September 6th, 1943
- To say that the flak was dense would be a sweet euphemism, the pilots of the C-47s and DC-3s - and their mechanics, in front of the state of many machines, will approve with horror!
- Despite the flak, three regiments of the 82nd Airborne Division are dropped south of the Alpilles, guided by the Pathfinders in charge of marking the drop zones foreseen by the plans.
The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment jumps on the "Alabama" sector, immediately east of Arles. Its mission is to march on the town and to the banks of the Rhone River in order to prevent any crossing. In addition, it has to secure the Pionier abteilung of the 338. ID and neutralize one of the artillery battalions of the division, located a little further north.
The gliders of the 325th Glider Infantry Rgt land for the most part in the "Maryland" sector - a triangle Mouries-Eyguières-Salon. Their landing took place with less losses than initially as the Resistance had succeeded in informing Algiers early enough of the location of the mined and unmined areas, including two that they managed to clear of mines*. The local Resistance fighters who knew perfectly well the location of the real minefields (false Achtung Minen signs are numerous) recommended that airborne personnel with doubts should rely on the behavior of animals, especially bulls and cows, to recognize real minefields. The 325th GIR had to radiate towards Miramas and Salon and to take control of the roads in this sector until the crossing of the National 7.
Finally, the "Tennessee" sector, between Sénas and Mallemort, is the parachuting zone of the 507th PIR. The paratroopers have to hold the banks of the Durance river and above all prevent any incursion from the north. For that, the regiment received an additional supply of anti-tank weapons.
- Among the French, the drop zones are also given code names.
The 1st RCP and 6th RALP land at "Bordeaux", north of Berre l'Etang. Their mission: to fix the III/934 Infantry Rgt of the 244. ID and, if possible, to neutralize Marignane and its hydrobase.
The 2nd RCP of the 1st French DP land at "Vendredi", south of Venelles. The regiment has to lock the northern accesses to Aix-en-Provence and stand guard at the Durance.
In addition, it will try to fix as many troops as possible of the 244. ID stationed further south.
The "Girelle" parachute drop zone, around Gardanne, is for the 3rd RCP. The aim is to break through towards Septèmes les Vallons, at the limit of the northern districts of Marseille, by fixing the elements of the 932nd Rgt of the 244. ID.
Finally, the easternmost objective, named "Cathédrale", around Saint-Maximin, is entrusted to the ad-hoc Franco-Belgian regiment (as it was about airborne troops, it was difficult to speak of a "marching" regiment). This one will have the double mission to keep the French device flanked and to ensure access to Aubagne, while neutralizing if possible the artillery battalion stationed in the neighboring plain, in Trets.
Armee de l'Air Airspeed As-51 Horsa, Operation Dragon, September 1943
The U.S.-Canadian commando brigade, known as 1st Special Service Force (1st SSF), was assigned four special operations, grouped under the name Operation Partner. It earned the nickname "Devil's Brigade".
- With the few glider tugs still available (often old or decommissioned aircraft), the 1st SSF sends gliders to drop off the six companies of the 1st Rgt of thebrigade on two objectives.
The first three companies have to land east of Gignac-la-Nerthe to neutralize the 698 artillery battery, whose two 380mm guns were nothing less than replacements for the Bismarck
- this is Operation Pumpkin. The inhabitants of Gignac, who, like some others, claimed the title of first liberated village, thought they were dealing with Frenchmen "with a northern accent". In fact, they were Canadians, some of whom were Quebecers.
The other three companies were American and commanded by Colonel Marshall, head of the 1st SSF Rgt. Their objective was the road bridge over the canal from Arles to Port-de-Bouc, at Fos-sur-Mer - Operation Preacher. The head of the 1st SSF, Colonel Frederick, told Marshall: "You'll hold on until you're relieved
". Taking advantage of the surprise, two teams that fell a little beyond the objective neutralized the barracks of position 87, located about 1,500 m to the west; the German garrison, completely caught off guard, suffers heavy losses while the PaK-38 under casemate taking the beach in enfilade was carefully sabotaged before the commandos reached the main objective. There, the fighting does not stop at the bridge deck, since the small bunkers of position 88 were eliminated. The Rangers only have to clear the ground to land.
The bridge still exists: it has been classified as a historical monument under the name of Spearhead Bridge (after the badge of the 1st SSF). In 1968, the movie The Devil's Brigade
will tell the story of Operations and Preacher and the brigade's Provence campaign. The dead during these actions are buried in the Arles cemetery, with their paratroopers comrades of the 82nd Airborne.
- But the 2nd Rgt of the 1st SSF was charged with another mission, of a very different kind! Its men silently disembark small rowing boats in the Bonnieux area, between Laveron and Les Arnettes - it is Operation Buccaneer. They are to neutralize the Germans covering this sector, who will not be able to report on what is happening right under their noses, in the Bay of Fos and along the Côte Bleue.
- Finally, elements of the 3rd Rgt of the 1st SSF neutralize the Planier lighthouse, off the coast of Marseille: this is the beginning of Operation Flapper.
During this time, underwater, demining divers from Underwater Demolition Team 1 and 2, launched by the APD USS Tattnall
, are discreetly carrying out their demining mission. Before dawn, they are followed by several small minesweepers (YMS) from the US Navy, in charge of widening the breaches of the minefield covering the area.
At the same time, a similar operation took place between the islands of Porquerolles and Port-Cros. There, Franco-British clearance divers are launched by the APD MN Goumier
and the ex-minesweeper HMS Saltburn
. They are followed by the 630-tons Commandant Bory, Commandant Delage, La Capricieuse
and La Gracieuse
. At dawn, the minesweepers are fired upon from the islands - but without consequence, as the gunners based there had not yet recovered from the air raids of the past month.
The passages in the minefields are marked by four small X-crafts, mini-submarines of the Royal Navy**. Two of them, lent to the French Navy, have French crews. The elements involved in the Franco-British submarine operation (divers and submarines) are commanded by Commander Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
- Even if most of the paratroopers and gliders have arrived safely, the night caused a certain dispersion. This disorganized the allied airlift but also sews chaos amongst the Germans, especially as the Resistance had done its work by systematically sabotaging the telephone network.
Thus, in the Alabama sector (Arles), several sticks fall west of the Rhône and south of Beaucaire, but they are to wage a war of ambushes which further increases the confusion in the German leadership, with some reports of parachute drops as far as Nîmes or Lunel. To the east of the river, the men of the 504th PIR gradually regroup and the first teams begin to reach the banks of the Rhône south of Arles and the suburbs of the city, not without catching some patrols.
A little further east, some stray gliders of the 325th GIR, in charge of the Maryland sector, land as far as Saint-Martin de Crau, at the limit of the 504th PIR zone. The village is taken in the process, taking advantage of the surprise of the weak garrison that occupied it. Other stray troops land south of Eyguières, where the men eventually come across paratroopers from the 507th, who also fell far from their area. A reconnaissance jeep even arrives in sight of Salon de Provence. Unfortunately, the 325th GIR suffered significant losses, some gliders being damaged during landing and some landing in mined areas.
The 507th PIR (Tennessee sector) is also somewhat scattered. Some paratroopers fell east ofMallemort and others directly on the massif dominating Sénas, a few hundred meters from Notre-Dame de Beauregard, the abbey which faces the Luberon and dominates the whole valley. They were thus, without wanting it, ideally placed to seize the position that the Germans had set up there.
The scourge of dispersion also strikes the teams of the 1st Parachute Division. Thus, the 1st RCP sees teams from "Bordeaux" land as far as Saint Chamas or fall into the Etang de Berre - the loss of the equipment is then the least of the consequences. Berre l'Etang is reached quickly, although the Kriegsmarine personnel who are lodged there furiously defend the perimeter of the small port. Better trained for this kind of fight, the French end up taking the advantage, just like in the fighting that takes place for the control of Rognac.
The men of the III/934. IR of the 244. ID, stationed in this sector, do not know where to turn due to the surprise effect, the impossibility to contact the command, the landings to the south of Marignane and rumors of an uprising in Marseille.
The "Vendredi" mission (Venelles) also suffers from dispersion, since some teams fell as far away as Eguilles and Saint-Cannat. This dispersion favors the mission since, at the cost of various clashes, the roads north of Aix-en-Provence are cut off: the sub-prefecture of the Bouches-du-Rhône is only accessible from the south or, to the east, by the road to Vauvenargues which goes up towards the Basses-Alpes.
The parachuting of "Girelle" takes place in a satisfactory way near Gardanne, although some teams drift towards Gréasque and into the Etoile massif, beyond the Pilon du Roi. The latter are temporarily out of the picture, but have a splendid view on the Phocaean city; later, they will be the first to penetrate there by going down by Plan de Cuques and la Valentine. In the meantime, the bulk of the 3rd RCP vigorously engages the I/932 IR of the 244. ID for the possession of Bouc Bel-Air and Simiane.
US Air Force Waco CG-4A, Operation Dragon, September 1943
On the side of the commandos of the 1st SSF, the iron is beaten while it is hot.
The Canadians of the Pumpkin mission come across a vacuum: the 380s on rails are absent (the information about their evacuation in the Drôme was not passed on to the allied headquarters). Failing that, they fall back a little further on the 152 mm battery, which they neutralize before moving into the German fortifications. From there, they control the crossroads between Vitrolles, Les Pennes-Mirabeau and Martigues.
In the Fos sector, the Americans hold the road bridge firmly. They repel a first German counter-attack, led by less than one company and coming from Fos.
- Finally, the Flapper mission continues: the bulk of the 3rd Rgt of the 1st SSF lands discreetly on the island of Frioul.
The French also launch several commando raids.
In the Cassis sector, the 1st Groupement de Choc (General Gambiez***) has to block any reinforcement coming from Marseille and fix the defenses of the small town (mission Bouchon). Gambiez sends three companies to land in gliders on the Carpiagne plateau to block La Gineste and the descent to Cassis, while the rest of the regiment, in an attack that the Americans, who are in the front row, still call it an "incredible attack", land in the Essaidon, Oule, En Vau and Port Pin creeks. The two battalions neutralize the defenders of the beaches and march on Cassis to join up with theairborne troops.
Operation Montaigne, led by the 3rd Shock (Colonel Malraux), aims at the island of Les Embiez and Cap Sicié, in order to neutralize the defenses, notably the Peyras battery, and to fix the battalion of the 918. IR of the 242. ID stationed further north. This grouping has only two battalions, but it has the experience of Operation Aiglon - the recapture of the island of Elba, with the Italians as co-belligerents.
Finally, Operation Violette is entrusted to the two available battalions of the 113th RI (the third was sent with the Belgians to Saint-Maximin). The aim is to neutralize the defenses and especially the heavy artillery positioned in the sectors of Cap Bénat, Lavandou and Bormes-les-Mimosas.
- Street fighting continues in Arles between the men of the 338. Pionier Abt and the paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne (Alabama). Outside the city, the ambush warfare continues, but the advantage remains with the Americans because the commander of the area refuses to hunt down the paratroopers - he could not afford to weaken the defense of the city, which is a key crossing point.
In the Maryland sector, the men of 325. GIR are beginning to be firmly established, as the rallies take place, on the various crossroads to be controlled. The Salon garrison tries to send out patrols, but they are regularly ambushed. Its leader knows he is surrounded on three sides, and only the patrols sent to Aix have not yet reported any enemy. Moreover, an American mortar team from Grans succeeds in setting fire to several aircraft on the runway of the former air force school.
Further north, the Tennessee position begins to be well established along the Durance river. The contact is re-established with the lost soldiers, some of whom managed to seize the observatory of Notre-Dame de Beauregard, which overlooks the roads to Cavaillon.
In the Bordeaux sector, despite the night and the disorganization of the regiment, the perimeter of the 1st RCP expands. The fighting and skirmishes have now passed Rognac and are moving towards Vitrolles. In this tight compartment of land, the confrontation now resembles a foil duel; on each side, patrols multiply the ambushes to locate the enemy or to surround him - the Germans try to turn the French through the Arbois massif.
The Vendredi sector, between Aix and Venelles, is relatively quiet, apart from the probes that the 2nd Btn of the 934. IR launches in order to recognize the 2nd RCP's position. This relative tranquility allows the parachute hunters to set up their anti-tank device towards the north, along the Durance river; they reach Meyrargues and Le Puy Sainte-Réparade.
Contacts with the local Resistance leader, Maurice Plantier, are established; Plantier offers to provide guides to locate and turn the enemy's position. On the German side, the chief of the 934. IR, although cut off from his superiors, interprets the reports he received as a major airborne operation, which could only mean one thing: a landing is more than likely. He therefore takes the decision, instead of pursuing paratroopers who would eventually run out of ammunition anyway, to regroup his forces in Aix and prepare to move south.
The commander of the 3rd RCP sets up his headquarters in a school in Gardanne where, despite the night, he is joined by members of the Resistance covering the Marseille area. The instructions are to advance westward, the Girelle device begins to collide with the 1st Battalion of the 932. IR in the sectors of Simiane and Bouc Bel-Air.
In Saint-Maximin, the Cathedral sector is now firmly held by the Belgians and the men of the 113th.
Towards Fos, everything is calm, a calm preceding the storm, in the Preacher sector. The Germans must be regrouping, which does not bode well. The Canadians of Pumpkin, south of Marignane, repel the reconnaissance of the 2nd Btn of the 934. IR. The easy part of the job is over, they think, the next part is likely to be more complicated.
The Buccaneer mission, joined by new elements of the 2nd SSF Rgt, moves towards La Couronne and the Anse du Verdon to the east and Château-Ponteau to the north.
At sea, the fighting becomes more intense on the island of Frioul. The 3rd SSF Rgt (Flapper) has to reduce one by one the numerous small German pillboxes.
Things are moving quickly for Operation Bouchon: the radar installed on La Gineste is neutralized and a company is immediately sent to hold the pass on the border of the southern edge of Marseille. The Carpiagne camp, recently set up and where the Germans had planned to station a battalion, has not been a threat for several months now because of the treatment by the heavy bombers of the 15th Air Force during Operation Dragon Eggs; the III/933. IR has to return to its lodgings in Marseille itself.
The companies that had landed in the calanques of l'Oule and l'Essaidon progress on the stony paths towards the plateau to make the connection with the airborne, catching a patrol and neutralizing some weakly defended positions on the way. The rest of the 1st Shock finishes the cleaning around En-Vau; it reaches the quarries from which the famous Cassis and Port-Miou stones are extracted.
For its part, the 3rd Choc fulfills its mission by neutralizing the artillery at Cap Sicié and set up as a hedgehog, waiting for the German reaction.
Finally, at the end of the French position, after furious fighting, the 113th Rgt neutralizes the three 120 pieces of the Marine Artillery Abteilung 682 and the 100 mm battery of Bormes les Mimosas. A company is to act as a flank guard by occupying the crossroads of the roads from the east, including the D98, while another company has to extend its perimeter.
- Street fighting continues in Arles, where the Americans are progressing. The engineers and young recruits of the 338. ID are now holding only a few blocks around the pier area. Alabama paratroopers even managed to cross the river in a canoe and join their unit with a very American opportunism. A little to the north, a team comes across a 105 mm battery of the 1st Abteilung of Artillerie-Rgt 338 and worked a spell on it. More importantly, the divisional HQ of the 338. ID, at the castle of Barbegal, is attacked.
In the Maryland sector, clashes are now taking place at the northern entrance to Miramas and at the western entrance to Salon. A Jeep reconnaissance even reaches the Nationale 7. Along the Durance, Colonel Millet, of the 507th PIR (Tennessee), thought he had gathered enough people to launch an operation to seize the Orgon constriction. The defenders are perfectly awake and are able to stand up to the Americans: it is clear that they could not rely on the surprise effect any longer, we will have to maneuver.
Near the coast, the men of the 1st SSF are not idle. Indeed, the road bridge of Fos is attacked on two axes by the 2nd Btn of the 338. ID, from the north and from the west along the canal. It takes more than half an hour of bitter fighting for the Germans to give up nearly a hundred of their own on the field.
The Canadians (Pumpkin) are not at their best: they are attacked by the battalion of the 934. IR coming from Les Pennes-Mirabeau, but they hold on thanks to a 20 mm AA captured on the position and turn against its former owners. There too, the Germans are forced to return to their starting positions.
Things also get lively west of the Côte Bleue (Buccaneer), with numerous skirmishes within the perimeter of the 2nd SSF Rgt take place. However, the latter keep the initiative for the moment, by eliminating numerous small bunkers taken from the rear on the route de la Couronne and especially by neutralizing the strongpoint of Château-Ponteau before withdrawing, without forgetting to sabotage the four 105s located there.
On the island of Frioul (Flapper), the fighting gradually dies down. The artillery pieces - those remaining operational after the last air raids - will no longer be a threat.
In the Bordeaux sector, the situation does not evolve much: fighting is still going on around Vitrolles and on the Arbois plateau; the mission to fix the 1st RCP continues. The airfield of Marignane is shelled by the guns of the 6th RALP, which had positioned several of its 75s on the other side of the pond and, from there, shelled the runways and the hydrobase.
In the Friday sector, reconnaissance reaches the northern districts of Aix-en-Provence, but report numerous clashes on the German perimeter. The defenders, shocked, take refuge in their shelters along the crossing points, using their MG-42s on anything that seems suspicious.
The news is better for the 3rd RCP (Girelle). Guided by the Resistance, it manages to overrun the enemy positions at Bouc Bel-Air and Simiane, which are now isolated.
With this action, the 932. IR is cut in two. The first teams report to have broken through to the Plan de Campagne plateau, south of Cabriès, but especially to the gates of Septèmes, which is bordering with Marseille, and in the back of the II/934. IR positioned at Pennes-Mirabeau (and also very busy with the Canadian commandos).
On the pass of Gineste (Bouchon), we are surprised not to have undergone any German reactio. Down below, in Marseille, the situation is chaotic: in addition to the agitation of a beginning of an insurrection (Operation Vipère), reports of fighting all around the city and, above all, the absence of the commander-in-chief of the garrison, General Gilbert, who had left for the Kriegspiel organized in the Vaucluse with his chief of staff. The reserves, consisting of the Sich. Rgt 5 and two other battalions, are therefore in a state of uncertainty.
On the plateau, the position of the airborne troops of the 1st Shock is strengthened, since they received reinforcements from the calanques. On the other side, the French commandos engage the fight in the city center of Cassis against the company of Panzerjägers that occupies it.
In the Montaigne sector (Cap Sicié), clashes increase between the 3rd Shock and the patrols sent by the 918. IR of the 242. ID.
At the end of the French position, the 113th Infantry Regiment completes its cleaning operations and its repositioning. Its first missions accomplished, the temptation is strong to push towards downtown and the port of Le Lavandou.
In Saint Maximin, when the Resistance learns of the existence of the 242. ID headquarters in the neighbouring village, Colonel Charlier, who commands the Belgian-French units, decides to launch a raid to neutralize it.
- The 504th PIR (Alabama) just struck two very hard blows against the 338. ID in the past hour. First, by holding most of Arles and especially, now, the piers, he cut the division in half: one half is stuck on the other side of the river. Moreover, the attack and capture of the castle of Barbegal has decapitated the unit.
Further east (Maryland), the fighting is now in Miramas and Salon. But it is especially around Orgon (Tennessee) that the hardest fighting takes place. The Germans resist a new attack by American paratroopers. For them, surrender is out of the question, although the small town is now completely surrounded, the abbey of Notre-Dame de Beauregard having been taken by parachutists.
On the coast, the Canadian commandos (Pumpkin) feverishly scan their perimeter, waiting for a new attack which does not come. Indeed, the news of enemy troops on their rear, in Plan de Campagne and Septèmes, decided the chief of the II/934. IR to gather his men and to reorient his position.
At the level of the road bridge of Fos, the men of operation Preacher undergo a new counter-attack of II/758. Grenadier Rgt of the 338. ID. The attack is again successfully repulsed. We are worried, on the American side, about the diminishing ammunition reserves and the increasing losses but on the other side, the German battalion is also out of breath: its commander decides to wait until daylight before trying again.
On the other side of the Gulf of Fos (Buccaneer), the I/758. Grenadier puts pressure on the 2nd regiment of the 1st SSF. The commandos are unable to cross the railroad, and even retreat near La Couronne. The Germans lock down the sector and reach to 500 meters of the Verdon cove.
In the French sector, near the pond of Berre (Bordeaux), the situation has stabilized. Everyone gauges and observed each other: the men of the 1st RCP have the advantage of dominating the plain from the Arbois plateau - but, due to a lack of manpower, they can neither exploit nor attempt to overrun.
Nothing to report north of Aix-en-Provence (Friday). The men of the 2nd RCP hold the area and stand guard at the Durance river, but the commander of the Aix square had formed the hedgehog and refuses to let himself be fixed by sending his men on a ghost hunt.
In the Girelle sector, the II/934. redeploys in the direction of Plan de Campagne, where the first clashes with the 3rd RCP are already taking place. With the help of the Resistance, the place of Simiane falls. One good news follows the other: contact is resumed with the stray soldiers who fell on the other side of the massif, towards Gréasque. The latter had liberated the village by eliminating the few feldgendarmes who were there and locked the D46 between Saint Savournin and Mimet.
In Cassis, the Panzerjägers of the 244. ID hold on with the energy of despair against the 1st Shock. The descent and the plateau of Gineste are controlled by the French and the roads linking the coastal town to the farms of Carnoux and Roquefort-la-Bedoule are now cut off.
In the Montaigne sector, Colonel Malraux's men resist in the Janas forest in front of the I/918. IR of the 242. ID. The night and the pine forest allows the 3rd Shock to launch attacks infiltrating the Germans' rear, which had the merit of making the latter very cautious! For the time being, the Var Corniche is solidly held.
Around Le Lavandou (Violette), the 2nd Battalion of the 113th Infantry Regiment makes progress and catches the enemy from behind, because the majority of the defenses of this village are turned towards the sea.
Finally, everything goes well for the Belgian-French ad-hoc regiment (Cathédrale). It is true that the sector of Saint-Maximin is considered rather quiet. As soon as the men will be returned from the coup de main against the HQ of the 242. ID, it will be necessary to send the jeeps to Saint-Zacharie and Auriol to close the northern access to Aubagne.
- While airborne troops and commandos were briefed shortly before take-off or the start of their mission, it was not until the first light of dawn that the loudspeakers of all the ships of the invasion fleet finally announced the Great Return.
For the Americans, it was the famous Eisenhower text.
Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!
You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months.
The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.
But this is the year 1943! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground.
Our Home Fronts have given us a superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!
I have full confidence in your devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!
Good Luck! And let us all beseech blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.
For the French, a simple translation of Eisenhower's agenda, initially envisaged, was quickly discarded. The text was adapted by General Frère:
Soldats, Marins et Aviateurs français de la Force Expéditionnaire alliée !
Vous êtes sur le point d’entamer l’étape décisive de la Grande Croisade de Libération de la Patrie, pour laquelle nous luttons depuis plus de trois ans. Les yeux du monde sont sur vous. Les espoirs et les prières des peuples épris de Liberté du monde entier vous soutiennent. Avec nos braves Alliés et nos frères d’armes sur tous les fronts, vous détruirez la machine de guerre allemande et la tyrannie nazie qui opprime les peuples d’Europe, afin de construire un monde libre et sûr pour nos enfants.
Votre tâche ne sera pas facile. Notre ennemi est bien entraîné, bien équipé et aguerri par les combats. Il luttera avec férocité.
Mais nous sommes en 1943 ! Bien des choses se sont passées depuis les victoires nazies de 1940, quand la France, subissant une guerre qu’elle n’avait pas voulue, n’a dû sa survie qu’à l’énergie du désespoir, alors que tout semblait perdu. Depuis, les Nations Unies, et les armées françaises elles-mêmes, ont infligé de grandes défaites aux Allemands, sur terre, sur mer et dans les airs.
Notre Empire et nos Alliés nous ont dotés d’armes puissantes et ont engagé dans la lutte un grand nombre de combattants entraînés. Aujourd’hui, la chance a tourné ! Les hommes libres du monde entier marchent tous ensemble vers la Victoire !
Je sais que chacun de vous s’engagera corps et âme dans le grand combat pour la Libération de la Patrie, un combat qui ne peut s’achever que par le triomphe de la Liberté.
Vive la France !
- Dawn comes, and revives the questions. Where the hell were we going? We were in the middle of nowhere, even though a quick look around shows that we were are even less alone than the day before. There were even people. Lots of people. And planes. The "night landing maneuver" was obviously not the right option. So what happened? Some- more and more - wonder, without really saying it, "What if... ? " It is that by the unusual nervousness of the oilmen at the boarding, the size of the convoy, from what we could see, the comings and goings of the planes above them and the small ships around them for the duration of the cruise, which meant that some were nothing more than rags, the little still in a state of mind are beginning to have doubts. Even some big smart guys. And while we were unfolding - damn, how badly do you sleep on these things, how did you do it? - the leaders asked us to pull over! Before eating? The orders cause a stir. Oh, and then, we are preparing the colors. Good. Sunrise, color rise. That explained it.
The most attentive of those who are crowded in front of us listened carefully: somewhere down there, one heard rolling like a dull rumble. The morning mist reveals little by little the silhouettes of many vessels heading for obscure destinations. Four aircraft pass low and roaring and suddenly cast their shadows over the mass of soldiers, where there is now much whispering. To those who follow them with their eyes, silver streaks reveal the presence of other planes, much higher up.
The loudspeakers suddenly sputter. "There were loudspeakers? Did you notice them? Well yes, they didn't grow in the night, you idiot! Silence in the ranks! Shh!
" Someone tapped on the microphone, probably, and it made a strange noise that was lost in the waves.
"Officers, non-commissioned officers, soldiers, rest! General Herman is speaking to you. I am going to read you the message of General Frère dated this morning, September 6th, five o'clock
." Electromechanical sputtering. Coughing, throat clearing. Not very happy at the microphone, that.
"French soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to begin the decisive stage of the Great Crusade for the Liberation of the Fatherland, for which we have been fighting for more than three years. ...
This was it...
" ... I know that each one of you will commit himself, body and soul, to the great fight for the Liberation of the Fatherland, a fight that can only end with the triumph of Freedom
New cough, perhaps a little more moved - yes, yes, a cough can be moved.
Then: "Allow me to add a few words on a personal basis..
"Officers, non-commissioned officers, soldiers of the 3rd DIM, you will soon be treading the soil of a country that has been crushed for too long under the yoke of the occupying power and its serviles. A Homeland where compatriots, friends, and for many of us, a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, a wife, children... The task that we have before us is immense. The hours to come are crucial for the success of this enterprise: to drive out the German, so that finally our parents, our friends, our compatriots, our children born or to come can live free and without fear of the Future. At this time, the first of your comrades are already in the grips of the Enemy, not without success. From this night on, airborne troops and shock troops, from our army but also from our American allies, and even from our Belgian comrades, who have sworn to wash away the affront to their country, have gone into action and are already making progress on French soil. Three years ago, some of us crossed this sea with the hope of returning one day. That day has come. I know that everyone will do their duty. Good luck to all.
No coughing this time, just silence. Emotional, too. Then: "But before we go, one last thing... Officers, non-commissioned officers, soldiers... attention!
The slight hubbub that had begun to rise died down. Discipline tamed the excitement and effervescence
and effervescence of the moment.
"Allons enfants de la Patri... i... eu...
The chorus of troops quickly covers the song dispensed by the loudspeakers, while the transport sends out the colors and its bearer waves the general's pennant. The siren of the vessel sounds, others in the distance echo it.
" is followed by a short moment of silence. And then, feverishly, the whole mass of men begins to move, respecting more or less correctly the planned scenario. The darker line of the coast is now visible. Du Fresnay elbows Roumilly in the ribs before he disappears in the whirlwind: "You remember
- When we embarked? It must have been somewhere over there, across there, right?
- Across there, who knows! Three years. Damn it! I'll tell you, I was scared to death...
- Yeah. Me too, if that helps.
- Well, now, here we are. Here we go!
- Yes, today we're here! Are you scared?
- I don't think so. Not yet. Watch yourself, you bastard!
- You too!
- Engines are heard again in the sky of Alpilles. The German flak is this time much less strong than a few hours before, especially since on the ground, chaos is spreading - it was not the pilots of the DC-3s of the French Air Force (who were on their second mission of the night) or their passengers, the paratroopers of the 505th PIR, who will complain about it.
The American paratroopers have to land near Saint Martin de Crau, it is the Wyoming mission. Their main task is to block the Nationale 113, and their secondary objectives to fix the battalion of the 338. ID spotted in the south and to neutralize the airfield of Istres.
In Arles, Alabama's men are subjected to a violent artillery bombardment by the I/338. Artillery Rgt. The Germans had left the city and, unable to retake it immediately, decided to shell it. The Arena is hit many times; the civilians, already frightened by the fighting, hide in the cellars. For its part, the 325. GIR (Maryland) continues to fight in the streets of Salon and Miramas. Finally, a little to the north (Tennessee), the strongpoint of Orgon finally falls.
A few kilometers away, at Les Taillades, near Cavaillon, General Kneiss, head of the LXXXV. ArmeeKorps, has just arrived with Generals Gilbert (244. ID), Foltmann (338. ID), and Baessler (242. ID). Their priorities are to contact their respective HQs by radio, to assemble one (or more) Kampfgruppe to counter-attack and especially to join their posts further south.
On the French side, a certain calm has fallen in the Bordeaux and Vendredi sectors, but not around Septèmes and Plan-de-Campagne, where elements of the 3rd RCP and the II/934. IR are trying to infiltrate each other's defenses. The teams that fell in the massif de l'Etoile finally reach Plan-de-Cuques; quickly taken over by the inhabitants of the village and then by Resistance fighters, they end up celebrating in the town with the rioters.
Further east, the Belgians succeed in their raid on the 242. ID headquarters. They now have the reinforcement of a hundred resistance fighters equipped with weapons parachuted or hidden since 1940 in the ruins of an old bread oven. The civilian vehicles used (and some captured German trucks) are a godsend for the next phase of the operation: controlling the crossing of the roads around Auriol.
A certain tranquillity also falls in the sector of the Canadians and around the Saint-Gervais bridge, where there are only a few exchanges of fire. Most of the fighting are skirmishes around the Couronne - the grenadiers of the 338. ID have obviously decided to wait until daybreak to move.
The fighting dies down in downtown Cassis (Bouchon). The 1st Shock takes advantage of this to send elements to infiltrate towards the east, along the D559, to seize the pass on the side of the cliffs that the locals nickname the Crown of Charlemagne.
Finally, if the calm has fallen on the Cap Sicié, each of the opponents waiting for daybreak, this is not the case for the men of the 113th Infantry Regiment, who are engaged in fierce urban fighting in Lavandou.
- No sooner had the hum of Wyoming's DC-3 engines faded than other aircraft, flying much higher, are seen in the early dawn. These are the B-17s of the 2nd and 99th BGs, escorted by the 1st and 14th FGs, which fly up the Rhone valley to bomb the bridges and the Avignon airfield. During this time, the Fortresses of the 390th BG, accompanied by Mustangs of the 79th FG, attack the runways of Montpellier-Fréjorgues. For this operation, another problem has to be solved: there are fewer fighter groups available than bomber groups. The solution came from a 30-minute interval of some raids: the Liberators of the 392nd BG recovered the escort of the B-17s on their way back, the time to hit their own targets between the Saintes-Maries de la Mer (fortifications and artillery positions) and Saint-Gilles (artillery and passage on the river).
The 15th Air Force sends the rest of its four-engine planes to Fos, Port Saint-Louis, the Salins de Giraud and Port de Bouc, but also against the passages on the Rhône on the west bank of the Rhône around Arles (where the 504th PIR was unfortunately hit by some "friendly" bombs) and around Tarascon and Beaucaire. The Marauders of the 17th, 319th and 320th BG, escorted by the 31st, 33rd, 52nd and 362nd FG, which take turns, systematically attack the bridges over the Durance river in Cavaillon, Mallemort, Cadenet, Pertuis, Manosque and, at the entrance to the Basses-Alpes, the bridge of Mirabeau. They go up to Cavaillon. The number of allied fighters in the air is such that the P-51 ground support aircraft of the 27th and 86th FG could operate freely for the benefit of the 82nd Airborne, that the 7th EC could devote itself to the support of the 1st DP in the Aix area and that the P-39s of the 363rd FG had free reign over the beaches.
The medium bombers of the 8th Air Force and the French Air Force, which had brought in units from the Italian front, attack the fortifications and artillery positions on the landing beaches and their rear. Some fortified nodes or locks in the rear, such as Ensuès-la-Redonne, Ollioules, la Cadière-Cuges, Carnoules or Roquefort la Bedoule, are also targeted.
These last missions are carried out without any specific escort and without any damage other than those due to the flak, thanks to a system of relays that allowed the Allies to align all morning no less than nineteen GCs of the French Air Force and FS of the 8th and 15th AF. All these units operate in a gigantic "Circus" on a strip of about thirty kilometers inland, allowing the bombers to act with virtual impunity. To operate in this way, airfields in Corsica, as well as the island of Elba, Grosseto, Alghero, Olbia and Porto Torres (in Sardinia), have all been provided with the maximum amount of fuel, spare parts and mechanics.
The RAF, or more precisely the RCAF, is also involved. Bombers have indeed crossed France at night for a series of round trip raids. Thus, Sqn 408, flying on Lancaster since July, went to Algiers to replace Sqn 619, after having doubled the raid on Saint Mandrier. Sqn 419, on Halifax, attack the artillery positions of Cap Cépet before landing in Malta. Finally, Sqn 434 (which arrived in England only in August), bombs the batteries located on Plaines Marines around La Ciotat (Charlie sector) before continuing on Taranto, where, with Sqn 148, its planes temporarily jam the runways.
The naval aviations (the French of the Force de Raid, the escort carriers and the flotillas based on land, the air groups of the US Navy carriers and those of the Royal Navy aircraft carriers, to show British solidarity) operate along the coast and cover their respective squadrons.
Finally, for good measure, the French Air Force sends its only heavy bombing group, the GB 60, accompanied by the P-38s of the 13th EC. All come from Crete, where they were deployed to deceive the enemy. They had to refuel on their return to Rome on one of the 15th Air Force bases.
In the air, the result is a monumental defeat of the Luftwaffe, whose numbers had already been slimmed down by operation Dragon Eggs: the JG 2, submerged, loses in the space of a few hours not less than 25 aircraft, not to mention those which will be irreparable or destroyed on the ground. Before the end of the day, in front of the allied superiority, orders are given to move all the remaining Jagdgeschwader to the north.
On the Allied side, only 15 fighters and a dozen bombers are lost (most of them shot down by the Flak).
On the ground, some areas are nevertheless spared by the bombardments, in order not to risk to hit the paratroopers and commandos who landed during the night several hours ahead of the main troops, to remove certain critical positions or installations by force.
- While the noise of the last raids fades away, new engines are heard over La Ciotat, Saint-Cyr les Lecques, Bandol, Sanary and Hyères. They are the Corsairs of GAN 1 and 2, which make a low altitude passage along the beaches, strafing everything they can see in spite of the indecisive light of dawn and especially the flak positions that have the misfortune to reveal themselves. This attack is intended to cover the low-level passage of the B-24s of the 480th Anti-Submarine Group and the Catalinas, which drop depth charges at less than 50 meters from the beaches to detonate the mines that the Germans had planted in the shallows. Despite the passage of the Corsairs and the brevity of the "bombardment", several aircraft are riddled with shrapnel by the flak; some of them come back with wounded and two Catalinas even come back with one engine.
However, most of them are back in the vicinity of the fleet two hours later to track down the enemy submarines.
At the same time and a little further from the coast, some curious aircraft appear over the water. They are outdated aircraft, PBY-5s and Wellingtons, all of them carrying a magnetic field to detonate the magnetic mines. This mission is not without danger: a PBY of 28F capsizes in the waves because of an explosion that is too close and a Wellington is damaged.
A little later, several minesweepers are fired upon from the coast and plough the sea along the shore, under the shells of the ships of the line that passed by snoring over them, in order to eradicate in the sectors cleared during the night the mines which would have escaped the naval engineers and the minesweepers.
Royal Navy Aircraft Carrier HMS Indomitable, Operation Dragon, September 1943
Côtes de Provence, 07:00 - Sie Kommen!
In spite of the understandable panic of the defenders of the Südwall, the German officers, as soon as calm came back after this unusual air attack, turned their binoculars towards the sea. Many exclaim, "Achtung! Sie Kommen!
" - They are coming.
Indeed, dark shapes, many dark shapes, begin to emerge in the early morning, preceded by a moustache of foam that shows that they are heading for land. Further out to sea, other forms are outlined, even more threatening, which suddenly light up: the naval bombardment has just begun. Very quickly, the ground trembles under the feet of the observers - those, at least, who have not yet dived into a shelter.
From Hyères to the Camargue, enormous sprays of earth and sand rise all along the coast...
The battleships and cruisers that began to fire are grouped into squadrons according to the landing beaches. We have thus :
- in the Hyères sector, TF 84 (MN): BB Richelieu
, CA Algérie
, CLAA Marseillaise
, CL La Galissonnière
and their escort;
- in the Bandol-Sanary sector, TF 85.1 (MN): BB Provence
, CA Duquesne
, CLAA Duguay-Trouin
, CL Gloire
and their escort;
- in the La Ciotat-Saint-Cyr les Lecques sector, TF 85.2 (RN): BB Queen Elizabeth
, CA Exeter
, CLAA Caledon
, CL Newcastle
and their escorts;
- in the Côte Bleue sector, TF 86.2 (USN): BB New York
, CA Tuscaloosa
, CL Savannah
and their escorts;
- in the Gulf of Fos area, TF 86.1 (USN): BB Nevada
****, CA Augusta
, CL Brooklyn
and their escort;
- in the sector of the Petit Rhône and the Camargue, TF 83 (RN): BB Ramillies
, monitors Abercrombie
, CLAA Colombo
, CL Liverpool
and their escorts (this task force was disbanded after the bombing, the ships joining TF 86.1).
- finally, in reserve (USN), the old battleship Arkansas
, the CL Cincinatti
and their escort.
US Navy Battleship USS Arkansas, Operation Dragon, September 1943
The Corsairs of Task Force 80, the Illustrious
and the Victorious
, returned from Scapa Flow, are in charge of the close air cover of the fleet. These carriers are protected by the CLAA Royalist
TF 81.1 (MN) - CV Jean-Bart
, covered by CLAA Primauguet
, and TF 82.1 (USN) - CVE Block Island, Bogue
, covered by the Arkansas
group, are responsible for air support in the coastal sector with the help of the Barracudas and Avengers of TF 80.
Finally, TF 81.2 (MN) - CVE Dixmude
and TF 82.2 (RN) - CVE Hunter
, covered by CLAA Carlisle
, provide mixed anti-air and anti-submarine coverage.
François Darlan put his mark on the Provence
(he preferred this ship to the Duquesne
, where the strings of the operation were actually pulled - bad tongues said that the cruiser was too small for his ego). The Admiral of the Fleet, who prepared and led the organization of the 1942 (Greece and Sicily) and 1943 (Provence) landings, was appointed in July as the French representative to General Eisenhower and first deputy of SACEUR. As such, he commands the naval part of Dragon. In practice, the staff of the operation planned without him, but it was up to him to pronounce a resounding proclamation that was broadcast live on the French ships, while the others were entitled to a slightly adapted communiqué read by the commanders.
- Sailors of the French Fleet! This is a sailor, like you, speaking to you. Alone, you have never been defeated by the brutal enemy who invaded our Motherland. Your courage has allowed the victories that finally made the fate of arms turn in our favor. And today, it is up to you, it is up to us to open fire against our own shores so that it is possible to drive out the hated Occupier! As always, the French Navy will carry out its mission and this time, the Victory that is reaching out to us will crown our efforts. Long live the French Navy! Long live France!
In the official text that will be broadcast, a careful hand will have added between the last two exclamations of this little speech a useful "Long live the Republic!"
US Navy Light Cruiser USS Philadelphia, Operation Dragon, September 1943
- Along the coast, the commandos are relieved to see the cavalry arrive, because their opponents will have to reconsider their priorities.
But inland, the fighting continues. Thus, the 504th PIR digs in in Arles and decides to send sections including Forward Air Controllers northwards to track down the enemy artillery batteries that are shelling the town. The 505th PIR engages elements of II/758 Grenadier Rgt south of their position - This means that the latter could hardly attack the commandos on the Fos road bridge.
In the other sectors of the 82nd Airborne, the situation does not change: the 507th PIR is now settled in Orgon and street fighting continues in Miramas and Salon.
The situation is also stabilized in the sector of the 1st Parachute Division, where the only fighting is in the area between Septèmes-les-Vallons and Cabriès.
The elements of the 1st Shock that remained in the vicinity of Cassis succeed, despite some skirmishes, in sending a a company on the D559 to the rear of the Crown of Charlemagne, but they are subjected to a heavy bombardment from the artillery positioned at Cap Canaille. The German artillerymen begin to suspect that their comfortable stay in Provence is coming to an end and they started a demonstration for honour, their battery was in any case poorly oriented to fire on a ship.
Finally, if the 3rd Choc and the 1st SSF note that their German adversaries are becoming much less aggressive, the 113th RI continues to fight to reach the port of Le Lavandou.
Coasts of Provence, 07:30 - From Fos to Hyères
The German dispositions
- Among the generals of von Rundstedt's staff, opinions were very divided on the location of a possible landing. It was finally decided to heavily mine certain sectors and to position the troops a little behind the beaches concerned in order to delay the enemy until the armoured units could descend. The mechanized units were to be deployed in the Bouches du Rhône or the Var in the event of a landing east of the Rhône, and in the Aude and Hérault in the event of a landing west of the Rhône.
The Führer had personally promised von Rundstedt, at the time of the creation of the 14. SS Panzergrenadier Division, the permanent presence in the south of France of several resting Panzer Divisions. The 11. Panzer, which arrived in Toulouse very much tested by its stay on the eastern front, is almost reconstituted; the 1. Panzer SS, which followed it to Lyon in mid-August, was at 80% of its normal strength; the 2. Panzer SS, based in Nîmes and which arrived at the end of August, was only two-thirds of its strength. These last two units had just been informed that a landing appeared imminent. The state of alert of the last few days, which had been raised to a reinforced level during the night, was gradually transformed into regrouping orders to prepare the German reaction.
However, if an Allied landing in the Midi was envisaged, the fact that it could take place in 1943 was much debated. And von Rundstedt himself seems to have been surprised by the avalanche of confused messages arriving at his headquarters on the morning of September 6th, due to the extent of the "front" that was opening up - from Fos to Hyères, really?
However, the reality of the situation gradually dawned on him. In Darryl Zanuck's film "The Great Return
", to his aide-de-camp who says "They are coming, Herr Feldmarschall
", he answers: "No... They are coming back!
" The authenticity of this line is doubtful... But the legend is sometimes truer than the truth.
- Thanks to ULTRA and the Resistance, the Allied staff was well aware of the German organization, the available forces and their deployment, and even the exact location of defenses and minefields.
During the elaboration of the plan, the solution of landing on both sides of the river was first rejected: each allied battle corps, separated from the other by the Rhône, was at that time too easily defeated during the map exercises. A landing on one bank of the Rhône was chosen, the river protecting the left flank, preferring the most heavily mined sectors, but also the least defended and less of a hindrance, in reality, to the rapid progression of the troops. The marine minefields having to be neutralized in force, it is expected that the minesweepers will suffer some losses, but it was nevertheless considered that a quick line up was more than necessary in this race against the clock against the German reaction.
Then, two camps opposed each other. For some, putting ashore close to well-defended ports did not take into account the lessons of Dieppe. But for others, these lessons, once well learned, were to make it easier to seize the ports. The presence of German armored divisions in the vicinity of the major ports finally won the day: since these ports were absolutely necessary for a long-term effort, one could not take the risk of being blocked far from them, in the east of the Var.
It was therefore decided to land directly around Marseille and Toulon, enclosing the two cities by an airborne action which would have as a secondary mission, besides throwing chaos on the opponent's rear, to act as an anti-tank brake on the Blue Line (the course of the Durance river), while the armoured divisions landed. We also counted on the Resistance to neutralize at best the movements and the communications of the enemy (operation Vipère and other actions).
Afterwards, a quick crossing of the Rhône was planned, in order to take Sète and to lengthen the front line in order to capture the maximum number of opponents.
On the coast, the landing extends from Fos to Hyères. In order to direct the operations, each sector was equipped with a command ship. By the end of 1940, after operations Ravenna, Marignano, Cordite and Accolade, the French and the British had understood the importance of having a staff based as close as possible to the area of operations and with important means of communication. These men were to be in charge of regulating the traffic in and out of their sector, to maintain the link with the troops already landed, to guide those who were to be landed, to facilitate the evacuation of the wounded and finally to coordinate naval bombardment and air support.
While the British quickly opted for the conversion of merchant ships, the French preferred to use warships, starting with the old Courbet
, then the Provence
, the Jeanne d'Arc
and the Duquesne
. In the spring of 1943, three units converted from Liberty Ships entered into service with the French Navy, allowing to return the warships to their more traditional missions.
For Operation Dragon, the British loaned one of their ships to the Americans, who had only one unit of this type in Europe at the time. The Allies therefore lined up five command ships, one for each landing sector: MN Morvan
(Hyères sector), MN Maurienne
(Bandol-Sanary sector), MN Médoc
(La Ciotat-Saint-Cyr-les-Lecques), USS Ancon
(Côte Bleue sector) and HMS Bulolo
(Gulf of Fos sector).
The Americans land in the Gulf of Fos, west of the beach of Saint-Gervais, facing the pond of Galéjon (Alpha Red sector); on the beach of Saint-Gervais, just south of Fos, leading directly to the road bridge (Alpha Blue sector); on Port-de-Bouc, north of the Etang de Berre canal (Alpha Green sector); and south of the structure, between Auguette and Laveron (Camel sector). They also land on the Côte Bleue, in the creeks around La Couronne (Bravo Blue sector) and Carry-le-Rouet (Bravo Red sector).
As for the French, they land between La Ciotat (Charlie sector) and Hyères (Hubert sector). If the beaches of Hyères are sufficient for the whole III French Corps (whose infantry has to seize Toulon), the I Corps has to split up between the sectors Charlie, Léon (Saint-Cyr les Lecques), Bernard (Bandol) and Stéphane (Sanary) sectors, and on the other hand between the triple mission of taking Marseille, moving quickly up the Durance river and fixing the position west of Toulon. In order to be able to land, this corps has to neutralize the islands of Porquerolles, Port Cros and Levant ; this task is entrusted to the 14th DBLE (Pierrette, Claudine and Lætitia sectors).
Côtes de Provence, 07:30 - The Americans...
Alpha Red sector (St Gervais-Galéjon)
- The 3rd Rangers Bn having to land in a swampy area, the US Army planners deemed it necessary to equip Able, Baker and Charlie companies with new LVT-2 Buffalo. They are accompanied by LCVPs that carry, in addition to the Dog Company of the Rangers, the Able Company of the 1st Engineer Btn of the 1st US-ID and two mortar sections of the 16th US-IR. Finally, each boat carries some members of two sections of the Special Engineer Task Force (SETF). The SETF is an amphibious assault engineer brigade combining several battalions of the Army's assault engineers and the US Navy's naval demolition specialists: the Naval Combat Demolition Unit. Their role is to open breaches in the minefields and fortifications of the Germans.
The Americans, in addition to the minesweepers, planned to have their barges preceded by LCVP-APEX to neutralize the most troublesome defenses. These are "couples" of radio-controlled LCVP containing an explosive charge of one ton ("male") or four tons ("female"). In theory, the male barge should explode on the beach defenses, opening the way for the female barge towards the structure to be neutralized. However, only two APEX will reach their objectives out of the twelve engaged in this sector: two will jump on mines and the other eight will behave erratically (four were recovered by the APD USS Barry, Dickerson, Greene
). It is believed today that by bad luck some of the radio frequencies used by the Germans overlapped with those used for the guidance of these barges.
The opposition in this sector is nevertheless very weak: a good part of the supports and positions of Schwerpunkt 87 were neutralized by naval artillery, aviation or, during the night, by the commandos of the 1st SSF.
Alpha Blue sector (Fos)
- Charlie to Fox companies of the 1st Rangers Btn land in this sector, equipped with many Dinghies and other assault boats to cross the canal on both sides of the road bridge, in case the bridge was blown up. They are accompanied by Baker Company of the 1st Engineer Btn, reinforced by two SETF sections and already the first armored vehicles: in this case a Sherman Dozer and an armored bulldozer model D8.
But things are not as simple as in the Red sector. For example, if, on the shore around the bridge, the German defenders were cleanly eliminated, it is not the same two kilometers to the east, at the bend of the canal. There, an 88 and a 20 mm survived the naval barrage, as they are protected by a casemate camouflaged in a restaurant; they take the dike in enfilade. The engineer tank is eliminated shortly after crossing the bridge, while it was supporting the progression on the road along the salt marshes. In the center of the device, the radios of Fox Coy already call for support against this unwelcome resistance.
Alpha Green sector (Port-de-Bouc north)
- The success of the naval and air bombardment in this sector was mediocre: the Germans still have several 88 under casemate and 20 mm anti-aircraft tubes. These tubes open fire on the line of minesweepers operating in front of the barges (YMS 192
, hit several times, eventually sank, victim of a fire, YMS 271
were damaged), before attacking the Ram DD (Duplex Drive) of the Able Company of the 741st Tank Btn which approach the shore. The 4th Rangers Btn (Able, Baker, Charlie and Fox Co), assisted by Charlie Co of the 1st Engineer Btn and the SETF sections, have a lot to do. The D8 bulldozer and the accompanying Sherman Dozer are put out of action as soon as they land.
Casualties begin to mount for this first assault wave, including on the LCA and LCVP, to the point that sailors begin to speak of "SNAFU Beach." It is finally at the place where the exit should be the easiest, given the presence of three bridges, that the operations start the worst. And it is at this place that we find a witness who would really have preferred to be elsewhere!
"First there was this pungent smell, a mixture of vomit and urine. Then the release into the dying night when we went up on the deck to descend by rope ladder to the barges.
There were the swirls, the spray, and the smell of cordite which became more and more prevalent as we approached.
The explosions, some accompanied by screams. "Better them than us...
", but I was immediately ashamed of this thought.
Finally, the shock. The rush in the tracers. Water above the thighs, which slows you down, which slows you down... For pity's sake, I have to move forward or the next one will be for me! For a moment, the war correspondent takes over the atavism and I take a picture, the only one of the morning, and still, I am sure that it will be blurred.
The first corpses... taking cover... more shots, more explosions, and a sergeant who pulls me out of my hole yelling at me to collapse, decapitated...
We ended up advancing off the beach between ruined houses. The fighting has stopped. There are very few wounded or prisoners in the camp opposite, only dead [macabre outlet for these young men who have become old men in an instant, unless they were monsters - passage redacted by the censor]. The day will end with a return to normalcy andcalm, but nothing will ever be the same again on SNAFU Beach [two words crossed out by the censor and replaced by 'this beach']." - Robert Capa, The Notebooks of Provence
Robert Capa made the only known photograph of the first moments of the landing on " SNAFU Beach ". (Alpha Green). It is indeed a blurred photo, probably taken just after leaving his LCVP, in which we see GIs ahead of him in knee-deep water, facing the buildings and bunkers of Port-de-Bouc, on the coast of Provence. Two other war correspondents died on SNAFU Beach.
Camel sector (North Laveron)
- As much as the landing north of the canal of the Etang de Berre canal, the landing south of the same canal starts under good auspices. Indeed, the 14-inch shells of the New York
completed the destruction of the Château-Ponteau position and eliminated part of the artillery positions up to the Laurons, equipped with 88, 75 or 105, while the others were neutralized by the 1st SSF. The positions of the Schwerpunkt 98 only have machine guns and a few mortars, which is insufficient to resist the arrival of the arrival of the Able Company of the 743rd Tank Btn and the 17th Regimental Combat Team. The latter includes the 1st Btn of the 17th IR of the 7th US-ID, as well as the Able Company of the 13th Engineer Btn and, in the first wave, two SETF sections accompanied by a Sherman Dozer and a D8 bulldozer.
Bravo Blue sector (La Couronne)
- The naval and 310th BG bombardment was fairly effective in this sector, as the only position not destroyed or disrupted was the Panzer II casemate turret covering the harbor entrance. It will take a full-scale assault by the men of the 1st Battalion of the 32nd US-IR to neutralize it.
As soon as they disembark, the men of the SETF and the Baker Co of the 13th Engineer Btn, accompanied by a Sherman Dozer and a D8 bulldozer, attack the anti-tank wall and the obstacles blocking the ascent of the beaches. The objective is to reach the commandos of the 1st SSF.
Bravo Red sector (Carry-le-Rouet)
- In this sector, the PaK-38 entrenched on the Pointe Tassé is destroyed, but the one covering the beaches remains operational, as well as most of the machine gun nests. The D8 bulldozer is quickly destroyed and the German gun engages with the Sherman Dozer in a duel that lasts several minutes before the armored vehicle finds a way to take cover.
But this does not prevent the first wave of the 53rd RCT from landing. This one includes the 1st Btn of the 53rd RI of the 7th US-ID, two SETF sections and the Charlie Co of the 13th Engineer Btn. The first wave starts to advance, neutralizing enemy positions one by one and blowing up the obstacles.
US Navy Battleship USS Texas, Operation Dragon, September 1943
Coasts of Provence, 07:30 - The French...
Charlie sector (La Ciotat)
- The landing in the westernmost French sector is a great success. Indeed, the artillery positions of Plaines Marines and Ile Verte were far from being completed, the naval bombardment was very precise and above all the air preparation was very complete: the Halifaxes of Sqn 434 of the RCAF are followed by the A-20s of the 25th BG and the B-25 of the 23rd EB, then the aircraft of the French Navy. Moreover, it is in this area that the APEX barges obtain their only real success: the "male" barge clears the beach up to the Belgian Gate, which was still covered by two MGs, and the four tons of explosives from the "female" barge blew the whole thing up. Pieces of concrete even fall down in the middle of the first landing wave, at about 50 meters. Two other APEX barges explode when they hit land, clearing the beach, and two others are blown up by mines or sunk by gunfire.
Sea mines inflict casualties on the LCVPs, a few dozen meters from shore, but when the first landing craft lands, only a few machine-gun and mortar positions can still oppose the French surge.
The first wave is composed of elements of the 6th Infantry Regiment of the 14e DI, veteran of Italy, of the 1st Cie of the 65th Engineer Btn and two sections of Bélier DD of the I/502nd RCC (ten tanks). Even if some areas were brutally demined by the naval bombardment, which also destroyed some parts of the anti-tank wall, five tanks blow up on mines. Two of them, simply unhitched, remain nevertheless active, covering with their weapons the men of the engineers who explode the obstacles with Bangalore torpedoes and other explosives.
The other five amphibious Aries support the infantry's progression through the breaches.
Léon sector (St-Cyr les Lecques)
- If the Liouquet battery, equipped with 90 mm Italian guns, was neutralized by the naval artillery, the men of the 52nd Infantry Regiment and of the 2nd Coy of the 65th Engineers are welcomed by machine-guns and mortars. At the entrance of the harbor, the fortified Panzer II turret does not digest a shell, probably from the Queen Elizabeth
(considering the size of the crater), but the PaK-38 of La Madrague and PaK-36 of La Moute, both in casemate, attack the Bélier DD of the I/502nd RCC. Several of them are put out of action, but not without having eliminated two positions where 20 mm AAs were taking a heavy toll on the first infantrymen.
On the other side of the bay, a fortified R-35 turret makes some nice holes in the boats approaching the shore. It is eventually neutralized by an intervention of of the SBD-5 Cormoran of the Jean-Bart
Bernard sector (Bandol)
- In Bandol, the beach is surrounded by hills which will be until the last moment the target of an intense naval bombardment. As a result, the Bélier DD of the I/502nd RCC are already less than 50 meters from the beach while the latter is still under the fire of the Provence
and its group. Only the PaK-38 under casemate of La Farandole which takes the beach in enfilade remains operational - it will destroy five tanks and immobilize another one before being neutralized by an assault of the men of the 21st Rgt of Zouaves of the 3rd DIM and the 1st Cie of the 3rd Btn of Engineers. The French then enter the village and immediately attack the hills.
Royal Navy Battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth, Operation Dragon, September 1943
On the field
- Here it is. This was France. Strange and familiar. Strangely familiar, even, for many soldiers who were certainly expecting a more exotic image. It would come.
For now, the Mediterranean was still licking at their heels. It was France, but it was also war. And that, yes, was new. A plume of smoke was spreading over Provence, but there is no time to admire the collection of vessels of all kinds that clutter the horizon. What attracts the eye is the heights that dominate the area, and the spray of explosions on the ridge line.
And shit! Here too! A column of water falls close to the shore, capsizing a boat carrying Neptune knew who. Vlaoum! This time, it was a hut that had been entitled to it! All kinds of debris. Wounded, or worse, no doubt - ambulances were already making their way in that direction. An unpleasant reminder that the Krauts would not let themselves be beaten. Where could it have come from? From up there? Here, we hoped to be safe. Anyway, we were going to move. Not a moment too soon. And to think that not so long ago, we thought it was better than the maneuvers...
- Well, sir? What are the orders?
- Well, Sergeant, this time we're not kidding around. You see that ridge there? That's our objective.
The Zouaves can't do everything. We go up there, look ..
. [He unfolds a map.]
That little valley. Pincer attack, the other company goes through there. We'll meet them on the ridge, if everything goes well. There's a fort up there. If Lorraine, Provence and the air force have left any. We have to take care of a battery that must be... here. The Cormorants seasoned it, but we have to finish the job.
- The battery will be fine, if there are no forgotten casemates around. But a fort... and to go up there... With all that crap, they can hide anywhere!
- Not too many opportunities for digging in, Sergeant. And then, what hides them also hides us, right? But you're right, we'll have to keep an eye out. It's up to us to do our best. Is everybody ready?
- All set, sir. Even Laurel and Hardy. They've finished spilling their guts. But I think if they're offered a cruise again, they'll desert...
- Hey, Sarge!
- In a manner of speaking, sir. El Mardi and Abisbor are up and running. We can...We can count on them.
Once we had disentangled ourselves from the imbroglio of tanks, half-tracks, tractors, a whole collection of military things, construction machines and, of course, pedestrians, in the middle of a din of shouts, explosions - another salvo! - commands and roars of engines, we could progress more freely. On the lookout. Hands clenched on the weapons. We thus began the circumvention, for some, or the ascent, for others, of a small hill that the Zouaves had very kindly neglected. So, in theory, there was nothing to fear. In theory.
The "battery" is there, just a few meters away. Not a dozen pieces, no, just one, probably taken out of its place, or surprised before its deployment at the edge of a small field, a square as big as a napkin. The blast of a bomb, or a large-caliber shell had knocked it on its side. The projectile had caused carnage among the carriage. No trace of the servants, except for a corpse, a feldwebel almost cut in two, in a hollow. The skirmishers are discovering how the limestone fragments, sharp as razors, could rival those of metal. In the tangle of harnesses, and chains, a horse is dying, its forelegs shattered, its flanks lacerated, near its already stiffened body. There are guts and blood everywhere, on the grass, the stones, the bodies, the branches. Lieutenant Maubec could no longer bear the gaze of the eyes filled with terror, pain and incomprehension of the beast. He finishes it off. It is his first "war shot", and it is on this poor innocent beast. And not even a Kraut, if that was the case.
A careful examination of the place and its surroundings eventually yields various effects abandoned in a retreat, and allow the men to discover their first Germans. Lurking against a stunted tree, their uniforms in disarray, dusty, haggard, unable to keep up with the pace of their comrades, there were three of them, finally relieved to be caught. The two able-bodied men are holding up a gunner in a sad state, who is nodding his head and stammering. They are taken to the rear, escorted by a soldier, and set off again, climbing through the almost white stone banks and the vegetation bitterly anchored in the slightest rock fault.
We are thus climbing the slopes of the "Brain" - the "Big Brain" even! Enough to wonder on the sense of humor of the natives, no? - when we are shot at. The lieutenant slumps like that, bang! without warning or anything else, even before the detonation sounded. Everybody take cover! Where did it come from? The slopes areflat, with here and there hedges of various species, suitable for hiding. Between the branches and the leaves, one could not see anything. Sergeant Jacob, closest to the lieutenant, crawls up to him. There is no need to get out the bandages, he is rectified. Sardines don't protect from prunes. New shots, more nourished, which peel the stones and debarked the pines. This time, we had seen them! There, behind this small rocky bar! At least two. And for the FM, macache! And another one, next to this trunk, betrayed by his helmet ! Here, you bastard! Catch this! Missed!
Ah! Here too, missed! Holy cow, that was close! We won't complain!
While we entertain them - without having too much fun in return, it's not the foire du Trone! - some buddies shift furtively. El Mardi passes to have a good shot. And maybe not too many moods. Crac! The shoulder seen in the middle of the vegetation is starred of red and the Landser yells. And as he yells, he uncovers himself. At least two more shots hit him.
He disappears. We will find him later, tilted on his back on a large cade. We continue shooting in the same direction, but it doesn't respond anymore. Only thorns and leaves benefit from these gifts. Cease fire ! We go, and this time, we are careful. Really careful. Away, Albertini's group scans the slope. The sergeant suddenly shoulders, and like a hunter, drops, releases two shots. Not fifty meters away, the bushes shake and let escape a body. The last dead body before we reach the summit.
At the top, the goal is unmistakable: after one or two shots of adjustment, the big tubes of the sailors are conscientiously bludgeoning the fort. A fort built by and for Frenchmen, held by Prussians, bombed by Englishmen and attacked by "Africans"! What a shame! Only Russians and Ottomans are missing... What a pity!
The poor Séré de Rivières has to turn in his grave.
The group led by the captain is arriving, best protected by the shoulder that separates two depressions. Martinez and his guys are taking a small talweg on the right. Albertini and his men, well dispersed, are holding the slopes on the left. More to the west, normally, the other company is doing the same, in the direction of the "Pointe du Cerveau". No need to say, someone in the area had missed the distribution. Progress was quite difficult, since we had to park some probable things, but we had not trained so much to fight on a pool table! We thus reached the access road to the fort, which we found partially cluttered with new howitzers, shattered into pieces, with their share of dead bodies, horses scattered in the trees, equipment scattered to the four winds, mixing military effects, wicker baskets of ammunition and disemboweled crates. It was a nice job, but we do not linger to attribute it to the Air Force or the Navy. And since, anyway, they areRoyal aircraft...
A small salvo of colored rockets to signal that "Stop, guys! We don't want to take your pots on our faces!
" and we approach the fortification with caution. Or at least, what is left of it. The tilers of the sector are not going to lack work, but in the meantime the walls would have to be rebuilt and, above all, cleared. As the bombardment has ceased, we saw a few figures emerge from the rubble, covered in plaster, variously crippled, not angry, when they had their ideas in place, to be done with all that. Captain Roumilly's boys join in, and we sort out the situation.
Some men come forward to look at the landscape. They didn't care that they were perched at the top of a syncline! What interested them was that, on one side, they could see the impressive armada extending well beyond the cordon of sand that they had just left ("And over there, you see, it's Marseille!" "You're kidding!" "I swear!
"). On the abandoned beach, shellfish - who would have believed it! - deplore the intrusion of impressive lines of vehicles. On the other side, one contemplates the no less impressive extend of the hinterland. France. Quite a piece.
More down to earth, other soldiers were "examining" what the small line of still able-bodied prisoners are leaving behind. The collectionnite is making its first victims. Well of course not with the "Karabins" that were found to be cumbersome, but two handguns and several blades in their scabbards disappeared momentarily from circulation. And let's not forget the caps, the shoulder straps, and things like that. The "it can still be used" crowd opts for the famous "potato masher", thinking of fruitful returns to sender. Santini got his hands on a Schmeisser, a toy that combined the valuable ability to be turned against its previous owners with the not inconsiderable possibility of a future juicy barter.
De Fresnay inherits "by chance" a pair of very well-made binoculars, which, miraculously, had not suffered from the vicissitudes of the day. He found that... normal. The owner had not been robbed, the thing had been abandoned. He was not going to spend his precious time tracking down the owner, especially if he was lying somewhere. After all, in many thatched cottages, Teutonic helmets, Prussian caps and caps, pistols, bayonets and other such souvenirs sit alongside the wedding photo, the framed decoration in its frame and the crucifix. We are perpetuating the tradition, right? Although in these times, one could doubt the persistence of such a mantelpiece.
That said, we do not linger: everywhere, cannons continue to fire, rifles, skirmishers, engines, fires, wounded and dying, and those with foresight to have a drink or to eat a little... And that's it!
No way to be quiet! We were going back! Turn around ! Evidently, smart guy, by continuing straight ahead, we fall on a hell of a step (or rather we risked to fall) !
Walk that we bypassed by the west, in order to join a road that goes in the right direction. One takes advantage of it to recover the vehicles finally unloaded - or to be recovered by them - and go ahead, roll! Mouflon in head, one spun towards the following stop, Le Castellet, to bypass the retreating Fritzes. Of course, we have to stop before, to track down individuals scattered in the green countryside, to be shot at several times, to retaliate, and this is not done without casualties...
French Army SAV-42 "Belier DD / Duplex Drive", Operation Dragon, September 1943
Côtes de Provence - The French... (continued)
Stéphane sector (Sanary)
- This area suffered a lot from the naval bombardment - there again, only the PaK-38 under casemate covering the beach resist. From the mouth of the Reppe, it aligns one after the other the ten Bélier DD of the 1st BICM which land. Three of them are destroyed and three put out of action. Two others, immobilized, continue to support the infantrymen with their fire. Legionnaires of the 15th DBLE have to adjust the pillbox with a bazooka to eliminate it.
The 3rd Coy of the 3rd Engineer Battalion then quickly blows up the anti-tank wall with explosive charges, but the legionnaires find it difficult to advance, slowed down by the numerous machine gun and mortar positions.
Hubert sector (Hyères)
- The line of barges is preceded by a hundred meters by a curtain of minesweepers and ten APEX barges (four of which reached the beach).
Like at Fos, the shallow depths allowed the Germans to lay a large number of mines, but the combat swimmers of CF Cousteau prepared the ground well.
However, one 155 mm and three 122 mm of the Marine Artillerie Abteilung 682 (the 122 mm are Soviet captures) survived the bombardment. These pieces of the Badine batteries, at the end of the peninsula, start to fire on the beautiful targets made by the minesweepers.
The 630 ton minesweeper Commandant-Bory
, hit several times, is forced to throw itself on the coast. Offshore, the fleet reacts very quickly - the Richelieu
and the Algérie
compete to silence the battery. Its firing ceases, and resumes a little later, leading to a new punishment of the allied ships, and then it is finally silenced. As for the Commandant-Bory
, it supports the landing with his double 90 mm gun until its ammunition runs out.
Two small minesweepers are sunk by smaller guns, but without any consequence on the rest of the operations.
The great width of the beach allows the 10th ID to land two regiments in front of each other : the 50th and 21st Infantry Regiments, each accompanied by a company of the 4th Engineers and two sections of Bélier DD of the 1st BICM. On the beach itself, the Bangalore and other explosives complete the work of the naval artillery and open large gaps in the anti-tank wall. At the southern end of the beaches where the 50th IR had landed, the DD tanks that have survived the mines are attacked by a 75 mm PaK-41 under casemate, located in the back and preventing any exit.
To the north, in the area of the 21st RI, only four amphibious tanks are able to reach land without difficulty.
Pierrette sector (Porquerolles)
- The landing in the islands of Hyères is entrusted to the 14th DBLE. On the island of Porquerolles, the legionnaires encounter little opposition: they capture haggard Germans, who described the crushing effect of the aerial bombardments which had hit the islands a month earlier. In any case, the last operational artillery piece was put out of action the day before.
Claudine sector (Port-Cros)
- On the island of Port-Cros too, the bombardments have wreaked havoc which allows the legionnaires to seize it without difficulty. Some obstinate German infantrymen try to hide but end up surrendering a few days later.
Lætitia sector (Levant)
- This is the third of the Hyères islands, the most remote and the one to which the French staff devotes the least resources. The two companies of legionnaires disembarked there suffer severe losses while trying to take a position where two 77s of the Other War are trying to fight back.
French Navy Light Cruiser MN Montcalm, Operation Dragon, September 1943
- In the Tennessee sector, the Orgon position, held by the paratroopers of the 507th PIR, is targeted by two counter-attacks by elements of Grenadier Rgt 15 of the 189. Reserve Division.
The first one, coming from Cavaillon (to the north), is repulsed thanks to a rain of mortar shells (some of which were fired by a captured piece !). The second one took place more to the east. The Germans try to cross the Durance river by force, but this is without the crossfire of some machine guns judiciously placed, and without the timely arrival, of two fighter-bombers of the 86th FG, with whom the radio operators of the 507th, posted in the abbey Notre-Dame de Beauregard on the hill dominating Sénas and Cavaillon, had been in contact for a few minutes.
Côtes de Provence, 07:45 - The Americans...
Alpha Red sector (St-Gervais Galéjon)
- While the Baker Co of the 3rd Rangers Btn crosses the Galéjon pond in the direction of Port Saint-Louis with its Buffalo, the Able and Charlie Co run into the strongpoints of Schwerpunkt 86 to the north, including machine gun nests, mortar positions and even a PaK-36. Meanwhile, Dog Co is advancing along the pier or crossing by canoe to link up with the elements of the 1st Rangers Btn and the 1st SSF.
On the beach, the first elements of the I/16th IR from the Big Red One
begin to land along with two mortar sections of the 3rd Rangers, a SETF section and Charlie Co of the 1st Engineer Btn.
Alpha Blue sector (Fos)
- Barracudas from Victorious
take on Schwerpunkt 89-1, at the end of the pier. While the 20 mm is neutralized, not without damaging a bomber, the 88 escapes the bombs. Despite this partial failure, the raid allows Charlie Co of the 1st Rangers to progress, not without difficulty, through the salt marshes. A little to the north, the Rangers and commandos of the 1st SSF enter Fos, where the Germans of the 758. IR had decided to hold on without retreating.
Meanwhile, the Able and Baker Co of the 1st Rangers Btn, accompanied by a new section of the SETF and the first elements of the 18th IR, arrive on the beach.
Alpha Green sector (Port-de-Bouc north)
- The Ram DD of the Baker Co of the 741st Tank Btn land on the beach in their turn, along with Dog and Easy Co of the 4th Rangers, Dog Co of the 1st Engineer, reinforced by a SETF section with a D8 bulldozer, and elements of the 26th IR of the 1st US-ID.
Although the anti-tank wall is destroyed at several points, the landing in this area stalls. The amphibious tanks are all destroyed or severely damaged: the most advanced one was hit by an 88 less than 200 m from Schwerpunkt 89-2 (Vella Point), which was covering the railway bridge of La Baumasse. If the strongpoint 89-3 is taken by storm, the 89-4, which takes the beach in enfilade, 89-5, which blocks the access to the port and, further back, 89-6, which covered the King's Bridge, are still holding out. Losses accumulate and to top it all off the four 170 mm of battery 11 of the II/HKAR (Heeres Küsten Artillerie Rgt, Army Coastal Artillery Rgt) starts to fire on the beaches, their fire regulated by the support points 89-2, 4, 5 and 6.
Camel sector (North Laveron)
- While Baker Co of the 743rd Tank Btn lands with a SETF section and its D8 bulldozer to open the road, the 2nd Btn of the 17th IR touches down. In this sector, the perimeter is rapidly enlarged and the men of the first wave take many prisoners, still stunned by the fire of the New York
. The positions of Château-Ponteau and Laveron, which had been shattered by shells, are quickly reached.
Bravo Blue sector (La Couronne)
- After causing casualties among the American infantrymen, the Pz-II turret covering the harbor is eventually neutralized by bazooka fire.
The fighting spreads in and around Sausset, where the Germans are supported by the four 152 mm Russian shots from battery 692, in Châteauneuf-les-Martigues.
Meanwhile, on the beaches, the men of the 32nd IR of the Bayonet
Division, reinforced by a SETF section equipped with a D8 bulldozer and by the first heavy mortars of the 3rd Chemical Mortar Btn, are treading the ground of Provence.
Bravo Red sector (Carry-le-Rouet)
- The progression to reach the beaches comes up against many obstacles that have to be overcome. To achieve this, at the cost of significant losses, the men of the SETF and the 13th Engineer Battalion use the Bangalore relay technique.
Further down the beach, the rest of the 1st Battalion of the 53rd Infantry Regiment disembark with a section of SETF, a D8 bulldozer and pieces of the 3rd Chemical Mortar Btn.
US Navy Heavy Cruiser USS Tuscaloosa, Operation Dragon, September 1943
Côtes de Provence, 07:45 - The French (and the Belgians)...
Charlie sector (La Ciotat)
- The 6e RI finishes landing, accompanied by a section of SAV-41 Pétard of the I/502nd RCC and a mixed section of SAV-41 Dozer and Fléau of the 21st Btn of the Engineers.
Meanwhile, the infantrymen of the first wave advances. Some bunkers resist, but are quickly destroyed. The armoured bulldozers open safe channels by pushing back the exploding mines. One of them is destroyed and another immobilized, but the Germans lack anti-tank weapons to face the enemy, while the 6th Infantry Regiment still has, in addition to constant naval and air support, a dozen armoured vehicles including four Bélier DD, three Pétard, two Dozers and two Fléau.
Léon sector (St-Cyr les Lecques)
- The arrival of the Pétard of the I/502nd RCC wins the decision by neutralizing the two anti-tank positions while the men of the 65th Engineers, helped by the SAV-41 Dozer and Fléau of the 21st Engineer Btn, opened numerous breaches in the anti-tank wall and the minefields. The port is reached, but the progression towards the station is difficult, despite the naval support.
On the beach, the last men of the 52nd RI land.
Bernard sector (Bandol)
- While the 21st Zouaves complete its landing in the company of the Fléau and the Dozer of the 21st Engineers, the section of SAV-41 Pétard of the I/502nd gives a boost to the infantrymen of the first wave. These armored vehicles allow to force the lock of the road to Le Beausset. Clearing operations start around the village.
Stéphane sector (Sanary)
- The last legionnaires of the 15th DBLE touch down in the company of a section of Pétard and another of Bélier DD of the 1st BICM, which disembark directly from two BDICs.
With the welcome help of the SAV-41 Dozer and Fléau of the 2nd Engineer Btn, which plug the ditches and open breaches in the minefields, the men of the first wave progress towards the port and the Six-Fours fort. The latter is still being hammered by the naval artillery.
Hubert sector (Hyères)
- In the south, in the sector of the 50th RI, the arrival of the Pétard of the 1st Battalion of Infantry and Marine Tanks (BICM) is decisive in the neutralization of the Schwerpunkt located on the other side of the airfield. But it is especially the arrival of the 2nd Engineers, with its Flails and Dozers (some of which carry fascines to fill in the anti-tank ditches), which allows the infantrymen of the first wave to get close enough to the German position to assault, with the support of the last Bélier DD.
However, the progression is difficult. The III/917. IR of the 242. ID only give up ground under the pressure of the F4U Corsairs and SBD-5 Cormorans of GAN 2 or of the naval artillery.
Lætitia sector (Levant) -
If the first reports from Porquerolles (Pierrette) and Port-Cros (Claudine) are very positive, the same cannot be said for the island of Levant where the first assault of the legionnaires of the 14th DBLE is repulsed.
French Army SAV-41 "Dozer" Tank, Operation Dragon, September 1943
- West of Marseille, the men of the 505th PIR (Wyoming) begin the attack on the Istres airstrip, with the help of stray troops from the 504th PIR who have rallied.
On its side, the Canadian commando of the 1st SSF (Pumpkin), guided by the sound of the start of the shots, decides to try to neutralize the four 152 mm of the 692 battery at Châteauneuf-les-Martigues.
Côtes de Provence, 08:00 - The Americans...
Alpha Red sector (St-Gervais Galéjon)
- The least we can say is that the LVT are a marvel in the swamps and salt marshes of the sector. Thanks to this asset, little by little, the fortifications of Schwerpunkt 86 are bypassed, taken in reverse and neutralized. The amphibious units also make it possible to seize several crossing points on the Port Saint-Louis canals, where Baker Co is joined by the Easy Co to take the port.
On the beaches, the landing of the 1st Btn of the 16th RI of the 1st US-ID is completed, as well as that of the first elements of the 7th Field Artillery Btn.
However, the news are not all good. Directed from the Saint-Louis tower, the artillery of the Mazet battery begins to fire towards the beaches and the noria of ships in the Gulf. Two French 100 mm guns and a single Russian 122 survived the naval artillery shelling. But the work on the Südwall was not advanced enough, far from it, for all the pieces to be safe from the counter-measures of the Allied navy and air force.
Alpha Blue sector (Fos)
- Charlie Co of the 1st Rangers Btn, pinned down by the defensive mole 89-1, just before the bend of the Port-de-Bouc canal, is in a difficult situation.
The radio operators ask for a new naval artillery fire to neutralize the enemy position and to be able to advance.
While in Fos, street fighting continues, the last strongpoint of Schwerpunkt 87 falls, allowing the junction of the 1st and 3rd Rangers Btn.
On the beach of St-Gervais, the first battalion of the 18th Infantry Regiment starts to land with a support from the 1st Cavalry Co of the division. Here too, the artillery begins to roll out of the ships - in this case the first elements of the 32nd Field Artillery Btn and the heavy mortars of the 81st Chemical Mortar Btn.
Alpha Green sector (Port-de-Bouc North)
- It's still chaos - the city center bridge and the La Baumasse railroad bridge were blown up as the helpless GIs watched. In spite of the progression, the 89-2 strongpoint still resists, as well as those covering the Pont du Roi bridge and the port. Further naval or air support is requested by the 4th Rangers Btn.
Meanwhile, all types of transports continue to deliver their cargoes. Thus the Ram Dozer of the 741st Tank Btn and the infantrymen of the 1st Btn of the 26th IR land directly.
They are accompanied by several pieces of the 81st Chemical Mortar Btn, on which we count a lot to unblock the situation. The German artillery wakes up then, with the four 170 mm of the 11th Battery of the II/HK Artillery Rgt. Their shots lack precision, because the pointing is not ensured any more either by the Fort de Bouc, or by Château-Ponteau.
Camel sector (North Laveron)
- The 17th RCT continues to increase its strength with the contribution of Dozers of the Charlie Co of the 743rd Tank Btn, elements of the 3rd Btn of the 17th IR and the 48th Field Artillery Btn.
Inland, contact is made with the men of the 1st Btn of the 2nd SSF Rgt. Despite sporadic clashes, the progression continues towards the canal of the Etang de Berre, notably along the road to the port of Lavera.
Bravo Blue sector (La Couronne)
- An Avenger raid on battery 692 leads to a temporary halt to firing. Further south, the fighting around Sausset gradually dies down. The elements of the 32nd IR reach the D9, where the 1st Btn of the 758. Grenadier Rgt of the 338. ID holds on, taking advantage of the terrain and some bunkers.
In the harbor, the first LCI unload directly the first companies of the 2nd Btn of the 32nd Rgt. In the cove of Verdon, elements of the 13th Engineer Btn and the 3rd Chemical Mortar Btn arrive on site.
Bravo Red sector (Carry le Rouet)
- Even if the fighting is not over in Carry, the 53rd IR progresses. It secures the path to the Vallon de l'Aigle and takes the ridge which overhangs it. Moreover, the D9 is also reached there, which means that the first Shermans of the 191st Tank Btn (Dog and Charlie Co) who have just landed can quickly reach the plateau.
At the same time, in the various coastal sectors, the men of the 2nd Btn of the 53rd IR, accompanied by elements of the 3rd Chemical Mortar Btn, are landing.
US Navy Escort Carrier USS Bogue, Operation Dragon, September 1943