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The landings in Provence: Operation Dragoon, the liberation of the Côte d’Azur, August-September 1944


As the Battle of Normandy was nearing its end and the Liberation of Paris only a matter of days away, the Allies opened a second front on 15 August 1944 in the south of France. While the French commandoes landed on the Provençal coast and climbed the cliffs at Cap Nègre and the Devil’s Brigade of the 1st Special Service Force took the islands of Port-Cros and the Levant, five thousand paratroopers from the First Airborne Task Force jumped inland near Draguignan. Operation Dragoon had just begun... facing the Allied Forces, a single German divi- sion: the 148.Reserve Division. It was a motley group, composed of young soldiers, often without experience – barely motivated Polish, Slovenes or Czech elements who resisted often with determination; they carried out a retreat in good order under Generalleutnant Otto Fretter-Pico. This operation is here studied for the first time in depth, from beginning to end. We follow the day by day, hour by hour and village by village, progress of the Allied troops written up by Jean-Loup Gassend through the Provencal countryside up to the Italian border. With great thoroughness and an eye for detail, the author sets the scene for the fighting then, and this is the book’s wealth, enables the participants to speak. The veterans’ testimonies on both sides and the region’s inhabitants give the book its humanity, a rare emotion. American parachutists, French sailors, German soldiers or simple civilians, everybody recounts his memories, his own truth. The war and fighting are described with cruel accuracy, but also with sensi- tivity and compassion.
Including particularly rich, original illustrations, this book is an exceptional document about this capital episode of WWII that the general public doesn’t know very well.

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