443rd Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion in World War II

SOUTHERN FRANCE CAMPAIGN

INVASION AT DRAMMONT

The invasion force for Southern France was the American Seventh Army under Lt. Gen. Alexander Patch. The Army included General Truscott’s VI Corps with the combat-experienced 3rd, 45th and 36th Divisions. The 36th Division, with the 443rd Battalion, was assigned four beaches for the landing — Red, Green, Yellow and Blue. Red Beach was the harbor of San Raphael. However, Red Beach was found to be heavily defended by underwater obstacles, pillboxes and gun emplacements. Green Beach was a small, 250 yard wide, 100 foot deep, rocky beach flanked by quarries and a single, sharply inclined, exit road. Well defended, it appeared to be too small for landing a large force. Yellow Beach was in front of the town of Agay, protected by a submarine mine netting and covered by extensive, flanking enemy fire. Blue Beach, a few miles from Green Beach, could only accommodate two small boats at a time. The Southern France coastline was a formidable, rocky challenge.

It was toward these beaches in Southern France that at noon on 13 August, the invasion convoy pulled up anchor and sailed northwestward along the Italian coastline. It passed through the Corsican-Sardinian Straits on 14 August and arrived off the Riviera coastline in early morning darkness on 15 August. For the third time the 443rd, sailing in an invasion convoy, had to endure a storm at sea. Before dawn the storm had subsided and naval guns and Allied bombers began blasting the invasion beaches. At H-Hour (8 am) the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 36th Division’s 141st Regiment stormed ashore taking the Germans by surprise. Quickly recovering, the enemy bitterly opposed the landing on Green Beach and covered it heavily with artillery fire from commanding heights a short ways inland. But by 10 am the beachhead area was cleared of enemy troops although artillery continued to harass the landing forces. By late morning the 143rd Regiment was able to land and pushed west toward San Raphael while the 141st took Agay and the high ground north of Green Beach, pushing the Germans off their dominating hill positions. Thus with beachheads established at both Green and Blue Beaches, the Americans began moving swiftly. Engineer bulldozers came ashore and began to level the pebbles and rocks covering the steep incline on Green Beach and to doze out a new exit road from the beach to the coastal highway so the landing could be speeded up. In nine hours over 20,000 36th Division(reinforced) troops had landed over Green Beach — one of the most difficult and confined beaches one could imagine. And it was done with relatively few casualties.

The 142nd Regiment had started for Red Beach but was diverted to Green Beach because of the impossible Red Beach defenses. This action, by the Navy Commander Lewis, probably saved many lives. By early morning of 16 August the beachhead had been consolidated and extended and Frejus and San Raphael had been taken.

During the invasion, 443rd units had landed with the assault waves and occupied their assigned, tactical positions. Twelve men were wounded by Navy PA shrapnel on 15 August when two high-flying DO-217 planes, far out of reach of automatic weapons, dropped two radio-controlled bombs. One hit and blew up the bridge of an LST approaching Green Beach. The other dropped in the sea.

The surprise and force of the invasion caught the enemy completely by surprise. A carload of Germans, with their headlights on full, was captured six miles from Green Beach. In the town of Draguinan, the Commanding General of the 62nd German Corps was completely confused by the speedy attack and was captured along with his entire staff. The 36th Division troops made contact with Allied paratroopers on the day following the landing.

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