LO SBARCO ALLEATO IN PROVENZA DELL'AGOSTO 1944 (46)
THE SWEEP FROM THE SOUTH
|The landing was smooth, and part of lhe
time it was easy going, but also there were many battles like those for
lhe ports of Toulon and Marseille.
BERLIN radio had been blaring the usual baloney for weeks after Normandy but for once they sounded smug and sure, as if they had been sitting in on a lot of Seventh Army G-3 planning conferences. They kept saying that they knew all about this upcoming invasion of Southern France, that they knew where and when and how much. And they were ready for it, they said. But when "Operafion Dragoon" started landing its troops on the 45-mile stretch of coast east of Toulon in the gray, foggy morning of Aug. 15, the Germans weren't even remotely ready. Seldom had an invasion been so smootb and simple and perfectly executed as this ODe. It was something generals dream about during Louisiana maneuvers.
It was so smooth for several reasons: The three American D-Day divisions. the 3d, 36th and 45th, were all veteran outfits which had made either two or three previous amphibious landings at such places as Africa, Sicily, Salerno and Anzio.
The Germans, who knew we were coming, didn't know where. They had concentrated their strength in the Marseille- Toulon area and our main landings about 40 miles east of Toulon had caught them flatfooted and off-center.
Seventh Army G-2 correctly doped out expected resistance. The staff knew how many pillboxes were manned and how many weren't and which beaches would be toughest. It knew that the German 19th Army had only seven divisions Stretched out all along tbe coast from the Pyrenees to the Alps. It also knew that the Germans had little armor, and less air support. Then there was the FFI, giving the Germans a terrific internal bellyache.
The Word spread fast. This was the night. tomorrow was freedom. There was so much to do. Bridges to blow up, roadblock3 to destroy. Minefields to mark. This is how you fight a tank when you have almost nothing to fight it with. Here is the approved method 0f digging mines with your hands from the beaches during the blacked-out-night.. If you wish to kill a german quietly you must cut hi neck comme ca..freeedom comes expensive
Task forces Romeo, Rugby and rosie would hit at different times and different places before H Hour. Then at 08.00 Kodak would came in at Alpha. Delta and Camel beaches scattered from Cap Cavalaire to Agay.
The mission of Romeo-a small unit of French Commandos-was to neutralize coastal defenses on the left flank and push on to the high ground. Rosie was a force of French Marines With the job of blowing up coastal defenses on the right flank. Romeo worked beautifully but Rosie ran into mines. Only six sUrVivors of Rosie made contact with the 36th the next day.
Rugby was something much more special, a task force of 10,000 paratroopers, British and American, dropping 18 miles inland on three zones near Le Muy. Also scbeduled was 6,440 tons of bombs and 774 tons of naval shells. An expected 200 German planes would be taken care of by XII TAC (only 18 curious ME-109s showed up and three never went home again). Then, Kodak. Kodak was VI Corps, three divisions broken down into sub-task forces: The 3d landing at Alpha beaches in the Bay Cavalaire and Bay Pompellonne; the 45th going into Delta beaches around Bougnan Bay in tbe Gulf of St. Tropez and the 36th moving mto Camel lrom Point St. Aygulf to Antheor.
* * *
Perfect as it almost was, with six out of 11 assault battalions landing exactly at 0800, with the others coming in within four minutes there were still some slight inevitable screwups. One screwup turned out wonderful. It was during the Rugby show when the ground fog was so soupy that 29 planes dropped their loads 0f paratroopers in the wrong place. They dropped them three miles south of St. Tropez in an area being bombarded by our own naval guns. But the bombardment soon stopped and the troopers were able to wipe out some important coastal guns and move into St.Tropez way ahead of schedule.
Most of the rest of the 1st Airborne Task Force landed where they were supposed to land, blocking the road net leading into the invasion coast,beating off smalls scale counterattacks and waiting for a junction with the 45th. Toughtest opposition was at Camel Beach where the 36th bumped into small but determinated enemy pockets plus beaucoup artillery. One of the Jerries, swooping low over Camel, dropped a glider bomb square on an ammo-loaded LST which started exploding. Soldiers of the lllth combat engineer Battalion and the 736th Ordnance company heard the screams of burning men and stripped down and started swimming to the ship, bringing back the wounded. They brought back 100. They swam from dusk to midnight. The 45th came in so fast that some of the boys walked into a camouflaged dugout near the beach to find hot cofee boiling on the stove. The 157th hit the beaches about a mile northeast of Ste. Maxime in Bougnan Bay and the 6617th mine Clearing Company blew a 12-foot gap in thr sea wall. Opposition was slight. Opposition was similarly slight against the 3rd Division. so slight that the 15th Regiment shot up the violet smoke signal indicating all clear within 40 minutes after H-Hour.
Once in, troops moved fast. There was no battle of the beaches on this invasion. THe Germans didn't seem to have much more than guerrIlla defense, an uncoordinated checkerboard setup of isolated strongpoints. Some strongpoints were tougher than others. Parked on ridges, a few strongpoints were made up of ten machėne guns and pIllboxes. They had to be busted up by naval gunfire assisted by tanks and TDs, There were strongpoėnts Like that liberally scattered all over the St. Tropez peninsula.
During the first few days, our air recon reported German reinforcements streaming southward to the beaches but then traffic did a complete about-face. Then it was just a rat race. After a bitter fight for the Hotel du Nord, the 45th cleaned out Ste. Maxime, one regiment moving up to the high ground outside Vidauban and another regiment going up to the Durance Rėver. Patrols were also sent into Lorgues where they found the paratroopers and FFI already in control. FFI also took over the town of Barjols while 45th troops were fighting for the high ground.
Before D-Day ended, the 3d Division plus the 1st Airborne had completely cleared the St. Tropez peninsula, the 7th RCT then moving along the Marseille-Nice road meeting the French Commandos at Canadel. After a two-day fight for Brignoles, the 3rd was sweeping up Highway 7, the best military road from the target area to the Rhone Valley.
On the eastern tip of the beachhead, the 36th had its toughest fight for Callian before straddling the only major route through which the Germans could bring up their reserves from Cannes. In the Callian fight, our troops moved out once and then came back later and wiped out the garrison except 200 who surrendered.
Our own losses were small. Of the 66,000 soldiers of VI Corps who landed on D-Day, less than 500 were casualties.
In a special order of the day, Lt. Gen. Alexander Patch asked his Seventh Army to keep advancing regardless of fatigue or of shortages because "The enemy is perplexed and stunned and the opportunity for decisive results is ahead of us.'
For the occasion, Task Force Butler was born. It was shaped out of hodgepodge units detached from each of the three divisions. It was to be the spearhead of the spearhead, the long exploring finger sticking into the confused mass of German troops, poking hard and fast and moving somewhere else. Close behind, the 36th was clearing the rear, protecting the flanks.
The whole front now was nothing more than this widely dispersed, disconnected series of pockets and strongpoints. The front was so fluid that nobody knew for sure where the Germans were and where we weren't. Task Force Butler swept right into Sisteron, 80 miles from the beaches. The 3d was at Brignoles, the 45th at Berjols and the 36th was pushing beyond, Draguignan deep into the Rhone Valley. Throughout the whole Task Force Butler drive, there were large groups of assorted FFI coming on horses, wood-burning busses, motorcycles, all attaching themselves to the Task Force like the story of the Pied Piper and the kids.
dalla rivista "Yank The Army Weekly" - June 17 - 1945
|While VI corps troops were
streaming up the Rhone valley, the french army, landing on D plus one,
was busy cutting around Toulon et Marseille. Because actually, the
German military logic was correct. Geography had dictated our strategy.
We badly needed the deep water ports of Toulon and Marseille. Without
them, our whole sweep through France was valueless. We needed gas, food,
ammo in huge quantities, and quickly. But the Germans knew our need.
That's why the German High Commando while pulllng everything else out,
was willing to sacrifice two fullstrength dėvisions, one in Toulon and
another in Marserlle. Their job was suicidal. They were to fight to the
last man, the last shell. They were to destroy everything destroyable.
The French moved fast. The tactėc was outflanking and encirclement and
the job was tough. In Toulon, the Germans had 60 heavy guns and 100
light guns besides the usual AT guns blocking all approaches.
However, the French came well equipped and s00n had a solid ring of six battalions of American 155s and an equal number of 105s shelling the city's defenses. XII TAC helped out, bombėng the city for seven days, and the ships of the Western Naval Task Force which shelled for eight days. By then, the troops began infiltrating, fighting from house to house into the city's heart. Goumiers, Spahis, Senegalese, Foreign Legionnaires and native Frenchmen fighting for Free France. It was the same story at Marseille, at the same time. Final German resistance took place in the forts along the water's edge as we11 as the heavily fortified heights of Notre Dame de la Garde. By August 23, the French had their CP in the Hotel du Quinzieme. By August 28, the 7,000 Germans and their commanding general decided it was slightly stupid to fight to the last man, so they surrendered the city, Toulon fell the same day. .. .follow
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