Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Elba, Recapture of (17–18 June 1944)

Italian island located between Corsica and the western coast of Italy that was seized by German forces following Italy's surrender to the Allies in September 1943. The Germans then used the island as a screen for their coastal traffic. Following the recapture of Corsica by Italian and Free French forces in October 1943, the Allies developed Operation brassard, which assigned French forces to take Elba. With the fall of Rome on 5 June and the Allied advance north of the Eternal City, the chief justification for the operation disappeared, but Free French leaders were determined to proceed with brassard, both because it would serve as a useful rehearsal for the subsequent Allied invasion of southern France and because it would prove the worth of their forces to the Allied cause.

Three days before the planned invasion, French commander General Jean De Lattre de Tassigny received word that no air transport would be available for the French commandos, but he decided to proceed nonetheless. British Rear Admiral Thomas H. Troubridge had charge of the naval forces, which included some 220 vessels, including landing craft. French Lieutenant General Henri Martin commanded the land forces. The French attackers included the 9th Colonial Infantry Division, Goumiers (North African troops); the Shock Battalion; and commandos. Some 2,700 German troops under Generalleutnant (U.S. equiv. major general) Franz Gall defended the island.

The invasion began at 1:00 a.m. on the morning of 17 June 1944, when French commandos stormed ashore at six different points on the island and swiftly seized the major German shore batteries. The main landing then followed in Campo Bay. Although there was some intense fighting, the entire island was in French hands by the evening of 18 June. The battle for Elba cost French forces 201 dead, 51 missing, and 635 wounded. The Germans lost several hundred dead and 2,300 prisoners. Although it was of questionable military value, the operation heightened German fears of another Allied landing in northern Italy.

Spencer C. Tucker


Further Reading
de Gaulle, Charles. The Complete War Memoirs of Charles de Gaulle, 1940–1946. Trans. Jonathan Griffin and Richard Howard. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960.; De Lattre de Tassigny, Jean. The History of the French First Army. Trans. Malcolm Barnes. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1952.
 

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