. 1st ABTF .
AIRBORNE TASK FORCE
operation Dragoon, the invasion of
was conceived in a controversy.
Churchill did not want it, he knew that the Germans were stationed for the operation. Instead, Churchill advocated a Allied thrust in the Balkans and then cutting the grass under the feet of the Soviets.
However, the objective of Roosevelt was Germany itself. Therefore, President Roosevelt programming the operation for the 15 August 1944.
The Lieutenant General Lucian K Truscott, VI Corps Commander, was selected to lead the main thrust of the attack. It was him who had led VI Corps out of the Anzio « Meat Grinder » and into Rome. Also attached to General Truscott's force, the 1st Airborne Task Force (1st ABTF) is a kind of “Division”, it has its roots in the regrouping of all airborne elements available on the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations in February 1944.
July 11, 1944
and is under
the command of
Robert T Frederick.
in June 1942 and
First Special Service
prepare for the commitment
of its Task
Force in the
initial phase of
For this operation, the
up the “Rugby
The assault of the 1st ABTF revolves around the following missions: the mission of pathfinders, missions Albatross and Canary for the paratroopers and missions Bluebird and Dove for gliders.
<- Major General Robert T. Frederick
Of all the elements that make up the 1st ABTF, it’s 509th PIB had
more combat experience.
It fought in
with an assault with the Vth Army at
The 517th PRCT was the biggest unit assigned to the 1st ABTF. It consisted of the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 460th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion and 596th Airborne Engineer Battalion.
The missions entrusted to the Rugby Force are:
1. Landing in Muy area on 15 August at 4:15 a.m and prepare and cover the arrival of the gliders.
2. Prevent any movement from the enemy to Muy and Luke towards the beach.
3. Support the landing of the 36th Infantry Division taking the enemy defenses in the rear of Frejus.
For the mission, 3 Drop Zone of the turn of Le Muy area are determined:
DZ C for the 509th PRCT
DZ A for the 517th PRCT and 551st PIB
DZ O for the 2nd IPBG (British Independent Parachute Brigade)
2 Landing Zone for the Gliders was planned :
LZ A modeled on the DZ A.
LZ O modeled on the DZ O.
The objectifs was:
-For the 509th PRCT : cut the communications lines and seized the heights of the South of Le Muy to support with the artillery fire the 2nd IPBG’s attack on the city.
-For the 517th PRCT : seized the high ground southeat of Les Arcs and south-western of the Le Muy then capture the cities of La Motte and Les Arcs and prohibit access to main roads toward Vibaudan and Draguignan.
-For the 2nd IPBG : seize the areas to the east of La Motte and take the city Le Muy.
-For the 551st PIB, releved the 517th PRCT’s elements.
-Concerning the elements landed by gliders, they must bring artilley support and reinforce paratroopers units based on problems of advance.
The first mission of the 1st ABTF was given to the Pathfinders. They received the mission to set up the tagging of the DZ.
For this, 3 Serials of C-47 took off from around 1:00 a.m; from Marcigliana carrying 122 paratroopers.
The objective of the first serial is the DZ C, it included 1 officer and 14 enlisted men of 509th PIB and 1 officer and 10 enlisted men of 550th GIB.
For the 2nd serial, the objectif is the DZ/LZ A, it included 3 officers and 33 enlisted men all of the 517th PIR.
For the 3rd Serial, the objectif is the DZ/LZ O, it included 4 officers and 42 enlisted men all of the 1st Independent Parachute Platoon.
They have obviously got all the equipment necessary to markup. In theory, one team is enough to set a DZ, but with the risk of loss, and the presence of enemies are 3 teams that are sent on each DZ.
Because of the very good weather conditions, the C-47 reaches the coast at the scheduled time. Enemy fire are also fed very light. However, upon crossing the coast, a big fog forced the pilots to navigate by dead reckoning and despite the relief images on the radar screens of SCR-717-C that pilots can compare aerial photos of the region, the series of the head carryings the 3 Pathfinders’teams to be dropped on DZ C astray and must include a second navigation.
It was only 3:43 a.m., the first C-47 dropped the stick and all this at at the forth attempt. The other 2planes will eventually drop their sticks after a sixth attempt.
The 3 teams are dropped far from their DZ, more than 15 kilometers to the east over a wooded area and located between the cities of Fréjus and Cannes.
For the 2nd Series, the navigation was perfect. The sticks are dropped at 3:28 a.m. on a wooded area, 6km east of the DZ A, in the sector of La Combe.
Despite, the Pathfinders are confused and must wait for the sunrise to estimate their position.
At 8:00 a.m., while two officers left the group to identify the remains of pathfinders is assumed in part by the Germans.
The fights are hard and after 45 minutes, the Germans retreated.
The men gather, take over their equipment and headed for the DZ with a British officer of the mission Albatross, dropped far away of his DZ.
They ended to joining the DZ A in the afternoon, they set the mark out to bring the DZ for the mission Canary and Dove.
For the 3rd Series, the British’ pathfinders were dropped on the DZ/LZ O on time. The team landed at 100 meters from the objective. They set the beacon, but the holophane light will only serve to help rally on the ground. Indeed, there is a thick fog that prevents visibility from the C-47.
In conclusion, the pathfinders’missions proved ineffective. Only the DZ/LZ O will be properly marked.
The mission « Albatross » is the most important mission for the paratroopers. 396 C-47 should drop 5628 paratroopers. They take off in 10 waves of several airfields in Italy. The schedule for the release is between 4:23 and 5:09 a.m.
For the DZ C, a first wave of 45 planes took off from Follonica. They carry 600men. They consist of the 509th PIB HQ, A Company of the 509th PIB, elements of the 463rd PFAB HQ, Battery A of the 463th PFAB (4 75mm howitzers), element of Battery D of the 463rd PFAB (10 bazooka and machine guns) and finally the 1st Platoon of the 596th AEB.
According to plan the drop takes places at 4:21. Practically all the sticks are dropped on the DZ C. The paratroppers’ mission is to take the heights to the South of Le Muy and blocking the road Le Muy-Sainte Maxime. The men of the 463rd PFAB provide fire support.
Meanwhile, a second wave is dropped on the area. 45 C-47 took off from Grosseto with 600 paratroopers on board. They consist of companies B and C of 509th PIB, batteries B and C of 463rd PFAB (with 8 75mm howitzers) and elements and a platoon of Company D of the 463rd PFAB.
300 paratroopers will be in the area of St Tropez. A plane will cast even his stick above the sea, and there were no survivors and the B Company lost its commander, Capt. Ralph R. Miller. The paratroopers who are not victim of a miscarriage land within 11km around the DZ C.
Jess H. Walls
of C Company, 509th PIB took command of men. It will be joined by several
troopers of B Company on Hill la Belle Isnarde.
They suffer from 5:50 and 7:30a.m. naval bombardment preceding the landing of the 3rd Infantry Division on the beach at Pampelonne.
At the DZ,
60% of the material was found and from 7:00 am, a howitzer is operational and
two more in the late morning.
Fire support is then available for the attack of Muy. On the road to Sainte Maxime - Le Muy in the sector of Preyra, the gunners of Battery D install a foothold with their bazookas and machine guns toward the South. The CP is set to Hauts Pétignons.
To the side of Capitaine Walls, the paratroopers approached St Tropez and its citadel. At 14:00p.m., the paratrooper with the support of resisters goes on the attack. From 15:30 p.m., they receive the backing of the 15th RCT landed from Pampelonne’s beach.
side of the DZ, the paratroopers of the 509th PIB trying to reach Le
Muy with the bridge over Nartuby river. It is 5:00 p.m. on a patrol
finally reached the city still in German hands. To the 463rd PFAB, a
fourth howitzer is available. The men of the 509th PICT setup for the
night. They are preparing to attack Muy because the British paratroopers
have failed in their mission to liberate the city.
In St Tropez, it is 5:00 p.m. when the Germans hoisted the white flag on the citadel and 20:00 p.m. when the last defenders surrendered.
The Americans will be 190 prisoners. The paratroopers have to deplore the loss of 3 men and several wounded.
Regarding the batteries B and C of the 463rd PFAB, they fell to about 6km south of St Tropez. 5 howitzers were quickly made in battery and with the 3rd Infantry Division’s men, will participate in taking 3 German batteries. Only some elements of the 463rd PFAB participated to take St Tropez. The Gunners have two killed and ten wounded.
For the DZ A, the 1st wave of 45 C-47 took off from Ombronne. On board, 720 paratroopers to the 2nd Bn of 517th PIR. There is also the HQ of the 517th PIR and the 2nd Platoon of the 596th AEB.
It is 4:35 a.m when the sticks are dropped. But the jump is bad which results in high dispersion. Only 1/3 of the workforce is sufficiently close to the DZ that to achieve the objectives in the area of la Motte and the road of Draguignan.
The men of D and E Companies and the PC of the battalion landed on the DZ and the village of La Motte.
Those of F Company, the PC of the battalion and the 2nd Platoon of the 596th AEB find themselves in an area East of Le Muy.
part of the troops under the command of Major Forrest Paxton finds
himself on an area 2.5km to the South of Le Muy. After reunification, the
paratroopers join their objectives by fighting against an enemy in small
A second wave of 45 planes left Italy to reach the same DZ at 4:40a.m.
700 paratroopers from the 3rd Battalion, 517th PIR of Lieutenant
Colonel Melvin Zais and the 3rd Platoon,596th AEB, of lieutenant
Fred Zavaretto on board.
For this wave, the drop is even more dispersed. 480 paratroopers are found in three groups within 3 to 5 km around the village of Fayence. A group consists of Lt.Col. Zais and Company I, which landed in the area of Seillans. A second with more than 60 troopers to be found in Tourettes, with the Captain Joseph McGeever of HQ battalion. The third group is that of Lt. Howard Hensleigh and his Company G lost more than 40km from the DZ A. 260 paratroopers, for the majority of H Company 3rd Platoon 596th AEB land in the valley of La Camiole between Fayence and Callian.
Under the command of Lieutenant Ludlow Gibbons who commanded the Company H, they gather at the castle of Camiole in Callian.
support to the
Under the command of Major Edward C. Frank Jr, they managed to combine two guns and also neutralize the German troops trying to reach the coast where the 36th ID landed (sector of Saint Raphael)
wave consists of 45 C-47 taking off from
, Italy, carrying 670 paratroopers from 1st Battalion,
William J. Boyle
120 paratroopers of the Battery C of
reaching the DZ at 4:50 am.
The parachute is highly dispersed and only a hundred men from A Company landed in a 2km radius around the DZ. The majority of men are scattered in areas of Trans en Provence, Draguignan, des Arcs and Lorgues. On the region of Lorgues, the paratroopers of Companies B and C are trying by all means to reach the area of Les Arcs.
To the DZ’s
side, the paratroopers set up at the castle of Valbourges, an Aid Station
to support the first wounded and summon the first prisoners.
A fuel depot to the Sorbine side, between St. Valbourges and Rosaline, is caught after a short fight. Before being captured, the Germans managed to destroy one of eight tanksfuel.
The Capt. John McKinley’s men, commander of Company F, hastily join their objective, the village of La Motte. The village is released at 9:00. Contacts are made with the British paratroopers dropped in the area and DZ O.
Paxton’s paratroopers meanwhile moving also to
to reach the road
the CP’s 517th PRCT on the castles
In the cloister is organized a first aid station under the command of the
517th PIR surgeon Maj. Paul Vella.
By late afternoon, 300 paratroopers from 2nd Battalion are available.
During the day, 90% of the paratroopers dropped in the area of Fayence regroup. By a forced march at night through Bagnol en Forêt, a group of 400 men join the DZ. Group is under the command of Capitaine McGeever and lieutenant Gibbons, it is joined by more than 80 British paratroopers of the 4th and 5th Battalion Paratroopers also fell in the area.
The group joined Lt. Col. Zais DZ through the village of Callas.
On 16 August in the morning, the regiment joined its industry and is prepared to fight for its original purpose: The village of Les Arcs.
To the side of the Companies B and C’s paratroopers, growth was slow and difficult country roads for the Germans are on their ass. After several skirmishes, especially in the area of Les Arcs, they end up joining the CP of Ste Roseline in small groups on the night of August 15 to 16 for the former and the evening of 16 for the latter.
On 16 August morning, contacts are established between the 2nd battalion of paratroopers and British paratroopers in the village of La Motte. All of the 517th PRCT’s paratroopers is now in France, and acknowledgment is sent to establish positions on the heights towards Draguignan, Les Arcs and south of the railroad Toulon - Nice. The objective of Roquerousse is reached in the afternoon. The Company A’ paratroopers and the Mortar Platoon of 1st Battalion HQ to install mortars towards Vidauban.
During the day, the outskirts of villages to Trans en Provence are met. Les Arcs, the men of Major Boyle pass through the village and reached the area around the station in late morning. The 460th PFAB’s pack Howitzer is placed in battery on the railway bridge to block the road from the RN7. This gun is destroyed in the afternoon. In the evening, the 50 paratroopers holed up in the sector should withdraw outside the village. As the sun goes down, Colonel Rupert D. Graves knows he has only 500 paratroopers of the 517th PRCT. Fortunately for him, the Germans offer little resistance except the south where the Germans Les Arcs receive reinforcements from Vidauban.
The first wave in the direction of the DZ departed of Galera, Italy. 36 C-47 takes 450 paratroopers from Headquarters 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade Group (IPBG) and HQ of the 1st ABTF. They are perfectly dropped at 4:54a.m. thanks to the excellent work of the pathfinders.
The second wave consists of 18 aircraft carrying 350 paratroopers of the 5th and 6th Paratroopers Battalion planned to land at 5:00a.m. The parachute is also accurate except for some paratroopers who were dropped from 5th in the area of Fayence due to electrical failure of the guidance system of an aircraft overhead.
A third wave
of 36 aircraft took off from Ciampino, Italy with their edges 494
paratroopers from the 4th Paratroopers Battalion.
This wave is marked by a large drop error. Which means that half the workforce is dispersed in the area of Fayence, Callas and Saint-Paul-en-Forêt, the other half on the DZ O at 5:05 a.m.
The fourth wave consists of 27 C-47 carrying 350 paratroopers from the 5th Paratroopers Battalion (PB). They are dropped on the DZ O at 5:14a.m.
different wave can take the city of Mitan and also the establishment of
the headquarters of the 1st ABTF. The command post is active at 5:52a.m.
in a house belonging to the family Lavagne and located in Mitan.
From 8:20a.m., the radio contacts are established with the 36th Infantry Division landed on the beach of Saint-Raphael.
80 German prisoners will be made to the field in Clastron to the
northwestern of Le Muy by paratroopers of the 6th PB. The
prisoners will be brought back in Mitan for interrogation and interned.
Contacts are established with the 517th PRCT near La Motte.
Paratroopers reached the area of Serres to the west of Muy. But they stalled before the Muy lack of artillery support. This artillery to arrive with the gliders of the mission Bluebird.
The bridge on the Naturby not be made until the evening of August 15 after the arrival of the gliders.
Normandy, the gliders would be used separately from the rest of airdrops.
The first mission is to deliver a glider artillery support and radio means on the DZ / LZ O.
37 Waco CG4A of the 40 planned to depart from Voltone, Italy at 5:58 a.m. and carries the rest of the HQ of the 64th British Light Artillery Battalion and a contingent of the 1st ABTF supported by elements of the 512th Airborne Signal Company.
The fog is less thick, the Wacos are finally dropped at 9:26 a.m. On the 37 gliders, 4 was missing: disintegrated above the Meditettanean, following a rupture of the fuselage, another at the landing after a break in the tow rope, a third landed far from its DZ and finally, a fourth, which was never detached, his C-47 follow by mistake the gliders Horsa turning back.
On LZ, the equipment and the men on board to the WACO, brings to the 1st ABTF’s HQ powerful radio means to Major General Frederick allowing to coordinate the different missions and new artillery pieces.
On 16 August in the morning, about 10:00a.m, General Frederick gave the order taking Le Muy. The day before, the British and evening the 550thGIB failed.
Around 16:00 p.m., the attack is launched. After one hour of fighting, there is a nest of German’s resistance at the top of the steeple of the church. They prevent any movement in the city. After a heavy fire toward the steeple, the GI’s investing the church. They come out with three prisoners.
Within moments, life is returning to Le Muy and people take to the streets to applaud the liberators.
An American unit came from the landing beaches arrives few moments later and supports prisoners.
The BLUEBIRD mission knows a second phase after the failure of the landing of Horsa Gliders. 35 gliders re take off from Tarquinia, Italy at 3:04 p.m. After flying smoothly, the 37 gliders landed on LZ O at 5:49 p.m. (The Horsa who had landed by mistake in Corsica and the Waco who was turned back is also involved in the operation)
This second mission signs the first daylight Combat Jump for the airborne troops of the US Army. It is also the first combat jump of the men of 551st PIB. 41 C-47 taking off from Montaldo, Italy carrying 736 paratroopers. The battalion was dropped on the DZ A. The jump is made between 6:04 p.m. and 6:10.m. and only 17 injured paratroopers.
The last mission of the day is the most important from the 15 Augustu, 332 C-47 are sent to the LZ A, 332 Waco with on board 2238 men, 25 howitzers and 166 vehicles.
There were 7 waves that followed.
The first wave consists of 48 Waco carrying the 550th GIB for the LZ O and departed from Follonica, Italy at 15:35p.m.
The second wave consists of 12 waco carrying the 550th GIB for the LZ O and 36 Waco carrying the 602nd GFAB for the LZ A and departed from Grosseto, Italy.
The third wave consists of 30 Waco carrying the 602nd GFAB and 18 carrying the 442nd « Nisei » Infantry Regiment’s Antitank Company. It departed from Ombrone, Italy between 4:10 p.m. and 4:46 p.m.
The fourth wave consists of 26 Waco carrying the 442nd « Nisei » for the LZ A, 5 Waco carrying the 512nd Airborne Signal Company for the LZ O and 16 Waco carrying the A Company of 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion for the LZ O. It departed from Orbetello, Italy.
The fifth wave consists of 14 Waco carrying the A Cmpany of 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion, 8 Wacos carrying the 512nd Airborne Signal Company and 25 Wacos carrying the 676th Medical Collecting Company of 164th Medical Battalion responsible for establishing a field hospital in Mitan. It departed from Canino, Italy from the LZ O.
The sixth wave consists of 34 Waco carrying the 887th Airborne Aviation Engineer Company, 18 Waco carrying the 1st ABTF’s HQ and 6 Waco carrying the 1st ABTF’s MP. It departed from Gelera, Italy from the LZ O.
The seventh wave departed from Ciampino, Italy, at 3:10 p.m. toward the LZ A. It consists of 10 Waco carrying the 887th Airborne Aviation Engineer Company, 30 Waco carrying the D Company of the 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion and 7 Waco carrying the Division Order Detachment.
The 1st wave is wiped off a series of setbacks that will make him lose time. First, it meets along the way the C-47 carrying the 551st PIB for the mission Canary just after crossing the Italian coast. Then, the C-47 to the head must turn back, the Waco it tows have a problem. But, it’s the whole group making a u-turn.
This delay causes an overshoot of the second wave that goes first.
This “second” wave also knows the problems they will be dropped prematurely. 4 gliders should land near the French coast, there are only 12 survivors. Once crossed the French coast, the first waves receive beacon signals. The LZ is easily identifiable by the fluorescent panels arranged in a T and with the smoke. In the air, the disorder is total, between 6:27 p.m and 7:05 p.m, there are between 3 and 4 groups who find themselves simultaneously over the LZ.
collision avoidance, airplane of the last waves must pass over the top in order
to make safe the drop gliders. At these critical moments, several floors of
gliders are in the air simultaneously with drops in the final at altitudes too
high, 2.000 and 3.000 feet instead of 1,000 feet normally provided. In the sky,
it's every man for himself. Some Waco collides in flight crews leading to a
tragic fate. In addition, Waco who manage to land must maneuver between the "Rommel's
asparagus", gliders ground troops and equipment cluttering the LZ.
Of all gliders, only 30 will be fully recoverable.
The objective of the last « Official » mission is parachuting all the necessary equipment for the troops isolated ground can take seven days the 16th Augustus 1944.
130 C-47 took off at 7:55a.m. with 246 tons of equipments and ammunitions.
The material is packaged in containers placed in cabins or in pararacks of C-47. Each plane also takes 5 men of 334th Quater-Master Depot Supply Company for the drop. They arrive in the zone between 10:04a.m. and 10:35 a.m. for the latter. The result of this drop is very mixed. Indeed, the clumsiness and lack of practical men of the 334th result in a drop every 2 minutes instead of 30 seconds required. About 1,700 containers of material coming on the ground but the extension of time to release results in a significant dispersion of the material. In addition, the proximity between the DZ A and the DZ O causes mixing between the American and British equipment. Very few units are able to quickly retrieve their equipment.
This EAGLE mission will be the last “Official” Airborne operation planned as part of Operation Dragoon. However, on August 17, three missions are performed in emergency for the issuance of 60 tons of material.
There was first the mission FLAMINGO, 9 C-47 dropped on DZ O the rations at 1:12a.m. Then the mission CULL, 10 C-47 dropped on DZ O, medical equipment and transmission at 10:49a.m. and finally the mission HAWK, 20 C-47 still the same DZ.
Despite the success of Operation Dragoon as a whole, the results of the airborne operation is negative, indeed, 60% of U.S. paratroopers landed too far from their area, the number is 40% for English paratroopers. In conclusion, the precision of the landing of paratroopers and gliders is deplorable and the fiasco that has been avoided because of the lack of reaction from the enemy. This partial failure is cleverly concealed by the optimistic reports of the Airforce, which has not yet dazzled by the precision of navigation.
The results of Dragoon, satisfactory in appearance, encouraging the supporters
of the airborne troops to quickly consider other operations in Europe.
After Operation Dragoon, the 1st ABTF was ordered to take Cannes and Nice and secure strategic positions in the Maritime Alps along the Franco-Italian border.
The 1st ABTF was dissolved in November 44 at the time of Thanksgiving and its units sent to Soissons, where the heat of the south was replaced by the cold of the Ardennes.