Declassified Action Report
17 August to 28 August 1944
The Assault and Reduction of the Fortress of Saint Mandrier
In the planning for
Operation Dragoon, the port of Toulon was an important objective. With
a large and well-protected harbor, it had been the center of French
naval operations in the Mediterranean for centuries. The naval base was
the largest in western Europe, covering hundreds of acres and having
maintenance facilities for the biggest warships. As such, and as a
supply source for the invasion second only to the larger civilian port
of Marseilles, its capture was essential to Dragoon’s success.
The Germans were well aware of the importance of the city, and had turned the Toulon area into a fortress. The defenses against a direct attack from the sea included batteries of large naval guns at Mauvannes, on the peninsula of Saint-Mandrier, and at several other locations along the coast.
The epilogue of this battle comes on the 28th of August, when, at 0800, the 1,800 marines of the Saint-Mandrier garrison offered their surrender and formed a column to return to the Les Sablettes district, the first stage of their captivity.
The surrender of this great French military port on the Mediterranean was completed eight days ahead of schedule.
In the course of nine days’ combat, the price paid was about 2,700 French casualties, of whom 100 were officers, as well as many tanks destroyed. On the German side, thousands of corpses confirmed the bitterness of the fighting. The spoils of the French army consisted of 17,000 prisoners, a large amount of war material, and a hundred artillery pieces, which were used to reinforce the war effort.
At last, the largest naval base in western Europe was conquered and opened up to the Allied forces to lay the groundwork for further victories.
Quoting from the Navy Department's Division of Naval History, Ships' Histories Section:
From June 6th until August 13th the MACKENZIE made short convoy runs in the middle Mediterranean without incident. On the 13th she sailed to take her place with 879 other ships off Toulon, France in preparation for "Operation Anvil" -- an Allied assault on the coast of Southern France.
Devised to follow up the Normandy invasion, this operation would not only liberate Southern France and relieve pressure on the southern flank of General Eisenhower's armies, but it would put Allied armies on the Italian Army's Riviera flank. In addition it would practically eliminate the U-boat-Luftwaffe menace in the Western Mediterranean.
The MACKENZIE was assigned to the Gunfire Support covering the landing of the 36th Infantry Division. The initial landings on 15 August met little resistance, and within three days Allied forces had captured over ten thousand prisoners.
While continuing to provide call fire to cover the advancing troops on August 17th, shore batteries opened up on the MACKENZIE and straddled her with 11 near misses. The closest fell 200 yards short, but damage was sustained.
On the 27th 16 Germans rowed out from their fort that was under fire, and surrendered to the MACKENZIE. On 15 September she was relieved of her station and returned to Boston for repairs and overhaul.
Click on the link below for the action report from the USS MacKenzie in connection with Operation "Anvil," the assault and reduction of the Fortress of Saint Mandrier.
29 August 1944 - Operation Anvil (17 to 28 August 1944)
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