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Operation Dragoon and the Champagne Campaign


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Great thread! While I have never had the opportunity to visit Southern France I was honored to participate and assist in five "Operation Dragoon" commemorative events held in Arlington, Virginia from 2010 to 2014. The events were organized by 3rd ID historians LTC. Tom Stoy and his wife Capt. Monica Stoy, both US Army retired. For several years the events were blessed with the presence of a good number of Dragoon veterans. I was honored to be asked to coordinate a display of representative field gear of that time frame so that veterans could show their families artifacts from their era. While not exclusively sourced from Dragoon most items were appropriate to the August/ September 1944 time frame. And those veterans sure got a kick out of it when they could try on an old field jacket or get a photo of a grand child wearing grandpa's style helmet and web gear. The memory of those veteran's faces is something I will cherish forever.

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Great thread! While I have never had the opportunity to visit Southern France I was honored to participate and assist in five "Operation Dragoon" commemorative events held in Arlington, Virginia from 2010 to 2014. The events were organized by 3rd ID historians LTC. Tom Stoy and his wife Capt. Monica Stoy, both US Army retired. For several years the events were blessed with the presence of a good number of Dragoon veterans. I was honored to be asked to coordinate a display of representative field gear of that time frame so that veterans could show their families artifacts from their era. While not exclusively sourced from Dragoon most items were appropriate to the August/ September 1944 time frame. And those veterans sure got a kick out of it when they could try on an old field jacket or get a photo of a grand child wearing grandpa's style helmet and web gear. The memory of those veteran's faces is something I will cherish forever.

 

Thank you :)

I met Monika & Tim many times in Southern France. It's a shame that I was never able to make it to Arlington for the Operation Dragoon commemoration to which I've been invited several times.

BTW in the pictures taken 2-3 years ago at the Dragoon event in Arlington, I spotted a veteran of the 756th Tank Bn. If ever you have his name or even his address I would be grateful.

 

Here are 2 pics of reenactments in Southern France during the Dragoon commemorations. 45th Division in the Var and below on the dropzones with Alan Johnson, 596th Parachute Engineer Company, 517th Parachute Infantry.

 

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Little Maryse was living in Toulon when her parents sent her to the countryside in the Rhone valley

to sit out the German occupation..
There she is right in the middle of the push up the Rhone Valley with a truck driver of the 36th Signal Co,

36th Div, August 1944.

 

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From Paul Hinkle's memoirs, 141st Infantry, 36th Division - Battle of Montelimar, Southern France - Aug 1944.

 

"A group of young Krauts were throwing grenades down the hill and using machine pistols on our positions when a Lt. from M company moved up and told us to cross the gap in the stone wall to the other side?
When no one mov­ed, he said "Follow me," and before anyone could stop him he was up and out and hit; he went down and never moved. I asked an M company GI the Lt.'s name, he replied "Lt. Crook."."

 

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Paul Hinkle - L/141st Infantry Regiment

36th Infantry Division

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I was 1 of 5,000 who sailed on the Gen. Butner from Norfolk to Casablanca in Mar. 44 then by train to Oran. A British ship took 2,000 of us to Naples, all with no enemy interference. 9 April 44 was Easter Sunday. I was kicked out of the hammock early because it was the Dining Compartment! I went up on deck to see a beautiful blue sea and the Isle of Capri go by, a God-given Sunrise service. Later the same day we were hauled by 6x6 trucks from Caserta to the Replacement Depot, the dairy farm!

It was then night and raining, tents had been set up in the mud pasture, no lights, finally we got candles, and chow in a mess kit full of rain. I set my candle on a nail I found on the center pole, kicked off my boots and climbed into the cot that was knee deep in mud. I wondered was it all the same day?

In June I was assigned to L-141 in a squad with SSG. Kelly of the 3rd platoon of SFC, Jeton. Company 1st. Sgt. Wolf. We started invasion training at Battipaglia in the Salerno area. Using LCIs we would hit the beach, run up a 600 yd. hill then go back and do it again.

Aug. 15, 44 was my first combat experience over the side of an assault transport, into the LCIs and head for the beach. I had about 5 minutes training as the 2nd man on a flame thrower. On the way in, the No. 1 man got so sick the OIC told the Navy Chief the No. 1 man was not going in. So I got the honor. When I hit the beach I went down on my knees, I thought from the weight. I looked up and saw a huge stone projecting from the back of the beach 30 to 50 feet high. All I could think was god what a tombstone.

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With the flame thrower I had no rifle, the OIC opened the valves and told me to head for the nearest Pillbox. As I started across the road I noticed a sign "Agay" the closest town to us. Out in front the GIs were going left or right around 2 quarries with a near 4 foot wide, level path across the middle and nobody using it, so I figured the least traffic, the less opposing fire. Three completed pillboxes did not appear occupied. When I got close enough I squatted and let go with a 20 sec. shot at the door opening then the firing slit, back and forth for about 5 shots and the fuel was empty. I recalled later it only had 90 sec. of fuel.

I dropped the empty tanks and started up the 600 yd. hill. Off to our right across a small bay there was return fire from a lookout or light house, and everybody on the beach and hill was firing at it. By the time I got to the top of the hill I had a rifle and don't know where I got it.
SSG. Kelly got the first souvenir, some kraut had dropped a belt and holster with a P38 in it, along the path we were using to go to the nearest farm house. At that time a light spotting plane from the artillery circled and landed in the field next to the farm house. Nobody was home so we helped ourselves to some table wine and left. L-141st spent several days in the area around le Tayas, St. Raphael, Frejus, and then Draguignan, on clean-up operations. At that point the army came up with 6x6 trucks for us to move up fast and outflank the Germans. As we left a cemetery was being started at Draguignan. Before we left we took a bath in the local reservoir! In several days we passed thru Grasse, Digne, Gap, then cut west to Crest. I never knew till today what we were doing there. The Germans wanted out of the Rhone Valley and we had them blocked. NOW the 1991 calendar and the quarterly tells of the fighting around Montelimar. So we cut the Krauts off at the pass.

After L-141st dug in at a little old village west of Crest we pulled out of our positions at dusk back to Crest and over night the Germans moved into them! So the next morning we had to take them back. In the pre-dawn attack, I moved too far to the left and ended up with M-141st at the base of a hill road entrance to the village. Two Shermans were using their 30 cal. MG; on top floors of the homes the walls were built like an ancient fort. An M company officer used the interphone box on the back of the tank to ask the crew to use the 75mm. on the firing slits on the top floors in order to stop the return fire on our positions; they replied that it would bring equal size responses! Then the tanks pulled back.

A group of young Krauts were throwing grenades down the hill and using machine pistols on our positions when a Lt. from M company moved up and told us to cross the gap in the stone wall to the other side? When no one moved he said, "Follow me," and before anyone could stop him he was up and out and hit; he went down and never moved. I asked an M company GI the Lt.'s name, he replied "Lt. Crook." In 1973 I visited the cemetery at Draguinan, he's buried there.

To get better cover some of the GIs moved into a house just to our left at the Y in the road. The Germans then moved down the hill and started tossing grenades into the windows of the house. The M company radio man who had to stay close to the window would throw them back out! After the 4th one they gave him a quicker fused one and it went off in his hand. The OIC of the group asked about ammo? There wasn't enough to fight our way out; the Germans were calling for our surrender so the Lt. told us the radio man need­ed a medic bag so we gave up.

We were held thru the night by the Germans. They packed up, loaded us with equipment and moved out into the valley just north and west of Crest. After midnight about 3 a.m., U.S. artillery started to lay down a blanket of fire that looked like a lightning and thunder storm, at first I thought it was. It did not stop for almost 3 hours. The Germans with 10 prisoners cut to the north and east along the slope of the hill. Just as the firing stopped a GI on outpost challenged the group, so we yelled that there were Americans with the Germans; they told us to hit the ground. The German NCO opened his holster and the guard shot him; the rest threw down their weapons and put their hands up.

Let me go back to the day before, the M company radio man who tossed the grenades out the window, he deserves a medal because he saved 10 or more of us from injury; the rest of us only earned our pay.

After the artillery stopped firing at dawn all we could see in that valley was wrecked vehicles, dead horses from their artillery, and dead Germans. Those that were alive and able to walk, raised their hands and lined up to surrender. After the area was cleared we walked through the equipment and found a paymasters bus loaded with French Francs from the Bank of France; we were told that only francs from the Bank of Morocco were good, so we threw them to the wind, only to find out later they were good!

In trying to get back to my outfit, I caught a ride with a 143rd unit, two 4x4 weapons carriers trailing anti-tank guns, we headed north out of Romans on a 2 lane road, no vehicles in sight, in open country when we saw several aircraft circling; 2 peeled off and started a straight run at us, they looked like P40s or P47s, then they opened fire. We were moving at 30 MPH or more. None of us in the back waited. We rolled out over the side.

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Both vehicles rolled to a stop in flames, the first driver made it out, the driver of our vehicle died in the cab. We hid under a road culvert until medics came for the wounded. I was in the hospital for 3 weeks, no real bad injuries, again I would give a medal to the driver of the WC. He was in the A/T 143.

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That was the last I saw of the 36th Div. The rest of my time in Europe was uneventful, it don't come near to Aug. 44 in southern France. RE: the article title, on or about June 5th, 1944 the Commanding General of the 36th Div. was replaced by a non-Texan so they made him an Honorary Texan. Later they gave all non-Texans that honor. So we came up with 2 types of 36th GIs, Honorary and Ornery

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Yes, a great thread. Like others have said the pictures comparing then to today are much appreciated. My late Father in law was a Glider pilot in Squadron 95 of the 440th Troop Carrier Group. He participated in this Operation flying to Le Muy.

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