From April, 1944 to April, 1945 the
beautiful and bucolic French island of Corsica was
transformed into what Dominique Taddei
has aptly termed the USS Corsica, a huge
terrestrial aircraft carrier that became the landing strip
for nearly the entire 12th Air Force and even some
15th Air Force units during this period.
The military escalation on Corsica reached a peak in the summer of 1944 as the Allies geared-up for
their final major invasion of Europe, Operation Dragoon, or
D-Day Southern France on August 15, 1944.
German and Italian forces overran southern France nearly two years earlier in response to the first major
Allied offensive in North Africa, Operation Torch in November, 1942, but
most of the German forces were diverted north in response to the Normandy D-Day invasion so that by
D-Day Southern France, there were only four German divisions to face 11 divisions of the French 1st Army
commanded by General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny and 12 divisions of
the American 7th Army commanded by General Alexander Patch. On Corsica,
the French 1st and U.S. 7th Armies were united and activated on August 1, 1944 to form the U.S.
6th Army Group also known as the Dragoon Force. Lt. General Jacob Devers
was commander of the 6th Army Group.
Although D-Day at Normandy was the largest single-day amphibious invasion force
in history with ~150,000 troops, the D-Day Southern France invasion
put over twice as many troops (~325,000) on French soil between August 15-25, 1944.
Most importantly, the news of the Southern France invasion emboldened the French resistance, resulting in
the liberation of Paris on August 25, 1944.
After the invasion on August 15, Dever's 6th Army Group quickly advanced up the
Rhone River valley and met General Patton's 3rd Army near Dijon, France on September 9, 1944. The 7th Army
advance from southern France to the Vosges Mountains actually proceeded further and faster than the
much more celebrated advance of Patton's 3rd Army from Normandy. Additionally, the 7th Army cleared the Alsace region,
collapsed the Colmar Pocket, crossed the Rhine River, and captured Hitler's Alpine residence.
It was General Devers who accepted the surrender of German forces in Austria on May 6, 1945. The D-Day
forces from Southern France and Normandy effectively complemented one another as they approached Germany,
particularly by the winter of 1944-5.
On September 30, 1944, my father flew from Corsica in a B-25C (#98) to deliver General Dever's crew to a
6th Army Group base in Lyon. While in Lyon, my dad observed much
evidence of the Free French Resistance including their adopted insignia,
The Croix St. Lorraine and FFI which stands for
Forces Francaise de l'Interieur as seen on this French Citroen automobile.
The French 1st Army liberated Lyon, France in early September of 1944.
An essential aspect of Dragoon was that the French 1st Army (known at the time as French Army B) also
liberated the ports of Marseilles and Toulon on August 28, 1944
making it possible to supply the Allied European forces with about one third of their supplies for the rest of the war.