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15 October 2014
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Timeline - 1939-1945

Fact File : French Riviera Landings

15 August to 15 September 1944

Theatre: South of France
Location: South East France
Players: Allies: Lieutenant General Jacob Devers' US 6th Army Group comprising Lieutenant General Alexander Patch's US 7th Army, General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny's French 1st Army and the Allied Airborne Task Force (including the British 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade). Axis: General Johannes Blaskowitz's Army Group G comprising General Kurt von der Chevallerie's 1st Army and General Friedrich Wiese's 19th Army.
Outcome: The liberation of south east France.

Operation Anvil, which was renamed Operation Dragoon in July 1944, was the liberation of south east France by US, Free French and British troops.

Planned to complement the Normandy landings, the operation was repeatedly deferred due to British fears that it would sap the campaign in Italy. Once it became clear that the southern landings would take place after the Normandy landings, Churchill lobbied for the operation to be cancelled; the name change supposedly reflected his feeling that the UK had been 'dragooned' into it.

Dragoon began with seaborne and aerial commando landings, followed by three separate US infantry landings. Like Operation Neptune (the Normandy landings), Dragoon profited from the element of surprise and from local assistance - several villages in the south were liberated by the French Resistance.

By 17 August, 130,000 men and 18,000 vehicles had landed. Toulon and Marseilles were liberated on 28 August. The US 7th Army and the newly constituted French 1st Army now drove northward, establishing an 80km (fifty-mile) belt of liberated territory along France's eastern border. On 15 September the combined forces met the US 3rd Army on its drive south.

Considered in isolation, Dragoon was an unqualified success. However, it should also be set in the context of the hard-pressed Allied campaign in Italy, from which several US and French divisions were diverted. This was the last act in the Anglo-American debate between peripheral and frontal strategies - and a decisive victory for the American approach.

The fact files in this timeline were commissioned by the BBC in June 2003 and September 2005. Find out more about the authors who wrote them.

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