The Battle of Port Cros was a battle of World War II fought off the French Riviera in the Mediterranean Sea on the island of Port-Cros. The battle began when a United States Navy warship encountered two German warships in August 1944 while supporting the Allied Operation Dragoon. It was one of the few surface engagements fought between the United States Navy and the German Kriegsmarine. Later that day, the combined American and Canadian Devil's Brigade was dropped on the main island and captured the German held positions.
The American destroyer USS Somers—armed with eight 5 in (130 mm) guns and a number of 21 in (530 mm) torpedo tubes—was cruising in the Mediterranean on 15 August 1944 when she came across the former 738 long tons (750 t) Italian corvette Camoscio which was renamed UJ6081 by the Kriegsmarine. Also involved was the former French 917 long tons (932 t) aviso Amiral Senes, renamed SG21. UJ6081 was armed with one 3.9 in (99 mm)gun and two 17.7 in (450 mm) torpedo tubes. The aviso was armed with two 4.1 in (100 mm) guns. It was early morning off Port Cros, about four hours before the Allied landing in Vichy France, when the Americans sighted the German corvette. Commander Willam Christopher Hughes ordered a torpedo attack and directed his men to battle stations.
A spread of torpedoes was launched and the Germans opened fire as they attempted to maneuver out of harm's way. However, one torpedo slammed into the UJ6081's hull and she quickly began to sink. The SG21 was then spotted coming to the rescue. She was engaged by Somers' main gun battery. The ensuing duel lasted for a few minutes until SG21 was hit several times and began taking in water. Within a few more minutes, both German ships went down and Somers therefore left the area for naval gunfire support missions against targets along the French mainland. American forces suffered no damage or casualties.
Later that day, a mixed regiment of United States Army and Canadian Army infantry, the 1st Special Service Force, was dropped onto Port Cros and captured the five forts after a day long battle with their German garrisons. The Allies assaulted two or three forts and seized the remaining without resistance. Nine paratroopers were killed in the land battle.
As result of the battle, Commander Hughes was recognized for his victory and eventually rose to the rank of Rear Admiral partly due to his involvement in this action. After the engagement, the U.S. Army occupied Le Levant, another island nearby. Two days later, on 17 August, the former Italian corvette Antilope, renamed UJ6082, and the former Egyptian armed yacht Nimet Allah were sunk by USS Endicott with help from two British gunboats at the Battle of La Ciotat.
- Groner, 237
- Groner, Eric (1990). German Warships 1815 - 1945. Volume One: Major Surface Vessels. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-790-9.
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
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