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L Company was nearly wiped ...
L Company was nearly wiped out during the bloody Anzio breakout of May 1944. Under the fiery leadership of Captain James “Red” Coles, the unit was rebuilt and molded into a tough, colorful bunch in preparation for “Operation Dragoon.” On August 15, 1944, they hit the beaches in southern France, joined by the tank crews of 2nd Lt. Andrew Orient’s 3rd Platoon, all veterans of Cassino.
After overcoming pockets of resistance along the coast, the tanks and infantry swept inland, nipping at the heels of the retreating German Nineteenth Army. A sudden German artillery salvo dispatched six L Company men and left Lt. Orient dead. 1st Lt. Edgar Danby, an armor instructor (the author’s grandfather), was flown in from Italy to replace him.
Despite logistics problems, the Third Division forged north through the Rhône River valley until they found the Germans holding fast, L Company and its supporting tanks leading the regimental charge. In the haste and chaos of the day, they managed to slip the German rearguard and unwittingly attacked the German LXXXV Armeekorps headquarters in the small town of Allan. Both sides were shocked by the ferocity of the battle.
Led by a rampaging Panther tank, the Germans counterattacked, knocking out the Sherman of Lt. Danby while threatening to cut L Company’s positions in half. Surrounded and facing annihilation—but steeled by the courageous leadership of Captain Coles and others—L Company held fast despite dead and wounded on all sides and 13 men captured. The seemingly unstoppable Panther, stalking the battlefield like some black knight from a Teutonic fantasy, continued to hold off American reinforcements in the morning, until the Armeekorps headquarters executed a withdrawal.
In this book, the minute-by-minute confusion, thrill and desperation of WWII combat is placed under a microscope, as if the reader himself were a participant. In this small but singular battle, the courage of US troops in their liberation of France is given full due.
Danby resurrects the forgotten campaign of World War II in this excellent popular history... a sprightly and evocative tribute to the troops of Operation Dragoon.
Publishers Weekly, 05/2008
“…one of the most interesting and absorbing battles histories that this reviewer has ever read...remarkably realistic and personal…”
History Book Club, 06/2008
“…clearly written, pacey and exciting whilst giving a clear account of the sequence of events, a first hand perspective and a “flow” that keeps one keen to thumb over the next page.”
Military Modeling (UK), 07/2008
"a powerful, punchy story…outs the reader in the middle of a raging battlefield populated with humans who far transcend the one dimensional paper soldiers often found in military history…”
Bill Stone, 07/2008
"...well-written and entertaining book capturing the chaotic nature of combat for the average infantryman."
AFV Modeler, 09/2008
"… a gripping story of initiative and confusion (on both sides) competently told and one that shows the details of extensive research… delivers the nitty gritty…"
“Through his well-wrought prose, Danby paints a detailed picture of deadly fighting and stunning victory.”
WWII History, 03/2009
"...riveting...very well done and gives the reader a much broader vision of the "forgotten" Invasion of France".
“…makes a major contribution to our understanding of American infantry in Europe.”
Michigan War Studies Review, 01/2011
Amateur historian Danby resurrects "the forgotten campaign of World War II" in this excellent popular history. While the world's attention was focused on Normandy, a second, smaller invasion-Operation Dragoon-landed on the French Riviera on August 15, 1944, to open another supply route for Allied troops. When Hitler ordered a "general withdrawal from France" on August 16, the Allies rushed to trap and destroy the retreating enemy. But a shortage of fuel and German rearguard attacks foiled the Allied plan. While Danby provides an overview of the entire campaign, he focuses on a single, pivotal battle at the village of Allan where one infantry company encountered a German army corps headquarters. The infantrymen fought heroically and prevailed despite heavy losses-including the author's grandfather. The fight to liberate southern France is often derisively called the "Champaign Campaign," but the action at Allan was one of many fierce small-unit clashes that argue otherwise. Danby's revisionist view of the campaign-supported by extensive research including dozens of interviews with survivors-is a sprightly and evocative tribute to the troops of Operation Dragoon. 16 pages of photos; maps. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Posted December 31, 2009
Jeff's literary depiction of the heroics in Southern France during WWII is beyond reproach. His detailed footnoting serves his work masterfully. Anyone who values freedom and democracy should pay tribute to the great generation that served so valiantly during this troublesome time. Jeff's done a masterful job at depicting the day-to-day challenges, triumphs and failures of ordinary men made extraordinary by the times and places of WWII.
Some day all that will be left of these extraordinary times will be the written detailed stories of WWII, such as Jeff has done here with "Day of the Panzer." He should be commended for his research and perseverance in writing this account.
I highly recommend you take a few days and indulge yourself in this well written episode of the southern France campaign of WWII and those treacherous days of L Company, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division in Allan, France.
Colonel Tom Ahrendt
Ohio Army National Guard
Iraqi War Veteran
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