Operation Loadline

This was the US and French unrealised deception plan in support of the proposed French 'Independence' (ii) campaign to destroy the isolated German garrisons on the French west coast (December 1944).

As the bulk of their forces were driven from the rest of France, Adolf Hitler ordered that the German garrisons of the main ports on the Atlantic and English Channel coasts should hold these areas and thereby prevent the Allies from making use of them. Among these garrison areas were the pockets at Royan and Pointe de Grave on each side of the Gironde estuary, whose retention by the Germans would prevent any Allied use of the major port of Bordeaux farther upstream.

As early as the middle of November 1944, 'Independence' (ii)('Indépendance' to the French) was prepared for the clearance of the Gironde by French forces commanded by Général de Corps d’Armée René Marie Edgar de Larminat under the overall control of Lieutenant General Jacob L. Devers’s Allied 6th Army Group. de Larminat planned to make his initial main effort on the northern side of the estuary, and to support this Eugene J. Sweeney of the US deception apparatus prepared a simple cover plan as 'Loadline', which was to exaggerate the strength of the force advancing on the southern side and thereby facilitate the defeat of the German garrisons on the northern side. Directed to brief de Larminat on the plan, and to offer it to him for possible use should the French approve, Sweeney spent several days with de Larminat at his headquarters in Cognac. de Larminat approved 'Loadline' essentially as drafted.

Soon after this, though, 'Indepen­dence' was cancelled so that the forces it was to have used could be redeployed to boost the French forces committed to the re­duction of the Colmar pocket. It was not until April 1945 that the garrison-reduction concept was revived, in a revised form as 'Venerable' (to the French ‘Vénérable’), in which de Larminat’s forces cleared the Gironde estuary area in five days. For 'Venerable', de Larminat designed his own 'Marécage' (swamp) plan as a fictional threat to the German garrison of La Rochelle farther to the north.