Why didn't the Allies place all their energy into a major invasion of southern France in place of the Normandy operation? German defenses apparently were much lighter there, as evidenced by the relatively easy time the Allies had when they came ashore a month or so after D-Day. I have an idea, but am curious as to what others think.

  • Difficulty of getting ships & forces from Britain around the Iberian peninsula, especially without being observed? Also the southern defenses might have been lighter after D-Day precisely because forces had been moved north to deal with the invasion there? – jamesqf Feb 5 '17 at 0:08
  • "I have an idea, but am curious as to what others think." - why be coy? – user13123 Feb 5 '17 at 3:15
  • @jamesqf Except the allies did invade Italy, which had exactly those issues. – Gort the Robot Feb 7 '17 at 20:38
  • @Steven Burnap: But the invasion of the Italian mainland came after Mussolini was deposed, and the new government was making peace overtures. The Allies thought it would be an easy victory. – jamesqf Feb 8 '17 at 18:43

Any chance of surprise would totally be lost as the German's had spies in Spain and Gibraltar who would have noticed the thousands of ships sailing through the straits. Deception was a major component of the Normandy landings, and there would have been no chance for deception sending the ships from Britain to S. France.

Also the Allies would not have been able to put as many troops on the ground. The main bases in Britain held the million troops that were on the beach in Normandy by the end of July. Take Sicily as a counter example, we were only able to get around 150,000 troops there in the same time. This was approximately the same amount of troops that later landed in S. France. This was the operational limit in that theature. There was just not the infrastructure required to increase this limit. The supplies, the bases, and most importantly the ships weren't in the Mediterranean and any movement of that amount of material to the staging zones would have most definitely been noticed by German spies.

Also consider air power, it was much easier for the Allies to cover landings right next to our bases in the UK. It would have been much more difficult if the landings were in S. France.

also as jamesqf pointed out, the exact reasons the defenses were light were because they were being pulled up to N. France to deal with Overlord. Specifically the 2nd SS Das Reich and the 1st SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler were pulled from S. France to Normandy.

sources: troop numbers from Wikipedia (so take from it what you will)

sources for troop movements: http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/the-german-response-to-d-day

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  • Another factor might be that it could have been much easier for the Germans to do air attacks on large convoys making the several-day journey through Gibraltar. Also if you're just crossing the channel, you can send your ships back for another load of troops & supplies in a few hours, vs a week or more round-trip for the south. – jamesqf Feb 5 '17 at 19:09
  • Agreed, they just did not have the ability to get the necessary number of troops on the ground in South France, as they did in Normandy, in the short amount of time required. As you said those ships weren't just a one time drop-off, they unloaded troops, supplies, etc.. then returned and repeated.. Additionally there were no large deep water ports near the South of France that the Allies controlled large enough to stage the material, troops, and supplied for a million man invasion. Also there was no way to build the Mulberry docks in the Mediterranean which provided crucial Allied resupply. – ed.hank Feb 5 '17 at 19:41
  • @ed.hank Mulberries were unnecessary as there was the large ports of Toulon and Marseille right there. – Schwern Feb 6 '17 at 2:55
  • @Schwern I could be wrong in my thinking, because you bring up a very good point. but dont you think the Nazis would have been able to sabotage the port facilities so bad that it still would have taken weeks (more likely months) to bring the ports back to operating levels? remember they also would have known this invasion was coming days ahead of time. what are your thoughts on that? if you still think the Allies could use those ports I will remove that part from my answer. – ed.hank Feb 6 '17 at 3:17
  • @ed.hank They did sabotage the ports, but these are VERY large ports and complete sabotage is difficult. Toulon has been the home of the French Navy since the Napoleonic days, and Marseille was the largest French commercial port. In addition, the Allies made efforts to assure the important channels were not blocked with ships by sinking the blockships first. Toulon was taken in days. Marseilles took two weeks and two weeks later was handling shipping. OTOH the Allies didn't think they would be captured for 40 days, so there is something to be said for your argument. – Schwern Feb 6 '17 at 3:25

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