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(1939-1945) WWII
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G David Bock
Lynden
WA USA
Posts: 360
What If --- Dragoon in place of Shingle and before Overlord
Posted on: 4/22/2020 7:52:52 PM

I realize there is already a thread here on Dragoon, but that is focused on the actual history, this is a hypothetical. Of course the Administrators/Moderators here might decide the two should be merged, so ...

The supposition here is that Allied Command decided to go with a bolder and larger reach of flanking in the MTO and do such in place of the short "end-run" of Operation Shingle landing barely40+ miles behind the German Gustav Line in Southern Italy where Allied divisions were bogged down trying to break through the "thickest part of the fence" so to speak. To most strategists, the path of landings from Tunisia to Sicily to Southern Italy would seem a logical progression of chasing the Axis through the MTO and clearing a seaway path from Gibraltar to
Suez.

However, once landed in the Southern part of Italy, driving overland along two thin coastal flatlands separated by a high mountain range should have seemed problematic if the Axis/Germans responded soon enough and in strength to entrench and block, which is what they did. So after the September 1943 landings, by October-November the 'Winter' rains and mud of a peninsula with limited road nets made northward advancement difficult to impossible and encouraged thoughts of amphibious flanking - envelopment to get around the loggerheads. Given the length of the Italian peninsula, it should have been reasonable to expect there might be need of a couple-few such operations to reach the Northern plains/Po valley.

Operation Shingle, landing in the Anzio area, was not planned nor expected to be the hemmed-in bottleneck and deathtrap it became. While reasonable to assume this theme/thread topic is the result of historical hindsight, in trying to put myself in the "shoes" of planners back then, with Overlord a bare half year away and it's intense need for amphib resources/lift and more troops, aircraft, etc.; extensive naval operations to flank ones way up the Italy coastlines would have only a few months window before such would have to yield to the needs of Overlord. This makes coastal "leapfrog" operations a bit dicey to sustain and encourages consideration of something else. Especially when the Shingle venture could be of limited effect and leave the Eastern coastal region as an escape path for the "pinned" German forces on the Gustav Line, should they opt to retreat to another position further up the peninsula.
Operation Shingle - Battle of Anzio
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Churchill at this time was advocating for schemes in the Balkans or Aegean as likely strategic flanking moves, but those offered some difficult terrain to operate through and at bit at the extension of Allied basings. Dragoon had been considered as something that could occur in conjunction with Overlord, but constraints in shipping and amphib lift made it a case of either one or the other, so Dragoon was given a backseat to Overlord.

But "What If" instead of jumping into a "short end run" of Shingle and landing at Anzio, the Allies went for a longer pass play and opted for the Southern Coast of France?

This topic has been kicked around a few years in another Forum, to the tune of about 255 posts and 16,850 views, here;

Southern France D-Day Before Northern France D-Day
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TANSTAAFL - There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch
G David Bock
Lynden
WA USA
Posts: 360
What If --- Dragoon in place of Shingle and before Overlord
Posted on: 4/22/2020 8:31:07 PM

The primary purpose of an earlier Dragoon, especially in place of Shingle/Anzio, is to open another Front for Germany to have to deal with. One that is geographically distant enough that it would draw away German resources from either the Russian Front, North France "Atlantic Wall", or those committed to the Italian Front. Secondary purpose would be to put as many Free French units and forces ashore and into France to initiate a distracting liberation effort in the South of France, hoping to develop a "horns of as dilemma" for the Germans to deal with.

Primary objectives would be seize the ports of Toulon and Marseilles, allowing direct offload of transport and freeing up amphib shipping for Overlord. Secondary objectives would be a drive up the Rhone valley, likely by mostly USA forces and a North-West drive towards the West coast of France by mostly Free French forces/units. British/UK forces landing on the Eastern flanks of the invasion beaches would move to block access from North Italy and/or threaten to advance in that direction.

This operation is not expected to be the drive that liberates Paris and most of France, though the further N-NW it moves from the landing zones/beach-heads the better. So long as the ports are secured and the advance goes only 30-50 miles inland during the first weeks, it will be deemed a success for tying down German resources sent to contain it and ideally take some pressure off the Overlord beaches/landings a few months later. Also, it might help thin the German units on the Gustav Line making movement north up Italian peninsula least difficult and costly.

Corsica, and Sardinia, had been liberated by early October 1943 and would provide forward air basing for this operation. As it was, Corsica would have the nickname USS Corsica reflecting it being a huge, but non movable "aircraft carrier" where eventually 17 airfields would be constructed. Assorted naval bombardments and airstrikes along both coast of Italy north of the front-lines prior to the invasion window would provide cover as softening for intended landings there, with the strikes against Southern France being focused in the week prior to the landings - focused mostly on reducing German aircraft in the region, AAA defenses, beach defenses, troop concentrations, and transportation grid.

Of the approximate dozen divisions facing the Gustav Line only about 6-8 would remain and those would assume defense posture and dig in. "Leaks" would suggest that the divisions pulled out are getting rest and refit for a "Spring Offensive"; and would join the forces allocated to 'Shingle' as the bulk of initial landing forces for Dragoon. The operation would also employ as many commando, Ranger, and Airborne as possible, knowing that for many this is "live action" training of sorts since they will be shifting north for Overlord ASAP.

Patton would be transferred to run the USA armor forces breaking out up through the Rhone.

That's the rough draft for now. More later, have to get dinner going and other things before wife gets home.
Operation Dragoon -Historical
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TANSTAAFL - There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch
G David Bock
Lynden
WA USA
Posts: 360
What If --- Dragoon in place of Shingle and before Overlord
Posted on: 5/22/2020 4:35:01 PM

Some context ...
... being part of the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, MTO, a map;



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediterranean_Sea
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And basic background;
Italian campaign (World War II)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_campaign_(World_War_II)
[Read More]

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TANSTAAFL - There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch
G David Bock
Lynden
WA USA
Posts: 360
What If --- Dragoon in place of Shingle and before Overlord
Posted on: 5/22/2020 4:43:52 PM

With Operation Anvil (known as Dragoon post Overlord) being in place of Operation Shingle, the landing at Anzio, here's some background on Shingle since many of the forces used for it will now be part of the earlier Anvil(Dragoon).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Anzio
[Read More]



The map above gives some clue as to the forces to be used in an earlier Anvil(Dragoon);
1) USA VI Corps
2) Free French Expeditionary Corps
3) A UK Corps using the Br. units from VI, and a division from Br. X Corps
This gives about 7-8 divisions already, plus a few others that were in other parts of the MTO; and/or which might get pulled from the line in Italy.
Allied attacks northward are on hold as the line stretches out into a defense posture and starts to dig in more (for Winter). This means a good chance the push against Monte Cassino would be on hold and the site spared the destruction it historically had. Intel efforts are such as to encourage deception of the Germans that the units pulled from the line are for rest and refit, before rotating with others left on the line. Partially true, but they will also be undergoing amphib training for Southern France landings for some time in March +/-.

Expecting winter weather and terrain to be as difficult to a German offensive as was to the Allied, about eight Allied divisions will be on/holding the line against the Germans while others are getting ready for and engaging in Op. Anvil.

The map also gives some gauge on which German formations/units would be available for deploy to South France in response to the landings of Anvil(Dragoon).
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TANSTAAFL - There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch
G David Bock
Lynden
WA USA
Posts: 360
What If --- Dragoon in place of Shingle and before Overlord
Posted on: 5/22/2020 5:18:58 PM

Southern France
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_France
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TANSTAAFL - There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch
G David Bock
Lynden
WA USA
Posts: 360
What If --- Dragoon in place of Shingle and before Overlord
Posted on: 5/22/2020 5:27:02 PM

Historical Dragoon
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Dragoon
[Read More]

While historical was in mid August 1944, post Overlord(Normandy Landings), this earlier scenario has it ocurring in place of Shingle/Anzio of late January 1944. Tentatively about early March to ally amphib training for the units pulled out of Italy and other preparations, hopefully seizing ports of Toulon and Marseilles within first 2-3 weeks opening for direct shipment to the landed forces and free up of the landing craft/ships used so to be sent North to UK in time for Overlord.

German defenses may be similar to (if not lighter than) what are shown here, and likely Allied landing zones would be the same as historical, as shown on these maps;


[Read More]


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TANSTAAFL - There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch
17thfabn
Ohio
OH USA
Posts: 77
What If --- Dragoon in place of Shingle and before Overlord
Posted on: 10/25/2020 9:53:15 PM

How quickly could the Germans move forces to react?

How well could the allies resupply this area? Not being as close to the UK it would seem to be much more difficult.

To me it seems it would be a race. Could the Allies get enough combat power and supplies into Southern France before the Germans could get enough force to push them out?

The historical Dragoon went quite well. I think it would be much more difficult in January 44 before the Normandy landings.

In preparation for the Normandy landings the Allied air offensive did much damage to the German Luftwaffe . In January the Luftwaffe is much stronger. Luftwaffe units in Western France could have been shifted to face the landings n the South.

More importantly in August 1944 the Germans were facing the Allied forces coming out of Normandy and the Soviet 1944 Summer offensive. And to a lesser extent had forces in Italy. Hence The German Army was under a great deal more pressure in August than in January. Making the historical Dragoon quite successful. In fact the limiting factor seems to have been fuel to keep the Allied armies moving.
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Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
RichTO90
Bremerton
WA USA
Posts: 564
What If --- Dragoon in place of Shingle and before Overlord
Posted on: 10/27/2020 12:35:50 AM

Quote:
How quickly could the Germans move forces to react?


Not the only issue. Given the chosen time frame, the Allied forces in the Med are considerably weaker in January 1944 than they were in August 1944. The American 85th and 88th ID were just arriving and barely ready for operations, and the 91st ID did not arrive until later, while the 82d A/B and 1st ID had gone to England. Realistically, it is impossible for the Allies to generate much more than the two reinforced division assault that was SHINGLE.

Given there was no credible threat to Northern France, basically everything that countered SHINGLE, plus considerable reserves forming in Northern France, 9., 10., 12., and 17. SS were all forming and could have contributed forces, along with 21. Panzer.

Quote:
How well could the allies resupply this area? Not being as close to the UK it would seem to be much more difficult.


Not very easily, since none of the shipping massed for NEPTUNE is available that early, while the distance Naples-Anzio was about 92 miles, the distance Naples to Marseilles is 500 miles.

Given it was the inability to get sufficient forces ashore fast enough to counter the German buildup is what ruined SHINGLE, trying it in Southern France is problematic in the extreme.

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17thfabn
Ohio
OH USA
Posts: 77
What If --- Dragoon in place of Shingle and before Overlord
Posted on: 10/27/2020 2:46:56 PM

In addition to facing a much more powerful Luftwaffe in January 1944. What air support would have been available to the Allies in January 1944?
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Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
RichTO90
Bremerton
WA USA
Posts: 564
What If --- Dragoon in place of Shingle and before Overlord
Posted on: 10/27/2020 4:41:29 PM

Quote:
In addition to facing a much more powerful Luftwaffe in January 1944. What air support would have been available to the Allies in January 1944?


Well, the bombers of Eighth Air Force could have contributed, possibly by an overly complex shuttle system if they wanted to be escorted. You know, Eighth Air Force's 1st, 2d, and 3d Bomb Div with VIII FC escorts fly to Italian, Sardinian, and Corsican bases and in route bomb targets in Southern France, while Twelfth and Fifteenth Air Force does the reverse? Not really seeing it working too well though, nor why it would benefit. Its trading a roughly 800 mile round trip (or much closer for the bases further south in England) for a 900-mile plus one-way trip.

And, yes, in January the Luftwaffe opposition to such strikes would be much stronger than in June. In terms of numbers, you're looking at roughly 7,238-8,483 combat aircraft for the USAAF in January as opposed to the roughly 12,798 available in early June. Call it 62% of the latter figure available.

The other issue is that not only are fewer divisions available for such a landing in the Med, fewer divisions overall are available. In total, there are only 12 Inf Div , 3 Arm Div, and 1 A/B Div for the American contribution really ready for action in the Med and UK as of c. 1 January, and only 4 or so Inf Div get shipped in January.
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17thfabn
Ohio
OH USA
Posts: 77
What If --- Dragoon in place of Shingle and before Overlord
Posted on: 11/1/2020 10:41:58 PM

I think Dragoon as it occurred was a great success and the right move.

If for no other reason than the capture of Marseille improved the allied ability to supply its forces.

I don't think it would have worked out in the earlier time frame for all the reasons given by RichTO90 and myself.

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Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
Emanon
Gibsonia
PA USA
Posts: 31
What If --- Dragoon in place of Shingle and before Overlord
Posted on: 11/5/2020 3:33:23 PM

In January, the weather in the Northern Atlantic - specifically, the English Channel - is so bad that amphibious operations are not possible. This would be true until roughly May. This gives the Germans about four months to concentrate all their forces to fight the southern invasion. The historical invasion cleared the coast very quickly because the Normandy invasion had forced the Germans to concentrate all their forces in the north of France and left little in the south of France. This would have been reversed if the south had been invaded at a time when weather prevented an invasion in the north for several months.

The Luftwaffe historically had shifted air power from Russia to the Med in previous winters because weather prevented the full use of air power in Russia, so they used their air forces to attack shipping in the Med. If they had a tempting target - such as a large fleet of ships tied to a specific set of invasion beaches, with enemy airbases on an island that also required resupply by sea - they could have done it again. They also could have moved much of the fighter air force defending Germany itself to counterattack an early Dragoon. The Luftwaffe wasn't crippled in January to the same degree that it had been mostly neutered in August.

The dominoes of weather, air forces, and enemy troop dispositions were lined up for an relatively easy invasion of southern France in August, but not in the late winter or early spring of 1944. The Western Allies didn't have enough landing craft and ships to launch two invasions at the same time, so a southern invasion in late spring would have delayed the Normandy invasion, which was by far the more important operation.
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