Operation Dragoon, 1944: France's other D-Day, Steven J Zaloga

Operation Dragoon, 1944: France's other D-Day, Steven J Zaloga

Campaign 208

This volume in Osprey's campaign series looks at Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of southern France. This is probably the least well known of the series of Allied amphibious landings that started with Operation Torch, then moved on to Sicily, mainland Italy and Anzio, before for most people ending with the D-Day landings in Normandy. In fact two months after D-Day the Allies launched their second amphibious invasion of France, landing on the weakly defended south coast and quickly advancing north into the heart of France.

The text covers the month from 15 August-14 September, from the Allied landings in southern France to the day that the troops were officially transferred from the Mediterranean to the European theatre of operations, having joined up with the armies breaking out of the Normandy beachhead. This period saw three distinct series of operations – the initial fighting on and close to the beaches, where the Allies broke through the thin, brittle German defences, the German retreat, where despite the Allies best efforts large German forces managed to escape back towards Germany, and the liberation of Toulon and Marseille, the two most important ports of southern France.

Zaloga has included some interesting material on the role of the French resistance in the south (the Maquis or Forces Française de l'Interior), giving a balanced view of their part in the fighting that acknowledges their role in isolated the Germans and wearing down the morale of isolated garrisons, without giving them undue prominence.

The text is supported by seven maps, most either full or double page in size. The normal excellent selection of photographs includes a surprising number of contemporary colour pictures, as well as the usual double-page illustrations.

My only criticism of this book is with Zaloga's handling of the wider criticisms of Operation Dragoon, which was seen by Churchill, amongst others, as a pointless distraction from the campaign in Italy, which had the potential to see British and American troops break into the Balkans ahead of the advancing Soviets. The very real strategic debate behind this point of view is rather unfairly dismissed as one of 'Churchill's fantasies'.

Otherwise this is an excellent account of an almost forgotten campaign

Author: Steven J Zaloga
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 96
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2009

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