70th Anniversary of Operation Dragoon: Marking the Liberation of Southern France

Ten weeks after the Normandy landings in northern France, Operation Dragoon, the amphibious invasion of southern France, marked a critical victory for the Allies in August 1944, and ultimately, served as a lynchpin to victory in the European theater of World War II.

To mark this 70th anniversary of Operation Dragoon, Rhone American Cemetery hosted two ceremonies on August 16, 2014. Organized by the town hall of Draguignan, the second ceremony of the day specifically marked the liberation of the town, and honored those who gave their lives in the pursuit of liberating southern France. Draguignan is located along the path of the U.S. Seventh Army’s drive toward the Rhône River Valley.

More than 2,400 attendees gathered for this ceremony, including nearly 20 World War II veterans of Operation Dragoon. The ceremony included remarks from the president of the Franco-American Society of Draguignan, the mayor of Draguignan, the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Uzra Zeya, and Admiral Mark Ferguson, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa. The event also included a wreath laying, a minute of silence, the playing of Taps, and singing of the national anthems of the United Kingdom, France and the United States. The U.S. Sixth Fleet Band provided support for the ceremonies that day.

Following this ceremony, Superintendent Bruce Malone led the official party to the grave of 2nd Lt. Albert M. Robinson, Jr. His grave was adopted by the town of Draguignan and Zeya presented the grave flags to the mayor of Draguignan on behalf of the United States.

Earlier that morning Memoire de Provence, a local group of re-enactors, honored the soldiers of Operation Dragoon with a ceremony. Dressed in period uniforms and arriving in U.S. Army vintage vehicles, more than 500 individuals participated in the ceremony, including nearly 20 World War II veterans. This ceremony included remarks from the president of Memoire de Provence, a wreath laying, a moment of silence, the playing of Taps and the singing of the national anthems of the United Kingdom, France and the United States.

Most of the 860 burials in this cemetery, along with the 294 names inscribed upon the Walls of the Missing, are members of the military who lost their lives during Operation Dragoon and the Allied drive toward the Rhône River Valley.

See more photos from the town of Draguignan ceremony at Rhone American Cemetery. 
See more photos from the Memoire de Provence ceremony at Rhone American Cemetery.