Battle of Toulon (1944)

Battle of Toulon
Part of Mediterranean and Middle East Theatre and the European Theatre of World War II
Date 15–28 August 1944
Location
Toulon, southern France
Result Allied victory
Belligerents
France
 United States
Germany
Commanders and leaders
Edgard de Larminat Heinrich Ruhfus [de]
Johannes Bäßler (DOW)
Strength
France: 52,000 men 18,000 men[note 1]
Casualties and losses
2,700 killed and wounded 1,000 killed
17,000 captured
  1. 9,700 from Army, 5,500 from Air force and 2,800 Sailors
This article is about the Battle of Toulon in World War II. For other uses, see Battle of Toulon (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with the Scuttling of the French fleet in Toulon in 1942.

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The Battle of Toulon (1944) was an urban battle of World War II in southern France that took place August 20–26, 1944 and led to the liberation of Toulon by Free French forces under the command of General Edgard de Larminat.

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View of downtown Toulon and Mediterranean Sea from Mount Faron

Toulon was the main port for the French Navy (French: Marine nationale, “national navy”), informally “La Royale”. On 27 November 1942, German troops had attacked the port, with the intention of seizing the French fleet, the subsequent fight lasted just long enough to scuttle the 75 warships, the pride of France.[1]:26

After the successful execution of Operation Overlord, the Normandy landings, attention shifted to the south. Most ports in the north were unusable, or too heavily fortified (e.g. Cherbourg, Brest, Lorient, Saint Nazaire), which made seizure and control of the French ports at Marseille and Toulon increasingly attractive.[2] The French leaders pressed for an invasion in southern France, too. Finally, after many delays, on 14 July, Operation Dragoon was authorized by the Allied Combined Chiefs of Staff.[3][4]

Toulon was not a good target for an amphibious assault, it was well defended from a seaborne assault, so it would have to be taken from the land. The land approaches were also defended. A 700m high hill provided excellent artillery and observation positions. Ridges nearby were protected by French pillboxes. In 1941–2, as a token of goodwill to the Germans, the Government of Vichy France strengthened the defences.[1]:78 These defences were strengthened further by the Germans who took equipment off the scuttled French fleet ships, installing two 340mm turrets and 75 medium-sized guns along the coast.[1]:78

On 13 August as part of Operation Nutmeg, the 17th Bombardment Group attacked Toulon Harbour twice, with Martin B-26 Marauder aircraft, experiencing heavy anti aircraft fire.[1]:101

The groundwork was laid by the Allied invasion of southern France in Operation Dragoon on 15 August by the United States Seventh Army under General Patch, with support from the French First Army. Patch gave the order to General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny to take the cities of Toulon and Marseille, which were to be attacked simultaneously with de Larminat in charge of attacking Toulon.

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