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|Part of World War II|
Panzertruppen watching a burning French warship
|Commanded by||General Johannes Blaskowitz|
|Objective||Military occupation of Vichy France|
|Date||10–27 November 1942|
Operation Anton (German: Fall Anton) was the military occupation of Vichy France carried out by Germany and Italy in November 1942. It marked the end of the Vichy regime as a nominally-independent state and the disbandment of its army (the severely-limited Armistice Army), but it continued its existence as a puppet government in Occupied France. One of the last actions of its armed forces before their dissolution was the scuttling of the French fleet in Toulon to prevent it from falling into Axis hands.
A German plan to occupy Vichy France had been drawn up in December 1940 under the codename of Operation Attila and soon came to be considered as an operation with Operation Camellia, the plan to occupy Corsica. Operation Anton updated the original Operation Attila, including different German units and adding Italian involvement.
For Adolf Hitler, the main rationale for permitting a nominally independent French state to exist was that it was, in the absence of naval superiority, the only practical means to deny the use of the French colonies to the Allies. Following the Allied landings in French North Africa on 8 November 1942 (Operation Torch) and the lack of determined French resistance to the Allied landings, that rationale disappeared. Moreover, Hitler could not risk an exposed flank on the French Mediterranean. Following a final conversation with French Premier Pierre Laval, Hitler gave orders for Corsica to be occupied on 11 November, and Vichy France the following day.
By the evening of 10 November 1942, Axis forces had completed their preparations for Case Anton. The 1st Army advanced from the Atlantic coast, parallel to the Spanish border, while the 7th Army advanced from central France towards Vichy and Toulon, under the command of General Johannes Blaskowitz. The Italian 4th Army occupied the French Riviera and an Italian division landed on Corsica. By the evening of 11 November, German tanks had reached the Mediterranean coast.
The Germans had planned Operation Lila to capture intact the demobilised French fleet at Toulon. French naval commanders managed to delay the Germans by negotiation and subterfuge long enough to scuttle their ships on 27 November, before the Germans could seize them, preventing three battleships, seven cruisers, 28 destroyers and 20 submarines from falling into the hands of the Axis powers. While the German Naval War Staff were disappointed, Adolf Hitler considered that the elimination of the French fleet sealed the success of Operation Anton. The destruction of the fleet also denied it to Charles de Gaulle and the Free French Navy.
Vichy France limited its resistance to radio broadcasts objecting to the violation of the armistice of 1940. The German government countered that it was the French who violated the armistice first by not offering determined resistance to the Allied landings in North Africa. The 50,000-strong Vichy French Army took defensive positions around Toulon, but when confronted by German demands to disband, it did so, lacking the military capability to resist the Axis forces.
- Schreiber, Gerhard; Stegemann, Bernd; Vogel, Detlef (1990). Der Mittelmeerraum und Südosteuropa 1940–1941: Von der "non belligeranza" Italiens bis zum Kriegseintritt der Vereinigten Staaten [The Mediterranean, South-East Europe and North Africa 1939–1942]. Germany and the Second World War. III. trans. Dean S. McMurry, Ewald Osers, Louise Willmot, P. S. Falla. London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-822884-4.