Operation Sitka

This was the Allied amphibious landing on and seizure of Port Cros and Levant, two of the Iles d’Hyères between Toulon and Cannes off the south coast of German-occupied France, by Colonel Edwin A. Walker’s US and Canadian 1st Special Service Force (15/17 August 1944).

The Battle of Port Cros was fought off the French riviera in the Mediterranean Sea on the island of Port Cros. The battle began when a US warship encountered two German warships in August 1944 while supporting 'Dragoon' (i), and was one of the few surface engagements fought between the US Navy and the German navy. Later on the same day the combined Canadian and US 1st Special Service Force landed on the main island and captured the German-held positions.

The 2,767-ton US destroyer Somers, armed with eight 5-in (127-mm) guns and 12 21-in (533-mm) torpedo tubes, was cruising in the Mediterranean on 15 August 1944 when she came across the 728-ton corvette UJ 6081 (ex-Italian Camoscio) and 932-ton SG 21 (ex-French minesweeping sloop Camois. UJ 6081 was armed with one 100-mm (3.94-in) gun and two 450-mm (17.7-in torpedo tubes, and SG 21 with two 90-mm (3.54-in) guns. It was early in the morning off Port Cros, about four hours before the 'Dragoon' (i) landings, that the US ship sighted UJ 6081, and Commander William C. Hughes ordered a torpedo attack.

A spread of torpedoes was launched and the Germans opened fire as they attempted to manoeuvre out of harm’s way. However, one torpedo slammed into UJ 6081's hull, and the ship quickly began to sink. The Americans then spotted SG 21 as she approached the scene, and the German ship was then engaged by Somers‍ 's​ main gun battery. The ensuing duel lasted only a few minutes before SG 21 started to take it hits and began taking in water. Within a few more minutes, both German ships had sunk, and Somers therefore left the area to undertake gunfire bombardments of targets along the French mainland. The US ship suffered neither damage nor casualties.

Later on the same day the 1st Special Service Force landed on 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 others without encountering resistance. Nine of the 1st Special Service Force’s men were killed or died of the wounds they received in this battle.

After the Battle of Port Cross, US forces occupied Le Levant, a nearby island.

Two days later, on 17 August, the German corvette UJ 6082 (ex-Italian Antilope) and the former Egyptian armed yacht Nimet Allah were sunk by the US destroyer Endicott, with help from two British gunboats, in the Battle of La Ciotat.

The success of this undertaking secured the left rear of the major US and French formations during the main amphibious assault phase of ‘Dragoon’ (i).