In 1944, the Allies entered Paris from the west. General Dietrich von Choltitz, commander of the 50,000 man German garrison of the city, found himself cut off by General Jacob Devers, commander of the US Sixth Army Group, advancing from the south.
Broken Watch on the Rhine Part 1Without even token resistance, he formally handed Gen. Devers his pistol, surrendering the city of Paris, its garrison, and, effectively, all other German forces in France.
In less than four weeks, the American divisions diverted from the Italian campaign, advanced from Cannes on the Mediterranean Coast to the German-Luxemboug border.
"Operation Overlord pounded the Nazi face,"l Winston Churchill wrote after the war, "but Operation Dragoon tore the spine out of the German army in France. I opposed this operation, but I was overruled, and thank God for that".
Operation Dragoon was originally scheduled to commence on Aug. 15. However, following the failure of the Allied forces in Normandy to break out of the beachhead during June, General Eisenhower ordered Allied Forces Headquarters in the Mediterranean to advance Dragoon by two weeks.
A new story by Stan BrinThe landings south of Cannes caught the German 19th Army undermanned completely unprepared. The combined American, British, and French divisions of the Sixth Army Group were virtually unopposed.
Advance was rapid and continuous. Within two weeks, the Sixth Army Group had reached Grenoble. Nothing stood between Gen. Devers' force and the German border.
A panicked Hitler allowed the German High Command to order a complete withdrawal west of the Siegfried Line. Nevertheless, the entire German 19th Army surrendered to the Americans at Lyon on Aug. 18, leaving the Seventh German Army trapped west of Paris, and within the city.
Von Choltitz' surrender on Aug.23 effectively ended the war in France. Nearly 400,000 German prisoners were captured, causing a massive supply problem for the western allies. (General Patton suggested that instead of feeding 400,000 useless mouths, the allies should "have the German prisoners take an oath to the Kaiser and fight for us, instead of the Nazis". His suggestion was turned down.)
US and British forces reached the Siegfried Line on Sept. 1 and found it manned mainly by old men and boys. Operations were hampered by supply problems and the Red Ball Express was only able to provide enough supplies for 12 divisions. These were sufficient, however, to break through to the Rhine on Sept. 10, which was crossed five days later.
The German Army attempted a counter-attack on Sept. 22, known as "Operation Watch on the Rhine" or the "Battle of the Bulge," but the allies controlled the air was complete, and the German offensive proved ephemeral despite the lavish use of heavy Tiger tanks.
This proved to be Germany's final gasp in the west. The collapse of the Wehrmacht's western front was so rapid that its eastern armies managed to remain in the field, and in control of Hungary, and much of Poland and Czechoslovakia.
Patton's Third Army reached the Elbe, completely unopposed, on Nov. 10, and Berlin on Dec, 1, 1944, less than five months after Operation Overlord, and exactly four months after Operation Dragoon.
After the war, Dutch diarist Anne Frank wrote that "Operation Dragoon saved the lives of millions who would have starved if the war had lasted through the winter. I am sure that I am among those millions who their lives to the speed of the Allied advance".
A significant portion of those millions would prove to be a significant headache for the British after the war, but that is another story...