Operation ‘Dragoon’ and Beyond: Then and Now by author Jean Paul Pallud

     Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of Southern France during World War Two, was a successful, lightning-fast campaign that met its objectives in just over four weeks, from 15 August – 14 September 1944. Less famous than Operation Overlord, the cross-channel invasion of France that made the generic term D-Day synonymous with a single day in history, Dragoon had strategic implications far beyond what its planners initially envisioned. Jean Paul Pallud has compiled a beautiful volume that is filled with black and white photographs documenting the invasion, along with subsequent operations driving to the Rhine River and the battle of the Colmar Pocket. Pallud’s work illustrates that the Overlord invasion did not occur in isolation, and significant, if smaller, efforts ensured that the southern flank of the Normandy breakout received protection from the operations in Southern France.

     Pallud provides a concise, informative analysis of the strategic thinking leading up to Operation Dragoon, initially codenamed Operation Anvil. While the American members of the Combined Chiefs of Staff advocated for the mission, their British counterparts disagreed. Only when the leader of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin whose troops bore the brunt of German strength fighting on the Eastern Front, expressed an interest in his allies mounting an invasion of southern France did his counterparts Roosevelt and Churchill endorse the operation.

     Launched on the heels of Overlord, planners scrambled to assemble sufficient combat power for the invasion, especially landing craft and transport planes. They eventually collected enough to support a three-division landing, supported by a small airborne element. This combined force achieved success far out of proportion for its size. German defenders found themselves stretched along France’s southern coast, without the numbers for a defense in depth. Attempts at counterattacking the invasion failed and the three US Divisions under the VI Corps soon drove inland and succeeded in linking up with elements of Third Army, driving eastward from Normandy.

     As with all books from Casemate’s After the Battle series, the book is a visual treat. The photographs from the invasion, contrasted with modern pictures of the same locations provide a fascinating interpretation of the battlefields. The text and accompanying maps complement the photos, making the overall volume an outstanding introduction to the campaign.

Operation ‘Dragoon’ and Beyond: Then and Now is available at Casemate Publishers and from a variety of retailers.

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