The Forgotten French D-Day

Author: Beatrice C

The forgotten French D-Day landing in Provence was called Operation Dragoon. It took place on August 15th 1944. Learn key facts with this bilingual story.

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Bonjour, je m’appelle BĂ©atrice et je suis professeur d’immersion française en Provence. Les Ă©tudiants adultes que j’accueille chez moi sont souvent intĂ©ressĂ©s par l’histoire de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale et surpris d’apprendre que ma rĂ©gion a beaucoup Ă  offrir Ă  ce sujet.

Hello, my name is Beatrice. I am a French immersion teacher in Provence. Many of the adult students I welcome home are interested in WW2 history and never expected that my region had a lot to offer in that field.

Operation Dragoon

Tout le monde a vu des images du débarquement sur les plages de Normandie le 6 juin 1944. Omaha, Utah, Juno, Gold et Sword sont connues dans le monde entier, immortalisées par Hollywood. Mais combien de personnes savent que « Overlord » a été suivi de « Dragoon » ?

Everyone has seen images of the landing on Normandy beaches on June 6th 1944. Omaha, Utah, Juno, Gold or Sword are famous worldwide, immortalized by Hollywood. But how many people are aware that Overlord was followed by Dragoon?

Qui a entendu parler de Alpha, Delta, Camel ou Romeo – autant de plages, sites de dĂ©barquement d’engins amphibie le long des cĂŽtes de Provence le 15 aout 1944 ? Dragoon avait pour objectif de libĂ©rer les grandes villes du sud de la France (Toulon, Marseille) puis de permettre Ă  l’armĂ©e de remonter la vallĂ©e du RhĂŽne afin de rejoindre les troupes arrivĂ©es en Normandie pour prendre les allemands entre deux fronts et les repousser hors des frontiĂšres.

Who has heard of Alpha, Delta, Camel or Romeo – beaches where amphibious craft landed along the coast of Provence on August 15, 1944? Dragoon’s objective was to liberate the major cities of southern France (Toulon, Marseille). Then the army was supposed to go up the Rhone valley and make contact with the Normandy troops in order to catch the Germans between two fronts and push them beyond the borders.

Si vous envisagez un voyage en Provence, vous pourrez visiter plusieurs lieux liĂ©s Ă  l’opĂ©ration Dragoon et en apprendre plus sur ce tournant de la deuxiĂšme guerre mondiale.

If you are planning a trip to Provence, you can visit several places linked to Operation Dragoon and learn more about this turning point in the Second World War.

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Landing places

Saint Raphael

Saint Raphael : cette ville a Ă©tĂ© l’un des principaux lieux de dĂ©barquement pour les troupes alliĂ©es. Aujourd’hui vous pouvez visiter les plages qui ont accueilli ce dĂ©barquement, voir les plaques qui commĂ©morent les soldats tombĂ©s au combat. La plage du dĂ©barquement est un des endroits prĂ©fĂ©rĂ©s des visiteurs qui viennent se recueillir pour honorer la mĂ©moire des libĂ©rateurs, tout en profitant d’un paysage Ă  couper le souffle.

St Raphael: This town was one of the main landing places for the Allied troops. Today you can visit the beaches that witnessed this landing, see the plaques that commemorate the fallen soldiers. The landing beach is a favorite spot for visitors who come to meditate and honor the memory of the liberators, while enjoying a breathtaking landscape.

Cavalaire

Si vous recherchez « plage du dĂ©barquement », vous trouverez des photos de vacanciers sur une plage idyllique. La plupart des touristes n’ayant pas fait le lien entre le nom de la plage et la 3Ăšme division d’infanterie amĂ©ricaine qui y a dĂ©barquĂ© sous le nom de force Alpha.

If you search for “landing beach”, you will find photos of holidaymakers on an idyllic beach. Most tourists have not made the connection between the name of the beach and the 3rd American infantry division which landed there under the name of Alpha force.

Néanmoins, la ville de Cavalaire a dédié ce monument en granit, représentant la Liberté, aux armées alliées ayant participé au débarquement de Provence en août 1944.

Nevertheless, the town of Cavalaire dedicated this granite monument, representing Liberty, to the Allied armies that took part in the landing in Provence in August 1944.

Toulon

Toulon Ă©tait et est toujours le premier port militaire français, grĂące Ă  sa rade en eau profonde protĂ©gĂ©e des courants. C’était donc un point stratĂ©gique tant pour les allemands que pour les alliĂ©s durant l’OpĂ©ration Dragoon. La ville a Ă©tĂ© lourdement bombardĂ©e et dĂ©truite pendant la guerre mais la plupart de ses monuments historiques ont Ă©tĂ© reconstruits. Visitez le musĂ©e national de la Marine qui raconte l’histoire maritime de Toulon depuis l’antiquitĂ© ainsi que son rĂŽle dans la deuxiĂšme guerre mondiale.

Toulon was and still is the first French military port, thanks to its deep water harbor protected from the currents. It was therefore a strategic point for both the Germans and the allies during Operation Dragoon. The city was heavily bombed and destroyed during the war but most of its historical monuments have been rebuilt. Visit the National Maritime Museum which tells the maritime history of Toulon since antiquity as well as its role in the Second World War.

Memorials

Le MĂ©morial du Mont Faron

Le mĂ©morial du Mont Faron vous offre une vue imprenable sur la rade de Toulon. On y accĂšde par une route Ă  sens unique. Les passagers doivent avoir le cƓur bien accrochĂ© et faire confiance au conducteur ! On peut aussi utiliser le tĂ©lĂ©phĂ©rique – tant que le Mistral ne souffle pas ! Le mĂ©morial inaugurĂ© en 2017 relate toute la pĂ©riode de la deuxiĂšme guerre mondiale en Provence ainsi que la genĂšse et le dĂ©roulement de l’opĂ©ration Dragoon. Un tank Sherman vous accueille a l’entrĂ©e du musĂ©e.

The Mont Faron memorial offers you a breathtaking view of the harbor of Toulon. It is accessed by a one-way road. It is not for the faint of heart and passengers must trust the driver! You can also use the cable car – as long as the Mistral does not blow! The memorial inaugurated in 2017 recounts the entire period of the Second World War in Provence as well as the genesis and progress of Operation Dragoon. A Sherman tank welcomes you at the entrance to the museum.

La NĂ©cropole du Rayol Canadel

Le cimetiĂšre national du Rayol – Canadel-sur-Mer fait a peine 220m2. C’est le plus petit des cimetieres nationaux francais. Il regroupe les treize tombes des membres du commando d’Afrique de l’adjudant-chef Texier qui trouvĂšrent la mort aux cĂŽtĂ©s de leur chef, en escaladant les falaises du Cap-NĂšgre..

The Rayol – Canadel-sur-Mer national cemetery is barely 220m2. It is the smallest of the French national cemeteries. It brings together the thirteen graves of the members of the African commando of Chief Petty Officer Texier who died alongside their leader, climbing the cliffs of Cap-Nùgre.

Le CimetiÚre Militaire Américain de Draguignan

Le cimetiĂšre militaire AmĂ©ricain de Draguignan est gĂ©rĂ© par l’ABMC (American Battle Monument Commission). Il s’agit donc d’un territoire amĂ©ricain en France qui abrite les tombes de 851 soldats morts au combat, pour la plupart durant l’opĂ©ration Dragoon. J’y ai accompagnĂ© mon ancienne troupe scoute de Californie en juin 2022 afin de participer Ă  la cĂ©rĂ©monie des couleurs. Six eagle scouts ont gĂ©rĂ© les deux drapeaux Ă  la grande satisfaction du surintendant.

The Rhone Cemetery in Draguignan is managed by the American Battle Monument Commission. This American property on French soil houses the graves of 851 soldiers who died fighting, most of them during Operation Dragoon. My old scout troop from California visited last year and were in charge of taking down the colors. Six eagle scouts took care of two flags – the superintendent of the cemetery was very happy!

Si Provence rime avec vacances, plage, soleil et pastis, n’oubliez pas pour autant ceux qui ont laissĂ© leur vie ici. Entre les hĂŽtels, les bars et les plages, les lieux de mĂ©moire sont difficiles Ă  trouver, mais nous leur devons le souvenir. « Nous qui reposons ici, sommes morts afin que les gĂ©nĂ©rations futures puissent vivre en paix ».

If Provence rhymes with holidays, beach, sun and pastis, do not forget those who lost their lives here. Between hotels, bars and beaches, places of remembrance are hard to find, but we owe it to them. “We who lie here died that future generations might live in peace.”

Si vous venez en immersion chez moi à Toulon, vous serez idéalement situé pour visiter tous ces sites.

Should you come on an immersion trip at my place in Toulon, you would be ideally located to explore all those sites.

Author: Beatrice C

Beatrice C

Bonjour ! My name is BĂ©atrice and I live near Toulon where I welcome (and your family and friends) for a luxurious French immersion homestay near Toulon: enjoy flexible accommodations and learn French by the pool!

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