19 August 1942

Operation Jubilee: Allied Raid on Dieppe

(Posted 19 August 2002)

In the spring of 1942, the Allies faced several challenging geographic fronts of occupation. The Germans had moved deep into Russia, the British had been forced back into Egypt from North Africa, and in Western Europe, Allied forces were up against the Germans across the English Channel.

At the time the U.S. entered the war, most of Europe was under German control. The Rangers had been in training at Achnacarry since June 1942 preparing to join the Allies in the war against this German infiltration and occupation.

The Allies needed to develop a strategy and unite their efforts against the German infiltration. A full-scale invasion of Europe was not the answer, however it was decided to launch a major raid on the French port of Dieppe. The purpose of this raid was to establish authority and fear in the minds of the Germans as to the strength and very presence of the Allied forces. It was intended to alert the Germans to the united strength of the Allies, as well as to divert attention from the real strategy, which would involve the invasion of North Africa, not Europe.

Dieppe was to be a test of the coordination of the Allies in a large-scale military operation, and also an evaluation of new techniques and equipment. Thus, Dieppe was not launched as a full-blown invasion of Europe, but as a diversionary tactic and a rehearsal of sorts. Teamed with the British Commandos, a few select Rangers participated in this action and got their first experience in a combat situation.

The operation was given the code name Jubilee, with the port of Dieppe on the French coast the objective. The attack on Dieppe took place on August 19, 1942. The total count of troops was in the thousands. The majority of these troops were Canadians, with roughly one-thousand British Commandos. It was felt that this would be the time to incorporate the newly trained Rangers to expose them to an actual combat situation.

The plan involved attacks at five different points off the beachhead of Dieppe. Four simultaneous flank attacks were to go in just before dawn, followed half an hour later by the main attack on the town of Dieppe itself. A detachment of the 1st Ranger Battalion consisting of six officers and forty-four enlisted men took part with the British Commando and Canadian Forces in the raid.

Several Rangers were attached to the mission of capturing the enemy shoreline battery of six guns four and a half miles east of Dieppe. As the assault force approached the coast of France in the early hours of August 19, the landing craft of the eastern sector encountered a small German Flotilla of E Boats. This resulted in a scattering of the boats carrying the Canadians and Rangers. Many of these boats were washed into the shore resulting in several of the boats being capsized, although some eventually reached their objective after this chaotic start. Many of the men in the capsized boats, weighted with gear and ammunition, drowned.

The worst of this event was in the time wasted in reorganizing the scattered boats. Several of them did reorganize and eventually reached shore. The noise of the confrontation at sea alerted the German coastal troops, making them well aware of the eminent raid. This enabled the Germans to launch stiff opposition to the approaching Rangers and Commandos who reached the shore.

Only a few men were able to get over the heavily wired seawall at the head of the beach; those who did, were unable to get back. The remaining troops, together with the Canadians (where several Rangers were attached), were pinned on the beach by German machine-gun fire, and were later forced to surrender. Evacuation was impossible. Of those who landed, several hundred were killed and many died later of their wounds. Those remaining were taken prisoner. Failure to clear the targets to the East of Dieppe enabled the Germans to control the Dieppe beaches and abort the main frontal attack.

In the West, some degree of surprise was achieved. In contrast to the misfortune encountered by the troops to the east, the Commando operation (with four enlisted Rangers) was completely successful. The unit went in, successfully destroyed the guns in the battery, and eventually withdrew to safety.

The main force pushed on towards their objective (an inland airfield) and advanced toward Dieppe. They too, were met with stiff opposition as the Germans dominated the beaches, and the Allied troops in this sector were forced to withdraw.

The landing tanks also met with disaster. They landed too late, leaving the beached troops with no support during the first critical minutes of the attack. When the tanks finally came ashore, they were met by stiff German opposition and ground to a halt. Those that found their way onto the beaches were met by concrete barriers where the tank crews became prisoners, or died in battle.

The raid also produced an air battle. While the Allied air forces were able to provide protection from the Luftwaffe for the ships off Dieppe, the cost was high. The Royal Air Force lost over a hundred aircraft in the Dieppe Raid.

By early afternoon, Operation Jubilee was over. Many experts argue to this day as to the raid's value. Many feel it was a useless slaughter; others feel that it was necessary for the successful invasion of Normandy two years later on D-day, only a few miles away.

A heavy price was paid on August 19, 1942. Rangers Lt. Joseph H. Randall and 2nd Lt Edward V. Loustalot, were killed-in-action (KIA) at Dieppe. It is believed that Randall, from the 1st Ranger Battalion, was the first U.S. ground soldier to give his life in the European theater of World War II.

(Reference: Rangers in World War II, by Robert W. Black)

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