Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Main article: Operation Husky order of battle
The Anglo-American landing force was under control of the Allied 15th Army Group . It consisted of the U.S. 7th Army and British 8th Army, each with two Corps underneath them. The primarily Italian defenders were two Italian Corps (XII and XVI) and one German Panzer Corps (XIV).
In the early part of 1943, following the realisation that the invasion of France would be impossible that year, it was decided to use the troops from the recently won North African Campaign to invade the Italian island of Sicily. The strategic goals were to remove the island as a base for Axis shipping and aircraft, allowing free passage to Allied ships in the Mediterranean Sea, and to put pressure on the Italian regime in the hope of eventually knocking Italy out of the war. It could also act as a precursor to the invasion of Italy, although this was not agreed by the Allies at the time of the invasion, the Americans in particular resisting commitment to any operation which might conceivably delay the invasion of France.
General Dwight Eisenhower was in overall command of the invasion, with General Sir Harold Alexander as commander of land forces. The land forces were designated the 15th Army Group, and comprised the British 8th Army, under General Bernard Montgomery, and the U.S. 7th Army under General George Patton. The Axis defenders comprised around 365,000 Italian troops and around 40,000 Germans with at least 47 tanks and about 200 artillery pieces, under the overall command of Italian General Alfredo Guzzoni .
The landings took place in extremely strong wind conditions, which made the landings difficult but also ensured the element of surprise. Landings were made on the southern and eastern coasts of the island, with the British forces in the East and the Americans towards the West.
Four airborne operations were carried out, landing during the night of the 9/10 July, as part of the invasion; two were British and two American. The American troops were the 82nd Airborne division, making their first combat parachute jump. The strong winds blew the dropping aircraft off course and scattered them widely; the result was that around half the US paratroops failed to make it to their rallying points. British glider-landed troops fared little better; only 12 out of 144 gliders landing on target, many landing in the sea. Nevertheless the scattered airborne troops maximised their opportunities, attacking patrols and creating confusion wherever possible.
The sea landings, despite the weather, were carried out against little opposition, the Italian units stationed on the shoreline lacking equipment and transport. The British walked into the port of Syracuse virtually unopposed. Only in the American centre was a substantial counterattack made, in exactly the point where the US Airborne were supposed to have been. On the 11 July Patton ordered his reserve parachute regiments to drop and reinforce the centre. Unfortunately not every unit had been informed of the drop, and the transports, which arrived shortly after an Axis air raid, were fired on by their own side, losing 37 out of 144 planes. It was friendly fire.
The land battle
The plans for the post-invasion battle had not been worked out in detail. Each Army was expected to advance towards its own objectives; boundaries between the two armies were fixed. In the first two days progress was excellent, capturing Vizzini in the west and Augusta in the east.
However resistance in the British sector then stiffened. Montgomery persuaded Alexander to shift the boundaries so that the British could by-pass the resistance and retain the key role of capturing Messina, while the Americans were given the role of protecting and supporting their flank. Patton sought a greater role for his army, and decided to try to capture the capital, Palermo. After dispatching a 'reconnaissance' toward the town of Agrigento which succeeded in capturing it, he persuaded Alexander to allow him to continue to advance. Alexander changed his mind and countermanded his orders, but Patton claimed the countermand was 'garbled in transmission', and by the time the position had been clarified Patton was at the gates of Palermo.
The fall of Palermo inspired a coup against Mussolini, and he was deposed from power. Although the removal of Italy from the war had been one of the long-term objectives of the Italian campaign, the suddenness of the move caught the Allies by surprise.
After Patton's capture of Palermo, with the British still bogged down south of Messina, Alexander ordered a two-pronged attack on the city. Patton became obsessed with the idea of reaching Messina before the British, writing "This is a horse race in which the prestige of the US Army is at stake.". The Axis, now effectively under the command of German General Hans Hube, had prepared a strong defensive line, the 'Etna Line' around Messina, that would enable him to make a progressive retreat while evacuating large parts of his army to the mainland. Patton began his assault on the line at Troina , but it was a lynchpin of the defense and stubbornly held. Despite three 'end run' amphibious landings the Germans managed to keep the bulk of their forces beyond reach of capture, and maintain their evacuation plans. Elements of the US Third Infantry Division entered Messina just hours after the last axis troops boarded ship for Italy. However Patton had won his race to enter Messina first.
Consequences and aftermath
The casualties on the Axis side totalled 29,000, with 140,000 captured. The capture of Biscari airfield also resulted in an atrocity when American troops killed seventy-three Prisoners of War, supposedly inspired by Patton. The US lost 2,237 killed and 6,544 wounded and captured; the British suffered 2,721 dead, and 10,122 wounded and captured. For many of the American forces this was their first time in combat. However the Axis successfully evacuated over 100,000 men and 10,000 vehicles from Sicily. No plan had been made by the Allies to prevent this.
The invasion also had an impact on the Eastern front. One of the reasons why the Germans had to cancel their offensive near Kursk was that they decided to send units to Italy after they received news of the invasion.
Husky was the largest amphibious operation of World War II in terms of men landed on the beaches, and of frontage; it overshadowed even the later Normandy landings. Strategically, the Sicilian operation achieved the goals set out for it by Allied planners. Axis air and naval forces were driven from the island; the Mediterranean sea lanes were opened and Mussolini had been toppled from power. It opened the way to the invasion of Italy, which had not necessarily been seen as a follow-up to Operation Husky.
- Operation Barclay: Deception operation aimed at misleading Axis forces as to the actual date and location of the Allied landings.
- Operation Chestnut: Advanced air drop by 2 SAS to disrupt communications on July 12, 1943.
- Operation Corkscrew: Allied invasion of the Italian island Pantelleria on June 10, 1943.
- Operation Fustian: Airborne landing at Primrose Bridge ahead on July 13-14, 1943.
- Operation Ladbroke: Glider landing at Syracuse on July 9, 1943.
- Operation Narcissus: Commando raid on a lighthouse near the main landings on 10 July, 1943.
- US Army account of the battle
- 82nd Airborne account of Sicily
- World War Two Online Newspaper Archives - The Sicilian and Italian Campaigns, 1943-1945
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details