Operation Dragoon: The History of the Allied Invasion of Southern France after D-Day

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While D-Day is one of the most famous events of the war, it is widely overlooked that about two months after the landings in Normandy, there was a second Allied landing in France. On August 15, 1944, a combined US-French force landed in southern France on the beaches of the Côte d'Azur as part of Operation Dragoon. In just over four weeks of fighting, the Allied landing led to the liberation of most of southern France and to one of the most audacious and successful Allied operations of World War II.

However, the planning that led to Operation Dragoon (originally named Operation Anvil) was anything but settled. The idea for a landing in the south of France had been raised by senior commanders as early as 1942, and at one time it was intended to be a concurrent operation with the Overlord landings in Normandy. However, the spectacular failure of the American landing at Anzio in Italy earlier in the year and an increase in the size of forces for Overlord meant there simply weren’t resources to spare for a second simultaneous landing in France. Thus, Operation Anvil was canceled.

With less a one month to complete the planning and preparation of a major amphibious operation, many on the Allied side were skeptical of the chances of success for this operation. However, the supply situation in northern France and growing political pressures within the Allies meant it simply had to go ahead. With that, on the morning of August 15, 1944, Allied troops began landing on the beaches of the Côte d'Azur. What followed remains a controversial part of the end of the war in Europe.