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Operation Anvil/Dragoon: A war winner or an expensive sideshow?

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  • Operation Anvil/Dragoon: A war winner or an expensive sideshow?

    When the Allies landed in Southern France in August of 1944, was it a sound strategic move that helped shorten the war, or was it merely an unneeded enterprise that diverted critically needed troops and supplies from other more important fronts?
    Last edited by sherlock; 03 May 10, 06:51.
    If there are no dogs in Heaven, then I want to go where they went when they died-Will Rogers

  • #2
    Watson,

    Actually it was a good move. The port of Marseilles was the main provider of supplies for the rest of the war. While much is written about how a lack of a good port on the Atlantic side hurt the Western Allies, people overlook that Marseilles was pretty much undamaged. Also, the rail system and bridges were still there.

    One thing people fail to observe is that entry into Italy from this this direction is pretty hard. The terrain on the border is pretty bad.

    Pruitt
    Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

    Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

    by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

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    • #3
      Indeed. Marseilles and the Mediterannean ports supplied the entire 6th Army Group as well as part of 12th AG when the Atlantic ports could not.
      The Purist

      Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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      • #4
        I won't go so far as call it a "war winner" but it did enable the Wallies to get more troops into France and make the German operations that much more difficult.

        I'm sure it releived some pressure of the units fighting in the North of France at the time.

        I've wondered if Dragoon should have gone in before D-Day 6 June, pulling off some of the German forces that later were engaged in Nomandy.
        Last edited by Half Pint John; 03 May 10, 07:40.
        "Ask not what your country can do for you"

        Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

        you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Half Pint John View Post
          I won't go so far as call it a "war winner" but it did enable the Wallies to get more troops into France and make the German operations that much more difficult.
          Agreed, as well as with Pruitt's and Purist's points.

          I'm sure it releived some pressure of the units fighting in the North of France at the time.
          I'm not sure. I don't recall the Germans sending reinforcments to assist the retreating 19th Army. IIRC, 11th armored division was previously assigned to the army. I suppose this formation along with another infantry division or two could have been moved to assist in trying to block the Allied moves north and east, but most I tend to doubt it.

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          • #6
            Operation Cobra, the allied breakout of Normandy, occurred on the end of July, and started the headlong German retreat that only ended at the Rhine. I would wager that by August the German were pulling out troops as fast as they could.

            But interetsing, I didn't know about the importance of the French Mediterranean ports in supplieing the allies, thanks.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by Acheron View Post
              Operation Cobra, the allied breakout of Normandy, occurred on the end of July, and started the headlong German retreat that only ended at the Rhine. I would wager that by August the German were pulling out troops as fast as they could.

              But interetsing, I didn't know about the importance of the French Mediterranean ports in supplieing the allies, thanks.
              Exactly.
              But maybe Hermann Balck would have been reappointed to command the 11th armored and told to reenact his successes on the Chir.

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              • #8
                To amplify. The existing port capacity, including the prefabricated Mulberry harbors were barely adequate to supply the 12th & 21st Army Groups that romped across France in August. The existing reinforcement schedule on new combat units was barely sustainable from the standpoint of landing the units and supplying them was problematic. Capturing LeHarve and Antwerp solved little for 1944. Both required week or months of follow on effort before they came close to making any difference. Aggravating this was the problem of keeping the Mulberry harbors operating past September. The effort to do so appeared high risk.

                A second issue was the destruction of the transportation from the Atlantic & Channel ports. Just rebuilding bridges was a major effort. Restoring the railroads from southern France was less demanding. Neither Marsailles or Toulon were as badly damaged as the Atlantic ports & both were reciving cargo in less than five weeks of capture. Also cross beach supply was practical further into the Autum along the south coast of France.

                Were Anvil not executed consider fighting the Autum & winter battles of 1944 without the 6th Army Group. Less the 20+ divisions of the 6th, the 12th & 21st have to cover roughly 50% more front. Would there be any question of sustained offensive operations in the Autum or Winter in that situation? or even into the early Spring.

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                • #9
                  IIRC 40% of the supplies for the Allies in NW Europe eventually came through the south thanks to Dragoon. Don't understand why this operation was considered controversial except for Churchill. He just wanted another front to go into the Eastern Med to prevent Russian advances there.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Acheron View Post
                    Operation Cobra, the allied breakout of Normandy, occurred on the end of July, and started the headlong German retreat that only ended at the Rhine. I would wager that by August the German were pulling out troops as fast as they could.
                    They were. The railroad transport was too disorganized for the Germans to evacuate all the nonmobile units. Shortly after the mobile units got clear the 6th & 3rd Armies captured a fair size pocket (25,000 ?) of German soldiers who could not walk fast enough. No Allied army advancing up from the south allows the Germans to make a more orderly evacuation, probablly saving all their men & a lot more equipment. Complete evacuation might be put off into the winter as communication with Northern Italy could be continued and it is unlikely the other Allied armies could attack south as well as east to Germany.

                    Originally Anvil was penciled in for the Spring of 1944, before Neptune. Complications with providing landing craft caused Anvil to be postphoned to late Summer. A seldom asked WI revolves around the pros & cons of executing Anvil as originally scheduled.

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                    • #11
                      Excellent points above. I might add that the inclusion of a southern army group with an independent supply base meant that when things got stretched out in the north (September-December 1944) SHAEF would have some flexibility to transfer divisions or even corps (e.g., Haislip's XV) from Patton's Third to Patch's Seventh Army to keep the formations supplied.

                      As discussed in the 'Personalities' thread on General Devers, Eisenhower might have used this force to better advantage. Patch was an excellent army commander, and the army group was in a position to force the Germans back along the Swiss border and at the Palatinate.
                      "There are only two professions in the world in which the amateur excels the professional. One, military strategy, and, two, prostitution."
                      -- Maj. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

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                      • #12
                        Anvil/Dragoon - good plan, terrible timing. Nothing was achieved that could not have been by launching it a month or two later.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Gooner View Post
                          Anvil/Dragoon - good plan, terrible timing. Nothing was achieved that could not have been by launching it a month or two later.
                          Wouldn't launching Anvil and Dragon later also mean that their relief of the allied supply situation would come later, too? In that case, I'd rather argue that they were launched too late.
                          Reaction to the 2016 Munich shootings:
                          Europe: "We are shocked and support you in these harsh times, we stand by you."
                          USA: "We will check people from Germany extra-hard and it is your own damn fault for being so stupid."

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Acheron View Post
                            Wouldn't launching Anvil and Dragon later also mean that their relief of the allied supply situation would come later, too? In that case, I'd rather argue that they were launched too late.
                            Agreed.

                            IIRC it was launched at the earliest opportunity given the shipping and landing craft available.

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                            • #15
                              Reflecting further, it was not so much a matter of timing as a lack of mission for Sixth Army Group. Dragoon put more boots on the ground, and that is always a good thing. But those boots might have been used more effectively once employed. Sixth Army Group was at the Rhine in December 1944, which no one else could say at that point. If reinforced by a third army, it might have broken the West Wall around Strasbourg and pushed up the Rhine Valley towards Frankfurt. If that happened, the West Wall would have been rolled up to the Saar River.

                              These are all "might haves," not to convert this into a "what if" thread but to illustrate how the problem of Dragoon turned out to be not timing viz. the Neptune landings, but the question of what to do with a well-supplied southern army group.

                              As it was, Sixth Army Group's only function was to pin German units in the south, guard 12th Army Group's flank, and stretch left when Patton rode off to Bastogne.
                              "There are only two professions in the world in which the amateur excels the professional. One, military strategy, and, two, prostitution."
                              -- Maj. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

                              (Avatar: Commodore Edwin Ward Moore, Republic of Texas Navy)

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