"...the Luftwaffe can be virtually ignored"
(Air Marshal John Slessor, C-in-C RAF Mediterranean and Middle East, on 10 July 1944, assessing the prospects for DRAGOON)
The Luftwaffe's brief struggle against the Allied landings in Southern France has indeed been "virtually ignored" and remains one of the many comparatively unexplored corners of its wartime history.
This was late in 1944 and they had long since lost the chance of a decisive impact but even so, in a short space of time, the Germans employed conventional and torpedo bombers, anti-ship guided weapons, flare-droppers, fighters with and without rocket projectiles, radar reconnaissance planes and a stripped, performance-boosted high altitude photographic machine.
Whether or not Operation DRAGOON was worthwhile from the Allied viewpoint was argued before, during and after the event. The hope was that German forces would be drawn away from the fighting in Normandy but in fact they were not. By mid-August, the situation in the north had deteriorated so far that the Germans were desperately trying to fight their way out of impending encirclement in the Falaise-Argentan pocket, so the decision was taken only days after the DRAGOON landings to pull Nineteenth Army back up the Rhône Valley to ensure that contact with the retreating Seventh Army was not lost. The Allies promptly learned of this order from decrypted signals traffic, by which time their resources had been irrevocably committed and there was little else to do but give chase.
No doubt DRAGOON hurt the Germans and the threat of it had pinned down units on the Mediterranean Coast that might have been better used elsewhere; it also gained valuable supply ports in France for the Allied armies advancing on Germany. Conversely, to mount it the Allies used up scarce amphibious capacity and pulled forces out of Italy where a prolonged stalemate had been broken only two months earlier with the Germans being chased into the Appenines. In fact one of DRAGOON's side effects was that two German divisions were pushed over the border to reinforce the defence of Italy. However, it is not my intention to argue the rights and wrongs of the campaign, merely to recount one overlooked aspect of it.
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