Operation Dragoon was one of the more controversial Allied offensives of the Second World War, and was the cause of a great deal of friction between Churchill and Eisenhower in the months before D-Day.
At the heart of the controversy was a debate over the best use of the large Allied army in the Mediterranean. The invasion of the south of France was originally planned to support the invasion of Normandy and to take place at about the same time. Its main supporters were Roosevelt and Marshall, with Stalin in the background.
Its main opponent was Churchill, who wanted to concentrate on the campaign in Italy and a possible advance into Austria and the Balkans, believing that it would be just as effective at pinning down German forces, and would also prevent the Soviets from dominating the Balkans.
The campaign itself was a success, liberating the south of France in less than half of the expected time, partly because the Germans had already decided to withdraw before the landings took place. Tucker-Jones is aware of this, and so the actual fighting in the south of France only fills one of the twelve chapters. The first six look at the background to the operation, and in particular the long high-level arguments it triggered.
Chapter seven covers the build up and chapter eight the invasion itself. We then move north to follow de Gaulle on the road to Paris before returning south to follow the troops involved in Dragoon as they advanced towards Belfort and Lorraine.
A major theme of the book is the revival of French military power under de Gaulle, from a standing start in 1943 to the point where the French had the fourth largest Allied army (after the Soviet Union, the United States and Great Britain). Dragoon played a major part in this revival, and saw French troops liberate Marseille and Toulon (this also explains the brief diversion to Paris).
Tucker-Jones's work benefits from his decision to place Operation Dragoon in its wider context, which was rather more important than the campaign itself. The result is a book that sheds some valuable light on a relatively neglected campaign.
1 - Pleasing Stalin - the Balkans or Southern France
2 - De Gaulle - 'he is a very dangerous threat to us'
3 - Churchill and Monty take on Ike
4 - Ike says 'No' to Churchill
5 - The Second Front - Blaskowitz's Lost Divisions
6 - Dragoon Hots Up
7 - Dragoon - 'irrelevent and unrelated'
8 - The 'Champagne Campaign'
9 - De Gaulle Stakes his Claim - the Liberation of Paris
10 - The Battle of the Belfort Gap
11 - Lorraine and the Southern Push to the Rhine
12 - Churchill and Monty were Right
Author: Anthony Tucker-Jones
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military