Operation Dragoon

Area of airborne operations (operation Dragoon).

Operation Dragoon (originally code named Anvil) has always been overshadowed by the earlier invasion of Normandy. The original plan was to launch both invasions concurrently but due to the lack of transports and much needed supplies being diverted to Overlord, it was pushed back.

Winston Churchill vigorously opposed the plan, preferring his own plan which was to invade up into the Balkans, what he called the soft underbelly of Europe. He continued voicing his disagreement right up until August 9, 1945. There is a popular miscinception that the name Dragoon, came about by Churchill proclaiming that he had been "dragooned" into going along with the plan. This has been perpetuated by several authors, but while sounding good is nothing more than a 60 year old urban myth. Eisenhower was committed to his broad front strategy and felt that this invasion would draw German reinforcements from Normandy and open up another port area (Marseilles).

1st Airborne Task Force

Operation Dragoon's Airborne component was activated on July 18, 1944 (less than a month before the invasion) and commanded by Major General Robert T. Frederick, previously commander of the 1st Special Services force. He had a herculean task to perform in a very small amount of time: To gather together disparate airborne units under one command, no small feat in and of itself and then plan an airborne assault. That it was managed to be done in such a small amount of time is a credit to him and to the officers and men under his command.

The 1st ABTF consisted of:

  • 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion (1 Platoon of the 887 Engineer Company attached)
  • 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion
  • 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team which was made up of the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 596th parachute Engineer Company, 460th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment Anti Tank Company and Company D of the 83rd Chemical Battalion.
  • 550th Airborne Infantry Battalion (1 Platoon of the 887 Engineer Company attached)
  • 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion
  • 602nd Pack Howitzer Field Artillery Battalion
  • 596th Parachute Combat Engineer Company
  • 2nd British Independent Parachute Brigade Group

    The amphibious assault of Southern France was spearheaded by the 3rd, 36th and 45th Infantry Divisons and supported by Free French forces groups and naval bombardment.

    551st Troopers descending over Southern France, August 15, 1944.

    551st Troopers descending over Southern France, 8/15/44.

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