Photo of the 551st PIB jump into La Motte shared by Les Meade family
The below quotes regarding the Airborne invasion of southern France are from “The Airborne Invasion of Southern France – Operation Dragoon” by Colonel Thomas R. Cross U.S.A., Ret.:
*By the 3rd of July, an advanced echelon of the airborne base at Ciampino and Lido de Roma Airfield was established. By the 10th of July, the Center with its attached units, the 551st PIB, and the 550th GIB were completely located at the Airborne Base.
*On the 21st of July, General Fredrick requested that the name of the Provisional organization be changed to the 1st ABTF, since the use of the term “Division” was considered a misnomer.
*The final planning for the Dragoon did not commence until the 20th of July, 1944.
*…the formation adopted for the parachute columns was the universal “V of Vs” in nine ships in serials of an average of 45 aircraft, with five minute intervals head to head between serials.
*The operation was prefaced by a successful airborne diversion designed to serve two purposes in the Cover Plan. First, it was to create the illusion of a southern airborne corridor; second, it was to simulate a false airborne DZ by dropping rubber parachute dummies into selected areas…German radio reports indicated the complete success of this rouse.
*The Lead Serial, supposed to drop Pathfinders from the 509th and 551st PIBs plus that of the 550th glider Infantry Battalion at 0323 hours lost its way and circled back to sea to make a second run at the correct DZs. After circling for about half an hour one aircraft dropped its Pathfinder Team and went home. The other two aircraft separated after that and one dropped its team about 0400 hours. The last Team jumped at 0415 hours on the sixth run in on the target. Lost in the woods and far from their objective, none of the three Teams were able to reach the Le Muy area in time to act as Pathfinders.
*Of particular note is the fact that over four hundred Troop Carrier aircraft had flown in relatively tight formation under operational strain for some five hundred miles without incident.
*Serial Number 16 of the 51st Troop Carrier Wing was a parachute load made up of the 551st PIB. It dropped accurately on DZ “A” at 1800 hours as planned. This drop was followed up rapidly by continuous glider serials Numbered 17 through 23, nine gliders were reported to have been released prematurely, four of which made water landings.
*The 551st PIB with the 602nd Pack Artillery Battalion (Glider) attached, was ordered by the 1st ABTF at 1100 hours on D+1 to attack Draguignan and seize the town. Throughout that afternoon and into the night the 551st fought its way into this town. The Commanding General of the German Army LXII Corps, General Neuling and his staff, along with several hundred troops that included a special officer cadet class, surrendered. This was done in sufficient time to permit a special mobile force from the U.S. Army VI Corps to pass through the town on D+3 on their way to the Rhone and beyond.
*Everything we did was new and for the most part had never been done before in the annals of modern warfare. They got done because we did not know that these tasks could not be done, we just did them in our own airborne style.
*The 1st ABTF and its outstanding combat and service units that participated in DRAGOON have every right to consider themselves as a historical legend candidate for the Airborne Hall of Fame.