7

Since the Germans and their puppet state the Italian Social Republic continued to hold northern Italy almost to the end of the war, it was necessary for the Allies to man the fortifications on the Italian-French border; the opposition did the same to prevent an additional invasion of Italy.

I haven't been able to find any sources in English that tell me which units held the allied side of the border. The best I've found tells me that there were French Chasseur regiments there, which is perfectly reasonable, but not which regiments, nor how many.

  • 1
    Best I can tell from a cursory search is that it was likely units from within the 6th US Army Group which was composed of US 7th Army and French Armèe B - this was the Army Group involved in Operation Dragoon – user13123 Jan 15 '17 at 0:37
  • Ooo I think I know this one! – Anaryl Jan 16 '17 at 8:48
4

I found little information on Allied forces in the area during that time. There is plenty data available on the German forces in the area though.

Several sources mention the 158th infantry division and 148th reserve infantry division retreating into the Alps during Dragoon.

http://www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de/Gliederungen/Infanteriedivisionen/148ID.htm http://www.maparchive.ru/division/part8/148_Reserve-Division.pdf The 148th reserve infantry division (later renamed to infantry division) actually retreated into Italy.

According to: http://www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de/Gliederungen/ResDiv/158ResDiv-R.htm the 158th ID had already been renamed to the 16th infantry division in july, though it is still referred to as 158th in august by American sources (?). It was later renamed again into the 16th Volksgreandiere division, and found fighting in the Vogesen, which suggest after Dragoon it retreated North (West of Switzerland) rather than East into Italy.

34th division was already stationed in Northern Italy and moved into the Alps in response to Dragoon.

Later in the winter, this front was reinforced with two German Gebirgsdivisione (mountain divisions). The overall name became Armeegruppe Ligurien, which appears to have otherwise consisted of a ramshack of German, Italian, Russian volunteers and even a ethnic-Turkish unit.

http://division148.blogspot.nl/ A local amateur historian from Nice describes the fighting in the area of the 148th and 34th (German) ID's. Several mentions of combat with French (paramilitary, FFI) forces until April 1945. English version at the bottom. He has an email address and may provide you with more information.

  • Found this article: ww2incolor.com/forum/showthread.php/… It doesn't list any sources, but if it is true, this front was held by French forces only. – Jur Jan 15 '17 at 14:36
  • While this is an awesome answer to a different question, it does not answer this one. – CGCampbell Jan 15 '17 at 14:42
  • @GCCampbell: This is useful: accounts of what German units were doing may mention identities of opposing units. The mentioned local historian is being very helpful. – John Dallman Jan 16 '17 at 12:46
3

The local historian tells me that the southern part of the Alps front was held by 1st Airborne Task Force, which landed in Dragoon, until November 1944.

The northern part of the Alps border seems to have been held by French units that landed in or after Dragoon. Since the local historian doesn't deal with the area, and the only book on the subject is in French, some detective work is required. The top-level French unit in the area was 1st Army, which commanded 1st Army Corps and 2nd Army Corps. The corps pages give us the names of some of the divisions that served in the corps, and at this point I resorted to French Wikipedia, which naturally has more detail. I can't read French, but the numbers tell me enough to figure out which pages to run through Google Translate.

And that tells me that 2nd Moroccan Infantry Division fought on the north of the Alps front, liberating two towns near the Italian border on 14th October 1944. After that it was transferred north. Part of 4th Moroccan Infantry Division seems to have assisted with that, but was transferred north by the end of November.

Most of the work from November onwards seems to have been done by French units formed from local resistance fighters, who would need some serious training before they could fight formed German units, but were experienced in scouting, sniping, and general harassment.

In March 1945, 1st Free French Division came south from Germany and attacked over the Alps into Italy, as part of finishing off the Italian Campaign. Troops the local historian talked to were not happy about this, seeing it as a punishment.

2

According to Chester Wilmont's fantastic The Struggle for Europe, in the summer of 1944 (Map: The Mediterranean Front, Summer 1944, p.451) The U.S Fifth Army and the British Eighth Army under Generals Clark and Alexander were located in Italy at the time. The French First Army was utilised as part of Operationa ANVIL.

This is actually an interesting story. Roosevelt was pressing for an invasion of Southern France rather than a push into Central Europe via North Italy, despite the obvious strategic benefits, because he wanted to appease Stalin. Marshall also was a major supporter of Anvil, presumably because he was grossly incompetent. Wilmont writes:

But when the time came to employ those forces in the field, Marshall had neither the strategic insight nor the operational experience to guide his judgement. His ideas were simple and rigid.

Stalin opposed the idea because of the implicit agreement that the nations who liberated countries would be permitted to impose their ideology upon them.

Churchill was (quite rightly) afraid of Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, wished to capture the Balkans before the Soviets could arrive. He and his staff also questioned the necessity of ANVIL given that the Germans would need to withdraw from southern France after OVERLORD anyway (which they did).

Churchill (as well as Clark and Alexander) were proponents of a renewed Allied offensive north into Central Europe and on to Vienna, partly because it would have prevented Soviet occupation of much of Central-Eastern Europe, and that it would likely have brought a swifter conclusion to the war, as it would have put the Allies within striking distance of the Germans main source of oil at Ploesti.

However, since Marshall held the "purse strings" (Landing Ship Tanks and other logistical resources) and Roosevelt was naive enough to believe that Stalin would conform to his idealistic view of a post WW2 utopia, ANVIL took place instead. Eisenhower, paranoid about the Germans sealing off the Normandy beachead also wanted to hedge his bets with a landing in Southern France - a critical mistake since if they weren't able to beat the Germans in Normandy, landing there would be a grevious error and attack from Italy would have acieved better results anyway. However Eisenhower desired additional ports in Southern Italy to hedge his bets.

Alexander lost seven divisions to Anvil just as, Wilmont puts elegantly

" The threat to the strategic centre of Europe was thus relaxed just when it was assuming serious proportions...

Hitler was spared the critical necessity of having to reinforce his southern flank at the critical juncture when he was hard pressed to the point of desperation both in the West and the East."

In his book, Calculated Risk, General Clark states :

A campaign that might have changed the whole history of relations between the Western world and the Soviet Union was permitted to fade away, not into nothing, but into much less than it could have been ... Not alone in my opinion, but in the opinion of a number of experts who were close to the problem, the weakening of the campaign in Italy in order to invade Southern France, instead of pushing on to the Balkans, was one of the outstanding political mistakes of the war ... Stalin knew exactly what he wanted in a political as well as a military way; and the thing he wanted was to keep us out of the Balkans ... It is easy to see, therefore, why Stalin favoured ANVIL at Tehran.

So in Answer to your question - the British 8th Army and the U.S Fifth Army occupied the Italian front in 1944, with the French First Army being deployed as part of Operation Anvil.

Source: Wilmont, Chester, The Struggle for Europe, 1952 http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/419010.The_Struggle_for_Europe

  • I'm sorry if the question wasn't clear, but you have misunderstood it. Anvil/Dragoon cleared southern France, but the Germans and the RSI still held northern Italy, because British 8th Army and the U.S Fifth Army didn't conquer it until April 1945. I'm asking about the allied forces deployed on the French side of the French-Italian border after Dragoon. These forces were preventing the German and RSI forces in northern Italy from raiding into southern France to disrupt Allied supply lines. – John Dallman Jan 16 '17 at 10:33
  • 2
    "...presumably because [George Marshall] was grossly incompetent" Presuming that the man Churchill called the "organizer of victory", the man who rebuilt the US Army, the man who FDR didn't make Supreme Allied Commander because he said unironically, "I didn't feel I could sleep at ease if you were out of Washington", the man who coordinated Allied world operations, who promoted the Marshall Plan and won a Nobel Peace Prize for it; presuming George Marshall was "grossly incompetent" is QUITE the presumption! – Schwern Jan 16 '17 at 18:29
  • 1
    Nobody denies he was an excellent logistician. But as a strategist? No, it's a fairly apt assessment echoed by most experts. FDR was not remarkably competent either. – Anaryl Jan 16 '17 at 23:02
  • @JohnDallman - the formation you are looking for is the US 7th Army but the actually divisions on the border I am not sure. Sorry I did misunderstand the question. – Anaryl Jan 16 '17 at 23:02
  • What information does seem to be present indicates it was an ad hoc formation described as a task force - which one I am not sure but I am going to begin a quick investigation and see if i can get the answer for you and update it accordingly – Anaryl Jan 16 '17 at 23:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.