Allied Forces Invade Southern France through Operation Dragoon
The assault troops were formed of three American divisions of the VI Corps, reinforced with the French 5th Armoured Division, all under the command of Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.. The 3rd Infantry Division landed on the left at Alpha Beach (Cavalaire-sur-Mer), the 45th Infantry Division landed in the center at Delta Beach (Saint-Tropez), and the 36th Infantry Division landed on the right at Camel Beach (Saint-Raphaël). The 93rd Evac landed at Sainte-Maxime at H-6. At Cap Nègre, on the western flank of the main invasion, a large group of French commandos landed to destroy German artillery emplacements (Operation Romeo). These were supported by other French commando groups landing on both flanks, and by Rugby Force, a parachute assault in the LeMuy-Le Luc area by the 1st Airborne Task Force: British 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade, the U.S. 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team, and a composite U.S. parachute/glider regimental combat team formed from the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the glider-deployed 550th Airborne Infantry Battalion, and the 1st Battalion, 551st Parachute Infantry Regiment (Operation Dove). The 1st Special Service Force took two offshore islands to protect the beachhead (Operation Sitka). Operation Span, a deception plan, was carried out to shield the main invasion. Included in the invasion was the glider-carried 887th Airborne Engineer Aviation Company, which holds the distinction of being the only Airborne Engineer Aviation unit in the European Theater to carry out the mission for which it was trained – conducting a combat glider landing with engineer equipment.
Naval gunfire from Allied ships, including the French battleship Lorraine, British battleship HMS Ramillies, and the American battleships USS Texas, Nevada and Arkansas and a fleet of over 50 cruisers and destroyers supported the landings. Seven Allied escort carriers, along with land-based fighter planes from Corsica, provided air cover.
Over ninety-four thousand troops and eleven thousand vehicles were landed on the first day. A number of German troops had been diverted to fight the Allied forces in Northern France after Operation Overlord and a major attack by French resistance fighters, coordinated by Captain Aaron Bank of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), helped drive the remaining German forces back from the beachhead in advance of the landing. As a result, the Allied forces met little resistance as they moved inland. The quick success of this invasion, with a twenty-mile penetration in twenty-four hours, sparked a major uprising by resistance fighters in Paris.
Follow-up formations included U.S. VI Corps HQ, U.S. Seventh Army HQ, French Army B (later redesignated the French First Army) and French I and II Corps, as well as the 51st Evacuation Hospital
In May 1944, the Allied armies finally broke the winter stalemate on the Gustav Line in Italy (See Anzio and Monte Cassino). Afterward, they moved rapidly northward to capture Rome on 4 June. Only two days later, Operation Overlord put Allied armies ashore in Normandy, France. Allied plans for Normandy had originally included Operation Anvil, an amphibious assault against southern France on the same day as the Normandy invasion, to tie down German troops that might be used to defend against the cross-channel assault. But until Rome was captured, Mediterranean Theater of Operations forces were not available to attack southern France.