Operation Husky - the Invasion of Sicily, 10 July- 17 August 1943
The invasion of Sicily (10 July-17 August 1943) was the first successful Allied invasion of one of the Axis partners, and helped secure Allied control of the Mediterranean as well as helping to trigger the fall of Mussolini.
The decision to invade Sicily was made at the Casablanca conference of January 1943. The campaign in Tunisia was still in progress, but it was clear that it would end some time in the spring of 1943. A decision thus had to be made on what to do next. The American military leaders wanted to focus entirely on Operation Overlord, the cross-channel invasion of France, and had no interest in getting involved in further major battles in the Mediterranean. Churchill in contrast wanted to continue to chip away at the flanks of the German empire, in order to weaken the German military and keep German troops pinned down away from France. He could also see the potential benefits of attacking Germany from the south, the unfortunately named ‘soft underbelly of Europe’, and advancing into the Balkans. He was unable to win over General Marshall or the US Chiefs of Staff, who feared that he was actually trying to undermine Overload. However even the Americans had to admit that the Allies wouldn’t be ready to carry out Overlord during 1943, so some alternative course of action had to be found. The veteran troops now present in North Africa could hardly be left idle for the rest of the year. There was also a fear that Stalin might decide to come to terms with the Germans if the western Allies were no longer involved in any land campaign against the Germans.
The British and Americans eventually agreed to invade Sicily. This operation had three aims. First, it would help secure the Mediterranean sea lanes. Second, it might force the Germans to pull some troops away from the Eastern Front. Third, it might force Italy out of the war. The invasion actually achieved all three of these objectives. Hitler officially cancelled Operation Citadel, the battle of Kursk, on 12 July, two days after the seaborne landings on Sicily, on the grounds that he might need to rush reinforcements to Italy. The presence of Allied troops on Italian soil fatally undermined Mussolini’s position, and he was overthrown by his own supporters on 25 July, while the fighting on Sicily was still underway. However there was no plan to follow up the invasion of Sicily with an attack on the Italian mainland. This decision was only made after the fall of Mussolini, and at this point the decision to invade Sicily instead of Sardinia limited Allied options, meaning that the invasion had to take place in the south, within fighter range of Sicily, eventually leading to the long, costly Italian campaign.
A command structure was put in place that reflected the multi-national nature of the invasion force. Eisenhower was made Supreme Commander. General Alexander was made overall commander of the land forces (15th Army Group), Air Chief Marshal Tedder commanded the air forces and Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham the naval forces. The invasion itself would be carried out by two armies - the British Eighth Army (Montgomery) and the American Seventh Army (Patton). This would be the only time that Patton and Montgomery would serve alongside each other at the same rank, and the campaign would contribute to the rivalry between the two men.
The first plan was for two widely separated landings. The Americans were to land near Palermo, in the north-west of the island, the British near Catania, on the east coast. Montgomery was strongly opposed to this idea, and on 24 April criticized it for assuming that the island would only be lightly defended. Some key American figures assumed that the Germans would soon desert the Italians, who would be unable to offer much resistance on their own. This plan would also have forced the air and sea support to be split in two, and may well have seen one or both of the isolated Allied beachheads destroyed.
The second plan gave the main role in the attack to Montgomery’s Eighth Army. This would land on the south-eastern corner of Sicily, and advance up the east coast, taking Syracuse and finally Messina. Patton’s Seventh Army was to land on the British left, and advance north and north-west towards Palermo, protecting Montgomery’s left and rear. The landings would create a single massive beachhead, covering 85 miles of the south and south-eastern coast of the island.
This plan inevitably angered Patton, who resented being given a secondary role. Montgomery’s objections to the original plan were probably valid, and the plans were being formed in the aftermath of the battle of Kasserine Pass, where American troops had initially performed rather badly. The Americans learnt quickly, and by the end of the fighting in Tunisia had proved themselves to be more than capable of taking on the Germans, but Montgomery’s caution in April 1943 is understandable, although by then the Americans had started to perform much better in North Africa.
The eventual operation was carried out on a massive scale. The airborne assault involved 4,600 men, 222 aircraft and 144 gliders. The initial assault was to be made by seven divisions. Within 48 hours of the initial landings around 80,000 troops, 600 tanks and 900 artillery guns had been landed on Sicily. In terms of the landing area and the number of troops landed on the first day, it was the largest amphibious assault of the Second World War (although the Normandy landings soon overtook it on the days after D-Day). This massive army was supported by a fleet of around 3,300 ships, including the battleships Nelson, Rodney, Warspite, Valiant, Howe and King George V. The first four were to provide direct support for the landings, the last two to guard against any sortie by the Italian fleet.
The Allied deception plan for Sicily, Operation Barclay, had a difficult task, as Sicily was the obvious next target for Allied troops. The approach taken was to try and convince the Germans that Operation Husky was the codename for an invasion of Greece, to be supported by diversionary attacks on the south of France, Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily. The most famous part of the deception plan was Operation Mincemeat, which saw a dead body in Royal Marine uniform dropped off the coast of Spain, carrying documents to support the cover stories. The body was found by the Spanish and the documents passed onto the Germans, who appear to have taken them seriously. The garrison in Greece was reinforced, and the Germans continued to worry about an invasion of Greece even after the Allied invasion of Italy.
Although the Allied deception plans had been fairly successful, Sicily was still heavily defended, at least if the Italians chose to fight. The Italians had five coastal divisions and four mobile divisions on Sicily, a total of around 230,000 men. The Germans had 30,000 infantry, split between the Hermann Goring armoured division and the 15th Panzer Grenadier mechanised infantry division. The entire force was commanded by the Italian General Alfredo Guzzoni, commander of the Italian Sixth Army. Guzzoni had commanded the Italian invasion of Albania in 1939, and had come out of retirement to take command in Sicily in May 1943, so had only recently arrived on the island at the time of the invasion. The Germans also maintained their own chain of command, and their units were administered by General Hube’s XIV Panzer Corps, which was based on the mainland.
The Germans also had a powerful air force in southern Italy, with 800 aircraft on Sicily, Sardinia and the Italian mainland. The Italian navy was also a possible factor, with four battleships, six cruisers and ten destroyers still seaworthy. Two of the battleships were modern, fast and well armed, and might have the potential to cause some damage before being sunk.
On the afternoon of 9 July, as the Allied invasion fleet was approaching Sicily, a powerful storm developed. This was after what Cunningham had decided was the ‘point of no return’ - the time at which it would cause more damage to try and turn back the invasion that the storm could do. He was also aware that the storm would probably die away fairly quickly, and just before midnight the weather did indeed calm down. The storm did convince the Italians that no invasion was likely on 10 July, and their potentially troublesome flotillas of small ships were confined to harbour (a similar trick of the weather had the same result in Normandy almost a year later). The transport ships were guided to their beaches by seven submarines (Safari, Shakespeare, Seraph, Unrivalled, Unison, Unseen and Unruffled), but even so there were some problems during the landings, in particular when some of the larger landing craft ran into unexpected sand bars off the coast. Around 200 landing craft suffered damage on the beaches, mainly from heavy seas.
On both wings the invasion was to begin with airborne attacks. On the right this was Operation Ladbroke, a glider borne attack on the Ponte Grande, a viaduct just south of Syracuse. A total of 144 gliders set off from North Africa, but seventy were released early and dropped into the sea. About a dozen landed roughly where they had planned, and only 87 troops reached the bridge. They were able to capture it and remove the existing demolition charges, but were then forced away from the bridge by Italian counterattacks. The Italians were unable to destroy the bridge before the 50th Division arrived overland and recaptured it.
On the left the Americans planned to land 3,400 paratroops from the 82nd Airborne Division (General Ridgway) on the high ground overlooking Gela. One party was to land at the crossroads of Piano Lupo, east of Gela. Another was to take the Ponte Olivo airfield north of Gela. The third was to take the Ponte Dirillo bridge across the Acate River, towards the eastern end of the bridgehead, between the 1st and 45th Division sectors. Once again little went as planned. Not enough time had gone into training the pilots from the 52nd Troop Carrier Wing. The paratroops were scattered over much of south-eastern Sicily, with many landing in the British zone. Colonel James M. Gavin, the commander on the ground, wasn’t even sure he’d landed on Sicily at first! Even so the paratroops managed to form up into small groups and caused a great deal of confusion behind enemy lines.
The defenders weren’t all caught by surprise. The vast invasion convoy was detected late on the afternoon of 9 July and the German troops on Sicily were ordered to stand too at 1840, ready to repel a possible invasion. The Italian coastal radar detected the incoming fleet, but it was so large that the operators assumed there was some sort of technical issue, and didn’t report their readings until dawn, when the fleet came into view.
To the east four heavily reinforced British and Canadian divisions landed around the Pachino peninsula (ending in Cape Passero), led by guides in folboats. By 0530 all of the British beaches had been taken. On the left 30th Corps attacked the peninsula. The 51st (Highland Division) landed on the south-eastern tip of the peninsula, and soon captured the town of Pachino. On the left the Canadian 1st Division and a force of Royal Marine Commandos, captured Pachino airfield, and it was ready for emergency use by noon on D-Day. On the right 13th Corps had the task of taking Syracuse. On the corps’ left the 50th Division took Avola and Noto. On the right the 5th Division advanced north towards the Ponte Grande viaduct, which had been the target of Operation Ladbroke, an airborne operation to capture the viaduct. The division rescued the survivors of Ladbroke, who had held on long enough for the viaduct to remain intact, and ended Syracuse without opposition late on D-Day.
The Americans were to land around the Gulf of Gela. The 45th Division (Middleton) was to land at the right, around Scoglitti, advance north-east to take Vittoria and then east to Ragusa, where it was to join up with the 1st Canadian Division coming from the Eighth Army sector. In the centre the 1st Division (Allan) was to land around Gela, capture the Gela-Farello and Ponte Olivo airfields and capture Niscemi, nine miles inland (these two divisions formed the 2nd Corps). On the left the 3rd Division (Truscott), supported by part of the 2nd Armored Division, was to land around Licata and protect the left flank of the beachhead against any counterattack.
On the left the 3rd Division only faced coastal units, as the Italian Assietta and Aosta Divisions and German 15 Panzer Grenadier Division were further to the west. Early opposition was overcome with the aid of naval gunfire, and by noon the division had taken Licata, its port and airfield, and a twelve mile beachhead, and had only suffered 100 casualties. One common story about this part of the invasion has US troops find an empty Italian command post near Licata. The phone rang, and Michael Chinigo of the International News Service, who had been posted in Rome pre-war, answered. An Italian officer was on the line, asking if the Americans were there. There are different versions of the conversation, although the general gist is the same in each case. In one the Italian asks ‘Are the Americans there?. Chinigio replies ‘of course not’, and the Italian says ‘fine’. In another Chinigo answers the phone with ‘pronto’. The Italian officer asks where the Americans are, and Chinigio replies ‘Not here - everything’s quiet here’
On the right the 45th Division landed across a wide front, but soon got organised and began to move north-east towards its targets. The division was reinforced by many of the scattered paratroops. Vittoria was captured as planned, and the division reached Ragusa, but found the Canadians hadn’t arrived yet and withdrew a short distance.
In the centre the 1st Division was led into Gela by US Rangers. They came under heavy fire when 500 yards offshore and lost an entire platoon, but landed at 0335 hours and by 0800 had secured the town. By 0900 the leading units of the division had landed, the Gela-Farello airfield had been taken and contact made with the few paratroops on Pinao Lupo.
The Italians and Germans did have a counterattack planned. General Guzzoni wanted to use the Livorno mobile division and two mobile armoured groups and the Hermann Goring Division in an coordinated counterattack against the American sector. General Conrath, the commander of the Hermann Goering also had orders to counterattack, although he didn’t receive the order to coordinate with the Italians.
In the end the Axis troops made three largely unconnected attacks on the 1st Division position. First to attack was the Italian Mobile Group E. This unit attacked from Niscemi, and managed to get ten tanks into Gela town, although they were repulsed after the Ranger leader Lt. Col. William O. Darby returned to the beach to collect a 37mm gun and crew which disabled one tank and forced the others to retreat. The rest of the attack was repulsed by the paratroops. Next came a battalion from the Livorno division, which attacked from the north-west. This attack was fought off with little difficulty.
Potentially the most serious was the third, by Conrath’s Hermann Goering Division. He planned to attack from Biscari, to the east of Gela, and Niscemi, to the north. His original plan was to attack at 0900, but his advance was delayed by air attacks and the scattered paratroops and didn’t get underway until 1400 hours, five hours late. Despite his best efforts the attack from Niscemi made little progress and was repulsed at Piano Lugo. The attack from Biscari, which was supported by Tiger tanks, made more progress, overrunning one battalion from the 45th Division before being fought off by a second supported by an artillery battery. Eventually the Germans broke and fled back to Biscari.
By the end of the first day the Allies were thus firmly established on Sicily. The only weak spot in the beachhead was in the US 1st Division sector, where it had proved impossible to land any tanks.
Kesselring ordered the Hermann Goering division to resume the offensive on the next day. Conrath came up with a six pronged assault, three German and three Italian. The Italian Livorno Division would attack on the right, heading towards Gela from the north-west, with the left hand column moving near Highway 117, the main road running south from Ponte Olivo towards Gela. The Hermann Goering division would attack on the left. The right hand column would also advance down Highway 117. The centre column would move south from Niscemi to Piano Lupo. The left hand column, with the Tigers, would advance from Biscari to the Ponte Dirillo. The three German columns would then unite to attack the eastern end of the American sector, before heading west along the coast. The Americans would be trapped between the German and Italian pincers.
The two central columns ran into the US 26th Regimental Combat Team and were unable to make any more progress down the highway. The Italians attempted to get around the Americans and head for Gela, but were stopped by heavy fire. The Germans turned east to join their central column, attacking Piano Lupo from the north (with Conrath in command). Conrath split his forces, sending the tanks towards the beaches east of Gela, while the infantry attempted to force the Americans away from the road junction at Piano Lupo. Further to the east the third German column captured the Ponte Dirillo, but was then hit in the rear by Gavin’s paratroops, by now recovering from their chaotic drop. By the time this battle ended this column was out of action.
On the Axis right the central Italian column briefly threatened Gela from the north-west, but was then hit by 6in fire from the cruiser USS Savannah and almost destroyed. After the bombardment was over Darby’s raiders took 400 prisoners. The right-hand Italian column made less progress, turning back after running into a strong column from the 3rd Division.
The biggest danger came to the east of Gela, where Conrath’s tanks got to within 2,000 yards of the beach, forcing the unloading parties to join the battle. Conrath was convinced that he had won, and reported his victory to Guzzoni, but he had misinterpreted what was happening on the beaches, mistakenly thinking that the Americans were re-embarking, when it was actually reinforcements landing. Amongst these fresh troops was a field artillery battery, which opened fire as soon as it landed. Four US Medium Tanks were finally able to get ashore, and the German attack was halted. Sixteen German tanks were destroyed near the beach, forcing the Germans to withdraw. This exposed them to naval gunfire and more tanks were destroyed. At 1400 hours Conrath called off the attack.
While the Americans were fighting off a counterattack, the British 5th Division was advancing up the east coast from Syracuse. It reached Priolo, half way to Augusta, before running into tanks from Group Schmalz, moving south from Catania. This was meant to be the start of a joint counterattack with the Napoli Division, but that formation had been dispersed in the earlier fighting, leaving Group Schmalz almost alone.
The night of 11-12 July saw one of the biggest Allied disasters of the campaign. During the day the Luftwaffe had carried out a series of heavy attacks on the Seventh Army area, illuminating it with parachute flares later in the day. Then, just after 10.30, a massive Allied resupply force appeared over the fleet, 144 aircraft carrying 2,200 airborne troops into the beachhead (Operation Husky No.2). Some 5,000 anti-aircraft guns opened fire, shooting down 6 aircraft before the paratroops could jump. In the end 229 paratroops were killed, wounded or missing, 23 planes were destroyed and 37 badly damaged.
On 12 July the Hermann Goering Division made one more attack on Piano Lupo, possibly the incident in which Patton is said to have seen a young naval officer directly cruiser fire right onto German tanks. The division then withdrew towards Catania. On the same day the British 5th Division was involved in a long battle with Group Schmalz, eventually pushing the Germans back.
By the end of 12 July the Americans had reached their ‘Yellow Line’ targets on their left, and had advanced beyond them to Canicatti, in the rolling hills to the north of Licata. On the right the 45th Divisoion had reached Biscari and Chiaramonte Gulfi, where they met up with the Eighth Army. All of the airfields in the US sector had been taken, along with 18,000 prisoners. On the Eighth Army front 30th Corps had reached Modica, on the army boundary south of Ragusa. Their line then ran north to Giarratana and from there east to Palazzolo, where 13 Corps took over.
On the night of 12-13 July the Germans dropped part of the 1st Parachute Brigade at Catania airfield, part of a build-up that raised German strength on the island to over 50,000, a move directly ordered by Hitler to try and prop up Mussolini. Over the next few days the Germans added more of the 1st Parachute Brigade, all of the 239th Panzer Grenadier Division and General Hube’s 14th Panzer Corps HQ. Hube then took over combat command of all German troops on the island. The German plan was to defend the ‘Etna’ line. This ran west from Catania on the east coast, around the southern and western flanks of Etna and north-west to Santa Stefano di Camastra on the north coast.
On 12 July Montgomery decided to advance on a wider front. The 13th Corps would attack along the coast, heading for Catania, while the 30th Corps would move west along Highway 124 and turn north-west heading for the road junction at Enna, where it could cut off the Axis troops retreating from western Sicily. This plan had two problems. The first was that the Hermann Goering Division was about to head north-east, cutting across that route, leading to an unexpected clash between that division and the Eighth Army. The second was that it took Montgomery’s men into an area that had been allocated to Patton’s Seventh Army, leading to a disagreement between the two commanders.
Early on 13 July the 5th Division entered Augusta. On their left the 50th Division moved towards Lentini, on the approaches to the plains south of Catania. Further to the left Leese ordered the Canadians to stop at Giarrantana, while the reinforced 51st Division attacked north towards Vizzini then west along Highway 124 towards Grammichele and Caltagirone. The American 45th Division was also heading for Vizzini, and the two units collided south of the town. Alexander judged in favour of Montgomery. The 23rd Armoured Brigade then advanced northwest from Palazzolo towards Vizzini, but ran into the Hermann Goering Division, moving north-east towards Catania. Vizzini finally fell to the 51st Division on 14 July, as did Francofonte, a few miles to the east. The Canadians were them moved to the front with orders to advance on Enna. One Canadian brigade reached Grammichele early on 15 July, where they ran into a rearguard from the Hermann Goering Division. The Germans held the Canadians up for a day before withdrawing. On 16 July they reached Caltagirone. A second Canadian brigade advanced on the left, and took Piazza Armerina, further to the north-west, on 15 July. On 16 July the Canadians ran into a rearguard from the 15th Panzer Grenadiers further north, at Valguarnera, seven miles south-east of their target of Enna. The town fell on the night of 18 July after a hard battle. The Canadians then bypassed Enna, and advanced north towards Leonforte and Agira, cutting the roads east to Catania from western Sicily.
On the British right Montgomery planned a major attack towards Lentini. This was to be supported by two Special Forces operations. On the coast the Commandos were to seize the bridge over the Malati River three miles to the north of Lentini. Further inland paratroops were to take the Primosole bridge over the Simeto River. Neither operation went entirely as planned. The Commandos landed on the night of 13-14 July, captured the bridge and removed the demolition charges, but weren’t strong enough to hold the bridge and were soon drive off. The airborne assault (Operation Fustian) ran into the same problems as the original landings. The aircraft ran into anti-aircraft fire from Allied ships and the Germans and the gliders and paratroops were widely scattered. Only 200 of the 1,900 men dispatched actually reached the bridge. Once there they discovered that they had landed almost on top of the machine gun battalion of the German 1st Parachute Division, which had arrived earlier on the same day! The British paratroops managed to take the bridge, remove the charges, and then held on for the rest of 14 July against heavy counterattacks. That night they withdrew to a nearby ridge, and were able to keep the bridge under fire. They were also joined by the leading troops from the 50th Division, sent to relieve them. Even then the German paratroops were able to hold the bridge for another day, and then restrict the British to a small bridgehead for some time, before finally being forced back on 17 July.
On the night of 17-18 July Montgomery launched a large scale attack towards Catania, but the Germans were now in a strong defensive position. Schmalz had been reinforced by the Hermann Goering Division, retreating from the American sector, and the attack made little progress. Montgomery began to realise that an attack up the coast would be too expensive, and began to plan for an outflanking movement around Etna.
The new attack involved the Canadians, who had the task of taking Leonforte and then advancing east towards Agira, Regalbuto and finally Adrano, at the western side of Etna. This move would cut the German Etna Line in half. Nearer to the coast the 51st Division was to attack Gerbini, in the western end of the Catanian plain, then move north to Paterno. Between these two units was the 231st (Malta) Brigade, which reached a point three miles to the south of Agira on 19 July and then paused to allow the Canadians to arrive from the west. 19 July saw the Canadians attack Leonforte and Assoro, a short distance to the east. Assoro was secured by midday on 22 July, Leonforte by the end of the same day.
In the meantime the Americans turned west. The 3rd Division pushed out west and north-west towards a line from Palma di Montechiaro, ten miles west of Licata, north to Canicatti and then north-east to Caltanissetta. They ran into very little resistance, and Agrigento, and the nearby port of Porto Empedocle, to the west of the initial target line fell with little resistance on 16 July. The 1st and 45th Divisions attacked into the high ground between Caltanissetta and Enna, starting on 16 July. They were held up by German rearguard actions, protecting the armour as it pulled back to the east, but took Caltanissetta on 18 July. They were then able to move further north and cut Highway 121, the road from Palermo to Enna.
The easy success at Agrigento convinced Patton that the Germans and Italians would put up little resistance in western Sicily, and he created a Provisional Corps, under his deputy Major General Geoffrey Keyes, to head north-west across the island to Palermo. At first this consisted of the 3rd Division and 82nd Airborne, but the 2nd Armored Division was soon added to it. At first Patton kept his plans secret, but after Alexander issued an order that appeared to confirm that his army was to operate as a flank guard for Montgomery for the entire campaign, a furious Patton flew to Tunis to put his case to Alexander in person. Alexander gave him permission to take Palermo, allowing Patton to begin the first of his lightning advances.
The attack began early on 19 July, and covered 100 miles in four days, facing only token resistance. An Italian 75mm anti-tank gun briefly slowed down the armoured column, but in general the Italians were unwilling to offer serious resistance, while the Germans were retreating east. On the evening of 22 July General Giuseppe Molinero and the remaining Italian garrison of Palermo surrendered to General Keyes. The Provisional Corps then captured the nearby ports of Trapani and Marsala. On the US right flank the 2nd Corps took Enna on 20 July, then cut north to the coast, reaching Termini Imerese, twenty miles to the east of Palermo on 23 July. The dash to Palermo only cost the Americans 57 dead, 170 wounded and 45 missing. The port itself had been badly damaged by the Germans, but was back at 60% capacity within seven days, giving Patton a much better supply base for his own advance towards Messina along the north coast.
The campaign now turned into something of a race towards Messina. The Americans were advancing on two routes - the coastal road and Highway 120 a few miles inland. The Eighth Army was concentrating on the advance towards Etna, with the troops on the coastal front facing Catania ordered onto the defensive.
Neither of the routes open to Patton’s men were easy. Both were narrow and winding roads, easy for the Germans to block with simple demolitions. The Germans developed a simple but effective defensive plan. They would put up temporary road blocks, blow a bridge or culvert, and put defensive forces on the far side. The Americans would have to climb into the mountains to get behind these positions, at which point the Germans would withdraw before they could be trapped. They also made a series of more determined stands as particularly strong positions. During this period of slow progress Patton began to lose his temper, leading to one of the more notorious incidents of his career. During a visit to a field hospital he found someone who appeared to be suffering from shell shock. Asked ‘What’s wrong with you?’ the soldier answered ‘I guess I can’t take it sir’. Patton slapped him across his face with his glove and forced him out of the hospital tent. The soldier actually turned out to have a high fever caused by chronic dysentery and malaria. A week later the incident was repeated with a genuine shell shock case. This time Patton threatened to shot the soldier and struck him so hard that his helmet liner came off. The medical corps colonel in charge had to place himself between Patton and the soldier. News of these incidents eventually reached Eisenhower, who issued Patton with a formal reprimand and ordered him to make a public apology to everyone involved. Partly as a result of these incidents Patton was also not given a senior command in the invasion of mainland Italy, and they later went on to play a part in the pre D-Day deception plans, when they were used to suggest that Patton was out of favour.
Patton allocated the 2nd Corps and the recently arrived 9th Division, supported by all of his artillery, to the advance east. On the inland route Nicosia fell on 28 July after a three day long battle, but the Americans then got bogged down at the mountain town of Troina, a few miles further to the east. An initial attack with a full regiment of 3,000 men failed, and it eventually took a full division and an extra regiment to force the 15th Panzer Grenadiers to abandon the position on 6 August. The Germans retreated ten miles to Randazzo.
The main American advance came on the coast. San Stefano fell on 31 July, but the Germans then held out on the San Fratello Ridge, which ran down to the coast west of Sant’ Agata. The Germans held out here from 2-8 August, before the Americans used poart of the 3rd Division in an amphibious landing behind German lines. The Germans pulled back to the ridge that ran south from Cape Orlando past the village of Naso, ten miles to the east. Patton ordered another amphibious attack, but this time General Truscott, the 3rd Division Commander, wanted the attack delayed until the main force had advanced further to the east. Patton refused to allow any delay, and Lt Col Lyle A. Bernard’s troops landed near Brolo, four miles behind enemy lines, and took up a defensive position on Monte Cipolla, 350 yards inland. This time the landing had little impact. The main advance made slow progress, and Bernard lost 167 of his 650 men before being relieved. Patton attempted another amphibious landing at Bivio Salica, 25 miles to the west of Messina, where he landed part of the 157th Regimental Combat Team of the 45th Division, but once again the Germans escaped.
On the Eighth Army front Montgomery decided to launch a full scale assault on the Etna flank on 1 August, moving the 78th Division to reinforce 30th Corps. In the meantime the Canadians were to continue to push east. On 24 July they captured Nissoria. Agira held out from 25-28 July. The Canadians advanced east, but were stopped just short of Regalbuto. On their right the newly arrived 78th Division captured Catenanuova (six miles to the south of Regalbuto) on 30 July. On 1 August they attacked Centuripe, a heavily defended mountain top town to the north-east of Catenanuova, while the Canadians took Regalbuto. Centuripe fell on 3 August. The Canadians were now only five miles from Adrano, and cutting the Etna Line. On 6 August Biancavilla. A few miles south-east of Adrano, fell to the 51st Division. The Canadians and the 78th Division took Adrano on 7 August and advanced north to take Bronte on 8 August (this had once been the site of a dukedom granted to Nelson by the grateful Neapolitan crown, and he had estates in the area). The British and Canadian advance from Etna helped the Americans in the north, threatening to outflank the German defenders of Highway 120, which was only four miles to the north.
It was now clear to the Germans that the battle for Sicily was over, and they withdrew from their positions around Catania. On both fronts the Allied advance was held up by rearguard actions and demolitions, but the outcome was no longer in doubt - only who would reach Messina first. Patton’s troops won that race, and their first patrols entered Messina on 17 August, only to find that the Germans had already gone. Patton wasn’t far behind, and entered Messina at 10.15 on 17 August. The first British tanks arrived a few days later.
The evacuation from Messina was the most impressive German achievement of the campaign. The Italians began their evacuation on 3 August, and managed to get 70,000-7,5000 men and 75-100 guns back to the mainland, but lost 145,000 men captured or dead on Sicily. The German evacuation began on 8 August, after Kesselring ordered it to begin without asking Hitler’s permission. Colonel Ernst-Gunther Baade, in command of the evacuation, had 33 barges, a dozen Siebel ferries, 11 landing craft and 76 motorboats at his disposal. The Allies were unable to do much to disrupt his efforts. The narrow straits were defended by around 500 dual purpose AA/ ground guns, mostly on the mainland side, which made it very dangerous for Allied aircraft to operate in daylight. The straits were also heavily defended with coastal guns, so the navies couldn’t do much either. The Germans were able to evacuate 40,000 men, 9,600 vehicles, 47 tanks, 94 guns and 18,000 tons of supplies from Sicily. Most of these men would go on to play a part in the fighting at Salerno and on the defensive lines across Italy, and their escape thus helped make possible the German defence of southern Italy.
On the Allied side the Seventh Army lost 7,500 men and the Eighth Army 11,500 men. The island had fallen in only 38 days, and with much lower Allied casualties than expected, making an invasion of the mainland seem like a much more enticing prospect.
Perhaps the most important consequence of the Allied invasion of Sicily was the fall of Mussolini. Discontent with Mussolini’s rule had been growing for some time, as the war turned increasingly sour for Italy. By the spring of 1943 the Italian economy was in ruins, the Italian Empire overseas had been destroyed, and the Allies were clearly poised to invade Italy herself. The initial landings of 10 July weren’t enough to trigger the fall of Mussolini, but the failure to repel in the invasion slowly built up the pressure against him. The Italian political elite had another shock on 19 July when the Allies bombed marshalling yards in Rome herself, bringing the war into the Eternal City. Mussolini was now faced with two overlapping plots to remove him from power, one from within his own Fascist party and one from the Royalists and Military.
The Fascists made the first move, insisting that Mussolini called a meeting of the Fascist Grand Council on 24 July. At the end of the meeting the party passed a vote of no confidence in Mussolini, and demanded that he hand military authority back to the King. On the following day, 25 July, Mussolini attended a meeting with King Victor Emmanuel III, who announced that he had been dismissed as head of state and was to be replaced by Marshal Badoglio. Mussolini was bundled away in an ambulance and put into ‘protective custody’. On 26 July Badoglio announced that Italy would remain in the war alongside Germany, but hardly anyone believed him, and on 31 July he sent peace envoys to the Allies. The negotiations between the Italians and the Allies didn’t run smoothly, and full advantage wasn’t made of the Italian desire to change sides, but the bulk of the Italian army was removed from the war, forcing the Germans to find troops to replace them in Italy and across the Balkans.
The Allies had already begun to consider an invasion of mainland Italy. On 16 July Eisenhower had been asked to consider a landing near Naples, and on 23 July he was ordered to prepare a plan for that as a ‘matter of urgency’. As always the Allies had different aims for the Italian campaign. Churchill would have preferred a landing as far up the peninsula as possible, to avoid a long series of battles in the south. The Americans hoped to take advantage of the fall of Mussolini, to satisfy Churchill’s desire to capture Rome, and to gain air bases for attacks on the southern half of Hitler’s empire. The invasion would have to take place somewhere in the south, as that would be within range of Allied fighters based on Sicily, but the Germans weren’t expected to try and defend the south. This belief wasn’t entirely without foundation. The original German plan was to defend a line from Pisa to Rimini, and Rommel had been given command of a new army group in the North of Italy. Kesselring, who had command south of that line, was to conduct a fighting retreat to avoid being trapped in the south. Kesselring himself opposed this plan, and was sure he could delay the Allies in the south of Italy for a considerable period, taking advantage of the mountainous terrain. He was eventually allowed to carry out this plan, leading to the costly battles around the Winter Line and most famously at Cassino. However this was all in the future when the Allies began their invasion of mainland Italy, when the British Eighth Army crossed the straits of Messina on 3 September 1943 (Operation Baytown), only a couple of weeks after the end of the campaign in Sicily.
Allied 15th Army Group Edit
U.S. Seventh Army Edit
U.S. II Corps Edit
The U.S. II Corps was commanded by Lieutenant General Omar Bradley.
U.S. Provisional Corps Edit
(Headquarters activated on 15 July 1943)  Commanded by Major General Geoffrey Keyes.
- U.S. 2nd Armored Division
Commanded by Major General Hugh Joseph Gaffey. Divisional units were placed under the combat commands as needed.
- Combat Command A
- Combat Command B
British Eighth Army Edit
The British Eighth Army was under the command of General Sir Bernard Montgomery. The British 46th Infantry Division formed a floating reserve, but it did not participate in the Sicily campaign.
British XIII Corps Edit
- 105th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 24th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 111th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 66th Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 56th Field Company, Royal Engineers
- 2nd Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
- 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
- 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment
- 1st Battalion, Green Howards
- 1st Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
- 1st Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment
- 2nd Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers
- 2nd Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment
- 6th Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders
- 38th Field Company, Royal Engineers
- 245th Field Company, Royal Engineers
- 252nd Field Company, Royal Engineers
- 245th Field Park Company, Royal Engineers
- 6th Battalion, Green Howards
- 7th Battalion, Green Howards
- , Durham Light Infantry
- 8th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry
- 9th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry
- 1st Battalion, London Irish Rifles
- 1st Battalion, London Scottish
- 10th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment
- 2nd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers
- 1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment , Northamptonshire Regiment
- 5th Battalion, Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment)
- 6th Battalion, Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment
- 8th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
- 6th Battalion, Royal Iniskilling Fusiliers
- 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers
- 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles
- 1st Battalion, Border Regiment
- 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment
- 9th Field Company, Royal Engineers
- 73rd Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 7th Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 70th Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 1st Battalion, The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment
- 1st Battalion, 48th Highlanders of Canada
- 5th Battalion, Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
- 2nd Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders
- 5th Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders
- 5th Battalion, Black Watch
- 1st Battalion, Gordon Highlanders
- 5/7th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders
- 1st Battalion, Black Watch
- 7th Battalion, Black Watch
- 7th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
- 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment
- 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment
- 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment
- 165th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
- 300th Anti-Tank Battery, Royal Artillery
- 352nd Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, Royal Artillery
- 295th Field Company, Royal Engineers
- 200th Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps
- 80.2 Escort Group
- , Destroyers Flag
- DesDiv 13
British XXX Corps Edit
The XXX Corps was commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Oliver Leese.
Allied Mediterranean Naval Command Edit
The Naval forces were under the command of Admiral of the Fleet Sir. A Cunningham and was divided into several Task Forces. 
Covering Force Edit
The role of the covering force was to prevent the Italian Navy from attacking the invasion forces.
Eastern Naval Task Force Edit
Eastern Naval task Force transported the Eastern Task Force (8th British Army) and provided Naval gunfire support. 
Western Naval Task Force Edit
The Western Naval Task Force transported the Western Task Force (7th U.S. Army) and provided Naval gunfire support.  
Command by Admiral Henry Kent Hewitt.
- , Flag
- DesDiv 16
- Dime Force, Task Force 81, commanded by Rear Admiral John L. Hall Jr., USN
The Dime Task Force landed the U. S. Army First Division (reinforced) and attached units near Gela, Sicily.
- Cent Force, Task Force 85, commanded by Rear Admiral Alan G. Kirk, USN
The Cent Task Force landed the U. S. Army Forty-fifth Division (reinforced) and attached units near Scoglitti, Sicily.
- Task Force Organization
- 86.1 Cover and Support Group, Rear Admiral Laurance T. DuBose, USN
- Cruiser Division 13
- Destroyer Squadron 13
- Nine LCG(L) British
- Eight LCF(L) British
- Groups Two Groups Three Group Six Division Seven (less LSTs 4 and 38) Flotilla Two Flotilla Four Group Thirty one
Less LCTs 80, 207, 208, 214
Plus LCTs 276, 305 311, 332 12 British LCTs
- HMS Princess Astrid
- HMS Prince Leopoid
- (reinforces) and attached units
- 86.1 Cover and Support Group, Rear Admiral Laurance T. DuBose, USN
- No. 323 Wing RAF
- , Spitfirefighter planes , Beaufighters
- No. II/5 Escadre (French Air Force), P-40 Warhawk fighters
- No. II/7 Escadre (French Air Force), Spitfires , Walrus Air-Sea Rescue planes , Walrus Air-Sea Rescue planes
Allied Air Forces Edit
At the time of Operation Husky, the Allied air forces in the North African and Mediterranean Theatres were organized as the Mediterranean Air Command (MAC) under the command of Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder of the Royal Air Force. The major subdivisions of the MAC included the Northwest African Air Forces (NAAF) under the command of Lt. General Carl Spaatz of the U.S. Army Air Forces, the American 12th Air Force (also commanded by Gen. Spaatz), the American 9th Air Force under the command of Lt. General Lewis H. Brereton, and units of the British Royal Air Force (RAF).
Also supporting the NAAF were the RAF Middle East Command, Air Headquarters Malta, RAF Gibraltar, and the No. 216 (Transfer and Ferry) Group, which were subdivisions of MAC under the command of Tedder. He reported to the Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower for the NAAF operations, but to the British Chiefs of Staff for RAF Command operations. Air Headquarters Malta, under the command of Air Vice-Marshal Sir Keith Park, also supported Operation Husky.
The "Desert Air Task Force" consisting of American B-25 Mitchell medium bombers (the 12th and 340th Bombardment Groups) and P-40 Warhawk fighter planes (the 57th, 79th, and 324th Fighter Groups) from the 9th Air Force served under the command of Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham of the Northwest African Tactical Air Force. These bomber and fighter groups moved to new airfields on Sicily as soon as a significant beachhead had been captured there.
In the MAC organization established at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, the 9th Air Force was assigned as a subdivision of the RAF Middle East Command under the command of Air Chief Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas.    
Mediterranean Air Command (Allied) Edit
Northwest African Air Forces Edit
Lt. General Carl Spaatz had his headquarters for the Northwest African Air Forces in Maison-Carrée, Algeria 
Northwest African Strategic Air Force Edit
Northwest African Coastal Air Force Edit
Air Vice-Marshal Sir Hugh Lloyd also had his headquarters in Algiers. 
-  (Air Commodore Kenneth Cross)
- , B-26 Maraudermedium bombers , Beauforts , Beauforts , Beaufighters , Baltimore light bombers (Det.), Vickers Wellingtonmedium bombers (RAAF), Wellington bombers
- , Blenheim bombers , Blenheims , Wellington medium bombers , Hurricanefighter planes , Hurricanes , Hurricanes , Hudson light bombers , Hudsons , Halifax and Ventura bombers
- , Spitfires , Spitfires , Spitfires
- , Bristol Beaufighters , Beaufighters
- (detached), Swordfish torpedo planes , Albacore c , Albacore n , Albacore r , Albacore r
- The 1st and 2nd Antisubmarine Squadrons were assigned to NACAF for administration and placed under the operational control of the U.S. NavyFleet Air Wing 15 of the Moroccan Sea Frontier commanded by Rear Admiral (United States)Frank J. Lowry
- Air Ministry was asked to provide two additional Wellington patrol squadrons. [clarification needed] Asked? This is supposed to be an accurate historical document. Many things get asked for, but many less get provided.
Northwest African Tactical Air Force Edit
- 12th Weather Detachment , B-17 Flying Fortresses photo intelligence squadron
- No. 1 General Reconnaissance Unit, Wellingtons
- 15th Panzergrenadier Division
Commanded by GeneralmajorEberhard Rodtfrom June 5. One third of the division (a reinforced infantry group) was attached to Italian XVI Corps and the rest to Italian XII Corps until the activation of XIV Panzer Corps on 18 July. 
- 215th Panzer Battalion-17 Tiger I tanks
- 104th Panzergrenadier Regiment
- 115th Panzergrenadier Regiment
- 129th Panzergrenadier Regiment
- 33rd Artillery Regiment
- 315th Antiaircraft Battalion
- 33rd Pioneer Battalion
- 1st Panzergrenadier Regiment "Hermann Göring"
- Panzer Regiment "Hermann Göring"
- 1 Panzer Battalion "Hermann Göring"
- 2 Panzer Battalion "Hermann Göring"
Italian 6th Army Edit
The Italian 6th Army was under the command of Generale d'Armata Alfredo Guzzoni. [nb 1]
German Army Liaison Officer: Generalleutnant Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin
Italian XII Corps Edit
- Italian XII Corps, Generale di Corpo d'Armata Mario Arisio, from 12 July: Generale di Corpo d'Armata Francesco Zingales
- 26 Mountain Infantry Division Assietta, General Francesco Scotti, from 26 July: General Ottorino Schreiber
- 29th Infantry Regiment
- 30th Infantry Regiment
- 17th "Blackshirts" Legion
- 25th Artillery Regiment
- CXXVI Mortar Battalion
- Engineer Battalion
- 5th Infantry Regiment
- 6th Infantry Regiment
- 171st "Blackshirts" Legion
- 22nd Artillery Regiment
- XXVIII Mortar Battalion
- Engineer Battalion
- 124th Coastal Infantry Regiment
- 142nd Coastal Infantry Regiment
- 43rd Artillery Group (26x batteries, ad hoc regiment)
- 138th Coastal Infantry Regiment
- 139th Coastal Infantry Regiment
- 51st Artillery Group (12x batteries, ad hoc regiment)
- 133rd Coastal Infantry Regiment
- 147th Coastal Infantry Regiment
- 28th Artillery Group (6x batteries, ad hoc regiment)
- 30x batteries
- Mobile Group "A", initially at Paceco, Lieutenant Colonel Renato Perrone
- XII Tank Battalion "L" Headquarter
- 4th Company, CII Tank Battalion "R35" (Renault R35 tanks)
- 1st Company, CXXXIII Semovente Battalion "47/32" (Semovente 47/32)
- Coastal Infantry Company (motorized)
- Artillery Battery (75/27 mod. 06 guns)
- Anti-aircraft Artillery Section (20/65 mod. 35 anti-aircraft guns)
- CXXXIII Semovente Battalion "47/32" Headquarter
- 6th Company, CII Tank Battalion "R35" (Renault R35 tanks)
- 3rd Company, CXXXIII Semovente Battalion "47/32" (Semovente 47/32)
- 2x Coastal Infantry Companies (motorized)
- Bersaglieri Platoon, on motorcycles
- Artillery Battery (75/27 mod. 06 guns)
- Anti-aircraft Artillery Section (20/65 mod. 35 anti-aircraft guns)
- CII Tank Battalion "R35" Headquarter
- 5th Company, CII Tank Battalion "R35" (Renault R35 tanks)
- Coastal Infantry Company (motorized)
- Anti-tank Company (47/32 mod. 35 anti-tank guns)
Italian XVI Corps Edit
- Italian XVI Corps, Generale di Corpo d'Armata Carlo Rossi
- 4 Infantry Division Livorno (Initially held as Army Reserve  )
Commanded by General Domenico Chirieleison
- 33rd Infantry Regiment
- 34th Infantry Regiment 
- 28th Artillery Regiment (with 3x AA batteries, the standard was 2)
- IV Semoventi Battalion "47/32" (Semovente 47/32)
- Engineer Battalion
- Assault Battalion
- 75th Infantry Regiment
- 76th Infantry Regiment
- 173rd "Blackshirts" Legion
- 54th Artillery Regiment
- Engineer Battalion
- 122nd Coastal Infantry Regiment
- 123rd Coastal Infantry Regiment
- 146th Coastal Infantry Regiment
- 44th Artillery Group (14 xbatteries, ad hoc regiment)
- CXXXIII Semovente Battalion "47/32" (Semovente 47/32)
- 135th Coastal Infantry Regiment
- Catania Harbour Garrison
- 22nd Artillery Group (12x batteries, ad hoc regiment)
- 134th Coastal Infantry Regiment
- 178th Coastal Infantry Regiment
- 9x artillery batteries
- 140th Coastal Infantry Regiment
- 179th Coastal Infantry Regiment
- 4x artillery batteries
- 19x batteries
- Mobile Group "D", initially at Misterbianco, Lieutenant Colonel Massimino D'Andretta
- CI Tank Battalion "R35" Headquarter
- 3rd Company, CI Tank Battalion "R35" (Renault R35 tanks)
- Infantry Company
- Machine Gun Company, on motorcycles
- Anti-tank Company (47/32 mod. 35 anti-tank guns)
- Artillery Battery (75/18 mod. 34 howitzers)
- Anti-aircraft Artillery Section (20/65 mod. 35 anti-aircraft guns)
- 1st Company, CI Tank Battalion "R35" (Renault R35 tanks)
- Coastal Infantry Company
- Machine Gun Company, on motorcycles
- Anti-tank Company (47/32 mod. 35 anti-tank guns)
- Artillery Battery (75/18 mod. 34 howitzers)
- Anti-aircraft Artillery Section (20/65 mod. 35 anti-aircraft guns)
- 2nd Company, CI Tank Battalion "R35" (Renault R35 tanks), minus 1x platoon
- Coastal Infantry Company
- Machine Gun Company, on motorcycles
- Anti-tank Company (47/32 mod. 35 anti-tank guns)
- Artillery Battery (75/27 mod. 06 guns)
- Blackshirt Battalion Headquarter
- 1x platoon from the 2nd Company, CI Tank Battalion "R35"
- Anti-tank Company (47/32 mod. 35 anti-tank guns)
- Artillery Battery (75/18 mod. 34 howitzers)
- 2nd Tank Company "Fiat 3000" (Fiat 3000 tanks)
- Anti-tank Company (47/32 mod. 35 anti-tank guns)
- Artillery Battery (75/18 mod. 34 howitzers)
- Mortar Platoon (81/14 mod. 35 mortars)
- Augusta-Siracusa Harbours
- 121st Coastal Infantry Regiment
- Navy Battalion
- Air Force Battalion
- 24x artillery batteries (coastal and AA batteries included)
- 137th Coastal Infantry Regiment
- 12x artillery batteries (coastal and AA batteries included)
- 116th Coastal Infantry Regiment
- 119th Coastal Infantry Regiment
- Blackshirt Legion
- Cavalry Battalion (on foot)
- 55x artillery batteries (coastal and AA batteries included)
XIV Panzer Corps Edit
Activated 18 July  to take command of 15th Panzergrenadier Division, the Hermann Göring Division, the newly arrived 1st Parachute Division and the 29th Panzergrenadier Division which started to arrive in Sicily 18 July., General der Panzertruppe Hans-Valentin Hube.
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Allied Invasion of Sicily
On July 10, 1943, the Allies launched their successful invasion of Sicily, dubbed Operation Husky.
The main wartime disagreement among the Big Three – Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt – concerned the Allied invasion of western Europe. Although it was agreed a second fighting front should be established in western Europe, Roosevelt and Churchill could not agree on when and where to invade.
U.S. #2765c – Invasion of Sicily Silk Cachet First Day Cover.
F.D.R. wanted to take northern France as soon as possible Churchill felt an invasion of France before Allied forces were fully prepared would be disastrous, and opted for invading Italy instead. In January of 1943, the two met in Casablanca, where they agreed to invade Sicily. It was hoped that this move would make the Mediterranean safe for Allied ships, as well as drive a war-weary Italy out of the war.
U.S. #1026 pictures General Patton along with two tanks that bear his name.
That April, German agents discovered the body of a British pilot with a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. Adolf Hitler examined the enclosed documents and found that the Allies planned to attack Sardinia and Corsica and sent his troops and ships there. However, the body was a diversion, meant to draw them away from the actual invasion of Sicily.
U.S. #3394 – Bradley commanded the 7th Army at Sicily.
The battle got underway just after midnight on July 10, 1943 with American and British airborne troops making a combat drop. Later that morning, the Allies launched one of the largest amphibious operations in history. This included 150,000 American and British troops, 3,000 ships, 600 tanks, and 4,000 aircraft.
Ignorant of the enemy’s plans to attack Sicily, the Axis forces were ill-prepared on that fateful day. Coastal defenses, manned mainly by Sicilians unwilling to turn their homeland into a battleground, rapidly collapsed. The fight went on for several weeks, with the Allies forcing the German and Italian troops into northern Sicily.
U.S. #4249 – Journalist John Hersey was with the Allies when they invaded Sicily.
Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini was arrested on July 24 and replaced by Marshal Pietro, who began secret peace talks with the Allies. By mid-August, the German and Italian armies began evacuating to Messina. General George Patton expected one final battle there, but found all the Axis troops had disappeared. Though the Allies had taken Sicily, they failed to capture Axis troops, which would make the fight in the Italian mainland more challenging. By September, Italy was under Allied control.
Written, edited, compiled by Eric Rieth
This is about, primarily, the role that the 45th Infantry Division played in Sicily. I am aware that other divisions American and British were involved and you can find many other resources to study them. This is not the complete story of every soldier, nor details every activity of the Thunderbirds. It is based on what information I presently have available. It will hopefully answer the questions of where exactly were they and to some degree what did they experience.
With War clouds looming across the world's sky the 45th Infantry Division was activated to federal service in September of 1940. Just over a year latter on December 7th, 1941 Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and shortly after Germany declared war on the United States. Those who were fighting and dying already, Britain and the Soviet Union, were eager to see US get involved with men as well as materials.
By August of 1942 it was decided that the best place to get the US Army involved was to be North Africa. In the words of Winston Churchill, "Well, if the enemy rushes into Tunisia where he can probably forestall us if he so determines, where is a better place to kill Germans?" It was decided in September that November 8th would be the date for invasion giving three months for planning, training, and transport.
At this time the 45th Infantry Division was conducting amphibious landing training at Fort Devens/Camp Edwards, Massachusetts. When training was complete the Thunderbirds anticipated going to War, but instead went to Fort Drum, New York to freeze for the winter. Events overseas unfolded without them.
Fighting in North Africa continued from November 1942 through early May 1943. The US Army experienced a major set back at the Battle of Kasserine pass in February of 1943, leaving our British Allies serious doubts on the capabilities of the American fighting force. At the Casablanca Conference it was decided that Sicily and Italy would be the next major objectives, before a Cross Channel landing in France.
All planning for further operations were subordinate to considerations for this future event (which finally occurred June 6th, 1944). Arguments continued between resources allocated for Northern France and activities in the Mediterranean Sea. Planning almost appears to be done on a basis of "We're not ready to invade France today, what else can we do?" basis. No long range planning occurs in any detail through out Sicily and Italy.
Planning in earnest for the invasion of Sicily begins in May after the Surrender of German forces at Bizerte, Tunisia. Fighter coverage from Malta seems to be the deciding factor as to where the Allies land, based on this suggestions to land at Catania and Palermo were disregarded. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was chosen as supreme Allied commander for the Sicilian operation, with three Britons as his land, air, and sea component commanders. General Sir Harold Alexander was Eisenhower's principal deputy and the actual commander of Allied land forces. Alexander's 15th Army Group directed the U.S. Seventh Army, under the command of Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., and General Sir Bernard Montgomery's British Eighth Army.
The sea born invasion force landing the British Eighth Army was designated the Eastern Naval Task Force and those for U.S. Seventh Army were Western Naval Task Force. Montgomery's troops had the primary burden, landing in Pozzallo, Pachino and Syracuse thrust northward, capturing in succession Augusta, Catania, and the airfield complex at Gerbini before capturing Messina and closing off any chance at resupply and reinforcements of Axis troops. Patton's Seventh Army as envisioned by the plan was to seize key airfields and protect Eighth Army's left Flank. After the initial landing Seventh Army's objectives were a bit vague.
Seventh Army/ Western Naval Task Force:
Task Force 80, supporting Joss Force commanded by General Lucien K. Truscott's heavily reinforced 3rd ID
General Bradley's II Corp was supported by:
Task Force 82 landing U.S. 1st Infantry Division on Dime beach
Task Force 85 landing the U.S. 45th Infantry Divison on Cent beach.
Task Force 85
USS Ancon AGC - 4,
June 11th 1943
Having Left Newport News, VA. Enroute North Africa
Flag ship of Cent Attack Force 85
Transdiv 1 (179th Regimental Combat Team)
As of this time I do not know on which ships they were transported but Transdiv 1 also had the 160th Field Artillery Battalion, B Company 120th Medical Battalion, 1 Company of the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion, and B Company 120th Engineers.
Transdiv5 (157th Regimental Combat Team)
As of this time I do not know on which ships they were transported but Transdiv 5 also had the 158th Field Artillery Battalion, A Company 120th Medical Battalion, 1 Company of the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion, and A Company 120th Engineers. Possibly also A btry 189th FA
Transdiv7 (180th Regimental Combat Team)
Which ships transported which units of the 180th RCT, I presently do not know, but Transdiv 7 also had the 171st Field Artillery Battalion, C Company 120th Medical Battalion, 1 Company of the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion, and C Company 120th Engineers. Possibly also C btry 189th FA
Other ships in Task Force 85 Supporting the landing of the 45th Infantry Division were:
1943 July 10 Operation Husky–Invasion of Sicily
Editor’s notes: In July 1943 Armed Forces Network begins radio broadcasts to troops. On7/5/43, in the Pacific, the US begins the assault to retake Solomon Islands.
From: 47th Bomb Grp.org
7/8/43: In the Pacific, the U.S. is able to launch bombing raids from Midway Island to attack the Japanese on Wake Island.
/>Wake Island under attack
On the night of July 9th and into the 10th, the Allies begin the land invasion of the Island of Sicily (“Operation Husky”). This helps gain control of the Mediterranean Waters around the southern part of Italy and provides a staging area for troops and planes for the eventual invasion of Italy.
Just after dawn men of the Highland Division are up to their waists in water unloading stores from landing craft tanks. Meanwhile beach roads are being prepared for heavy and light traffic during dawn of the opening day of the invasion of Sicily.
ADMIRALTY OFFICIAL COLLECTION
Parnall, C H (Lt)
Royal Navy official photographer
Gee, you’re beautiful! I’d give everything in this world to hold you in my arms, mess up your hair, and generally make myself obnoxious. You better take a lot of vitamin pills the last month before I get home, for you’ll need ‘em.
When am I going to get a picture of your latest anniversary present? Get the same guy to make them as the ones of the engagement ring are beautiful. When your hair is long enough for a real pretty up-do, I want a couple of shots of that too. I want it all piled up on top.
I spent the evening with Bob Paul, John Harsh, Jay Stout, & Chuck Cassidy.
Willy Gaus, Jack & Ann Mercer, CHUCK CASSIDY, Jane & Ed Bland Dec. 1941
They’ve gotten into the show now and are having some fun. I wish I could be with them to ease them over some of the bumps.
We had some fun on one of our picnics. Jerry fighters got through and were most objectionable until my gunner potted one and the rest of the gunners went to work. We must have spoiled their sleep, for one Jerry I saw quite closely hadn’t shaved and it was 6 AM already. Don’t worry, as uncle Cy has everything under control.
Chase Olmstead is over here. Bob saw him.
I am sending you $300 this month. I’m near the big city and trying to get a little relaxation before the next show. Good eats are putting a hole in the old pocketbook. I love you so much, honey.
Two British and two American attacks by airborne forces were carried out just after midnight on the night of 9–10 July, as part of the invasion. The American paratroopers consisted largely of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, making their first combat drop.
The British landings were preceded by the 21st Independent Parachute Company (Pathfinders) who were to mark landing zones for paratroopers who were intended to seize the Ponte Grande, the bridge over the River Anape just south of Syracuse and hold it until the British 5th Infantry Division arrived from the beaches at Cassibile, some 7 miles (11 km) to the south. [ 36 ] British Glider infantry from the 1st Airlanding Brigade were to seize landing zones inland. [ 37 ]
Strong winds of up to 45 miles per hour (72 km/h) [ 38 ] blew the troop-carrying aircraft off course and the US force was scattered widely over south-east Sicily between Gela and Syracuse. By 14 July, about two-thirds of the 505th regiment had managed to concentrate, [ 39 ] half the US paratroopers failed to reach their rallying points. The British air-landing troops fared little better, with only 12 of the 147 gliders landing on target and 69 crashing into the sea. [ 40 ] Nevertheless, the scattered airborne troops maximized their opportunities, attacking patrols and creating confusion wherever possible. A platoon of the South Staffordshire Regiment, who had landed on target, captured Ponte Grande and fought off counterattacks. More men rallied to the sound of shooting and by 6.30 a.m. 89 men were holding the bridge. [ 41 ] By 11.30 a.m. a battalion of the Italian 75th Infantry Regiment from the 54 Infantry Division Napoli arrived with some artillery. [ 42 ] The British force held out until about 1530 hours when they were forced to surrender to Colonel Francesco Ronco's 75th Infantry Regiment [ 43 ] only 45 minutes before the leading elements of 5th Infantry Division arrived from the south. [ 42 ]
In spite of these mishaps, the widespread landing of airborne troops had an overall positive effect as small isolated units, acting on their own initiative, attacked vital points and created widespread panic. [ 44 ]
The strong wind also made matters difficult for the amphibious landings but also ensured the element of surprise as many of the defenders had assumed that no-one would attempt a landing in such poor conditions. [ 44 ] Landings were made in the early hours of 10 July on twenty-six main beaches spread along 105 miles (169 km) of the southern and eastern coasts of the island between the town of Licata Torre di Gaffe and Mollarella beach in the west, and Cassibile in the east, [ 45 ] with British and Canadian forces in the east and Americans towards the west. This constituted the largest amphibious operation of World War II in terms of size of the landing zone and number of divisions put ashore on the first day. [ 46 ] The Italian defensive plan did not contemplate a pitched battle on the beaches and so the landings themselves were somewhat of an anti-climax. [ 47 ] More trouble was experienced from the difficult weather conditions (especially on the southern beaches) and unexpected hidden offshore sandbars than from the Coastal divisions. Some troops landed in the wrong place, in the wrong order and as much as six hours behind schedule [ 48 ] but the weakness of the defensive response allowed the Allied force to make up lost time. [ 44 ]
Once the Axis commanders had divined the Allies' intentions, the Allies began to see some reaction from the Axis field divisions waiting inland, the Hermann Göring and Livorno Divisions. [ 49 ] In the US 1st Infantry Division's sector at Gela there was a substantial Italian division-sized counterattack at exactly the point where the dispersed 505th Parachute Regiment were supposed to have been. The German Tiger tanks of the Hermann Göring Panzer Division which had been due to advance with the 4 Infantry Division Livorno had failed to turn up. [ 50 ] Nevertheless on Highways 115 and 117 during 10 July Italian tanks of the "Niscemi" Armoured Combat Group and "Livorno" infantry pressed home their attack nearly reaching the Allied position at Gela, but guns from the destroyer USS Shubrick and the cruiser USS Boise destroyed several tanks and dispersed the attacking infantry battalion. The 3rd Battalion, 34th Regiment, "Livorno" Infantry Division, composed mainly of conscripts, is recorded by its commanding officer as having made a valiant but ultimately equally unsuccessful daylight attack in the Gela beachhead two days later alongside infantry and armour of the Hermann Göring Panzer Division. [ 51 ]
By the evening of 10 July the seven Allied assault divisions, three British, three American and one Canadian, were well established ashore and the port of Syracuse had been captured. [ 52 ] Fears of an Axis air onslaught had proved unfounded. [ 53 ] The preparatory bombing of the previous weeks had greatly weakened the Axis air capability and the heavy Allied presence of aircraft operating from Malta, Gozo and Pantelleria kept most of the Axis attempts at air attack at bay. Some attacks on the first day of the invasion got through, and German aircraft sank the landing ship, tank USS LST-313 and minesweeper USS Sentinel. Italian Stukas sank the destroyer USS Madox. [ 54 ] and the Indian hospital ship Talamba, [ 55 ] and in the following days Axis aircraft damaged or sank several more warships, transport vessels and landing craft. [ 56 ] Italian Stukas—named Picchiatello in Italian service—and SM.79 torpedo-bombers coordinated their attacks with the German Junkers Ju 87 and Junkers Ju 88 bomber units, and Rome reported as follows on 12 July: [ 57 ] Template:Cquote
As part of the seaborne landings south at Agnone, some 400 men of Lieutenant-Colonel John Durnford-Slater's 3 Commando Brigade captured Malati Bridge on 13 July, only to lose possession of the bridge when Lieutenant-Colonel Francesco Tropea's 4th Self-Propelled Artillery Battalion and the Italian 53rd Motorcycle Company counterattacked. [ 58 ] [ 59 ] The Royal Marines lost 28 killed, 66 wounded and 59 captured or missing in this engagement. [ 60 ]
Exploitation from the beachheads
Alexander's plan was to firstly establish his forces on a line between Licata in the west and Catania in the east before embarking on operations to reduce the rest of the island. Key to this was capturing ports to facilitate the build up of his forces and the capture of airfields. Eighth Army's tasks were therefore to capture the Pachino airfield on Cape Passero and the port of Syracuse before moving northwards to take the ports of Augusta and Catania. Their objectives also included the landing fields around Gerbini, on the Catania plain. The 7th Army's main objectives included capturing the port of Licata and the airfields of Ponte Olivo, Biscari and Comiso. It was then to prevent enemy reserves from moving eastward against the Eighth Army's left flank. [ 61 ] According to Axis plans, Schmalz Battle Group, under Colonel Wilhelm Schmalz, in conjunction with Major-General Giulio Cesare Gotti-Porcinari's 54th 'Napoli' Infantry Division , was supposed to counterattack any Allied landing on the Augusta-Syracuse coast. But on 10 July, Colonel Schmalz had been unable to contact the Italian division and had proceeded alone towards Syracuse. Unknown to Schmalz, a group of eighteen Renault R35 tanks, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Massimo d'Andretta from the 'Napoli' Division, broke through the positions held by the 2nd Battalion The Wiltshire Regiment [ 62 ] and were only defeated by anti-tank fire after having reached the Priolo and Floridia suburbs of Syracuse. [ 63 ]
Early on 13 July elements of 5th Division on Eighth Army's right flank, pushing against the delaying tactics of the Schmalz Battle Group, entered Augusta, but not before having been forced to go to ground, when the Germans supported by units of the 'Napoli' Division launched determined counterattacks against the British. [ 64 ] On their left 50th Division had pushed up Route 114 towards Lentini (15 miles (24 km) northwest of Augusta) and met increasing resistance from R 35 tanks and then infantry from the "Napoli" Division [ 65 ] The Canadian Official History of the war later made the erroneous claim that the R 35s from the 'Napoli' were in fact tanks from the Hermann Göring Panzer Division. [ 66 ] The commander of the Italian division and his staff were captured, however, by elements of the supporting 4th Armoured Brigade on the 13th [ 67 ] and it was not until 6.45pm on 14 July that the town had been cleared of obstructions and lurking snipers and the advance resumed. [ 68 ] A battalion of the 'Napoli' managed to break through the British lines on the 13th and took up new positions at Augusta, but the continued British advance forced it to retire again on 14 July. [ 69 ]
Further left, in the XXX Corps sector, 51st Division had moved directly north to take Palazzolo and Vizzini (30 miles (48 km) west of Syracuse), while the Canadians, having secured Pachino airfield, headed northwest to make contact with the American right wing at Ragusa [ 70 ] after having driven off the Italian 122 Infantry Regiment north of Pachino. Canadian war correspondent Ross Munro recorded his experiences of the first few days of the attacks on the 206th Coastal Division in the area of Pachino in a newspaper article printed on 12 July:
In the US sector, on 11 July, Patton ordered his reserve parachute troops from the 504th PIR of the 82nd Airborne to drop and reinforce the centre. Warning orders had been issued to the fleet and troops on 6, 7, 10 and 11 July concerning the planned route and timing of the drop so that the aircraft would not be fired on by friendly forces. [ 73 ] They were intended to drop east of Ponte Olivo (some 5 miles (8.0 km) inland from Gela) to block routes to U.S. 1st Infantry Division's bridgehead at Gela. [ 36 ]
However, the 144 C-47 transports arrived at the time of one of the four main Axis air raids that day on the anchorage and the Allied anti-aircraft gunners were at high alert for targets. The first echelon of troop carrying planes dropped their loads without interference. However, a nervous Allied naval vessel suddenly fired upon the formation. Immediately, all other naval vessels and shore troops joined in, downing friendly aircraft and forcing planeloads of paratroopers to exit far from their intended drop zones. The 52nd Troop Carrier Wing lost twenty-three of 144 USAAF С-47 planes to friendly fire there were 318 casualties with 83 dead. [ 74 ] 37 planes were damaged while 8 returned to base without dropping their parachutists. 504th PIR suffered 229 casualties to "friendly fire" [ 75 ] including 81 dead. [ 73 ] In spite of this, the US landings were generally proceeding well and substantial supplies and transport landed to support further offensives. In spite of the failure of the airborne operation, U.S. 1st Infantry Division had taken Ponte Olivo on 12 July and continued north while U.S. 45th Infantry Division on their right had conformed to them and taken the airfield at Comiso and entered Ragusa to link with the Canadians. On the left, 3rd Infantry Division had pushed troops 25 miles (40 km) up the coast almost to Argento and 20 miles (32 km) inland to Canicatti. [ 76 ]
Alexander's plan, once the beachheads were secure, was to split the island in half by thrusting north through the Caltanissetta and Enna region, to deny the central Sicily east-west lateral road. A further push north to Nicosia would cut the next lateral route, and a final push to San Stefano on the north coast would cut the coastal route. Somewhat surprisingly to many commentators, in new orders issued on 13 July, [ 77 ] he gave this task to Eighth Army, perhaps based on a somewhat over-optimistic situation report by Montgomery on late on 12 July, [ 78 ] while U.S. 7th Army were to continue their holding role on Eighth Army's left flank despite what appeared to be an opportunity for them to make a bold offensive move. [ 79 ]
On 12 July Albert Kesselring had visited Sicily and formed the opinion German troops were fighting virtually on their own. As a consequence, he concluded that the German formations needed to be reinforced, and that western Sicily should be abandoned in order to shorten the front line. The immediate priority was first to slow and then halt the Allied advance, to which end a defence line was to be formed running from San Stefano on the north coast, through Nicosia, Agira, Cantenanuova and thence to the eastern coast south of Catania. [ 80 ] This line was the Hauptkampflinie. [ 81 ]
While XIII Corps continued to push along the Catania road, XXX Corps were directed north along two routes: the first an inland route through Vizzini and the second following Route 124, which cut across U.S. 45th Infantry's front and necessitated its return to the coast at Gela for redeployment behind 1st Infantry Division. But progress was slow. The Schmalz battlegroup from the Hermann Göring Division continued to skilfully delay 5th Infantry Division, allowing time for the two regiments from the 1st Parachute Division flying in to Catania to deploy. Resistance in the British sector stiffened as German units reorganised on the new defensive plan. [ 82 ] On 12 July 1 Parachute Brigade had been dropped to capture the Primasole Bridge over the river Simeto on the southern edge of the Catania plain and hold it open until 5th Infantry Division moved north to join them. 5th Division, delayed by strong opposition, made contact early on 15 July but it was not until 17 July that a shallow bridgehead north of the river was consolidated. [ 77 ]
On 16 July, the Sicilian air command ordered the evacuation back to Italy of all surviving Italian aircraft at airfields in Calabria and Puglia. About 160 Italian aircraft had been lost in the first week of the invasion, 57 of which were lost to Allied fighters and anti-aircraft fire between 10 and 12 July alone. [ 83 ] That same day, the Italian submarine Dandolo torpedoed the British cruiser HMS Cleopatra [ 84 ] and put her out of action for the remainder of the European conflict.
On the night of 17 July, the Italian light cruiser Scipione Africano, equipped with the Italian-developed EC.3 Gufo radar , [ 85 ] detected and engaged four British Elco motor torpedo boats lurking five miles ahead, while passing the Strait of Messina at high speed. She sank MTB 316 and heavily damaged MTB 313 between Reggio di Calabria and Pellaro, on the position 38°3′20.20″N 15°35′28.35″E / 38.0556111°N 15.5912083°E / 38.0556111 15.5912083 . [ 86 ] [ 87 ] [ 88 ] A dozen British seamen lost their lives in this action. [ 89 ]
On the night of 17/18 July Montgomery renewed his attack towards Catania using two brigades from 50th Division. They met strong opposition and by 19 July Montgomery decided to call off the attack and instead increase the pressure on his left. 5th Division attacked on 50th Division's left but with no greater success and on 20 July 51st Division, further west, crossed the river Dittaino at Sferro and made for the Gerbini airfields. They too were driven back by counterattacks on 21 July. [ 90 ]
On Eighth Army's far left flank the Canadians continued their wide sweep but it was becoming clear that as German units settled into their new positions in north eastern Sicily the Army would not have sufficient strength to carry the whole front. As a consequence, the Canadians were ordered to continue north to Leonforte and then turn eastwards to Adrano on the south-western slopes of Mount Etna, thus abandoning the originally planned encirclement of Mount Etna using Route 120 to Randazzo. At the same time Montgomery called forward from North Africa his reserve division, 78th Infantry Division. [ 90 ]
Meanwhile, Patton had reorganised his forces into two Corps. By 17 July the Provisional Corps on his left had captured Porto Empedocle and Agrigento, and II Corps on his right took Caltanissetta on 18 July, just short of Route 121, the main east-west lateral through the centre of Sicily. The 10th Bersaglieri Regiment under Colonel Fabrizio Storti had forced Colonel William Darby's 1st and 3rd Ranger Battalions to fight its way into Agrigento, a city of 34,000. Resistance was stiff enough to require house-to-house combat fighting, [ 91 ] but by late afternoon on 16 July, the city was in American hands. According to historian Samuel Eliot Morison, "The Italians fought manfully for Agrigento." [ 92 ]
However, 15th Panzer Grenadier Division managed to scramble across 7th Army's front to join the other German formations in the east of the island and so little real resistance was now expected in the west. Patton was therefore ordered on 18 July to push troops north through Petralia on Route 120, the next east-west lateral, and then to cut the northern coast road. He would then embark on mopping up the west of the island. II Corps were given the task of making the northward move while the Provisional Corps were tasked with the mopping up operation. Against a background of good progress, Alexander issued further orders to Patton to develop an eastward threat along the coast road once he had cut it. He was also directed to capture Palermo as quickly as possible in order to create a main supply base to maintain further eastward commitment north of Mount Etna. [ 90 ]
On 22 July the Provisional Corps entered Palermo [ 93 ] and the next day 45th Division cut the north coast road. These achievements, during which 7th Army took 19,000 prisoners, were considerable feats, with troops having to march considerable distances in sweltering damp heat. [ 94 ]
Battles for the Etna positions
During the last week in July Montgomery gathered his forces to renew the attack on 1 August. His immediate objective was Adrano, the capture of which would split the German forces on either side of Mount Etna. During the week the Canadians and 231st Brigade continued their eastward push from Leonforte and on 29 July had taken Agira, some 15 miles (24 km) west of Adrano. On the night of 29 July 78th Division with 3rd Canadian Brigade under command, took Catenanuova and made a bridgehead across the river Dittaino. On the night of 1 August they resumed their attack to the north-west towards Centuripe, an isolated pinnacle of rock, which was the main southern outpost of the Adrano defences. After heavy fighting against the Hermann Göring Division and 3rd Parachute Regiment all day on 2 August, the town was finally cleared of defenders on the morning of 3 August. The capture of Centuripe proved critical, in that the growing threat to Adrano made the position covering Catania untenable. [ 94 ]
Meanwhile, Patton had decided that his communications could support two divisions pushing east, 45th Division on the coast road and 1st Division on Route 120. In order to maintain the pressure, he relieved 45th Division with the fresher 3rd Division and called up 9th Infantry Division from reserve in North Africa to relieve 1st Division. [ 94 ]
Axis forces were now settled on a second defensive line, the Etna Line , running from San Fratello on the north coast through Troina and Aderno. On 31 July 1 Division with elements of arriving 9th Division attached, reached Troina and the Battle of Troina commenced. This important position was held by the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division. The remnants of the 28 Infantry Division Aosta in the form of four battalions [ 95 ] had also been pulled back to Troina to assist in the defensive preparations and forthcoming battle. [ 96 ] For six days the Italians and Germans stubbornly defended the position inflicting and taking heavy casualties. During the battle they launched twenty-four medium-scale counterattacks and countless smaller local ones, in one of which Lieutenant-Colonel Giuseppe Gianquinto's 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment of the 'Aosta' managed to take 40 American prisoners. [ 97 ] But by 7 August the U.S. 18th Infantry Regiment had captured Mount Pellegrino which overlooked the Troina defences, allowing accurate direction of Allied artillery. The defenders' left flank was also becoming exposed as the adjacent Hermann Göring Division was pushed back by XXX Corps, and they were as a result ordered to withdraw that night in phases to the defensive positions of the Tortorici Line. [ 98 ]
Elements of 29th Panzergrenadier Division and 26th Assietta Infantry Division , [ 99 ] the latter allocated the most exposed section of the Italo-German position, [ 100 ] were also proving difficult to dislodge on the coast at Santa Agata and San Fratello. Patton sent a small amphibious force behind the defences, which led to the fall of Santa Agata on 8 August after holding out for six days. [ 94 ]
Meanwhile, on 3 August XIII Corps, taking advantage of the fluidity caused by the threat to Adrano, resumed their advance on Catania, and by 5 August the town was in their hands. Adrano itself continued to resist, but fell to 78th Division on the night of 6 August, [ 94 ] while on their right, 51st Division took Biancavilla, two miles south-east of Adrano. After the fall of Adrano, the Canadian Division was withdrawn into Army Reserve. [ 101 ] On 8 August 78th Division, moving north from Adrano, took Bronte and 9th Division, advancing from Troina, took Cesaro – both key positions on the New Hube Line. Both divisions were converging on Randazzo, on the north-west slopes of Etna. Randazzo fell on 13 August and 78th Division was taken into reserve. [ 94 ] As the Allied advance continued, their front line shortened and Montgomery decided to withdraw XIII Corps HQ and 5th Infantry Division on 10 August to allow them to prepare for the planned landings on mainland Italy. [ 102 ]
On the northern coast, 3rd Division continued to meet strong resistance and difficulties created by extensive demolition of the road. Two more end-run amphibious attacks, and the rebuilding efforts of the engineers, kept the advance moving. [ 103 ] Although Kesselring had already decided to evacuate, the Axis forces continued their delaying tactics, assisted by the favourable defensive terrain of the Messina Peninsula. Finally on the night of 16 August the leading elements of 3rd Division entered Messina. [ 104 ]
The Allied Plan
Initial planning for the operation suffered as the commanders involved were still conducting active operations in Tunisia. In May, Eisenhower finally approved a plan which called for Allied forces to be landed in the southeastern corner of the island. This would see Patton's 7th Army come ashore in the Gulf of Gela while Montgomery's men landed further east on both sides of Cape Passero. A gap of around 25 miles would initially separate the two beachheads. Once ashore, Alexander intended to consolidate along a line between Licata and Catania before conducting an offensive north to Santo Stefano with the intention of splitting the island in two. Patton's assault would be supported by the US 82nd Airborne Division which would be dropped behind Gela before the landings.
Operation Husky - the Invasion of Sicily, 10 July- 17 August 1943 - History
With the successful conclusion of the North African campaign the next natural target was Sicily. The Allies hoped that if they captured the island they would be able to convince the Italians to surrender. Moreover by capturing the island they would be able to push German aircraft out of the Mediterranean opening it fully for Allied transport.
The overall commander to the invasion would remain General Eisenhower who commanded Allied forces in the North Africa. His British Deputy General Alexander would command British forces while General Patton commanded American forces.
The invasion began with an airborne assault on the night of the 9th- 10th. The US 82nd Airborne led the assault for the Americans while the British 1st Airborne led the British troops. winds were very high and the most of the American paratroopers were blown off target and only 12 of 147 British gliders reached their target. Despite the fact that the airborne assault failed to achieve its planned goals, the assault so unnerved the Italian and German defenders that in retrospect they were deemed a success.
In the early morning of the 10th landing along the beaches began. The allies landed on 26 beaches along a 105 mile front between the town of Licata and Cassibilie. While the high winds were an impediment to the landing but the Allied troops quickly were able to control their beachheads. A number of Italian and German counterattacks were repulsed often with the help of naval gunfire from ships offshore. By the end of the day the port of Licata was in Allied hands and American and British forces streamed ashore.
The bombing the week before the invasion had destroyed a sizable portion of the Italian and German air assets and they were only able to put up limited resistance sinking the LST-313- the Minesweeper Sentinel and the destroyer USS Maddox.
The Allied forces who soon had overwhelming superiority in both numbers and equipment over the Italians and Germans steadily battled there way across the island. With command of the sea the allies were also able to leapfrog and land troops behind the enemy lines and advance. On July 22nd American forces entered Palermo.
The last major Axis defense line surrounded Mount Etana. The Germans held that line for seven days but Allied forces were able to push on through and on August 16th American forces entered Messina. Meanwhile by now the Germans had decided to withdraw all their forces to Italy. That withdrawal began on August 11th and was completed by August 17th. The Allies failed to stop the orderly withdrawal of the German and Italian forces.
The US army forces lost 2,237 killed or missing, 5,946 wounded and 598 captured, while the British lost 2,062 killed or missing, 7, 137 wounded and 2,644 captured. The Canadians lost an additional 562 killed , 1684 wounded and 84 captured. In addition the US navy and air force lost additional men. The German lost 4,325 men captured, 4,583 missing, 5532 captured and 13,500 wounded, while the Italians lost 4,678 killed, 36,072 missing, 32,500 wounded and 116, 681 captured.
Operation Husky: 'D-Day' Before D-Day
The Allies needed a diversion from the Eastern Front.
The necessity for another front as a diversion to German operations in the Soviet Union was early recognized by both the Western Allies and the Russians. British and American activity in North Africa had been effective, but not to the extent of severely straining the Nazi forces. It was the Allied invasion of Sicily, with its threat to the Italian mainland, that forced Adolf Hitler to finally call off his Operation Citadel.
This island operation, codenamed “Operation Husky,” extended from the middle of July to August 17, 1943. The British and Americans heavily bombed enemy defenses, then 3,000 ships and landing craft ferried in 160,000 men with their 600 tanks, 14,000 vehicles, and 1,800 guns. The invasion was under the direction of Sir Bernard L. Montgomery and General George S. Patton. Cooperation between the Allied forces soon forced the Axis from the island, on which they suffered 178,000 killed, wounded, and captured.
By the time Patton had occupied the port city of Messina, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring was able to evacuate 40,000 Germans and 60,000 Italian troops to the mainland.
But by then the prime Allied objective was accomplished. Vital Nazi forces were diverted from the Soviet Front.
This article by Jonas Goldstein first appeared in the Warfare History Network on August 8, 2014.
Operation Husky - the Invasion of Sicily, 10 July- 17 August 1943 - History
Posted on 07/10/2003 12:00:38 AM PDT by SAMWolf
There's a young man far from home,
called to serve his nation in time of war
sent to defend our freedom
on some distant foreign shore.
We pray You keep him safe,
we pray You keep him strong,
we pray You send him safely home .
for he's been away so long.
There's a young woman far from home,
serving her nation with pride.
Her step is strong, her step is sure,
there is courage in every stride.
We pray You keep her safe,
we pray You keep her strong,
we pray You send her safely home .
for she's been away too long.
Bless those who await their safe return.
Bless those who mourn the lost.
Bless those who serve this country well,
no matter what the cost.
FReepers from the The Foxhole
join in prayer for all those serving their country at this time.
Where Duty, Honor and Country
are acknowledged, affirmed and commemorated.
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In the FReeper Foxhole, Veterans or their family members should feel free to address their specific circumstances or whatever issues concern them in an atmosphere of peace, understanding, brotherhood and support.
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Sicily - 9 July-17 August 1943
On the night of 9-10 July 1943, an Allied armada of 2,590 vessels launched one of the largest combined operations of World War II the invasion of Sicily. Over the next thirty-eight days, half a million Allied soldiers, sailors, and airmen grappled with their German and Italian counterparts for control of this rocky outwork of Hitler's "Fortress Europe." When the struggle was over, Sicily became the first piece of the Axis homeland to fall to Allied forces during World War II. More important, it served as both a base for the invasion of Italy and as a training ground for many of the officers and enlisted men who eleven months later landed on the beaches of Normandy.
Situated ninety miles off the north coast of Africa and a mere two and one-half miles from the "toe" of the Italian peninsula, Sicily was both a natural bridge between Africa and Europe and a barrier dividing the Mediterranean Sea. Its rugged topography made it a tough, unsinkable bastion from which Axis air and naval forces could interdict Allied sea lanes through the Mediterranean. Yet despite its strategic location, the Allies were deeply divided over the merits of invading the island, and in the end the decision to invade Sicily represented an uneasy compromise between British and American strategists.
3d Infantry Division troops move along a cliffside road destroyed by the Germans at Cape Calava. (National Archives)
Preparations for Operation HUSKY, the code name for the invasion of Sicily, began immediately after the Casablanca Conference. With the invasion scheduled for 10 July, there was little time to lose. In drawing up the invasion plans, three factors dominated Allied thinkingthe island's topography, the location of Axis air bases, and the amount of resistance that could be expected.
Slightly larger than the state of Vermont, Sicily's 10,000 square miles of rough, highly defensible terrain is cut in a roughly triangular shape. Beginning with low hills in the south and west, the land becomes more mountainous to the north and east, ultimately culminating in the island's most prominent feature, the 10,000foot-high volcano Mount Etna. The port of Messina in the island's northeastern corner is the primary transit point between Sicily and the Italian mainland. It was the key strategic objective for the campaign, for without Messina, Axis forces would be cut off from supply and reinforcement. Unfortunately, the country around Messina was extremely rugged and the beaches narrow. Moreover, the city was heavily fortified and beyond the range at which the Allies' Africa-based fighters could provide effective air cover. Consequently, Allied planners ruled it out as an initial objective.
The widest and most accessible beaches for amphibious operations lie along the island's southeastern and western shores. By happy coincidence, Sicily's other major portsPalermo, Catania, Augusta, and Syracuseare also clustered in the northwestern and southeastern corners of the island, as were the majority of the island's thirty major airfields. Both the ports and the airfields were major considerations in the minds of the invasion planners. The Army needed the ports for logistical reasons, while the air and naval commanders wanted the airfields captured as early as possible to help protect the invasion fleet from aerial attack.
The confluence of favorable beaches, ports, and airfields in the northwestern and southeastern corners of the island initially led Allied planners to propose landings in both areas. They ultimately rejected this idea, however, because the two landing forces would be unable to provide mutual support. General Montgomery was particularly adamant about the need to concentrate Allied forces to meet what he anticipated would be fierce Axis resistance. German troops had fought tenaciously in Tunisia, and Montgomery feared that Italian soldiers would resist with equal stubbornness now that they would be fighting on home soil. Eisenhower accepted Montgomery's argument and chose the more cautious approach of concentrating Allied forces at only one location, Sicily's southeastern shore.
The final plan called for over seven divisions to wade ashore along a 100-mile front in southeastern Sicily, while elements of two airborne divisions landed behind Axis lines. The British Eighth Army would land four divisions, an independent brigade, and a commando force along a forty-mile front stretching from the Pachino Peninsula north along the Gulf of Noto to a point just south of the port of Syracuse. A glider landing would assist the amphibious troops in capturing Syracuse. To the west, Patton's Seventh Army would land three divisions over an even wider front in the Gulf of Gela. The assault would be supported by parachutists from the 505th Parachute Infantry Regimental Combat Team and the 3d Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry.
Patton at Messina, Life 1943/8/17
Once ashore, the Eighth Army would thrust northward, capturing in succession Augusta, Catania, and the airfield complex at Gerbini before making the final push on Messina. The Seventh Army's initial objectives were several airfields between Licata and Comiso, after which it would advance to a position approximately twenty miles inland designated the Yellow Line. From the Yellow Line the Seventh Army would control the high ground that ringed the American beaches and protect the western flank of the Eighth Army's beachhead. Once this had been secured, the Seventh Army was to push slightly forward to a second position, termed the Blue Line, from which it would control the road network that emanated from Piazza Armerina.
The invasion got off to a rough start during the night of 9-10 July 1943. As the Allied armada steamed toward the island a fierce, forty-mile-per-hour gale, dubbed the "Mussolini wind" by seasick G.I.s, whipped up the seas, seriously endangering some of the smaller craft. The situation in the air was even worse. Buffeted by the winds and confused by an overly complex flight plan, the inexperienced pilots ferrying Allied airborne forces became disoriented in the darkness and strayed from their courses. Of the 144 gliders bearing British paratroops to landing zones outside of Syracuse, only 12 landed on target, while 69 crashed into the sea and the rest dispersed over a wide area. In the American sector, Colonel Gavin's 3,400 paratroopers were even more widely scattered. Gavin himself landed twenty-five miles southeast of his intended drop zone. The wide dispersion of paratroopers seriously jeopardized Seventh Army's invasion plan by weakening the buffer these men were supposed to form in front of the 1st Division's beachhead. Nevertheless, the men of the 82d Airborne went right to work wherever chance landed them. Operating in small, isolated groups, the paratroopers created considerable confusion in Axis rear areas, attacking patrols and cutting communication lines.
The airborne forces had begun landing about 2330 on 9 July, and by midnight General Guzzoni was fully apprised of their presence. He was not surprised. Axis air reconnaissance had spotted Allied convoys moving toward Sicily earlier that day, and Guzzoni had ordered a full alert at 2200 on the 9th. Based upon the reported airborne drops, Guzzoni correctly surmised that the Allies intended to come ashore in the southeast, and he issued orders to that effect at 0145 on 10 July, nearly an hour before the first assault wave hit the beach. Nevertheless, the dispirited and ill-equipped Italian coastal units hardly put up a fight. Opposition in the Eighth Army's sector was negligible. By the end of the first day the British were firmly ashore and well on their way toward Augusta, having walked into Syracuse virtually unopposed. Resistance was not much stronger in the American zone, and the Seventh Army had little trouble moving ashore despite sporadic air and artillery attacks.
The only serious fighting occurred in the American center, where Axis mobile forces tried to throw the Americans back into the sea before they had a chance to become firmly established. Fortunately for the Americans, the attacks were poorly coordinated. At Gela, the 1st and 4th Ranger Battalions, assisted by the 1st Battalion of the 39th Engineer Combat Regiment, the 1st Battalion of the 531st Engineer Shore Regiment, mortar fire from the 83d Chemical Battalion, and naval gunfire, repulsed two Italian attacks, one by a battalion of infantry and the other by a column of thirteen tanks. Nine or ten of the latter managed to penetrate the town before the Rangers drove them off in a confused melee. Meanwhile, at the vital Piano Lupo crossroads, those few paratroopers who had been fortunate enough to land near their objective repulsed a column of about twenty Italian tanks with the help of naval gunfire and the advancing infantrymen of the 16th Regimental Combat Team. Shortly thereafter they rebuffed a more serious attack made by ninety German Mark III and IV medium tanks, two armored artillery battalions, an armored reconnaissance battalion, and an engineer battalion from the Hermann Goering Division. Naval gunfire played a crucial role in stopping this German thrust. The worst event of the day occurred when seventeen German Tiger I heavy tanks, an armored artillery battalion, and two battalions of motorized infantry from the Hermann Goering Division overran the 1st Battalion, 180th Infantry (45th Division), after a stiff fight, capturing its commander and many of its men.
While Rangers, paratroopers, and infantrymen repelled Axis counterattacks, an even more serious struggle was being waged against mother nature. Although 10 July dawned bright and sunny, the rough seas of the previous night had disorganized several units. The worst case was that of the 45th Division's 180th Regiment, which had been scattered over a ten-mile front. Nor did the beaches prove to be as favorable as anticipated. Soft sand, shifting sandbars, and difficult exits created congestion on the beaches that was further aggravated by enemy air and artillery barrages. By midmorning, between 150 and 200 landing craft were stranded on the shoreline. Nevertheless, American service troops performed herculean feats to keep the men in the front lines supplied and supported. During the first three days the U.S. Army and Navy moved 66,285 personnel, 17,766 deadweight tons of cargo, and 7,396 vehicles over Sicily's southern shores. An entirely new generation of landing craft and shipsLSTs, LCTs, LCIs, and LCVPsgreatly facilitated the logistical effort. Even more remarkable was the innovative DUKW amphibious truck that could move directly from offshore supply ships to inland depots.
By the end of the first day, the Seventh Army had established a beachhead two to four miles deep and fifty miles wide. In the process it had captured over 4,000 prisoners at the cost of 58 killed, 199 wounded, and 700 missing. But the situation was still perilous. Axis counterattacks had created a dangerous bulge in the center of the American line, the very point where the bulk of the 505th Parachute Regiment should have been if its drop had been accurate.
July 11, the second day of the invasion, was the Seventh Army's most perilous day in Sicily. Early that morning, General Guzzoni renewed his attack against the shallow center of the American linePiano Lupo, Gela, and the beaches beyond. Guzzoni committed the better part of two divisions in the attack, the Hermann Goering Division and the Italian Livorno Division. He backed them up with heavy air attacks by Italian and German planes based in Italy. Congestion on the beaches hampered Bradley's efforts to send tanks forward, so that the defending infantrymen had nothing but artillery and naval gunfire to support them. Cooks, clerks, and Navy shore personnel were pressed into service to help the 1st and 45th Division infantrymen, Rangers, and paratroopers repel the Axis attacks. The fighting was fierce. A few German tanks broke into Gela, while two panzer battalions closed to within two thousand yards of the vulnerable beaches before being repulsed by ground and naval gunfire. Several miles southeast of Gela, Colonel Gavin and an impromptu assembly of paratroopers and 45th Division soldiers effectively thwarted another German column consisting of 700 infantry, a battalion of self-propelled artillery, and a company of Tiger tanks at Biazzo Ridge. By day's end, the Seventh Army had suffered over 2,300 casualties, the Army's greatest oneday loss during the campaign. But as darkness descended, the Americans still held, and in some areas had actually expanded, their narrow foothold on the island.
A bunker covers the beach near Sant'Agata. (National Archives)
After a day of heavy fighting, Patton decided to reinforce his battle-weary center with over 2,000 additional paratroopers from his reserves in North Africa. He ordered that the 1st and 2d Battalions, 504th Paratroop Regiment, the 376th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, and a company from the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion be dropped near Gela on the night of 11 July. German aircraft had been active over the American sector all day, and consequently senior Army and Navy officers went to great lengths to inform everyone of the impending nighttime paratroop drop lest overanxious gunners fire on the friendly aircraft. Nevertheless, when the transport planes arrived over the beaches in the wake of a German air raid, nervous antiaircraft gunners ashore and afloat opened fire with devastating effect. Allied antiaircraft guns shot down 23 and damaged 37 of the 144 American transport planes. The paratroop force suffered approximately 10 percent casualties and was badly disorganized. Later investigation would reveal that not everyone had been informed of the drop despite the Seventh Army's best efforts.
Over the next two days the Seventh Army gradually pushed its way out of the coastal plain and into the hills ringing the American beachhead. Fighting between the 1st Division and the Hermann Goering Division was occasionally stiff, but General Allen moved his men relentlessly forward through Niscemi and on toward the Yellow Line. On the right, Middleton's 45th Division likewise made good progress toward Highway 124, while to the left Truscott's 3d Division infantrymen, supported by 2d Armored Division tanks, moved beyond their initial Yellow Line objectives. The British matched American progress, and by the 13th they had advanced as far as Vizzini in the west and Augusta in the east. Resistance in the British zone was stiffening, however, due to difficult terrain and the arrival from France of elements of Germany's elite 1st Parachute Division.
81-mm. mortars support Patton's drive on Palermo. (National Archives)
As the Eighth Army's drive toward Catania and Gerbini bogged down in heavy fighting, Montgomery persuaded Alexander to shift the boundary line between the American Seventh and British Eighth Armies west, thereby permitting him to advance on a broader front into central Sicily and sidestep the main centers of Axis resistance. The boundary change, which Alexander communicated to Patton just before midnight on 13 July, stripped Highway 124 away from Seventh Army and assigned it instead to the Eighth Army. Under the new instructions, a portion of the Eighth Army would advance up Highway 124 to Enna, the key road junction in central Sicily, before turning northeast toward Messina. In essence, Alexander was interposing British forces between the Americans and the Germans, allowing the Eighth Army to monopolize the primary approaches to Messina and giving it complete responsibility for the Allied main effort. With its original line of advance blocked, Seventh Army was thus relegated to protecting the Eighth Army's flank and rear from possible attack by Axis forces in western Sicilya distinctly secondary mission.
The change in front was one of the most important and controversial operational decisions of the campaign. It clearly reflected the British belief that the veteran Eighth Army was better qualified to carry the main burden of the campaign than its junior partner from across the Atlantic. Indeed, the decision did little more than make explicit the priorities and assumptions that had been implicit in the campaign plan all along. On the other hand, by ordering the Seventh Army to stop short of Highway 124 and redirecting its advance, Alexander lost momentum and provided the Axis valuable time to withdraw to a new defensive line between Catania and Enna. The loss of momentum was best illustrated by the repositioning of the 45th Division, which had to return almost to the shoreline before it could sidestep around the 1st Division and take up its new position for a northwestward advance. Given the circumstances, Alexander might have been better served by reinforcing success and shifting the main emphasis of the campaign to the Seventh Army. This was not his choice, however, and his decision stirred up a storm of controversy in the American camp.
Patton and his generals were furious. They had always assumed that the Seventh Army would be permitted to push beyond its initial Yellow and Blue objectives and into central and northern Sicily in order to accompany the Eighth Army on its drive toward Messina. After all, Alexander's vague preinvasion plans had never expressly ruled this out. Now that option had been eliminated and they felt slighted. Not content to accept a secondary role, Patton immediately cast about for an opportunity to have his army play a more decisive part in the campaign. The object which caught his eye was Palermo, Sicily's capital. Capture of this well-known city would not only be a publicity coup, but it would also give his army a major port from which to base further operations along the northern coast.
Patton's first move was to coax Alexander into sanctioning a "reconnaissance" toward the town of Agrigento, several miles west of the 3d Division's current front line. That authorization was all General Truscott needed to seize the city on 15 July. With Agrigento in hand, Patton was in a position to drive into northwestern Sicily, and on the 17th he traveled to Alexander's headquarters to argue for just such a course. Patton wanted to cut loose from the Eighth Army and launch his own, independent drive on Palermo while simultaneously sending Bradley's II Corps north to cut the island in two. Alexander reluctantly agreed, but later had second thoughts and sent Patton a revised set of orders instructing him to strike due north to protect Montgomery's flank rather than west. Seventh Army headquarters ignored Alexander's message claiming that it had been "garbled" in transmission, and by the time Alexander's instructions could be "clarified," Patton was already at Palermo's gates.
The Seventh Army met little opposition during its sweep through western Sicily. Guzzoni had recalled the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division to central Sicily soon after the invasion, and the only troops left in the western portion of the island were Italians who, for the most part, showed little inclination to fight. While General Bradley's II Corps pushed north to cut the island in two east of Palermo, Patton organized the 2d Armored, 82d Airborne, and 3d Infantry Divisions into a provisional corps under Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Keyes and sent it on a 100-mile dash to the Sicilian capital. Palermo fell in only seventy-two hours, and by 24 July the Seventh Army had taken control of the entire western half of the island, capturing 53,000 dispirited Italian soldiers and 400 vehicles at the loss of 272 men.
A Sherman tank moves past Sicily's rugged terrain. (National Archives)
The fall of Palermo was quickly followed by even more startling news. Disenchanted by the long and costly war, Mussolini's opponents ousted the dictator from power on 25 July. Although the Allies had hoped that Operation HUSKY would destabilize the Fascist regime, the coup took them by surprise. Mussolini's downfall did not immediately terminate Italy's participation in the war. Nevertheless, the invasion of Sicily had acted as a catalyst in bringing about an important crack in the Rome-Berlin Axis.
Palermo's capitulation also coincided with the beginning of a new phase of the campaign. On 23 July Alexander ordered Patton to turn eastward toward Messina. Montgomery's drive had bogged down at Catania, and it was now apparent that the Eighth Army was not going to be able to capture Messina on its own. Alexander, therefore, redrew the army boundaries once again, authorizing Patton to approach Messina from the west while Montgomery continued to push from the south.
The drive on Messina would not resemble Patton's quick, cavalry-like raid on Palermo. The city was protected by the most rugged terrain in Sicily, the Caronie Mountains and Mount Etna's towering eminence. In addition, the Germans had constructed a series of strongpoints, called the Etna Line, that ran from the vicinity of Catania on the east coast, around the southern base of Mount Etna, north to San Fratello on the island's northern shore. Here, in Sicily's rugged northeast corner, the Axis had decided to make its stand. But it was to be only a temporary stand, for while General Guzzoni still talked of defending Sicily to the end, Berlin had decided to withdraw gradually from the island. Guzzoni, his authority weakened by the disintegration of most of his Italian units, was not in a position to disagree. From this point forward General Hans Hube, commander of the newly formed German XIV Panzer Corps, and not Guzzoni, exercised real control over Axis forces in Sicily.
General Hube planned to withdraw slowly to the Etna Line where he would make a determined stand while simultaneously undertaking preliminary evacuation measures. Final evacuation would occur in phases, with each withdrawal matched by a progressive retreat to increasingly shorter defensive lines until all Axis troops had been ferried across the Strait of Messina to Italy. To accomplish this task, Hube had the remnants of several Italian formations plus four German divisionsthe 1st Parachute, the Hermann Goering Panzer, the 15th Panzer Grenadier, and the newly arrived 29th Panzer Grenadier Division.
Troops and supplies unloading near Gela on D-day. (National Archives)
There were just four narrow roads through the Etna Line, and only two of these actually went all the way to Messina. Possessing these vital arteries became the focal point of the campaign. General Alexander gave each of the Allied armies two roads for the advance on Messina. A portion of the Eighth Army was to advance along the Adrano-Randazzo road that skirted the western slopes of Mount Etna, while the remainder endeavored to drive north along the eastern coastal road, Route 114, to Messina. Alexander assigned the two northern roads to the American Seventh Army. The first, Route 120, ran through the interior of Sicily from Nicosia, through Troina, to Randazzo. The second, Highway 113, hugged the northern shoreline all the way to Messina.
It was Highway 113 that held Patton's interest, for it was his most direct route to Messina. Stung by the belief that Generals Alexander and Montgomery belittled the American Army, Patton was obsessed with the idea of reaching Messina before the British. "This is a horse race in which the prestige of the US Army is at stake," he wrote General Middleton. "We must take Messina before the British. Please use your best efforts to facilitate the success of our race."
Conquest American Style, Newsweek cover 1943/10/18
The race got off to a slow start as the Germans skillfully exploited the mountainous terrain to cut the Allied advance to a crawl. Illness and the weather aided the Germans. Malaria and other fevers incapacitated over 10,000 soldiers. Heat exhaustion brought on by Sicily's 100-degree temperatures knocked additional G.I.s out of the ranks. The Seventh Army advanced two divisions abreast, with the 1st Infantry Division moving along Route 120 and General Middleton's 45th Infantry Division operating on the coast road. After Middleton's G.I.s captured Santo Stefano's "Bloody Ridge" on 30 July, Patton replaced them with General Truscott's 3d Division, allowing the men of the 45th time to rest and recuperate for their next assignment, the invasion of Italy.
Meanwhile, the 1st Infantry Division pushed its way eastward against stiffening German opposition, capturing Nicosia on the 28th before moving on to Troina. Patton planned to take the exhausted 1st Division out of the line once Troina fell. The mountain village, however, would prove to be the unit's toughest battle, as well as one of the most difficult fights of the entire Sicily Campaign. Troina constituted one of the main anchors of the Etna Line and was defended by the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division and elements of the Italian Aosta Division. The Axis forces were deeply entrenched in hills that both dominated the approaches to the town and were difficult to outflank. The barren landscape, almost devoid of cover, made advancing American soldiers easy targets for Axis gunners.
The battle for Troina began on 31 July, when the Germans repulsed an advance by the 39th Infantry Regiment, a 9th Infantry Division outfit temporarily attached to the 1st Division. The setback forced Bradley and Allen to orchestrate a massive assault. Over the next six days the men of the 1st Infantry Division, together with elements of the 9th Division, a French Moroccan infantry battalion, 165 artillery pieces (divided among 9 battalions of 105-mm. howitzers, 6 battalions of 155-mm. howitzers, and 1 battalion of 155-mm. "Long Tom" guns), and numerous Allied aircraft, were locked in combat with Troina's tenacious defenders. Control of key hilltop positions see-sawed back and forth in vicious combat, with the Germans launching no fewer than two dozen counterattacks during the week-long battle.
While the 1st Infantry Division battled for possession of Troina, General Truscott's 3d Division faced equally stiff opposition at San Fratello, the northern terminus of the Etna Line. Here the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division had entrenched itself on a ridge overlooking the coastal highway. Truscott made repeated attempts to crack the San Fratello position beginning on 3 August, but failed to gain much ground. The strength of the German position prompted him to try and outflank it by an amphibious end run. On the night of 7-8 August, while the 3d Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, and 3d Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, seized a key hill along the San Fratello Line, Lt. Col. Lyle Bernard led the 2d Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, reinforced by two batteries from the 58th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, a platoon of medium tanks, and a platoon of combat engineers, in an amphibious landing at Sant'Agata, a few miles behind San Fratello. The amphibious assault force achieved complete surprise and quickly blocked the coastal highway. Unfortunately, the Germans had selected that night to withdraw from San Fratello, and most of their troops had already retired past Bernard's position by the time the Americans arrived. Nevertheless, the 3d Infantry Division's combined land and sea offensive bagged over 1,000 prisoners.
Allied pressure at Troina, San Fratello, and in the British sector had broken the Etna Line, but there would be no lightning exploitation of the victory. Taking maximum advantage of the constricting terrain and armed with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of mines, General Hube withdrew his XIV Panzer Corps in orderly phases toward Messina.
Troina. (National Archives)
Patton made a second bid to trap the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division on 11 August, when he sent Colonel Bernard on another amphibious end run, this time at Brolo. Once again Bernard's men achieved complete surprise, but they soon came under heavy pressure as the German units trapped by the landing tried to batter their way out. Bernard's group proved too small to keep the Germans bottled up, and by the time Truscott linked up with the landing force, the bulk of the 29th Panzer Grenadier Division had escaped.
Time was now running out for the Allies. On 11 August, the day Patton launched the Brolo operation, General Hube began the full-scale evacuation of Sicily. Despite heroic feats by U.S. Army engineers in clearing minefields and repairing blown bridges, the Seventh Army was never quite able to catch the withdrawing Axis forces. A last amphibious end run by a regiment of the 45th Division on 16 August failed when the troops landed behind American, and not German, lines. By then the game was over. On the morning of 17 August, elements of the 3d Infantry Division's 7th Infantry Regiment entered Messina, just hours after the last Axis troops had boarded ship for Italy. The enemy had escaped, but the Seventh Army quickly brought reinforcements into the port, in the words of 3d Division assistant commander Brig. Gen. William Eagles, "to see that the British did not capture the city from us after we had taken it." Shortly after Patton accepted the city's surrender, a column of British vehicles slowly wound its way through Messina's crooked streets. Spotting General Patton, the commander of the British column walked over and offered his hand in congratulations. Patton had won his race.
The American soldier had much to be proud of in the Sicily Campaign. With the exception of those units which had taken part in the Tunisia Campaign, especially the 1st and 9th Infantry Divisions, few American formations employed in Sicily began the campaign with any combat experience, and their abilities were still unknown. But the American troops had done well. After landing on a hostile shore, they had repelled several counterattacks, forced the enemy to withdraw, and relentlessly pursued him over sun-baked hills until the island was theirs. In thirty-eight days they and their British colleagues had killed or wounded approximately 29,000 enemy soldiers and captured over 140,000 more. In contrast, American losses totaled 2,237 killed and 6,544 wounded and captured. The British suffered 12,843 casualties, including 2,721 dead.
Gen. Terry Allen's "Big Red One" lands at Gela July 10, 1943
Sicily was also a victory for the logistician and the staff planner. Although overshadowed by the Normandy invasion a year later, Operation HUSKY was actually the largest amphibious operation of World War II in terms of the size of the landing zone and the number of divisions put ashore on the first day of the invasion. The amphibious operation, as well as the subsequent logistical effort, marked a clear triumph of American staff work and interservice cooperation. Army-Navy cooperation was particularly good, and the fire support provided by Allied naval vessels played a critical role in overcoming Axis resistance, especially around Gela.
The Sicily Campaign also marked the first time in World War II that a complete U.S. field army had fought as a unit. With over 200,000 men in its ranks by the time it reached Messina, the American Seventh Army employed the services of more than 150 different types of units, from infantry regiments to graves registration companies. The final victory was achieved only through the cooperation and collaboration of thousands of individuals from every branch of service.
Strategically, the Sicilian operation achieved the goals set out for it by Allied planners at Casablanca. Axis air and naval forces were driven from their island bastion and the Mediterranean sea lanes were opened to Allied commerce. Hitler had been forced to transfer troops to Sicily and Italy from other theaters, and Mussolini had been toppled from power, thereby opening the way for the eventual dissolution of the Rome-Berlin Axis and Italy's ultimate surrender. Although U.S. military leaders had not initially planned to use Sicily as a springboard for an invasion of Italy, the impact of the operation on the tottering Fascist regime begged exploitation, and the Allies quickly followed up their victory by invading Italy in September 1943.
Palermo - women hold up babies to U.S. soldiers, ILN 1943/07/31
Yet for all its achievements, the Sicily Campaign also demonstrated some weaknesses in Allied capabilities, particularly in the realm of joint operations. None of the Allied commanders had much experience in joint air-land-sea operations, and consequently the three services did not always work together as well as they might have. Ground commanders complained about the lack of close air support and the inaccuracy of airborne drops, air commanders complained of their aircraft's being fired upon by Allied ground and naval forces, and naval officers chided the land commanders for not fully exploiting the fleet's amphibious capabilities to outflank the enemy once the campaign had begun. Similarly, General Alexander's unfortunate decision to broaden the Eighth Army's front at the expense of the Seventh Army can be attributed to the newness of combined operations, for the decision reflected the British Army's proclivity to underestimate American military capabilitiesan attitude that American G.I.s proved unjustified during the Sicily Campaign.
One consequence of this lack of integration within the Allied camp was that the Axis was able to evacuate over 100,000 men and 10,000 vehicles from Sicily during the first seventeen days in August. The failure of Allied air and naval forces to interdict the Strait of Messina was due in large part to the fact that neither Eisenhower nor his principal air, land, and sea commanders had formulated a coordinated plan to prevent the withdrawal of Axis forces from the island.
Messina and view of distant Itlay, ILN 1943/09
The escape of Axis forces from Sicily is also attributable to the conservative attitude of Allied commanders. They had opted for the most cautious invasion plan, massing their forces at the most predictable landing site. They never seriously considered the bolder option of launching simultaneous attacks on Messina and Calabria, the "toe" of Italy, to trap all Axis forces in Sicily in one blow. Their conservativeness was somewhat justified, for multinational amphibious operations of this magnitude had never been attempted before, and the initial landings would have been outside of the range of Allied fighter cover. Nevertheless, the advantages to be gained by taking the enemy by surprise and destroying an entire Axis army would seem to have merited greater attention by Allied strategists than it received.
The fundamental reason why the Messina-Calabria option was not seriously considered had to do with grand strategy, not operational considerations. At Casablanca the Allies had agreed only to invade Sicily, not Italy, and U.S. leaders had clearly stated their opposition to anything that might further delay a cross-Channel attack. A landing in Italy, even a local one intended purely to assist the Sicily Campaign, threatened to open the very Pandora's box Marshall wanted to avoid. Of course in the end, the Allies invaded Italy anyway, only to be confronted by the same German troops who had made good their escape from Sicily. But in the spring of 1943, coalition politics ruled out a Calabrian envelopment, and Allied planners confined themselves to a narrow, frontal assault in southeastern Sicily.
1st gun fired on Italy, Newsweek 1943/9/6
Sicily was thus an important victory for the Allies, but not a decisive one. Coalition politics and the innate conservativeness of men who were still learning how to work the intricate machinery of joint, multinational operations tied Allied armies to a strategy which achieved the physical objective while letting the quarry escape. Nevertheless, Axis forces did not escape unscathed, and the experience Allied commanders gained in orchestrating airborne, amphibious, and ground combat operations during the campaign would serve them well in the months ahead, first in Italy and then at Normandy.
In the spring of 1943, with the African Campaign coming to a successful conclusion, the Allies began to consider the invasion of Hitler's "Fortress Europe." The most obvious target to start the invasion was Sicily, which was not only in a strategic location that would act as a springboard for the rest of Europe, but it would've allowed for the elimination of the Luftwaffe, a danger to allied shipping in the Mediterranean Sea.
There were problems: to start, the Germans were well aware of the importance of Sicily to the Allies as the logical place to start an invasion. Add to that the mountainous landscape of the island, a joy to defend but impossible to attack. And lastly, the invasion (Operation Husky) would require such a build-up of armaments that it would be next to impossible to go undetected by the Germans.
For Operation Husky to succeed and not turn into a blood bath for the Allies, the German High Command had to be fooled.
On April 30, a fisherman off of the coast of Spain picked up the body of a British Royal Marines courier, Major William Martin. Attached to his wrist was a briefcase, which contained personal correspondence and documents related to the impending Allied invasion of Sardinia. Spain immediately notified the Abwehr (German intelligence).
After this discovery, Hitler promptly moved two Panzer divisions and an additional Waffen SS brigade to Sardinia to prepare for this Allied invasion.
Major William Martin of the British Royal Marines had been dead long before he had even hit the water, much less served in the armed forces. Major Martin was a decoy devised by Sir Archibald Cholmondley (with the appropriate name Operation Mincemeat) and put in action by Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu of Naval Intelligence.
Major Martin had to appear as though he had drowned, probably after his plane crashed off the coast of Spain. This necessitated finding a corpse whose lungs were already full of fluid, so that any doctors who examined the body would accept that he had been at sea for some time.
A 34-year-old man was found, recently departed after ingesting rat poison and developing pneumonia. He'd have to appear that he had been dead for a while before falling to enemy hands so that the effects of the seawater would disguise the obvious decomposition.
Intelligence secretaries wrote love letters to Major Martin, one of them even including a photo of herself in a swimsuit to pass for the Major's girlfriend, Pam. Sir Cholmondley carried the letters in his wallet for several weeks to give them an authentic worn look. Martin's persona was further enhanced by adding overdue bills, an angry letter from his bank manager, a letter from his father, tickets, keys. All the sort of things that a real person would happen to carry, along with the documents that told of the Allies' plans of invasion.
When Operation Husky finally took place, the Allies found so little resistance from the enemy in Sicily that the Germans had to retreat all the way to Messina. The invasion was a complete success thanks to the mission carried out by a dead man.
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Today's classic ship, USS Columbus (CA-74)
Baltimore class heavy cruiser
Displacement: 13,600 t.
Speed: 32.6 k.
Armament(as built): 9 8 12 5 48 40mm 24 20mm 4 Aircraft
The USS COLUMBUS (CA-74) was launched 30 November 1944 by Bethlehem Steel Co., Quincy, Mass. sponsored by Mrs. E. G. Meyers and commissioned 8 June 1945, Captain A. Hobbs in command.
Joining the Pacific Fleet, COLUMBUS reached Tsingtao China, 13 January 1946 for occupation duty. On 1 April, she helped to sink 24 Japanese submarines, prizes of war, and next day sailed for San Pedro, Calif. For the remainder of the year, she operated in west coast waters, then made a second Far Eastern cruise from 15 January to 12 June 1947.
After west coast operations and an overhaul at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, COLUMBUS cleared Bremerton 12 April 1948 to join the Atlantic Fleet, arriving at Norfolk, Va., 19 May. COLUMBUS made two cruises as flagship of Commander-in-Chief, Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, from 13 September 1948 to 15 December 1949 and from 12 June 1950 to 5 October 1951, and one as flagship of Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic, during parts of NATO Operation "Mainbrace" from 25 August to 29 September 1952. She cruised in the Mediterranean from October 1952 through January 1953, serving part of that time as flagship of the 6th Fleet. Now flagship of Cruiser Division 6, she returned to the Mediterranean from September 1954 to January 1955. Between deployments, COLUMBUS received necessary overhauls and carried out training operations along the east coast and in the Caribbean.
Reassigned to the Pacific Fleet, COLUMBUS cleared Boston 8 November 1955 for Long Beach, Calif., where she arrived 2 December. Just a month later, on 5 January 1956, she sailed for Yokosuka, Japan, and operated with the 7th Fleet until she returned to Long Beach 8 July. COLUMBUS made two more cruises to the Far East in 1957 and 1958. During the late summer of 1958, her presence was a reminder of American strength and interest as she patrolled the Taiwan Straits during the crisis brought on by the renewed shelling of the offshore islands by the Chinese Communists. On 8 May 1959, COLUMBUS went out of commission at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard to begin her conversion to a guided missile cruiser, and she was reclassified CG-12, 30 September 1959.
Columbus underwent a massive conversion to a guided missile cruiser (CG-12) between May 1959 and late 1962. This work, carried out at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at Bremerton, Washington, involved removing all her guns and original upper decks structure, plus much of her interior, and erecting a new, very high superstructure to carry an extensive array of radar antennas and other electronics. Launchers and magazines for long-range Talos missiles were installed fore and aft, while a smaller launcher for Tartar missiles was fitted on each side, and a launcher for ASROC anti-submarine rockets was located amidships. Two open 5-inch/38 guns were added later at the insistence of President Kennedy after he witnessed a Terrier missile (from another ship) fail to down an aerial target drone. The ship's appearance, and capabilities, were thus completely altered.
Columbus, now a member of the three-ship 13,700-ton Albany class, was recommissioned as CG-12 on 1 December 1962. She conducted extensive trials and training operations for more than a year, and in August 1964 deployed to the Western Pacific for a cruise that ended in February 1965, just prior to the full-scale U.S. entry into the Vietnam war. However, Columbus was to play no further role in that conflict. She transferred to the Atlantic Fleet in January 1966 and in October of that year began her first deployment to the Mediterranean Sea.
Following the end of that Sixth Fleet tour early in 1967 Columbus operated in the Caribbean and off the U.S. East Coast. She operated again in the Mediterranean in January to July 1968, December 1968 to May 1969, October 1969 to March 1970, and August 1970 to February 1971. The 1970-71 cruise included service during the Jordanian crisis. The cruiser received a major shipyard overhaul during much of the rest of 1971, then made another MedTour during May-October 1972, a time of expanding Soviet Navy activity in the area. Columbus conducted her final Sixth Fleet deployment between November 1973 and May 1974. That summer she began inactivation preparations. The ship was decommissioned 31 January 1975. Stricken from the Naval Vessel Register 9 August 1976, Columbus was sold for scrapping in August 1977.
Birthdates which occurred on July 10:
1509 John Calvin Protestant religious reformer/theologian
1723 Sir William Blackstone England, jurist (Blackstone's Commentaries)
1792 George Mifflin Dallas (D) 11th VP (1845-49)
1835 Henryk Wieniawski Lubin Poland, violinist/composer (Souv de Moscou)
1856 Nikola Tesla physicist, developed alternating current
1867 Finley Peter Dunne US, journalist/humorist (Mr Dooley)
1871 Marcel Proust France, novelist (Remembrance of Things Past)
1875 Mary McLeod Bethune SC, slave/educator (Bethune-Cookman College)
1879 Dr Harry Nicholls Holmes Penn, crystallized vitamin A
1882 Ima Hogg Texas art patron/founder of the Houston Symphony
1888 Giorgio De Chirico Greece, Metaphysical painter (Soothsayer)
1888 Graham McNamee sportscaster (1st Rose Bowl)
1888 Toyohiko Kagawa Kobe, Japan, Christian social reformer
1895 Carl Orff Mnchen (Munich) Germany, composer (Antigonae)
1897 Lloyd Goodrich American Arts Museum director
1913 Ljuba Welitsch Borisovo, Bulgaria, soprano (Nedda-Pagliacci)
1915 Saul Bellow Quebec, novelist (Nobel 1976-Mr Samler's Planet)
1917 Don Herbert Waconia Minn, Mr Wizard
1919 Rusty Gill St Louis Mo, singer (Polka Time)
1920 David Brinkley Wilmington NC, NBC News anchor (Huntley-Brinkley)
1920 Owen Chamberlain codiscovered antiproton (Nobel 1959)
1921 Jake LaMotta Bronx, middleweight boxing champ (1949-51) (Raging Bull)
1921 Jeff Donnell South Windham Maine, actor (Gidget Goes to Rome)
1922 Herb McKenley Jamacia, 4 X 400m relay runner (Olympic-gold-1952)
1925 Dorothea Hochletiner Austria, giant slalom (Olympic-bronze-1956)
1926 Carleton Carpenter Bennington Vt, actor (Up Periscope, Summer Stock)
1926 Fred Gwynne NYC, actor (Car 54 Where Are You, Munsters)
1927 David Dinkins (Mayor-D-NYC, 1989- )
1927 William Smithers Richmond Va, actor (Witness, Peyton Place, Attack!)
1931 Alice Munro author (Dance of the Happy Shades)
1931 Del Insko harness racer (toothpick in mouth, 1969 money leader)
1931 Nick Adams Nanticoke Pa, actor (Johnny Yuma-The Rebel)
1933 Chuan-Kwang Yang Taiwan, decathlete (Olympic-silver-1960)
1933 Jerry Herman Broadway composer (Hello Dolly)
1937 Sandy Stewart Phila Pa, singer (Sing Along With Mitch, Mr President)
1939 Lawrence Pressman Ky, actor (Man From Atlantis, Hellstrom Chronicle)
1940 Mills Watson Oakland Calif, actor (Harper Valley PTA, BJ & Bear)
1941 Ian Whitcomb England, rocker (You Turn Me On)
1941 Robert Pine Scarsdale NY, actor (Joe Getraer-CHiPs)
1942 Pyotr I Klimuk cosmonaut (Soyuz 13, 18, 30)
1943 Arthur Ashe tennis pro (1968 US Open)
1945 Ron Glass actor (Sgt Harris-Barney Miller, Frank's Place)
1945 Virginia Wade tennis star (Wimbeldon 1977)
1946 Sue Lyon Davenport Iowa, actress (Lolita, Evel Knievel)
1947 Arlo Guthrie singer (Alice's Restaurant, City of New Orleans)
1949 Mark Shera Bayonne NJ, actor (SWAT, Barnaby Jones)
1949 Ronnie James rocker (Dio-Holy Diver)
1954 Andre Dawson Miami Fla, outfielder (Expos, Cubs, 1987 NL MVP)
1954 Neil Francis Tennant rocker (Pet Shop Boys-Left to My Own Devices)
1972 Damon Sharpe Cleveland Ohio, actor/musician (Guys Next Door)
Deaths which occurred on July 10:
0138 Publius A Hadrianus, Roman emperor (117-138) (Hadrian's Wall in Britain),
518 Anastasius I Dikoros, [Dyrrhachium/Durazzo], Byzantine emperor, dies
1086 Knut IV, the Saint, king of Denmark (1080-86), murdered
1692 Bridget Bishop first Salem witch hung
1863 Clement Clarke Moore ('Twas the Night Before Xmas), dies at 83
1884 Paul Morphy US chess wizard, dies
1910 Johann Galle discoverer of Neptune with telescope, dies
1927 Kevin O'Higgins Irish Free State VP, assassinated
1941 Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton pioneer jazz pianist, dies at 56 in LA
1945 Robert Goddard Rocket pioneer, dies
1977 Norman Paris orch leader (For Your Pleasure), dies at 41
1979 Arthur Fiedler orch leader (Boston Pops), dies at 84
1989 Mel Blanc voice of cartoon characters (Bugs Bunny), dies at 81
1991 Gerome Ragal author (Hair), dies at 48 of cancer
Reported: MISSING in ACTION
1972 GREEN FRANK C. JR. WASKOM TX.
Name: Frank Clifford Green, Jr.
Rank/Branch: O5/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 212, USS HANCOCK (CVA 19)
Date of Birth: 05 June 1935
Home City of Record: Waskom TX
Date of Loss: 10 July 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 201100N 1055700E (WH871207)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
SYNOPSIS: The USS HANCOCK first saw action in Vietnam when aircraft from her
decks flew strikes against enemy vessels in Saigon Harbor in late 1944. The
Essex class carrier, extensively modernized, returned to Vietnam during the
early years of the Vietnam war. The attack carriers USS CORAL SEA, USS
HANCOCK and USS RANGER formed Task Force 77, the carrier striking force of
the U.S. Seventh Fleet in the Western Pacific. The HANCOCK was the smallest
type of flattop to operate in the Vietnam theater, but pilots from her
fighter and attack squadrons distinguished themselves throughout the
duration of the war. On June 12, 1966, Commander Hal Marr, the CO of VF-211
gained the first F8 Russian MiG kill.
Commander Frank C. Green was a pilot assigned to Attack Squadron 212 onboard
the USS HANCOCK. On July 10, 1972, CDR Green was launched in his A4F Skyhawk
aircraft to lead a night armed reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam.
Green and his wingman had completed the armed reconnaissance of an assigned
road segment and proceeded on their secondary mission to locate and destroy
any targets of opportunity they might find. They sighted vehicle lights some
distance south of their position and flew in that direction in order to make
an unlighted bomb attack. Shortly after the attack, the wingman observed a
small flash in the general target area immediately followed by a large, fuel
type, secondary explosion on the ground. Not hearing an acknowledgement that
CDR Green was off the target or a reply to his comments about the explosion,
the wingman suspected that the explosion might be CDR Green's aircraft.
Search and rescue efforts were initiated immediately, but attempts made to
contact CDR Green met with negative results. The crash site was located, and
shortly after, the crash site had been camouflaged. It was believed that
Green would not have camouflaged the site before he could be rescued. Since
it was not known if CDR Green was killed in the crash of his aircraft or
survived to be captured, Green was placed in a casualty status of Missing in
Action. Since the area in which he crashed (about 5 miles southwest of the
city of Ninh Binh in Ninh Binh Province) was near a heavily populated area,
there is every reason to believe the North Vietnamese could tell us what
happened to CDR Frank C. Green.
POW / MIA Data & Bios supplied by
the P.O.W. NETWORK. Skidmore, MO. USA.
On this day.
552 Origin of Armenian calendar
1057 On a dare, Lady Godiva rides naked on horseback throughout Coventry. She won -- her husband, the Earl of Mercia, abolished taxation that year
1460 Wars of Roses: Richard of York defeats King Henry VI at Northampton
1520 The Spanish explorer Cortes is driven from Tenochtitlan and retreats to Tlaxcala.
1629 1st non-Separatist Congregational Church in America founded (Salem, MA)
1690 Battle of Beachy Head-French fleet defeats Anglo-Dutch fleet
1775 Horatio Gates, issues order excluding blacks from Continental Army
1776 The statue of King George III is pulled down in New York City.
1778 In support of the American Revolution, Louis XVI declares war on England.
1832 Pres Jackson vetoed legislation to re-charter 2nd Bank of US
1847 Urbain J.J. Leverrier & John Couch Adams, codiscoverers of Neptune meet for 1st time at home of John Herschel
1850 VP Fillmore becomes pres following Zachary Taylor's death
1866 Indelible pencil patented by Edson P Clark, Northampton, Mass
1875 L Schulhof discovers asteroid #147 Protogeneia
1886 Eruption of Tarawera volcano destroys famous pink & white calcium carbonate hot-spring terraces (North Island, New Zealand)
1890 Wyoming becomes 44th state, whose constitution was the first in U.S. history to guarantee women the right to vote, becomes the 44th state.
1892 1st concrete-paved street built (Bellefountaine, Ohio)
1910 Chicago White Sox Comiskey Park opens, visiting Browns win 2-0
1913 134ø F (57ø C), Greenland Ranch, Calif (US record)
1914 Boston Red Sox purchase Babe Ruth from the Baltimore Orioles
1917 Emma Goldman imprisoned for obstructing the draft
1918 Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic established
1919 Pres Wilson personally delivers Treaty of Versailles to Senate
1923 2-pound hailstones kill 23 & many cattle. (Rostov, Russia)
1923 All non-fascist parties disolved in Italy
1924 Denmark takes Greenland as Norway ends claim
1925 Jury selection took place in John T Scopes evolution trial
1925 USSR's official news agency TASS established
1926 Lake Denmark, NJ arsenal explodes, kills 21, $75m damage
1928 H E Wood discovers asteroid #3300
1929 In game between Pirates & Phillies 9 HRs hit 1 in each inning
1929 US issues newer, smaller-sized paper currency
1932 Jack Burnett gets 9 hits, Eddie Rommel relieves in 2nd & continues to 18-17 victory in 18 as his A's beats Indians in longest relief job
1933 1st police radio system operated, Eastchester Township, NY
1934 1st sitting US president to visit South America, FDR in Colombia
1934 AL beats NL 9-7 in 2nd All Star Game (Polo Grounds NY)
1934 Carl Hubbell strikes out Ruth, Gehrig & Foxx in the All star game
1936 109ø F (43ø C), Cumberland & Frederick, Maryland (state record)
1936 111ø F (44ø C), Phoenixville, Pennsylvania (state record)
1936 New Straits Convention allows Turkish rearmament of Dardanelles
1936 Phillies Chuck Klein becomes 4th to hit 4 HRs in a game
1940 Battle of Britain began as Nazi forces attacked by air
1942 General Carl Spaatz becomes the head of the U.S. Air Force in Europe.
1943 US & Britain invade Sicily in WW II
1947 200 die when train derails & fell into a river in Canton, China
1947 Cleveland Indian Don Black no-hits Phila A's, 3-0
1949 1st practical rectangular TV tube announced-Toledo, Oh
1950 "Your Hit Parade" premiers on NBC (later CBS) TV
1951 Armistice talks to end Korean conflict began at Kaesong
1951 E L Johnson discovers asteroid #1609 Brenda
1951 NL beats AL 8-3 in 18th All Star Game (Briggs Stadium, Detroit)
1953 Pravda reports arrest of Lavrenti Beria, Stalin's ruthless chief of intelligence
1956 650,000 US steel workers go on strike
1956 NL beats AL 7-3 in 23rd All Star Game (Griffith Stad, Washington)
1958 1st parking meter installed in England (625 installed)
1962 Martin Luther King Jr arrested during demonstration in Georgia
1962 NL beats AL 3-1 in 32nd All Star Game (DC Stadium, Wash)
1962 Telstar, 1st geosynchronous communications satellite, launched
1965 Beatles' "Beatles' "VI," album goes #1 & stays #1 for 6 weeks
1965 Rolling Stones score their 1st #1, "I Can't Get No Satisfaction"
1966 Orbiter 1 launched to Moon
1969 Chilean Association of Librarians created
1969 NL votes to split into 2 divisions
1972 Democratic convention opens in Miami Beach Florida (McGovern)
1972 Herd of stampeding elephants kills 24, Chandka Forest India
1973 Bahamas gain independence after 300 yrs of British rule (Nat'l Day)
1978 E F Helinand E Shoemaker discovers asteroid #3484
1978 Military coup in Mauritania
1980 Ayatollah Khomeini releases Iran hostage Richard I Queen
1980 Willie Jones hospitalized for heat stroke with record 46.5ø C temp
1981 CERN achieves 1st proton-antiproton beam collision (570 GeV)
1982 Miguel Vasquez makes 1st public quadruple somersault on trapeze
1983 E Bowell discovers asteroids #3222 Lillerand #3751
1985 Coca-Cola Co announces it will resume selling old formula Coke
1985 French agents sink Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand
1987 The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior In New Zealand's Auckland harbor, Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior sank after French agents in diving gear planted a bomb on the hull of the vessel. One person, Dutch photographer Fernando Pereira, was killed.
1990 AL beats NL 2-0 at Wrigley Field, Chicago
1990 AL beats NL 2-0 in 61st All Star Game (Wrigley Field Calif)
1990 Andrew Dice Clays cries on Arsenio Hall Show
1992 A federal judge in Miami sentenced former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega, convicted of drug and racketeering charges, to 40 years in prison. A judge later cut Noriega's sentence by 10 years.
1993 Kenyan runner Yobes Ondieki became the first human to run 10 km (6.25 miles) in less than 27 minutes.
1995 The defense opened its case at the O.J. Simpson murder trial in Los Angeles.
2001 For the second time in a month, a jury in New York rejected the death penalty for one of the men convicted in the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa, opting instead for life in prison without parole.
Note: Some Holidays are only applicable on a given "day of the week"
Albania : Army Day
Bahamas : Independence Day (1973)
Wyoming : Statehood Day (1890)
South Africa : Family Day - - - - - ( Monday )
Swaziland : Reed Dance Day - - - - - ( Monday )
Nude Recreation Week (Day 4)
Buddhist-Burma : Beginning of Buddhist Fast
Christian : SS Rufina & Secunda, virgins & 7 Brothers
RC-Bilbao, Spain : Feast of Virgin of Bego¤a
Feast of St. Felicitas and the Seven Holy Brothers, martyrs (St. Felicitas is the patron saint of expectant women who want boys).
1509 Birth of John Calvin, French religious reformer. His 'Institutes of the ChristianReligion' became the most popular doctrinal statement of the Protestant Reformation.
1629 The first non-separatist Congregational church in America was established atSalem, Massachusetts.
1851 California Wesleyan College was chartered in Santa Clara, under sponsorship ofthe Methodist Church. In 1961 its name was changed to the University of the Pacific.
1925 The famous 'Scopes Monkey Trial' began in Dayton, TN, after high school biologyteacher John T. Scopes, 24, was charged with teaching evolution to his students.
1950 American missionary and martyr Jim Elliot wrote in his journal: 'I am just tryingto deliver familiar truth from the oblivion of general acceptance.'
Source: William D. Blake. ALMANAC OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1987.
Thought for the day :
" In fashion be a reed in the wind, In principles be a rock in the stream. "
Today's 'You Might Be A Redneck If' Joke.
"The taillight covers of your car are made of tape."
Watch the video: Invasion of Sicily WWII Operation Husky
Navy garrison Edit
The major harbors garrisons were under command of the Italian Navy. Hence, they were not part of the Italian 6th Army, but under the command of General Guzzoni, who was also the Chief of Joint Command.
- 4 Infantry Division Livorno (Initially held as Army Reserve  )
- 26 Mountain Infantry Division Assietta, General Francesco Scotti, from 26 July: General Ottorino Schreiber
- , South African Air Force
- , Spitfire fighters , Spitfires , P-40 Kittyhawk fighters
- , P-40 Warhawks , P-40 Warhawks , P-40 Warhawks
- , P-40 Warhawks , P-40 Warhawks , P-40 Warhawks
- , Detached, Spitfires , Mosquito fighter-bombers , P-51A Mustang fighters
Lt. Colonel John Stevenson
- , A-36 Mustang ground attack aircraft , A-36 Mustangs , A-36 Mustangs
- , A-36 Mustangs , A-36 Mustangs , A-36 Mustangs
- , P-40 Warhawks , P-40 Warhawks , P-40 Warhawks , P-40, Detached
- , P-40 Warhawks , P-40 Warhawks , P-40 Warhawks
- , Spitfires , Spitfires , Spitfires
- , Boston light bombers , Baltimore light bombers , Bostons
- , Baltimores , Baltimores
- , P-40 Warhawks , P-40 Warhawks , P-40 Warhawks , P-40, Detached
- , Bostons , Bostons
- , A-20 Havoc , A-20 Havocs , A-20 Havocs , A-20 Havocs
- , Spitfires , Spitfires , Spitfires
- , B-25 Mitchellmedium bombers , B-25 Mitchells , B-25 Mitchells , B-25 Mitchells
- , B-25 Mitchells , B-25 Mitchells , B-25 Mitchells , B-25 Mitchells
For Operation Husky, No. 242 Group, originally a component of NATAF in February 1943, was assigned to the Northwest African Coastal Air Force (NACAF). At the same time, Air Headquarters, Western Desert became known as the Desert Air Force. All of the fighter units of Desert Air Force formed No. 211 (Offensive Fighter) Group commanded by Air Commodore Richard Atcherley on April 11, 1943 in Tripoli. The 99th Fighter Squadron was assigned to the XII Air Support Command on May 28, 1943, and later made a part of the 33rd Fighter Group.
Northwest African Troop Carrier Command Edit
1) Participation of the Ninth and
Twelfth Air Forces in the Sicilian Campaign,
Army Air Forces Historical Study No. 37
Army Air Forces Historical Office Headquarters,
Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, 1945.
2) Maurer, Maurer, Air Force
Combat Units Of World War II,
Office of Air Force History,
Maxwell AFB, Alabama, 1983.
To help carry out transport and supply operations for Operation Husky, in mid-1943 the American 315th Troop Carrier Group (34th & 43rd Squadrons) had been flown from England to Tunisia. There it was assigned to the Mediterranean Air Transport Service, and along with NATCC, this was a subdivision of the Mediterranean Air Command.
Northwest African Photographic Reconnaissance Wing Edit
- , Lt. Colonel Frank Dunn
- , P-38 Lightnings , P-38 Lightnings
Northwest African Air Service Command Edit
Brig. General Delmar had his headquarters in Dunton, Algiers. 
Northwest African Training Command Edit
Air Headquarters Malta Edit
Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park, the commander of Air Headquarters Malta, had his headquarters in Valletta, Malta 
- , Baltimores , Beaufighters , Wellington bombers , Beaufighters , Spitfires
- of the South African Air Force
- , counter-night-intruder operations with Mosquitofighter planes Detachment (Det.), with Hurricane fighter planes Det., with Mosquito night fighters , Beaufighter night fighters Det. (Fleet Air Arm), Fairey Albacores
No. 216 (Transport and Ferry) Group Edit
RAF Gibraltar Edit
Air Vice Marshal Sturley Simpson had his headquarters in Gibraltar
Middle East Command Edit
Air Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas Headquarters at Cairo, Egypt 
No. 201 (Naval Co-operation) Group Edit
Air Vice Marshal Thomas Langsford-Sainsbury, Headquarters at Alexandria, Egypt
- (Royal Hellenic Air Force), Blenheim bombers Det., Beaufighters , Baltimores , Hudsons , Swordfish
- , Beauforts Beaufighters , Beaufighters , Swordfish
- , Blenheims and Baltimores , Wellingtons
- , Wellingtons , Baltimores , Beaufighters , Beaufighters
No Wing assignment: 701 Naval Air Squadron (FAA), Walrus Air-Sea Rescue
Note: RAF=Royal Air Force RAAF=Royal Australian Air Force SAAF=South African Air Force FAA=Fleet Air Arm (Royal Navy) Det.= "detachment"
Air Headquarters Air Defences Eastern Mediterranean Edit
Air Vice Marshal Richard Saul
|No. 209 (Fighter) Group |
Group Captain R.C.F. Lister
|No. 210 (Fighter) Group |
Group Captain John Grandy
|No. 212 (Fighter) Group |
Air Commodore Archibald Wann
|No. 219 (Fighter) Group |
Group Captain Max Aitken
|No. 46 Squadron RAF Det., Beaufighters||No. 3 Squadron SAAF, Hurricanes||No. 7 Squadron SAAF, Hurricanes||No. 46 Squadron RAF, Beaufighters|
|No. 127 Squadron RAF, Hurricanes and Spitfires||No. 33 Squadron RAF, Hurricanes||No. 41 Squadron SAAF, Hurricanes||No. 74 Squadron RAF, Hurricanes|
|No. 89 Squadron RAF, Beaufighters||No. 80 Squadron RAF, Spitfires||No. 238 Squadron RAF, Hurricanes|
|No. 213 Squadron RAF, Hurricanes||No. 94 Squadron RAF, Hurricanes||No. 335 Squadron RAF, Hurricanes|
|No. 274 Squadron RAF, Hurricanes||No. 108 Squadron RAF Det., Beaufighters||No. 336 Squadron RAF, Hurricanes|
|No. 123 Squadron RAF, Hurricanes||No. 451 Squadron RAAF, Hurricanes|
|No. 134 Squadron RAF, Hurricanes|
|No. 237 Squadron RAF, Hurricanes|
|No. 1563 Met. Flight, Gloster Gladiators|
|No. 1654 Met. Flight, Gladiators|
SAAF=South African Air Force RAAF=Royal Australian Air Forces Det.=Detached Met.=Meteorological.
U.S. 9th Air Force Edit
Major General Lewis H. Brereton had his headquarters in Cairo, Egypt 
- IX Advanced Headquarters in Tripoli, Libya Headquarters in Tripoli  Headquarters at Benghazi, Libya
- , B-24D Liberator II
- , Lete Airfield, Libya , Lete Airfield , Benina Airfield , Benina Airfield