In this edition of A Picture From History, we’re going to be taking a look at one of the greatest Allied blunders of WWII — The Dieppe Raid.
Also known as Operation Jubilee, the Dieppe Raid was a 1942 amphibious landing in Northern France.
Operation Jubilee: The Plan
It was intended to capture and briefly hold the German-held port city of Dieppe, test amphibious invasion capabilities, and take pressure off the Soviets on the Eastern Front.
Of the 6,000 men who landed, most of them Canadian, 3,367 were killed, captured, or wounded.
The plans were a complete mess from the beginning.
Large-scale aerial and naval bombardments were suggested to soften German fortifications in town. However, they were not approved due to an unwillingness to risk ships and the fact that bombing could potentially block roads for tanks moving inland.
Additionally, rather than using experienced British commando and marine units, the plan was to proceed with an untested Canadian force.
The plan was even scrapped in July when organizers realized the Germans probably knew about it, but was revived six weeks later.
Lord Louis Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Operations, stated, “The last thing they’d ever imagine is that we would be so stupid as to lay on the same operation again.” Great!
The Raid Begins
On the morning of August 19, British commando units, Canadian infantry, and 50 U.S. Army Rangers made initial landings outside Dieppe to neutralize German coastal artillery that threatened the main landing force.
Of the four landing beaches, only the No. 4 Commandos and the Army Rangers attached to them were successful in reaching their targets.
The others were captured, stuck on the beach and raked with machine-gun fire, or forced to withdraw in the face of overwhelming German numbers. The Canadian Black Watch on Blue Beach fared the worst, with 464 of the 556 men killed or captured.
The main landings on Red and White Beach began 30 minutes later.
The Churchill tanks that were supposed to support the infantry arrived late, and half sank or got stuck.
Of the 15 tanks that managed to make it past the seawall, all were blocked by tank obstacles and unable to enter the town.
The infantry trapped along the seawall fell victim to German machine guns and mortars, unable to advance or retreat from the chaos.
Unable to see the situation on the beach due to smoke screen, more reserves were sent in. Their boats made easy targets for the German machine guns and mortars, and few made it ashore. Those who did were captured or killed.
Five hours after the raid began, Allied forces began their withdrawal, taking another five hours to do so under heavy fire.
The Dieppe debacle was a major propaganda win for the Germans, but the Allies went on to see the raid as a necessary evil to learn the lessons that made D-Day successful.
Mountbatten remained an unpopular figure to Canadians, even after the war. Aside from the Canadians and Brits killed, six U.S. Army Rangers also lost their lives.
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