sector to try to stop the Soviet advance.

The attack resumed the following day with another attempt at a simultaneous breakthrough taking place further north, towards Yartzevo. Both attacks were stopped in their tracks by heavy German resistance.

In the following five days, Soviet troops slowly made their way through German defenses, repelling heavy counterattacks and sustaining heavy losses. Subsequent attacks by the armored and cavalry forces of the 6th Guards Cavalry Corps had no further effect and resulted in heavy casualties because of strong German defenses, leading to a stalemate. During the Spas-Demensk offensive operation Russian: The 5th Mechanized Corps, [14] relocated from Kirov and committed to battle in order to exploit the breakthrough, failed in its mission, mainly because a poorly organized anti-aircraft defense enabled Luftwaffe dive bombers to attack its Valentine tanks with some impunity.

The corps sustained heavy losses and had to pull away from combat. As on other parts of the front, the 39th Army and the 43rd Army encountered serious opposition. During the first day alone, Wehrmacht troops attempted 24 regimental -sized counterattacks.

By mid-August, Soviet operations all along the Smolensk front stabilized. The resulting stalemate, while not a defeat per se , was stinging for Soviet commanders, who provided several explanations for their failure to press forward. Antonov reported "We have to deal both with forests and swamps and with increasing resistance of enemy troops reinforced by divisions arriving from Bryansk region" [18] while Marshal Nikolai Voronov , formerly a Stavka member, analysed the stalemate in his memoirs, publishing what he saw as the eight primary causes: With all these factors considered, Voronov demanded that the 4th Tank Army and the 8th Artillery Corps be transferred from the Bryansk Front and instead committed to support the attack near Smolensk.

The stalemate was far from what had been desired by the Stavka, but it had at least one merit: Nevertheless, the Wehrmacht command was still reinforcing its troops around Smolensk and Roslavl , withdrawing several divisions from the Oryol region.

As a result, the two Soviet counteroffensives that followed the Kursk defensive operation 5—23 July proceeded relatively easily for the Red Army around Oryol, creating a large salient south of Smolensk and Bryansk. In this situation, the former attack axis, directed southwest towards Roslavl and Bryansk, became useless. The Stavka decided instead to shift the attack axis west to Yelnya and Smolensk.

The Yelnya-Dorogobuzh offensive operation was considered the "key" to Smolensk and Wehrmacht troops created a massive fortified defensive position around the city.