World War Two: Sicily (2-6): Allied Invasion July 1943

The Airborne Operations: At various airfields in North Africa during the afternoon of 9 July, British and American airborne troops, under a glaring sun, made the final preparations for the operation scheduled to initiate the invasion of Sicily. While crews ran checks on the transport aircraft, the soldiers loaded gliders, rolled and placed equipment bundles in para-racks, made last-minute inspections, and received final briefings. Heavily laden with individual equipment and arms, with white bands pinned to their sleeves for identification, the troops clambered into the planes and gliders that would take them to Sicily. The British airborne operation got under way first as 109 American C-47s and 35 British Albermarles of the U.S. 51st Troop Carrier Wing at 1842 began rising into the evening skies, towing 144 Waco and Horsa gliders. Two hours later, 222 C-47s of the U.S. 52nd Troop Carrier Wing filled with American paratroopers of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regimental Combat Team and the attached 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry, were airborne.

[N2-6-1 Major sources for the British and American airborne operations are: Warren, USAF Hist Study 74 (an excellent account of the part played by the troop carrier units) ; 82nd Airborne Division in Sicily and Italy (a mimeographed historical study prepared by the division’s historical officer and found in the division’s files, probably the best single account of the 82nd Airborne Division’s part in the Sicily Campaign); 505th Para Inf Regt AAR; NAAFTCC Rpt of Opns, 0402/11/949; 82nd AB Div G-3 Jnl, 4 JUI-21 Aug 43; Rpt, Major General F. A. M. Browning, 99-66.2; Gavin, Airborne Warfare; Ridgway, Soldier; Major Edwin M. Sayre, The Operations of Company A, 505th Parachute Infantry (82nd Airborne Division), Airborne Landings in Sicily, 9-24 July 1943 (Fort Benning Ga., 1947); Major Robert M. Piper, The Operations of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regimental Combat Team (82nd Airborne Division) in the Airborne Landings on Sicily, 9-11 July 1943 (Sicilian Campaign) (Fort Benning, Ga., 1949); By Air to Battle, the Official Account of the British Airborne Divisions (London: Great Britain Air Ministry, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1945), pp. 56-60; Robert Devore, “Paratroops Behind Enemy Lines,” Collier’s, vol. I 12, No. 12 (September 18, 1943), pp. 18-19, 54-55; Lieutenant Colonel William T. Ryder, “Action on Biazza Ridge,” Saturday Evening Post, vol. 216, No. 26 (December 22,1943), pp. 14,49-54.] 

The British contingent made rendezvous over the Kuriate Islands and headed for Malta, the force already diminished by seven planes and gliders that had failed to clear the North African coast. Though the sun was setting as the planes neared Malta, the signal beacon on the island was plainly visible to all but a few aircraft at the end of the column. The gale that was shaking up the seaborne troops began to affect the air columns. In the face of high winds, formations loosened as pilots fought to keep on course.

Some squadrons were blown well to the east of the prescribed route. others in the rear overran forward squadrons. Despite the troubles, 90 percent of the aircraft made landfall at Cape Passero, the check point at the southeastern tip of Sicily, though formations by then were badly mixed. Two pilots who had lost their way over the sea had turned back to North Africa. Two others returned after sighting Sicily because they could not orient themselves to the ground. A fifth plane had accidentally released its glider over the water; a sixth glider had broken loose from its aircraft–both gliders dropped into the sea.

The lead aircraft turned north, then northeast from Cape Passero, seeking the glider release point off the east coast of Sicily south of Syracuse. The designated zigzag course threw more pilots off course, and confusion set in. Some pilots released their gliders prematurely, others headed back to North Africa. Exactly how many gliders were turned loose in the proper area is impossible to say perhaps about 115 carrying more than 1,200 men. Of these, only 54 gliders landed in Sicily, on or near the correct landing zones. The others dropped into the sea. The result: a small band of less than 100 British airborne troops was making its way toward the objective, the Ponte Grande south of Syracuse, about the time the British Eighth Army was making its amphibious landings.

As for the Americans who had departed North Africa as the sun was setting, the pilots found that the quarter moon gave little light. Dim night formation lights, salt spray from the tossing sea hitting the windshields, high winds estimated at thirty miles an hour, and, more important, insufficient practice in night flying in the unfamiliar V of V’s pattern, broke up the aerial columns. Groups began to loosen, and planes began to straggle. Those in the rear found it particularly difficult to remain on course. Losing direction, missing check points, the pilots approached Sicily from all points of the compass. Several planes had a few tense moments as they passed over the naval convoys then nearing the coast-but the naval gunners held their fire. Because they were lost, two pilots returned to North Africa with their human cargoes. A third crashed into the sea.

Even those few pilots who had followed the planned route could not yet congratulate themselves, for haze, dust, and fires all caused by the pre-invasion air attacks obscured the final check points, the mouth of the Acate River and the Biviere Pond. What formations remained broke apart. Antiaircraft fire from Gela, Ponte Olivo, and Niscemi added to the difficulties of orientation. The greatest problem was getting the paratroopers to ground, not so much on correct drop zones as to get them out of the doors over ground of any sort. The result: the 3,400 paratroopers who jumped found themselves scattered all over southeastern Sicily-33 sticks landing in the Eighth Army area; 53 in the 1st Division zone around Gela; 127 inland from the 45th Division beaches between Vittoria and Caltagirone. Only the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry (Major Mark Alexander), hit ground relatively intact; and even this unit was twenty-five miles from its designated drop zone.

Except for eight planes of the second serial which put most of Company I, 505th Parachute Infantry, on the correct drop zone just south of the road junction objective; except for eighty-five men of Company G of the 505th who landed about three miles away; and except for the headquarters and two platoons of Company A and part of the 1st Battalion command group, which landed near their scheduled drop zones just north of the road junction, the airborne force was dispersed to the four winds.

The planes carrying the headquarters serial, which included Colonel Gavin, the airborne troop commander, were far off course, having missed the check point at Linosa, the check point at Malta, and even the southeastern coast of Sicily. The lead pilot eventually made landfall on the east coast near Syracuse, oriented himself, and turned across the southeast corner of the island to get back on course. Assuming that the turn signaled the correct drop zone, the pilots of the last three planes- carrying the demolition section designated to take care of the Ponte Dirillo over the Acate River southeast of Gela-released their paratroopers. The other pilots, about twelve of them, dropped their loads in a widely dispersed pattern due south of Vittoria about three miles inland on the 45th Division’s right flank.

Coming to earth in one of these sticks, Gavin found himself in a strange land. He was not even sure he was in Sicily. He heard firing apparently everywhere, but none of it very close. Within a few minutes he gathered together about fifteen men. They captured an Italian soldier who was alone, but they could get no information from him. Gavin then led his small group north toward the sound of fire he believed caused by paratroopers fighting for possession of the road junction objective.

The fire actually marked an attack by about forty paratroopers under 1st Lieutenant H. H. Swingler, the 505th’s headquarters company commander, who was leading an attack to overcome a pillbox-defended crossroads along the highway leading south from Vittoria. Other sounds of battle came from Alexander’s 2nd Battalion, which was reducing Italian coastal positions near Santa Croce Camerina. Near Vittoria, scattered units of the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry, had coalesced and were also engaged in combat. The eighty-five men from Company G, under Captain James McGinity, had seized Ponte Dirillo. Elsewhere, bands of paratroopers were roaming through the rear areas of the coastal defense units, cutting enemy communications lines, ambushing small parties, and creating confusion among enemy commanders as to exactly where the main airborne landing had taken place.

But less than 200 men were on the important high ground of Piano Lupo, near the important road junction, hardly the strength anticipated by those who had planned and prepared and were now executing the invasion of Sicily.

The Seaborne Operations

General Guzzoni, the Sixth Army commander, received word of the airborne landings not long after midnight. Certain that the Allied invasion had begun, he issued a proclamation exhorting soldiers and civilians to repel the invaders. At the same time he ordered the Gela pier destroyed. Phoning the XII Corps in the western part of Sicily and the XVI Corps in the east at 0145, 10 July, he alerted them to expect landings on the southeastern coast and III the Gela-Agrigento area.

An hour later, the initial waves of the 15 Army Group assault divisions began to come ashore. Near Avola in the Gulf of Noto, on both sides of the Pachino peninsula, near Scoglitti, Gela, and Licata, small British and American landing craft ground ashore and started to disgorge Allied soldiers. Hard on their heels came the larger LCT’s and LST’s with supporting artillery and armor. Offshore stood Allied war vessels ready to pound Italian coastal defense positions into submission. Overhead, Allied fighter aircraft from Malta, Gozo, and the recently captured Pantelleria, covered the landings.

Concerned lest the enemy make his maximum air effort against Allied shipping and the assault beaches early on D-day and disorganize the operation at the outset, Allied air planners had spread their available aircraft over as many of the assault beaches as possible while maintaining a complete fighter wing in reserve. As the ground troops went ashore, fighter aircraft patrolled in one-squadron strength over all the landing areas to ward off hostile air attacks, a commitment that was decreased later in the day. [N2-6-5] In addition, at daylight, formations composed of either twelve A-36 or twelve P-38 fighter-bombers were dispatched every thirty minutes throughout the day to disrupt potential counterattacks by hitting the main routes leading to the assault beaches. [N2-6-6] Because of the heavy commitment of Allied aircraft to these and other missions, no direct or close support was available to the ground troops this day. The seaborne landings of the British Eighth Army were uniformly successful. Everywhere the first assault waves achieved tactical surprise and Italian coastal defense units offered only feeble resistance. s Some fire from coastal batteries and field artillery positions inland did strike the beaches but it was quickly silenced by supporting naval gunfire and the rapid movement of assault troops inland.

[N6-2-5: Patrols in one-squadron strength flew continuously over two beaches throughout the daylight hours on 10 July. The same sized patrols also flew over all landing beaches from 1030 to 1230, from 1600 to 1730, and for the last one and a half hours of daylight. See 0407/386, sub: Preliminary Rpt on HUSKY Opns by Malta-Based Aircraft, 9-17 Jul 43; see also NATAF Rpt of Opns, 0407/488; NASAF Opns Rpt, 12 Jul 43, II Corps file 202-20.1; Craven and Cate, eds., Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK, pp. 449-52; Coles, USAF Hist Study 37, pp. 99-106.] 

[N2-6-6: The A-36 was a modified P-51 fighter aircraft, a single-engine, low-wing monoplane. The P-38 was a twin-engine, single-seat fighter, the first U.S. fighter aircraft which could be compared favorably with the British Spitfire or the German ME-109. As a fighter-bomber, it could carry a bomb load of 2,000 pounds in external wing racks. See Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, eds., “The Army Air Forces in World War II,” vol. VI, Men and Planes (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1955), pp. 198-99; 214-15] 

In Enna, General Guzzoni received a phone call from the commander of the Naval Base Messina at 0400. The German radio station at Syracuse, the naval commander said, had announced that Allied troops had landed by glider near the eastern coast and that fighting had started at the Syracuse seaplane base. In response, Guzzoni instructed the XVI Corps commander to rush ground troops to the apparently endangered Naval Base Augusta-Syracuse. This, plus the previous information from German reconnaissance aircraft that Allied fleets were close to the southern coast as well, brought home to Guzzoni the fact that the Allies would land simultaneously in many different places. Realizing his forces would be unable to counter all of the landings, he committed his available reserves to those areas he considered most dangerous to the over-all defense of the island: Syracuse, Gela, and Licata. Of these three, Guzzoni considered Syracuse on the east coast the most serious. But he also apparently felt that the presence there of both Group Schmalz and the Napoli Division, plus the supposedly strong defenses of the naval base itself, would be sufficient to stabilize the situation and prevent an Allied breakthrough into the Catania plain. Thus, he ordered the bulk of the Hermann Gӧring Division to strike the Allied landings near Gela.

In front of the easternmost British landing the small band of British airborne troops, eight officers and sixty-five men, seized Ponte Grande. By 0800, the 5th Division held Cassibile, on the coastal highway, and by the middle of the afternoon successfully consolidated its beachhead and started north to join with the air-landed troops at the bridge site.

But by 1500, the small band of British soldiers at Ponte Grande found themselves in difficult straits. After battling with Italian soldiers, marines, and sailors sent against them from the Naval Base Augusta-Syracuse, only fifteen men remained unwounded. At 1530, these men were overrun. Only eight managed to make their way southward to meet the advancing 5th Division, a column of which, supported by artillery and tanks, recaptured the bridge intact. As Italian opposition disintegrated, the British column continued unopposed into Syracuse. Scarcely pausing, British troops continued northward along the coastal highway on the way to Augusta. But early in the evening at Priolo, midway between Syracuse and Augusta, Group Schmalz, which had rushed down from Catania to counter the British landings, halted the 13 Corps advance.

According to Axis defense plans Group Schmalz, in conjunction with the Napoli Division, was supposed to counterattack any Allied landing on the east coast. But on 10 July, Colonel Wilhelm Schmalz had been unable to contact the Italian unit and had proceeded alone toward Syracuse. Unknown to the German commander, the Napoli Division had tried to counterattack, but some units had been turned back by British forces near Solarino, while other units were lost trying to stem British advances in the Pachino area.

By the end of D-day the British 30 Corps had secured the whole of the Pachino peninsula as far as Highway 115, which crossed the base between Ispica and Noto. The 1st Canadian Division, the British 51st Highland Infantry Division, and the 231st Independent Infantry Brigade had gone ashore against only feeble resistance and had pushed on in good fashion.

Unloadings over the British beaches progressed slowly but steadily during the day, despite small-scale enemy air attacks that proved annoying but caused relatively little damage. By the end of the day, the Eighth Army had secured a beachhead line extending from north of Syracuse on the east coast, west to Floridia, thence southward roughly paralleling Highway 115.

The Seventh Army had a more difficult time. The gale and high seas had delayed the three naval task forces and after fighting their way to the landing craft release points in the Gulf of Gela, they were somewhat disorganized. Yet only one was seriously behind schedule, that carrying the 45th Division. Those landings were postponed an hour.

Admiral Conolly’s Naval Task Force 85 brought the 3rd Division to the Seventh Army’s westernmost assault area in four attack groups, one group for each of the landing beaches on both sides of Licata Conolly’s flagship, the Biscayne, dropped anchor in the transport area at 0135. The winds had made it difficult for the LST’s, LCI’s, and LCT’s of his task force to maintain proper speed and formation, so that Conolly, around midnight, when it had seemed virtually impossible to meet H-hour, had ordered his vessels to go all out to make the deadline. Since he had not heard from his units, all of which had been instructed to break radio silence only to report an emergency, Conolly assumed that all his units were in position and ready to disembark the troops of the 3rd Division.

At 0135, 10 July, Admiral Conolly’s assumption that all units were in position was not altogether correct. Particularly in the west, the landing ships and craft carrying the 7th RCT had had considerable difficulty making headway in the heaving Mediterranean. All were late in reaching the transport area, but no one had reported that fact to Admiral Conolly.

By using all four of his assigned beaches, General Truscott had adopted two axes of advance for his assault units-actually axes that formed the outer and inner claws of a deep pincer movement against Licata. The left outer claw consisted of the 7th Infantry Regimental Combat Team (Colonel Harry B. Sherman) landing over Red Beach. The left inner claw, consisting of a special force (the 3rd Ranger Battalion; the 2nd Battalion, 15th Infantry; a company of 4.2-inch mortars; a battery of 105-mm. howitzers; and a platoon of 75-mm. howitzers) under the command of the 15th Infantry’s executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel Brookner W. Brady, was to land over the two Green Beaches. As the right inner claw of the pincer, and the counterpart of the special force, the remainder of the 15th Infantry, led by Colonel Charles R. Johnson, was to land over Yellow Beach. Meanwhile, the right outer claw, the 30th Infantry Regimental Combat Team (Colonel Arthur R. Rogers), was to assault across Blue Beach. Each assault was to move in columns of battalions. Combat Command A, under Brigadier General Maurice Rose of the 2nd Armored Division, constituted the 3rd Division’s floating reserves prepared to land in support of any of the assaulting units or for commitment against Campobello to the north, Agrigento to the west, or Gela to the east.

The division’s assault plan, involving two distinct pincer movements one inside the other, was somewhat complicated. Its execution was aided by the intensive training program undertaken after the end of the North African campaign; by General Truscott’s extensive knowledge of amphibious and combined operations learned in England and in North Africa; and by the extremely close and pleasant working relations which existed between the division and Admiral Conolly’s naval task force. The assault was further facilitated by the weakness of the enemy’s defenses in the Licata area, probably the weakest of all the Seventh Army’s assault areas. Only one Italian coastal division, backed by a few scattered Italian mobile units, stood initially in the 3rd Division’s path. Two Italian mobile divisions-Assietta and Aosta–and two-thirds of the German 15th Panzer Grenadier Division, the only effective fighting forces in the XII Corps sector, were well off to the west near Palermo.

Fully exposed to the westerly wind that was churning up the surf, the LST’s carrying the 7th Infantry had great difficulty hoisting out and launching the LCVP’s that would take the assault waves to Red Beach. When one davit gave way and dumped a boatload of men into the water, nine men were lost. Nevertheless, around 0200 the small craft were loaded with troops and in the water, and soon afterwards they were heading for the rendezvous area. The LCVP’s had trouble locating the control vessels, which had been serving as escort ships during the voyage across the Mediterranean and which had not been able to take their proper places. Shortly after 0300, already fifteen minutes beyond the time scheduled for touchdown on the beach, the attack group commander ordered the LCVP’s in to shore. He was fearful that the LCI’s, scheduled to land at 0330, would use their superior speed to overtake the LCVP’s and he was unable to contact the LCI flotilla commander.

As it was, the first wave, Lieutenant Colonel Roy E. Moore’s 1st Battalion, did not touch down until 0430. The delay was imposed partly by the late start, partly by the longer run to the beach than was originally contemplated because of the faulty disposition of the LST’s in the transport area. The latter error also helped cause the LCVP’s to land at the far right end of the beach rather than at the center as planned. The small craft met no fire on the way in, and only light and ineffective artillery fire on the beach after the landings were made.

Red Beach

Red Beach lay in a shallow cove, the seaward approach clear of rocks and shoals. Only 8 to 20 feet deep, 2,800 yards long, the beach at its widest part was backed by cliffs, many reaching a height of 60 feet. Exits were poor: a small stream bed near the center, three paths over the cliff at the left end.

Lying in the Italian 207th Coastal Division’s zone (as were all the division’s landing areas), Red Beach was probably the most heavily fortified of all. Artillery pieces dominated the exits and most of the beach; numerous machine gun positions near the center and western end provided the defenders with ample firepower to contest an assault landing; an extensive defensive position along some 350 yards of the bluff line contained three coast artillery pieces and another ten machine gun emplacements, all connected by a series of trenches; and the San Nicola Rock at the right end and the Gaffi Tower off the left end gave the defenders excellent observation posts and positions from which to place enfilading fire.

Once ashore, the 1st Battalion promptly set to work. While one company turned to the west and began clearing out beach defenses, a second swept the center of the landing area and set up a covering position on three low hills just inland from the beach. The third company wheeled to the east and occupied San Nicola Rock and Point San Nicola, completing both tasks an hour and a half after landing.

The six LCI’s bearing Major Everett W. Duvall’s 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry, had assembled just east of the LST anchorage, more than two miles farther offshore than planned. Unaware of this, the flotilla started for shore at 0240, exactly on the schedule planned for the second wave. At this moment the 1st Battalion’s LST’s were completing their launching of the LCVP’s. Because the 1st Battalion’s landing craft had veered to the right, the LCI’s carrying the 2nd Battalion saw no signs of small boat activity as they passed the LST’s. Assuming that the assault had not yet started, the flotilla commander turned his craft back to the LST anchorage to find out whether H-hour had been postponed.

After ascertaining that no delay was in order, the flotilla commander again turned his craft shoreward. He sighted a control vessel herding a number of LCVP’s toward shore. Recognizing thereby that the assault wave was behind schedule, he halted his own craft, planning to wait twenty-five minutes to give the 1st Battalion time to clear the beach. At 0415, as the sky began to get light, he started the final run to shore. There was no evidence of the 1st Battalion’s LCVP’s. The LCI’s sailed straight toward the center of Red Beach, the troops of the 2nd Battalion little realizing that they constituted an initial assault wave.

The LCI’s were about 450 yards from the beach in a wide, shallow V-formation just opening into a line abreast formation when enemy artillery batteries opened a heavy fire directed chiefly at the left half of the line. The LCI’s increased their speed temporarily, then 150 yards from shore slowed down quickly, dropped stern anchors, and beached at 0440 in the face of heavy small arms fire on the beach.

The LCI’s on the right side of the line escaped the heaviest fire because the Italian gunners could not depress their gun tubes enough to take these craft under fire. Five of the LCI’s beached successfully. One stuck on the false bar off the shore line, tried three’ times without success to ride over the bar, landed a few troops in rubber boats, and finally transferred the remainder of its troops to an LCI bringing in the third wave. The heavy surf added to the difficulties of the five craft that did manage to ride over the false beach. One lost both ramps soon after they were lowered and was able to land its troops only after salvaging the port ramp.

Almost constant enemy fire harassed the boats. Soldiers in some instances became casualties before they reached the ramps, others were hit while disembarking. The LCI on the left flank drew the heaviest fire, a flanking fire from both left and right. The Italians shot away her controls and communications as she beached, and though able to lower both ramps, the LCI started to broach almost immediately and had to cut the ramps away. She swung completely around until her stern rested on the shore. Disdaining normal disembarkation procedures, the troops scrambled over her stern and dropped to the beach. By 0500, the bulk of the 2nd Battalion was ashore. Two companies swarmed inland and seized Monte Marotta (some four and a half miles inland west of the north-south Highway 123), while the third turned northeast after landing, cut the railroad, and established a roadblock at Station San Oliva where the railroad crossed Highway 123 some three and a half miles northwest of Licata. By 1000, after bypassing most of the enemy resistance along the beach, the 2nd Battalion was on its objectives and successfully drove off a dispirited counterattack launched against Station San Oliva by an Italian coastal battalion, a XII Corps reserve unit.

While the five 2nd Battalion LCI’s were trying to retract from the beach, six LCI’s carrying Lieutenant Colonel John A. Heintges’ 3rd Battalion came in, along with three LCI’s transporting part of the engineer beach group. With some overlapping of the 2nd Battalion’s LCI’s, the 3rd Battalion touched down at 0500 on the left end of Red Beach and received the same heavy fire from the shore defenders which was peppering the leftmost LCI of the 2nd Battalion group. In fact, it was not until the LCIs’ guns went into action to provide covering fires that the 3rd Battalion troops were landed. The section of beach where the 3rd Battalion landed-near Gaffi Tower—had not been cleared either by the 1st or 2nd Battalion. Nevertheless, despite wire entanglements along the side of the bluff and despite heavy Italian rifle and machine gun fire from positions along the top of the bluff, the battalion pushed aggressively inland and cleared the immediate beach area. One company, after capturing nineteen Italians along the cliff, pushed westward and inland, took the tower, and occupied the high ground just south of the railroad and coastal highway. The other two companies occupied the hill mass north of the highway. An eight man demolition section pushed on to the west through a defile and blew the railroad crossing over the Palma River, some two miles in front of the battalion’s hill positions.

The LCI bearing Colonel Sherman and his staff came ashore near the center of the beach as dawn was breaking. Tangling with another LCI on its way to assist the broached LCI of the first wave, the boat lost both ramps after only fifteen men had disembarked. The LCI commander tried to discharge the rest of his troops by rigging wooden ladders and rope lines over the side of the boat. But the weight of individual equipment hampered the men, and they floundered in the water, helpless against the fire coming from shore. The craft commander stopped the unloading by this method, deliberately broached the LCI, and sent the RCT command group over the sides. The RCT headquarters opened ashore at 0615, just inland from the beach on top of the cliff.

Naval gunfire might have helped the small craft to the beach, but the two fire support destroyers assigned to Red Beach -the Swanson and the Roe-had collided near Porto Empedocle at 0255 and were concerned with their own troubles. However, help was arriving. At 0520, with enemy fire still falling on the beach, twenty-one LCT’s carrying the RCT’s supporting armor and artillery approached through the heavy seas. Fearful for the safety of the LCT’s landing under enemy fire, the commander of the Red Beach naval force ordered the craft to halt until the fire could be silenced. But four of the LCT’s, either ignoring the order or failing to receive it, kept on going and beached at 0630. The four carried the 10th Field Artillery Battalion. unloading quickly, utilizing the full-tracked mobility of its M 7’s, the artillery unit established firing positions 500 to 1,000 yards inland and began firing in support of the infantry units. [N6-2-1212 Before embarking them in North Africa, General Truscott had his organic artillery battalions exchange their towed 105-mm. howitzers for the full-tracked M7s of the 5th Armored Field Artillery Group, a swap to last during the assault phase only. Once ashore, the units exchanged pieces again. The M7 (called the Priest because of its pulpit like machine gun platform) had a 105-mm. howitzer mounted on the medium M5 tank. The tank was modified for this purpose by having its turret removed and its armor reduced. See Green, Thomson, and Roots, The Ordnance Department: Planning Munitions for War, pp. 314-15] 

At about the same time, the destroyer Buck, which had been serving as escort for the LCT convoy, was sent in by Admiral Conolly to take over the Red Beach fire support role. The cruiser Brooklyn, which had been firing in support of the Green Beach landings, also moved over on Conolly’s orders and opened fire on Italian artillery positions which had been firing on Red Beach. By 0715, Italian fire had slackened appreciably. Seven minutes later, Conolly ordered the remaining LCT’s to beach regardless of cost. Two additional destroyers moved over to assist the Buck in laying a smoke screen on the beaches to cover the LCT landings. Concealed by the smoke and covered by the Brooklyn’s six-inch guns, the LCT’s touched down without incident. By 0800 the supporting tanks and the 7th Infantry’s Cannon Company were ashore, followed soon after by the remainder of the engineer beach group and two batteries of antiaircraft artillery.

[N2-6-13 Piloted by 1st Lieutenants Oliver P. Board and Julian W. Cummings, the Piper L-4 grasshoppers took off from a flight deck (approximately 216 feet long, 12 feet wide) built along the center and over the top deck of the LST. The pilots flew over the beaches for more than two hours and reported enemy positions and the locations of friendly units. On occasion, they directed landing craft to proper beaches. See Rpt of Arty Opns, Joss Force;]

[N6-2-14 The Brooklyn carried a main armament of fifteen 6-inch 47-caliber guns, a secondary battery of eight 5-inch 25-caliber guns.]

 [NOTE: The Buck carried a main armament of four 5-inch 38-caliber guns. Information on the armament of the various gunfire support ships has been taken from Navy Department, Chief of Naval Operations, Naval History Division, Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, vol. I (Washington, 1959).]

The 7th RCT’s assigned objectives were secured by 1030 and its establishment of a defensive line on the arc of hills bordering the western side of the Licata plain assured the protection of the beachhead’s left flank. Heavy equipment and supplies were pouring ashore and being moved inland over the soft sand.

Green Beach

A mile to the east of Red Beach and three miles west of Licata, Green Beach, flanked by rocks, had the most dangerous approach. Divided into two distinct parts by the Mollarella Rock (82 feet high), which was joined to the island by a low, sandy isthmus, the western part (350 yards wide and almost 20 yards deep) was rockbound except for a short stretch of about 150 yards, the eastern part (400 yards wide, 40 yards deep) lay within a snug cove with a mouth 200 yards across.

The eastern beach opened into a stream bed and to a number of tracks providing good vehicular and personnel exits to Highway 115, about a mile and a half inland. The west beach also possessed exits, but its limited size would restrict its use to personnel traffic. Both appeared to be obstructed by barbed wire entanglements. Gun positions on Mollarella Rock dominated the west beach. Immediately back of a stretch of vineyards on the sector of land forming the beach, a defensive position containing at least four machine gun positions and a trench and wire system had been located.

The special force, spearheaded by the 3rd Ranger Battalion, touched down at 0257, just twelve minutes behind schedule. Moving smartly, three Ranger companies cleared the beaches and Mollarella Rock and established a defensive line on the high ground at the left end of Green West, while the other three companies cleared the way inland to the western edge of Monte Sole. Lt. Colonel William H. Billings’ 2nd Battalion, 15th Infantry, went in over Green West at 0342, reorganized, and passed through the Rangers at Monte Sole as planned, and thrust toward Licata, the left inner claw of the planned pincer movement. Clearing enemy hill positions as they moved eastward, the men of the 3rd Battalion by 0730 had possession of Castel San Angelo, but a strong naval bombardment of Licata in support of the Yellow Beach landings prevented the battalion from pushing immediately into the city.

Yellow and Blue Beaches east of Licata were much better for assault landings. Beginning not quite two miles east of the mouth of the Salso River and running almost due east for a mile and a half, Yellow Beach was of soft sand, about 60 yards deep at the western end, narrowing gradually to 15 yards at the eastern end. Licata on the left and the cliffs of Punta delle due Rocche on the right would serve as general guides in the approach. Many good paths and cart tracks ran from the beach across a cultivated strip to Highway 115, here only some 400 yards inland.

One-half mile to the east lay Blue Beach, which consisted generally of firm sand with occasional rocky outcrops. Not quite a mile wide, Blue Beach deepened from 15 yards on the left to 60 yards on the right. Low sand dunes backed up the right half of the beach; a low, steep bank, the left half. Exits for personnel and vehicles were easy and plentiful, and Highway 115 ran everywhere within 500 yards of the beach.

Naval bombardment was the American answer to the only real Italian interference. with the Yellow Beach landings. The opposition consisted primarily of an Italian railway battery on the Licata mole, an armored train mounting four 76-mm. guns. When the naval fire finally lifted, the train had been destroyed and other Italian resistance silenced. Soldiers from both Green and Yellow Beaches swarmed into Licata, while a battalion which had swung north from Yellow Beach to the bend in the Salsa River moved south into the city shortly after.

Blue Beach

At Blue Beach, farthest to the right, the Italian defenders put up a somewhat bigger show of resistance, though not so strong as that offered at Red Beach. With the 30th RCT forming the right outer claw of the pincer, the naval task force had been delayed in reaching its transport area. The LST’s leading the convoy moved into position and began anchoring at 0115. But the anchorage later proved to be well south of the correct position, thus forcing the LCVP’s carrying the assault battalion to make a much longer run to the beaches than planned. Despite this, the first LCVP’s grounded just two hours after the LST’s had begun anchoring and only a half-hour behind schedule. The first wave met some rifle and machine gun fire from pillboxes on the beach, and some artillery fire from guns on Poggio Lungo, high ground off to the right. Like its counterpart on the far left, the 7th RCT, the 30th RCT before noon occupied its three primary objectives: three hill masses bordering the eastern side of the Licata plain.

Shortly after daybreak Admiral Conolly took the Biscayne close in to shore so that both he and General Truscott could see the beaches. What they saw was encouraging, and reports from two light aircraft that had taken off from an improvised runway on an LST confirmed their impressionsY; The infantry troops were on their objectives or about to take them. The airfield and city of Licata were in hand. Artillery and armor were moving into position to support further advances. One counterattack had been beaten back. The beaches were well organized, men and equipment coming ashore without difficulty. The Seventh Army’s left flank seemed well anchored.

In the process, the 3rd Division, its commander ashore by midmorning, had suffered fewer than 100 casualties. Ten miles southeast of the 3rd Division’s Blue Beach, and extending twenty miles to the southeast, General Bradley’s II Corps was landing to secure three primary objectives lying at varying distances inland from the assault beaches: the airfields at Ponte Olivo, Biscari, and Comiso. Ponte Olivo, along with the city of Gela, was the responsibility of the left task force, the 1st Division; the others belonged to the 45th Division.

East of the mouth of the Gela River, high sand dunes with scrubby vegetation lay back of the coast. Three miles east of the city and adjacent to and on the inland side of the coastal highway (Highway 115) was the Gela-Farello landing ground, an intermediate division objective. Farther to the east, relatively high ground (400 feet at Piano Lupo, one of the paratroopers’ objectives) flanked the right side of the Gela plain and separated the Gela River drainage basin from that of the Acate River, which empties into the gulf six miles east of Gela. The Acate River, which swings to the northeast at Ponte Dirillo, and its tributary, the Terrana Creek, marked the boundary between the division task forces of the II Corps. [N2-6-16]

 [N2-6-16 The Acate is sometimes called the Dirillo River. The Acate River from Ponte Dirillo northeastward lay in the zone of the 45th Division.]

From Gela, the railroad paralleled the coast to Ponte Dirillo, but the highway, while initially following the coast line, swung inland some five miles east of Gela as it wound around Piano Lupo. From the height of Piano Lupo, a good secondary road branched off northward to Niscemi, following high ground on the eastern edge of the Gela plain. From this point, known to the paratroop task force as Road Junction Y, the coast road took a sharp turn to the southeast to cross the Acate River at Ponte Dirillo. Another good road, Highway 117, led directly inland from Gela, paralleling the western bank of the Gela River for five and a half miles. A vivid line bisecting the treeless plain, the highway crossed to the east side of the river at Ponte Olivo to a triple road intersection. There, while Highway 117 continued on its northeasterly course, a secondary road swung almost due east to Niscemi, another ran northwest to Mazzarino. In the right angle formed by Highway 117 and the secondary road to Niscemi lay the Ponte Olivo airfield.

In contrast with the 3rd Division’s assault plan of landing initially only one battalion from each assault force, the 1st Division plan committed two assault battalions from each regimental task force simultaneously, the third battalion remaining in reserve.

To capture Gela, General Allen, the 1st Division commander, created what he called Force X, a special grouping of Rangers and combat engineers. [N2-6-18] Under Colonel Darby (commander of the 1st Ranger Battalion), the force was to land directly on the beach fronting Gela, one portion on each side of the pier. While the special force worked on the city, the division would make its main effort east of the Gela River, where the division’s two remaining combat teams were to land over four sections of the three-mile long beach extending southeast from the river. For want of natural boundaries, the four sections were given color designations arbitrarily marking off one section from the other.

The two left sections of the beach-Yellow and Blue-were assigned to Colonel John W. Bowen’s 26th RCT. While one battalion forced a crossing over the Gela River to aid Force X to subdue Gela, the remainder of the 26th RCT was to bypass the city on the right, cut Highway 117, and occupy high ground two miles to the north. There the RCT would be ready to attack Gela from the landward side if the city still held out, or move farther inland to take other high ground overlooking Ponte Olivo from the west.

[N2-6-18 The 1st and 4th Ranger Bns; the 1st Bn, 39th Engr Combat Regt; three companies of the 83rd Chem Bn (4.2-inch mortars) ; and the 1st Bn, 531st Engr Shore Regt.]

Over the other two sections, Red and Green 2, the 16th RCT under Colonel George A. Taylor was to come ashore. After reducing the beach defenses, the regiment was to cross the railroad, bypass the long, swampy Biviere Pond on the force’s right, cut the coastal highway, and move along the highway to Piano Lupo to join Colonel Gavin’s paratroopers. From there, the 16th RCT was to drive on Niscemi. Although the Italian XVIII Coastal Brigade (thinly stretched from west of Gela to below Scoglitti) caused no serious concern, the Livorno Division, concentrated to the northwest near Caltanissetta, and the bulk of the Hermann Gӧring Division, assembled to the northeast near Caltagirone, presented serious problems. Two fairly strong Italian mobile airfield defense groups at Niscemi and at Caltagirone were also in position to strike.

Short one combat team-the 18th RCT was a part of the Seventh Army’s floating reserve; shy supporting armor, for only ten medium tanks were in direct support of the entire 1st Division; with no division reserve (the parachute task force was to form the division reserve after link-up)-the 1st Division faced the strongest grouping of enemy forces in Sicily.

In three long columns, with transports in the center and LST’s and LCI’s on the flanks, Admiral Hall’s Naval Task Force 81 brought the 1st Division to the Gela area in the center of the Seventh Army zone. The eleven transports reached their proper stations at 0045, 10 July. Thirty minutes later, eleven of the fourteen LST’s were in position (the other three turned up later in the 45th Division’s zone). The twenty LCI’s came up just a few minutes later. Shortly before midnight the wind had dropped, and as the transports and landing ships and craft anchored offshore, the sea leveled off into a broad swell. Behind Gela the entire coastal area, it seemed, was aglow as the result of fires started by the pre-invasion aerial bombardments and because the few paratroopers at Piano Lupo had lighted a huge bonfire. The beach contours appeared plainly in silhouette.

While the two Ranger battalions on the left were sailing toward shore, a great flash and loud explosion signaled the destruction of the Gela pier in accordance with Guzzoni’s instructions. An enemy searchlight fixed its beam on the boats, but the destroyer Shubrick, designated to render gunfire support if the enemy detected the invasion, immediately opened fire and knocked the light out after five quick salvos. Three salvos destroyed a second light. {NOTE: The Shubrick carried a main battery of fours-inch 38-caliber guns.}

By this time, Italian coastal units were at their guns, and mortar and coastal artillery fire began to fall around the landing craft. The Shubrick and soon afterwards the cruiser Savannah {NOTE: Savannah had a main battery of fifteen6-inch 47-caliber guns and a secondary battery of eight 5-inch 25-caliber guns} returned a steady stream of naval gunfire. Five hundred yards offshore, the Rangers came under machine gun fire, and some Rangers answered, as best they could, with rockets from their bazookas. {N2-6-2121 bazooka: A rocket launcher, 2.36 inches in diameter, merely a tube open at both ends that fired an electrically triggered, shaped-charge rocket. See Green, Thomson, and Roots, The Ordnance Department: Planning Munitions for War, pp.328- 29.} 

As the enemy fire continued, the Rangers touched down at 0335, fifty minutes late, followed shortly by the 39th Engineers. Incurring a few casualties from mines on the beaches, losing an entire platoon from one company to enemy rifle and machine gun fire, the Rangers finally cleared the beach defenses and by dawn pushed up the face of the Gela mound into the city. Two companies under Captain James B. Lyle wheeled to the west and captured an Italian coastal battery of three 77-mm. guns on the western edge of the mound. None of the guns had been fired, although an ample supply of ammunition lay in the battery position.

Though the Italians had removed the gun sights and elevating mechanisms, the weapons could still be fired. Captain Lyle decided to turn the guns around, face them inland, and use them, if necessary, against any enemy force moving against his positions. As the two Ranger companies prepared hasty defensive positions straddling Highway 115, Lyle manned the Italian artillery pieces with Rangers who had a working knowledge of this particular weapon. He also set up an observation post in a two-story building from which he could adjust the fire of the captured guns.

In the meantime, the remainder of the special force had worked its way through the city and had established a defensive perimeter around the northern and eastern outskirts. By 0800, the entire city had been cleared of resistance, two hundred Italians taken prisoner, and a strong line formed facing inland. The three companies of 4.2-inch mortars were ashore and ready to fire. Portions of the town were still burning, and clouds of billowing smoke poured into the sky.

To the southeast, the 26th RCT was coming on strong to link up with the special force. Having met little resistance at the beaches, the 1st Battalion (Major Walter H. Grant) by 0800 was nearing Gela, while the other two battalions were across the highway, past the Gela-Farello landing ground, moving slowly inland to cut Highway 117 north of Gela.

The 16th RCT had slightly more trouble. Enemy searchlights picked up the assault waves on their way in, but no opposition came from the beach defenders until the troops started to disembark, just two minutes after the scheduled H-hour. From several pillboxes on the beach and from a few scattered Italian riflemen, light and largely ineffective fire fell upon the leading American infantrymen, then petered out. Yet vigorous enemy machine gun fire from apparently bypassed positions struck the second wave. Even after these positions were eliminated, the Italians continued to be active, firing mortars and artillery against the third and fourth waves, which landed after 0300. Not until 0400 when supporting naval guns opened up-from the cruiser Boise and the destroyer Jeffers-did the enemy fire begin to diminish. [N2-6-2222 The Boise carried fifteen 6-inch 47-caliber guns and eight 5-inch 25-caliber guns; the Jeffers, four 5-inch 38-caliber guns]

Holding one battalion in reserve, Colonel Taylor sent two battalions of his 16th Infantry toward Piano Lupo in order to link up with Colonel Gavin’s parachute force. The leading battalions made contact with Company I, 505th Parachute Infantry, which had. been holding the southern portion of Piano Lupo since early morning, but they were unable to locate the sizable numbers of paratroopers they expected.

Thus, by 0800 on 10 July, the 1st Division, with much less difficulty than anticipated, was well on its way to securing the first day’s objectives: Gela, the Gela-Farello landing ground, and Niscemi. Unfortunately, General Allen was unaware that the important high ground in front of the 16th Infantry was not in the firm possession of the paratroopers.

On the far right of the Seventh Army’s assault area, Admiral Kirk’s naval task force brought the 45th Division to offshore positions in the face of a fairly rough sea and heavy swell. The landings in that area had been postponed one hour, but the pitch and roll of the ships, straggling, and confusion dispersed and disorganized the assault waves.

The 45th Division would land southeast of the Acate River, along a coast line extending fifteen miles in a smooth arc almost devoid of indentation. The stretch of sandy, gentle beach was broken only by a few patches of rocky shore or low stone cliffs. The only harbor was the tiny fishing village of Scoglitti, where two rocks jutting above the water marked the entrance to two coves forming a haven for fishing boats. The passage was only some fifty yards wide, with a rocky bottom at a depth of eight feet. A mile southeast of Scoglitti lay the low headland of Point Camerina, a rocky bank about fifty feet high faced by five small patches of underwater rocks. At Point Branco Grande, two miles down the coast, and at Point Braccetto, a little farther along, submerged rocks fronted low cliffs.

Inland was a broad, relatively open plain sloping gradually to the foothills of the mountain core of southern Sicily, which held the cities and larger towns. Highway 115 proceeded eastward beyond the Acate River, swinging gradually inland and upward, following a southeasterly course cutting across the center of the 45th Division’s zone through Vittoria (36,000) and Comiso (23,000) to Ragusa (48,000 people), the Seventh Army’s eastern boundary and co-ordinating point with the British Eighth Army. Seven miles north of Biscari was the Biscari airfield; three miles north of Comiso was the airfield of that name.

Avenues of approach from the assault beaches to the airfields were limited and poor. Between the relatively uninhabited stretch of coast line and the highway there were no good roads. A fourth class road connected Scoglitti with Vittoria; a scarcely better road led from the eastern beaches through the little town of Santa Croce Camerina to Comiso. An unpaved road followed the east bank of the Acate River from the western beaches as far as Ponte Dirillo, while a secondary road connected Highway 115 and Biscari with the junction near Ponte Dirillo.

To insure the capture of Scoglitti (which could be used as a minor port); to narrow the gap between the 45th Division and the 1st Division on the left; and to put the assaulting units on as direct a route as possible to the Biscari and Comiso airfields, General Middleton selected two sets of beaches for his landing, one on each side of ScogIitti, with a total frontage of some 25,000 yards. Three beaches northwest of Scoglitti Red, Green, and Yellow-nicknamed Wood’s Hole by the naval force, actually constituted an extension of the 16th RCT’s beaches and were similar in terrain.

Lying in an uninterrupted line for almost four miles, the beach area was of soft sand which rose gradually for half a mile to an uninterrupted belt of forty-to-eighty-foot sand dunes. Pillboxes were scattered along the beaches, the dune line, and the highway. A few coastal artillery batteries dotted the area.

Two regiments would land there. On the left, Colonel Forrest E. Cookson’s 180th RCT would come ashore with two battalions abreast, the left battalion to seize Ponte Dirillo (also a paratrooper objective), the right battalion to take Biscari. On the right, Colonel Robert B. Hutchins’ 179th RCT would send its left battalion to seize Vittoria, then the Comiso airfield, the right battalion to capture Scoglitti. On the division right, Colonel Charles M. Ankcorn’s 157th RCT was to land over two beaches southeast of Scoglitti. Included in an area nicknamed Bailey’s Beach, pressed between Point Branco Grande and Point Braccetto, these beaches were quite different from those to the west. Rock formations and sand dunes came almost to the water’s edge, and rocky ledges jutted into the surf. The beaches, Green 2 and Yellow 2, were small, ten to twenty yards deep, less than a half-mile wide. Neither was suitable for bringing vehicles ashore.

Landing nine miles southeast of the other combat teams and fifteen miles northwest of the 1st Canadian Division, the 157th RCT constituted an almost independent task force. Yet Ankcorn had to get to Comiso as quickly as possible to join with the 179th RCT for a co-ordinated attack on the airfield. Colonel Ankcorn therefore planned to land a battalion on each of his beaches, the one on the right to move due east to capture Santa Croce Camerina, the left battalion to bypass the town to the north for a direct thrust to Comiso. The RCT’s major effort would follow the left battalion’s axis of advance. All of the 45th Division’s supporting armor, a medium tank battalion, was attached to the 157th.

Enemy forces in the division’s zone were few and scattered, mainly troops from the XVIII Coastal Brigade, right flank units of the 206th Coastal Division (where the 157th RCT would be landing), and a mobile airfield defense group at Biscari. The Hermann Gӧring Division might be expected to strike at part of the division’s beachhead, but disposed as it was in the Caltagirone area, it posed a more serious threat to the 1st Division’s landings. If the 179th and 157th RCT’s moved fast enough, they would have little to fear from enemy attempts to interfere with their juncture at Comiso.

An unexpected benefit came from the dispersed paratroopers who landed in large numbers in the division’s zone. At the very time the 45th Division started ashore, Captain McGinity’s Company G, 505th Parachute Infantry, was making its way toward Ponte Dirillo; Major Alexander’s 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry, was reorganizing preparatory to moving on Santa Croce Camerina; Lieutenant Swingler’s forty paratroopers were reducing an Italian strongpoint along the Santa Croce Camerina-Vittoria road; and elements of the 3rd Battalion, 505th, were creating confusion and havoc in the rear areas of the XVIII Coastal Brigade from the Acate River east to Vittoria.

In a few cases, postponing the division’s landings led to some additional difficulties, particularly in the 180th RCT, the westernmost landing force. The transport Calvert’s crew did a splendid job of getting the landing craft loaded with Lieutenant Colonel William H. Schaefer’s 1st Battalion and into the water. Thirty of the thirty-four boats of the first four waves were circling in the small craft rendezvous area by 0200 and, under guidance of a control vessel, started for shore shortly thereafter.

But the Calvert had performed too well. Her small boat waves were far ahead of the others. Just before 0300, as word of the H-hour postponement reached the Calvert, her commander had no choice but to recall the four assault waves to the rendezvous area. When the control vessel arrived back near the transport, the assault waves were in a bedraggled condition: some of the small craft had straggled, others had lost the wave formations and had headed off in various directions. When the control vessel received new orders to take the assault waves in to the beach to meet the new H-hour, she obediently turned to execute the order.

The result of this movement back and forth in unfamiliar waters and in complete darkness was that the 1st Battalion, 180th Infantry, landed late and badly scattered. What could be collected of the first wave eventually touched down on Red Beach at 0445, almost three hours after its start. Parts of the other three waves arrived at brief intervals thereafter.

In contrast, the transport Neville, carrying Lieutenant Colonel Clarence B. Cochran’s 2nd Battalion, had a most difficult time launching her small craft. It took almost four hours to load most of the first four assault waves. At 0337, about three-fourths of the total number of landing craft started in to shore even as the ship’s crew still struggled to get the remaining landing craft loaded and launched. But like the 1st Battalion’s waves, the 2nd Battalion’s first assault waves scattered on the way in, and only five boats of the first wave touched down on Red Beach at 0434, eleven minutes before the first wave from the Calvert. Only three boats from the second wave found the beach, three minutes later. Seven boats from the third wave touched down at 0438, and eight boats from the fourth wave made it at 0500. Fortunately for both of Colonel Cookson’s assault battalions; Italian opposition at the shore line was negligible. Though Italian machine guns fired briefly at the Neville’s decimated second wave, no one was hit.

The rest of both assault waves were scattered from Red Beach 2 in the 16th RCT’s sector all the way down the coast to Scoglitti. Colonel Cookson and part of his RCT staff landed on the 1st Division beach. Instead of a compact landing along twelve hundred yards of coast just east of the Acate River, the 180th RCT was scattered along almost twelve miles of shore line.

Of the 2nd Battalion, only Company F landed relatively intact. With this unit, plus a few men from Company E, Colonel Cochran started inland after first clearing out some pillboxes. Following the secondary road parallel to the Acate River, Cochran’s small force was at Ponte Dirillo by dawn, there to find and join McGinity’s paratroopers. With Cochran in command, the combined American force put a guard on the bridge and then established and consolidated its position on the high ground just to the north to block the coastal Highway 115.

Meanwhile, Colonel Schaefer had gathered what he could find of his 1st Battalion. Just before daylight, he began moving inland across the dune area to the highway. There he paused to reorganize before marching on Biscari.

The landing craft that could retract from the beaches returned to the transport Funston to get the 3rd Battalion, 180th Infantry (Lieutenant Colonel R. W. Nolan), ashore.

The first wave was ready to go at 0700 and the commander of the wave’s control vessel, who had been with the Calvert’s waves on the earlier landings, started the wave shoreward. But soon after leaving the rendezvous area, the wave commander noticed that landing craft from other transports were crossing his front and heading toward shore on a northwesterly course. Mistakenly concluding that Red Beach had been shifted, he changed course and followed the other craft. The Funston’s first Wave grounded on the 16th RCT’s Red Beach 2, west of the Acate River, as did the second and fourth waves.

For some strange reason, the third wave landed on the correct Red Beach at 0800. The 3rd Battalion troops which landed in the 1st Division’s sector, almost 300 men from all units of the battalion, banded together under three officers and started the three-mile trek to the correct beach area. The group crossed the Acate River about 0800, met the battalion’s executive officer who had landed with the third wave, and moved into an assembly area just inland from the beach, there, in II Corps reserve, to await further orders. On the other two Wood’s Hole beaches, the landings proceeded more smoothly. The first waves of the 179th RCT touched down either right on time or just a few minutes late against no enemy opposition. The only resistance occurred after daylight, when fire flared briefly from an Italian pillbox against the fifth wave.

Lieutenant Colonel Earl A. Taylor’s 3rd Battalion on the left quickly secured the dune line. After a speedy reorganization, the battalion moved inland, reached Highway 115, and as day broke turned toward Vittoria. Sixty paratroopers of the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry, and three howitzers from Battery C, 456th Parachute field Artillery Battalion, joined Taylor’s battalion, taking places in the line of march.

Lieutenant Colonel Edward F. Stephenson’s 1st Battalion had turned southeast immediately after landing to work toward Scoglitti. One company remained on the beach to clear enemy installations, while the others pushed along the dune line to Point Zafaglione, which dominated Scoglitti from the north and which proved to be well fortified against a seaward approach. Attacked from the landward side, the Italian garrison of seventy artillerymen quickly surrendered.

At Bailey’s Beach the landings of the 157th RCT proceeded smoothly, although a few landing craft grounded on the rocky ledges thrusting out into the surf. From the transport Jefferson, Lieutenant Colonel Irving O. Schaefer’s 2nd Battalion started toward shore at 0303. Battling wind and sea, grazed by what appeared to be friendly fires from supporting warships, the control vessel veered off course and at 0355 finally touched down, not on Green 2, but on the southern end of Yellow 2 close to Point Braccetto. A few scattered rifle shots greeted the first Americans ashore but caused no casualties. A machine gun crew surrendered without firing a shot. There was little will here to contest the invasion.

The Jefferson’s second wave veered off even farther to the right. About fifty yards offshore, the boat crews finally woke to the fact that they were heading straight for the rocks at Point Braccetto and into a ten- to twelve-foot surf. Too late to change course, the first two landing craft went broadside into the rocks and capsized. Twenty-seven men drowned, weighed down by their equipment and pounded against the submerged rocks. The other landing craft managed to get to the point without capsizing, and their passengers with some difficulty crawled ashore. [N2-6-2525 Three more men would have drowned had it not been for Sergeant Jesse E. East, Jr., Company F, 157th Infantry, who, after scrambling ashore, tossed off his equipment and dove back into the surf three times to save fellow soldiers. He tried a fourth time, but, apparently tired from his previous efforts, failed, and drowned with the man he was trying to save. See correspondence in the possession of Mr. Sherrod East, Chief Archivist, World War II Branch, National Archives and Record Service.]

Six of the seven landing craft from the third wave followed close behind. In vain did the men already on the rocks try to wave off the approaching boats. Only two of the six incoming craft grounded on sand. Four hit the rocky area along the north side of Point Braccetto, and though able to unload their troops and cargo, were unable to retract. The seventh boat, far off course from the beginning, landed most of Company G north of Scoglitti on the I79th RCT’s beaches.

The first wave from the transport Carroll, carrying Colonel Ankcom, his RCT staff, and Lieutenant Colonel Preston J. C. Murphy’s 1st Battalion, touched down an hour after the Jefferson’s first wave, a delay caused by the loading and lowering of the assault craft. All six of the Carroll’s waves landed within the next hour on the correct beach-Yellow 2. No assault troops landed on Green 2.

Despite the lateness of its landing, the 1st Battalion was the first to leave the immediate beach area. The 2nd Battalion, disorganized by its troubles with the rocks, spent some time in reorganizing and worked mainly on clearing enemy installations along the shore line. Nevertheless, by 0800 both battalions were pushing inland toward Santa Croce Camerina and Comiso. Though enemy resistance around Point Braccetto and Point Branco Grande had been eliminated, the sandy hinterland behind the beaches made it all but impossible to move the RCT’s vehicles inland to follow the assault battalions. Eventually, after much effort, a third beach-Blue 2, south of Point Braccetto was opened, and the original beaches closed.

Across the entire Seventh Anny front by 0800, 10 July, infantry battalions were pushing inland. The assault had been accomplished with a minimum of casualties against only minor enemy resistance. Supporting armor and artillery were coming ashore; mountains of supplies began appearing on many of the beaches; and commanders at all echelons were urging their troops to keep up the momentum of the initial assault.

SOURCE: Sicily and the Surrender of Italy: BY; Lieutenant Colonel Albert Nutter Garland & Howard McGaw Smyth (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Sicily-HUSKY (1-5); Final Allied Preparations

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World War Two: Sicily-HUSKY (1-5); Final Allied Preparations

Missions and Forces: The Allied concept of making a concentrated assault on the southeastern corner of Sicily did not mean that all the troops would land bunched together. It meant instead that more than seven divisions, preceded by airborne operations involving parts of two airborne divisions, would come ashore simultaneously along a front of one hundred miles. Both frontage and initial assault forces would be larger than those of the Normandy invasion a year later. In fact, the invasion of Sicily, the first crack at Europe’s “soft underbelly,” was to be at once the largest and most dispersed amphibious assault of World War II.

Though the Combined Chiefs of Staff had hoped that the invasion could go in June, the length of the Tunisian campaign, which ended 13 May, and the difficulties of preparing the Sicilian operation made it impractical before July. Important in the choice of date and invasion hour were the conflicting requirements of the naval forces, which would convey the ground forces to Sicily, and of the airborne troops, which were to drop onto the island to disrupt the enemy rear and thereby assist the amphibious elements ashore. Specifically, moonlight, necessary for airborne operations, was unfavorable for naval operations.

Allied planners had assumed from the outset that an airborne attack was essential for a successful assault on Sicily. Yet as plans were developed, Washington planners began to feel that it was absurd to threaten the success of the naval effort by requiring the Allied naval convoys to approach the hostile shore in broad moonlight simply to accommodate an airdrop of relatively small proportions. To them, it seemed that Eisenhower was “jeopardizing the entire operation because of the desire to use paratroops.” Since current doctrine favored beach assaults during the hours of darkness, the planners noted, could not the airborne troops be dropped at dusk the evening before D-day to enable the naval convoys to approach during the night and the amphibious troops to hit the shore just before daylight?

General Eisenhower thought not. Supported by Admiral Cunningham and Air Chief Marshal Tedder, and also by his airborne adviser, Major General F. A. M. Browning, the Allied commander in chief stated that moonlight was necessary so that troop-carrying aircraft could find the proper drop zones. Thus, moonlight was not a requirement imposed by the airborne troops; it was “mandatory for the air force.” Though Cunningham realized the disadvantages of such an action, he believed that heavy air attack would diminish the threat of enemy air action against the naval forces and also that moonlight would enhance Allied defense against enemy surface ships and submarines. In the Sicilian region, Eisenhower concluded, a second quarter moon provided the necessary light and darkness. This occurred between the 10th and 14th of July.

Having secured the agreement of the planners in Washington, Eisenhower designated H-hour as 0245, D-day as 10 July, for the beach assaults. The airborne drops would occur around midnight, some two and a half hours earlier.

Under Admiral Cunningham’s operational command, the Western Naval Task Force, commanded by Vice Admiral Henry K. Hewitt and numbering more than 1,700 ships, craft, and boats, was to carry the American troops to Sicily; the Eastern Naval Task Force under Vice Admiral Sir Bertram H. Ramsey was to transport the British troops. Though enemy air attack was the major naval concern, Cunningham assigned six battleships to cover the convoys against the potential threat of surface attack by the Italian Fleet.

Under General Alexander’s 15th Army Group headquarters, Montgomery’s Eighth Army was to land on the beaches fronting the Gulf of Noto, just south of Syracuse, and on both sides of the southeastern point of Sicily; Patton’s Seventh Army was to come ashore on seventy miles of beach along the Gulf of Gela.

Both the southwestern cluster of airfields and the Catania-Gerbini complex remained excluded as immediate objectives, and the hope was that the major port of Syracuse would be occupied soon after the landings. If operations developed quickly out of the initial beachhead, Augusta and Catania would soon add their facilities to Allied port capacity.

Though the British thus expected to have three major ports quickly, the Americans, served only by the minor ports of Licata and Gela, would have to depend on beach maintenance. Alexander justified this logistical risk for two reasons: the probability of good weather in July, and the availability of a newly developed two-and-a-half-ton amphibious truck called the Dukw, which could ferry men and materiel directly to beach dumps. Furthermore, after the British captured and opened the port of Syracuse, they agreed, after the fourteenth day of the campaign, to dispatch 1,000 tons of supplies daily to the Seventh Army. But whether this, plus beach maintenance, would be enough remained to be seen.

Before the landings, Alexander made no specific plans to develop the land campaign growing out of the initial beachhead. He preferred to get the two armies firmly ashore before launching out. But he counted on the British Eighth Army to make the main effort, and he expected Montgomery to drive quickly through Catania to the Strait of Messina. He was aware of possible resentment in the American Seventh Army over the fact that the Americans would only protect the British flank and rear while Montgomery drove for the main strategic objective in Sicily. Patton’s army would be the shield in Alexander’s left hand; Montgomery’s army the sword in his right.

As Alexander expected, some resentment did arise, for Admiral Cunningham reported that the Americans were “very sore about it.” Maintenance, too, was bound to be “a tricky problem” for the Americans, for whether they could bring 3,000 tons ashore daily for six weeks over the beaches and through the small ports was highly questionable. Yet Patton, Cunningham learned, had taken “the attitude that he has been ordered to land there and he will do it.” Though some of Patton’s associates urged him to protest, he refused. An order was an order, and he would do his “goddamndest to carry it out.” He apparently convinced Alexander of his good faith and firm intention to do the best he could.

As finally drawn up, the plan provided for the employment of thirteen divisions and one brigade. The British Eighth Army was to land four divisions and one brigade, most of them on the Gulf of Noto beaches, the 1st Canadian Division on one beach around the southeastern corner of the island. Their objectives were the port of Syracuse and a nearby airfield. The British 1st Airlanding Brigade was to precede the main British amphibious landings and seize the bridge called Ponte Grande over the Anapo River just south of Syracuse. The American Seventh Army was to land three divisions on beaches oriented on the ports of Licata and Gela and several airfields nearby. A reinforced regimental combat team from the 82nd Airborne Division was to drop several hours ahead of the main American landings to secure important high ground a few miles inland from Gela.

The British Eighth Army planned to make five simultaneous predawn landings, preceded by the air-landing operation just south of Syracuse. The 13 Corps (General Dempsey) on the right was to come ashore on the northern beaches of the Gulf of Noto, the 5th Division near Cassibile, the 50th Division near Avola. Troops of the 1st Airborne Division were to land south of Syracuse on the corps north flank, and together with Commando units landing just south of Syracuse, were to assist the 5th Division to take the port. With a beachhead and Syracuse secured, the 13 Corps was to advance to the north to take Augusta and Catania.

The 30 Corps (General Leese) was to make its amphibious landings on both sides of the Pachino peninsula, the southeastern corner of Sicily. The 231st Infantry Brigade was to protect the right flank and gain contact with the adjacent 13 Corps in the Noto area; the 51st Division was to take the town of Pachino. On the left, the 1st Canadian Division, with two Royal Marine Commando units attached, was to capture the Pachino airfield and make contact with the American Seventh Army at Ragusa. After a secure beachhead was established, Montgomery planned to have the 51st Division relieve the 50th Division at Avola to enable the latter unit to move north toward Messina with the 13 Corps.

[NOTE 5-10 Twelfth Army Opns Order 1, 31 May 43, 0100/12A/141. See also Nicholson, The Canadians in Italy, pp. 62-63; Montgomery, Eighth Army, pp. 89, 94-95.]

The British airborne troops, unlike the Americans who would parachute into Sicily, planned to come in by glider. They were to seize two objectives: the Ponte Grande over the Anapo River on Highway 115, and the western part of Syracuse itself. Montgomery hoped that the glider troops would assist the advance of his ground troops into the city and quicken the opening of the port of Syracuse, essential to Eighth Army’s logistical plans. The U.S. 51st Troop Carrier Wing, which had worked with the British airborne troops since April 1943, was to furnish a majority of the gliders and the tow planes.

Again, unlike the Americans, who preferred not to schedule follow-up airborne operations, the British scheduled two, one against Augusta, and one in the Catania area. But until the invasion actually started, no one could say with certainty which, or if indeed either, of these operations would be needed.

The problem of mounting, assembling, and supplying the various units in the Eighth Army was rather more difficult than the one faced by the Seventh Army, primarily because of the dispersed locations of the units. The 5th and 50th Divisions and the 231st Infantry Brigade were to be mounted in the Middle East. The 1st Canadian Division was to come from the United Kingdom; the 51st Division was to be mounted in Tunisia and partly staged in Malta. The 78th Division and a Canadian tank brigade, follow-up units, were to be mounted in the Sfax-Sousse area of North Africa. In the American invasion, perhaps the most dramatic role was assigned to the paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division, the newest member of the invasion team, a unit which had yet to celebrate its first birthday.

Delivering ground combat troops to a battlefield by air was not a new idea in 1943, nor was Sicily the first place which saw the use of this dramatic method of warfare. But Sicily was to be the scene of the first Allied employment of a large number of airborne combat troops, delivered by parachute and glider, to support larger bodies of combat troops engaged in conventional ground warfare. Sicily also marked the first test of the airborne division concept, which had not been accepted by the U.S. Army until 1942.[N5-13]

 [N5-13: Generally, the authors will not differentiate between parachute and air-landed operations, but will use the term airborne for methods of aerial delivery of troops and supplies into a combat zone.]

Commanded by Major General Matthew B. Ridgway, the 82nd Airborne Division had been activated in August 1942. It had had a difficult training period. Shortages of transport aircraft, gliders, and parachutes hampered the program, and as late as March 1943 inspection revealed an “insufficient training in the field” and a need for “maneuver experience” before the division could be certified “fully prepared for combat duty.” 14 Organizational changes immediately before the scheduled departure of the division for the Mediterranean theater disrupted what little training time remained. With only about one-third the amount of training normally accorded the infantry divisions, the 82nd sailed for North Africa. It arrived early in May, two months before the projected invasion of Sicily. Training continued “in a fiery furnace,” according to Ridgway, “where the hot wind carried a fine dust that clogged the nostrils, burned the eyes, and cut into the throat like an abrasive.”

Pilots of the Northwest African Air Forces Troop Carrier Command (NAAFTCC), activated on 21 March 1943, worked with both the 82nd Airborne and the British 1st Airborne Divisions, but a lack of unity of command between the airborne and the air units precluded full co-ordination. Although an American air force officer was attached to the 82nd Airborne Division and an airborne liaison officer was attached to the 52nd Troop Carrier Wing (the specific NAAFTCC component scheduled to support the American airborne operations), the efforts of a few liaison officers could not overcome the deficiencies of a system which split command in a single operation.

Arriving in North Africa in April 1943, the 52nd Troop Carrier Wing was considered fully qualified in dropping parachutists and towing gliders, but only on daylight missions. Accordingly, the troop carrier units concentrated on night formation and navigational flying, using both normal navigation lights and, later, as proficiency increased, small and lavender colored resin lights, which would be the only aids available during the Sicily operation. But no real effort was made by the wing to check the location of pinpoint drop zones at night. A night joint training program with airborne troops and carriers fared poorly.

General Ridgway selected the 505th Parachute Infantry Regimental Combat Team, commanded by Colonel James M. Gavin, reinforced by the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry, to make the initial drop. With no specific assignment, the remaining airborne units worked on several plans covering various contingencies that might lead to their commitment. Unlike the airborne troops, the American ground units scheduled to make the invasion were for the most part combat experienced.

Despite its new title, to become effective on D-day, the Seventh Army headquarters was essentially that of the I Armored Corps. The headquarters planned the Sicilian operation first at Casablanca, then at Oran, later at Rabat, and finally at Mostaganem. The chief planner was Major General Geoffrey Keyes, deputy commander. Patton, himself, participated only in the resolution of major problems.

The subordinate ground units most concerned with the detailed planning of the operation were those eventually allocated to the Seventh Army: the II Corps headquarters; the 1st, 3rd, and 45th Infantry Divisions; the 2nd Armored Division; the 82nd Airborne Division; and a portion of the 9th Infantry Division, the bulk of the latter cast in the role of a follow-up unit to be committed only with General Alexander’s approval.

Scheduled to control a sizable portion of the assaulting echelon, the II Corps had played an important role in the North African campaign, first under Major General Lloyd Fredendall, then under General Patton, and finally under Major General Omar N. Bradley. A West Point graduate in the class of 1915 and the first of that class to receive a star, General Bradley had commanded in turn two infantry divisions in the United States before coming to North Africa in early 1943 to act as General Eisenhower’s personal representative in the field. On 16 April, Bradley had assumed command of the II Corps and had demonstrated a competence that marked him for higher command.

The 3rd Infantry Division had participated in the North African invasion and in part of the ensuing campaign. Its commander, Major General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., had served as head of the American mission to the British Combined Operations Headquarters, where he had conceived the idea of creating American Ranger battalions patterned after the British Commandos. An observer in the ill-starred Dieppe raid of August 1942, he had helped plan the North African invasion, and had commanded the American landings at Port-Lyautey in Morocco. Truscott assumed command of the 3rd Division on 8 March 1943.

The 1st Infantry Division, the oldest division in the American Army, had participated in the North African invasion and had seized Oran after some of the bitterest fighting of the campaign. The delusion had then served throughout the remainder of the North African campaign, often under trying circumstances. Major General Terry de la Mesa Allen had assumed command shortly before the division had shipped overseas.

The 45th Infantry Division was an Oklahoma National Guard unit that had been federalized in 1940. Alerted in January 1943 for an amphibious operation in the Mediterranean theater, the division was probably one of the best trained divisions in the American Army when it sailed from the United States in June 1943. Its commander, Major General Troy H. Middleton, had been the youngest regimental commander in the American Army in France during World War I. He had retired in 1937, but had returned to active duty in early 1942 and soon assumed command of the division.

The 2nd Armored Division, which was to provide supporting armor to the assault forces as well as to constitute a floating reserve, was a comparatively new unit on the rolls of the American Army, although its tank strength could be traced back through the 66th Infantry (light tanks)-the nation’s only tank regiment in 1940-to the American Tank Corps of World War I days. Three invasion teams had been drawn from the division to provide armored support in the American landings in North Africa but had taken no part in the later Tunisian fighting. In early 1943 the division provided some two thousand replacements and numerous wheeled and tracked vehicles to the 1st Armored Division. Major General Hugh J. Gaffey, who as Patton’s chief of staff in the II Corps had gained considerable experience during the Tunisian campaign, assumed command of the 2nd Armored Division on 5 May 1943. Gaffey had been one of the pioneers of the American armored effort in the early days of World War II.

The follow-up 9th Division, which had participated in the invasion of North Africa and had fought in the Tunisian campaign, notably at Hill 609, was under Major General Manton S. Eddy, who had been in command since mid-1942. Its 39th Infantry Regiment and division artillery were alerted for commitment in Sicily any time after D-day.

In addition to the major ground units, the Seventh Army included a number of units designed for specialized functions. Of primary importance to the assault phase were three Ranger battalions, the 1st, 3rd, and 4th. The latter two had been newly activated in North Africa. The 1st Rangers, led by Lieutenant Colonel William O. Darby, had earned an enviable combat reputation in the Tunisian fighting.

Another special unit was a motorized chemical battalion equipped with the 4.2-inch mortar, an extremely accurate, rifted-bore, muzzle-loading weapon. Four of these battalions were assigned to the Seventh Army, one to each infantry division. Each consisted of forty officers and over five hundred men, equipped with forty-eight of the big mortars, a Chemical Corps weapon designed originally for firing smoke and gas shells, although quite capable of firing high explosive and white phosphorus rounds.

There was little opportunity for combined training and for instructing infantry commanders and their staffs on the capabilities and limitations of the mortar. This was doubly unfortunate because the 4.2-inch mortar was, in effect, a new weapon and few infantry personnel in North Africa had had any previous experience with it.

To give the Free French, who were reequipping their Army units in North Africa with United States assistance, at least token representation in the Sicilian invasion, General Eisenhower accepted a battalion-size unit, the 4th MoroCC-An Tabor of Goums, to operate with the American forces. Numbering almost 8oo men, the tabor had French officers and noncommissioned officers, Berber goumiers in the ranks, 117 horses, and 126 mules. Attached to the 3rd Division, the goums were scheduled to come ashore on the fifth day of the invasion.

Seventh Army Plans

The troops of the Seventh Army were to land on the beaches of the Gulf of Gela west of a boundary line running from the coast near Pozzallo inland through Ragusa to Vizzini, these towns and the road connecting them being assigned to the British. Patton was to seize the airfields of Licata, Ponte Olivo, Biscari, and Comiso. He was to capture and put into operation the ports at Licata and Gela. He was then to be ready for future operations as directed. As Patton analyzed the terrain, he saw a dome-shaped plateau facing his landing areas as the important piece of ground a high saddle springing from the Caronie Mountains in the north and extending southeast from Enna to Piazza Armerina and onto the peak of the plateau at Monte Lauro. Hardly less important was the Salso River on the left.

These terrain features indicated roughly an outline of the beachhead that the army would have to secure. The obvious strongpoint on which to base the beachhead on the west was a secondary ridge east of the Salso River, which would provide a further obstacle to enemy intrusion. Elsewhere the high ground at Piazza Armerina would delineate the beachhead. Possession of this terrain would deprive the enemy of ground overlooking the assault beaches and give the Seventh Army protection for building up its strength preliminary to a push inland. But this beachhead would not give the army two of its important and assigned objectives, the port and airfield at Licata. To get these, Patton extended the beachhead line on the west to a high ridge fourteen miles northwest of Licata. But the key to the entire problem remained the high ground at Piazza Armerina, which was not only commanding terrain but also carried the main road (Highway 117) leading from Enna to Gela and Syracuse. The enemy would most certainly utilize this road in shifting his forces from the western and central portions of the island to oppose the Allied landings. To get to this high ground quickly became the basic motive of Seventh Army planning.

The seventy miles of beach assigned the Seventh Army from Licata on the west to Pozzallo on the east comprised the crescent shore line of the Gulf of Gela. Though only a few of the beaches had good exits, almost all had some access to inland trails and roads. Except for the small ports of Licata and Gela and the tiny fishing village of Scoglitti, the coast was open, with sandy beaches and oCC-Asional rocky outcroppings. The beaches appeared ideal for amphibious landings, but in reality they were not. Gradients were too gentle for many of the assault landing craft. False beaches, shifting sand bars covered by sufficient water to float smaller landing craft but not enough for the larger craft carrying vehicles and heavy equipment, fronted much of the shore line.

The shallow plains behind the assault beaches extended inland only a few miles before merging with the foothills of the dome-shaped plateau. The main rivers flowing from the high ground-the Salso, the Gela, and the Acate-presented problem, for cross-country movement. The length of assault frontage and the compartmenting of terrain created by the rivers strongly influenced General Patton in organizing the army for the invasion. He assigned the II Corps the bulk of the assault units and a large section of the front. He kept the 3rd Division, reinforced heavily with combat and service support units, directly under his control.

The II Corps was to make the main effort and seize the key terrain features in the Piazza Armerina area; the 3rd Division was to attack in the Licata area and anchor the beachhead on the west by seizing the ridge line west of the Salso River. An army reserve was to comprise four principal elements:

(1) the 2nd Armored Division, minus Combat Command A but reinforced by the 18th Infantry Regimental Combat Team (RCT) of the 1st Division, which was to sail with the assault forces prepared to land in support of any assault;

(2) the remainder of the 82nd Airborne Division, which was to be on call any time after H-hour;

(3) the 39th Infantry RCT of the 9th Infantry Division, plus the 9th Division’s artillery, which was to be ready to move from North Africa at any time after D-day; and

(4) the remainder of the 9th Division. Patton’s scheme of maneuver called for simultaneous landings in the Licata-GelaScoglitti areas in order to capture the airfields, the air landing ground at Farel-10, just east of Gela, and the ports of Licata and Gela by darkness of D plus

For control, Patton designated two phase lines. The first, called the Yellow Line, marked a secure initial beachhead and included the initial objectives-a line through Palma di Montechiaro, Campobello, Mazzarino, Caltagirone, and Grammichele, roughly twenty miles inland. The second, denoted the Blue Line, through Campobello, Piazza Armerina, and Grammichele, included the high ground overlooking the lateral roads in the army sector.

To General Bradley’s II Corps went three principal missions. Under the cover of darkness on D-day, the assault units the 1st and 45th Infantry Divisions were to land at Gela and near Scoglitti, and capture the Ponte Olivo airfield by daylight on D plus 1. After pressing inland and seizing the Comiso airfield by daylight on D plus 2 and the Biscari airfield by darkness of that day, the corps was to extend its beachhead to the Yellow Line, from Mazzarino on the west to Vizzini on the east, and gain contact with the British Eighth Army at Ragusa. Truscott’s reinforced 3rd Division also had three principal missions. It was to land in the Licata area on D-day and capture the port and airfield there by nightfall. After extending its beachhead to the Yellow Line (from Palma di Montechiaro on the west up to and through Campobello toward Mazzarino) to protect the army’s beachhead from enemy interference from the west and northwest, the division was to gain and maintain contact with the II Corps on the right. [N5-20]

Expecting Truscott’s 3rd Division to capture the port and airfield at Licata by nightfall of the first day and the high ground around Naro soon after, and anticipating that Bradley’s II Corps would have the three airfields in its zone by the end of the third day, General Patton hoped to have his initial objectives in three days. Then he wanted the beachhead expanded to the final phase line, named Blue. To bolster the II Corps landing in the Gela area, he directed that a parachute task force in reinforced regimental strength be dropped in front of the 1st Division to secure the high ground overlooking the 1st Division’s assault beaches.

[N5-20 Force 343 Outline Plan, 18 May 43, Seventh Army Rpt of Opns, p. d-2; Map, Final Allied Plan (HUSKY), Seventh Army Rpt of Opns, p. a-5; Hq Force 343 FO I, 20 Jun 43, Seventh Army Rpt of Opns, pp. d-7-d-8; the detailed order of battle of the Seventh Army may be found in Seventh Army Rpt of Opns, pp. d-9-d-IIL]

Commanding the left invasion forces, Truscott, with CC-A of the 2nd Armored Division and the tabor of goums attached to his 3rd Division, had about 45,000 men. About half were to land on D-day on a front of more than twelve miles. His objective, Licata, a city of about 30,000 people, a minor port, rail, and road center, nestled against a mound that rises about 500 feet above the Licata plain, flat terrain rimmed, five miles away, by the foothills of the dome-shaped plateau. In the middle of the plain, three mile~ northwest of the city and adjacent to the highway running north to Caltanissetta and Enna, was the Licata airfield.

The Seventh Army designated four assault beaches as suitable for the 3rd Division-two west of Licata, two east of the town. Because beach data was far from complete, Truscott appealed personally to Major General James Doolittle, who commanded the Northwest African Strategic Air Force (NASAF), for serial photos of the landing sites, which Doolittle supplied.

Early capture of Campobello and Palma di Montechiaro, both on Patton’s Yellow Line and both controlling avenues of approach from the northwest, were Truscott’s essential objectives for protecting the army’s left flank. But the Salso River, bisecting his zone, could be crossed only by road and railway bridges at Licata. The beaches west of Licata were poor, those east of the city good. Assuming that the enemy would destroy the bridges across the Salso, should Truscott commit his entire force to the eastern beaches and risk its temporary confinement within the narrow limits of the river, hill, and sea? Or should he land in strength on both sides of the river and risk isolation of the western landings in view of the necessity for seizing Campobello and Palma di Montechiaro?

Even though it would be difficult to reinforce from the sea over the beaches west of Licata, Truscott chose to land on both sides of the river. Truscott wished to land all his infantry as rapidly as possible, with some tanks in close support, and seize four key points in the foothills dominating the Licata plain. With a beachhead formed and secured, he would then strike immediately for Campobello and Palma di Montechiaro, using if necessary CC-A of the 2nd Armored Division, his floating reserve. The right invasion force, Bradley’s II Corps, was to bite off more than fifty of the seventy miles of army front, though in actuality the landings would occur on somewhat separated fronts totaling fifteen miles. The 1st Division was to land on the left, the 45th Division on the right. The 1st Division’s zone extended from a point midway between Gela and Licata eastward to the Acate River.

Gela, about twenty miles east of Licata, was an overgrown fishing village with 32,000 inhabitants. It had a pier jutting 8oo feet into the water from near the center of the town to serve small ships. Behind the town was the treeless plain of Gela, used for growing grain. The Gela River reached the sea a mile or so east of the town. Three miles east of Gela and adjacent to the coastal highway was the Gela-Farello landing ground. Six miles east of Gela, the Acate (or Dirillo) River emptied into the sea.

General Allen, controlling two regiments of the 1st Division, two Ranger battalions, and supporting units, was assigned six beaches with a total frontage of five miles. He split his troops into three attack groups. The Rangers were to take the city of Gela; one of the infantry regiments was to assist the Rangers, if necessary, or was to take high ground overlooking the Ponte Olivo airfield from the west; the other regiment was to move to the northeast toward the hilltop town of Niscemi, thirteen miles northeast of Gela, make contact with paratroopers dropped inland, and advance against the Ponte Olivo airfield from the east.

Between the Acate River and the Seventh Army boundary on the right, a distance of fifteen miles, lay the zone of the 45th Division, a smooth arc of coast line virtually devoid of indentation. Two rocks jutting above the water signaled the entrance to two coves that served the fishing village of Scoglitti. Behind the shore was a broad, relatively open plain sloping gradually to the foothills of the mountainous terrain and to inland towns on relatively high ground. About ten miles inland, Biscari and its airfield (three miles to the north of the town) and Comiso and its airfield (three miles north of the town), were the main objectives of General Middleton’s division.

Between the relatively uninhabited coast line and the coastal highway, which sheers away from the coast after leaving Gela, there were no good roads. One regiment coming ashore just east of the mouth of the Acate River was to drive north to Biscari to take the town and airfield and seize the crossing of the coastal highway over the Acate River—Ponte Dirillo. Another regiment was to seize Scoglitti, then capture the town of Vittoria, seven miles inland, and be prepared to help take the Comiso airfield. The third regiment was to drive on the Comiso airfield, protect the II Corps right flank, and gain contact with the Canadians at Ragusa.[ N5-2222 For details of the divisions’ plans see: 3rd Inf Div FO 5, 26 Jun 43; II Corps FO 8, 15 Jun 43; 1st Inf Div FO 26, Jun 43; AGF Rpt sub: Rpt on Opn HUSKY1, 943.]

The assault forces and the floating reserve were paired off with the naval task forces which comprised the component parts of Admiral Hewitt’s Western Naval Task Force. The 3rd Division was to be transported on a shore-to-shore basis by Naval Task Force 86 under the command of Rear Admiral Richard L. Conolly.

Two light cruisers and eight destroyers were to perform escort and gunfire support duties for this task force. The 1st Division and the army’s floating reserve were to be carried by Rear Admiral John L. Hall’s Naval Task Force 81 on both a ship-to-shore and shore-to-shore basis, escorted and supported by two light cruisers and thirteen destroyers. The 45th Division was paired off with Rear Admiral Alan G. Kirk’s Naval Task Force 85 on a wholly ship-to-shore operation. One light cruiser and sixteen destroyers were allotted to this force for supporting duties. There was to be no naval counterpart to the II Corps headquarters, nor did General Bradley have a naval opposite number. The II Corps commander and a few key members of his staff were allotted space aboard Admiral Kirk‘s flagship, while the remainder of the corps’ staff was distributed among five LST’s of the same force.

The airborne mission, designed primarily to assist the 1st Division landing, was the seizure of the high ground ( Piano Lupo) in the Gela area for the purpose of blocking enemy approach from the north and east. The troops were also to cover the Ponte Olivo airfield by fire and facilitate its capture by the seaborne infantry. Under Seventh Army control until they made contact with the ground forces, the parachute troops were then to come under the II Corps. General Bradley planned to attach the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry, to the 1st Division to assist the latter unit in taking Niscemi, while the remainder of the parachute combat team assembled near Gela as 1st Division reserve.

The drop zone for the major parachute elements-Piano Lupo-was a hill mass which dominated a road intersection seven miles northeast of Gela. There the roads from Caltagirone (via Niscemi) and Vittoria met, providing excellent approaches for an enemy force arriving to contest the 1st Division’s landings., Drop zones for lesser elements were chosen for similar reasons–troops dropped in these areas were to knock out roadblocks and obstruct the highway approaches to the beaches. One party of forty-two men was to drop from three planes in the early minutes of 10 July to demolish or hold the vital Dirillo bridge across the Acate River. Attachments of engineers, signal troops, medical personnel, and naval gunfire and air support parties reinforced Colonel Gavin’s combat team. Though the planners hoped for early contact with the seaborne forces, they planned at least one aerial resupply mission.

The 52nd Troop Carrier Wing planned to employ 227 aircraft, all C-47s, organized into five groups to transport the paratroopers. They were to fly at just above sea level in closed V of V formations of nine craft, rising during their final approaches to 600 feet and widening their formations. All were to arrive over the drop zones between 2330, 9 July, and 0006, 10 July. After discharging their loads, they were to execute a wide 180-degree turn and fly back to their home bases in North Africa. Though the initial route proposed for the troop carriers was a relatively short and straight flight over Pantelleria, the planners eventually chose a route over Malta in order to keep the planes away from the naval convoys and their antiaircraft guns. The final route accepted had three sharp turns over water during dim moonlight, “a complicated dog-leg course requiring over three hours flight each way.” [N5-2424 Harry L. Coles, Participation of the Ninth and Twelfth Air Forces in the Sicilian Campaign, USAF Historical Study 37 (Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., 1945), p. 80.]

The pilots were to identify their drop zones from aerial photographs carried in their cockpits. There were to be no markers on the drop zones, no pathfinder teams. But this seemed satisfactory, for on a previous night reconnaissance Colonel Gavin found that “all check points and terrain showed up clearly in the moonlight, exactly as we had memorized them from photographs.”

A problem of great concern to General Ridgway, the 82nd Airborne Division’s commander, was adequate night fighter protection for the troop carriers, which were vulnerable to attack. No one could guarantee that the Allied air forces would have complete air mastery by the time of the invasion. Though Ridgway requested fighter protection, and though General Patton and the troop carrier commander supported him, the NATAF disapproved the request on the basis that other missions were of greater importance to the operation as a whole. As a result the paratroopers and the troop carrier crewmen would have to bank on achieving tactical surprise or possibly on the unwillingness of enemy air to make a fight of it.[N5-2626 For details of the airborne planning, see: II Corps FO 8, 15 Jun 43; 82nd AB Div FO I, 23 Jun 43; 505th RCT (Reinf) FO I, 28 Jun 43; 1st Inf Div FO 26, 20 Jun 43; 82nd AB Div 2nd rev. an. 2 to FO I, 8 Jul 43; Ltr, U.S. Naval Forces, NWA Waters, to CinC U.S. Fleet, 24 Jul 43, sub: Naval Gunfire Liaison Offs Operating With AB Troops, with Incl, Rpt from Ensign Seibert; History of 3rd USAF Air Support Communications Squadron, 10 January 1944, Sq-ASup-Com-3-Hi, Air University, Maxwell Air Field Base, Ala., p. 16; Billingslea Rpt; NAAFTCC Rpt.]

Though tactical planning was not particularly troublesome, logistics posed its problems. Planners provided the 45th Infantry Division with twenty-one days maintenance plus ten units of fire in the assault and first follow-up convoy of D plus 4. Seven additional days maintenance, plus one and one-sixth units of fire, would be carried on the second follow-up convoy on D plus 8. The 1st Division, furnished with enough supplies for the airborne elements committed in its zone, was to carry on its assault convoy seven days maintenance plus two and one-third units of fire, while its D plus 4 follow-up was to bring in an additional seven days of maintenance plus one and one-sixth units of fire. Fourteen days maintenance, plus two and one-third units of fire, were provided on the D plus 8 convoy. The 3rd Division generally followed the same plan: seven days maintenance plus one and one-sixth units of fire on the assault convoy; seven days maintenance and one and one-sixth units of fire on the first follow-up convoy; but only seven days maintenance and one and one-sixth units of fire on the D plus 8 convoy.

There was also to be a floating supply reserve. In Oran, Algiers, and Bizerte, twenty days maintenance and four units of fire were to be loaded in seven cargo ships and held on call to unload over the beaches any time after D plus 14. In addition, the logistical planners established on the ground in the Bizerte area a reserve of supplies of three and one-half units of fire, 25 percent combat vehicles, 10 percent general purpose vehicles, and 10 percent weapons, plus fifteen days maintenance for 140,000 men, to be available on call for movement to Sicily.

An emergency stockpile of supplies, established in the Kairouan area of central Tunisia for the 82nd Airborne Division and available for shipment on call from army, consisted of seven days maintenance and two and one-third units of fire for one infantry regimental combat team reinforced by three antiaircraft battalions and one tank battalion.

The division commanders were responsible for their own supply from ships and landing craft over the beaches, or through any of the captured ports, until the Seventh Army could assume the logistic function. This responsibility included maintaining all the beaches in the division areas. To carry out this function, each assault division received an engineer shore regiment or an engineer combat regiment. When the army took over the supply mission, the 1st Engineer Special Brigade (a permanent headquarters) was to assume command of all division beach groups and become responsible for the execution of all supply plans emanating from army, including the operation of captured ports. The II Corps would have no administrative functions other than those pertaining to corps troops unless an emergency arose.

The most crucial aspect of all army logistical planning remained the balancing of army requirements with the available naval shipping capacity. The limitations on the number of landing craft assigned to the division task forces caused logistical planners many sleepless nights. Artillery wanted its guns ashore as quickly as possible and did not particularly care if the weapons displaced necessary service units. Engineers wanted more bridging equipment and did not hesitate to argue for the displacement of certain artillery units. General Bradley, whose headquarters was responsible for the preparations of two of the three assault forces, was in the middle of the dispute. Bradley fought, pleaded, cajoled, and ordered his supply people to come up with a workable plan. But the separate arms and services were difficult to handle, “each contending,” Bradley said, “that if its particular allotment were cut, the whole invasion might fail.”

Truscott’s supply people faced much the same problem. Since the 3rd Division would be almost three times the size of a normal infantry division and expected to be responsible for its own supply and maintenance for a long time, Truscott found it necessary to establish an administrative organization much larger than that normally found in a division, one that was comparable to an army-size unit.

The assault against Sicily represented an enormous improvement in specialized craft and in the technique of amphibious operations over the North African landings of 1942. Several new devices were to be used on a large scale for the first time. A whole new series of landing craft and ships were to play a prominent part. The most important of these were the LST (landing ship, tank), the LCT (landing craft, tank), the LCI (landing craft, infantry), and the LCVP (landing craft, vehicle or personnel). Their function was to come aground on the shore and disgorge men and materiel rapidly. Yet they were so new that no one could be sure of certain aspects of their performance. For example, the LCI had never been beached successfully in water shallow enough for infantry to wade ashore; many naval officers thought that the troops would first have to disembark into canvas or rubber boats.

[N5-30 Truscott, Command Missions, p. 204. The variety of organizations scheduled for the operation was in no way an aid to the logisticians. The II Corps alone contained 151 different types of units “ranging from infantry regiments to engineer well-drilling sections, balloon batteries, MP prisoner-escort companies, auxiliary surgical groups, graves registration companies, and naval shore battalions.” Bradley, A Soldier’s Story, pp. 17-18.]

No one knew precisely how many men could be loaded into an LST or LCT with both in comfort during the voyage and adequate egress ashore. There was also the Dukw, an ingenious vehicle able to swim and roll, and on this vehicle rested much of the hope of supplying the Seventh Army adequately over the beaches. Basically an amphibious 1-1/2-ton truck capable of carrying twenty-five troops and their equipment, or five thousand pounds of general cargo, or twelve loaded litters, the Dukw, with its six-cylinder engine and propeller, could make a speed of five and a half knots in the water in a moderate sea, and race fifty miles per hour on land on its six wheels.

[N5-31 For descriptions of landing craft see ONI 226, Allied Landing Craft and Ships; Samuel Eliot Morison, “History of United States Naval 0perations in World War II,” vol. II, Operations in North African Waters, October 1942-June 1943 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1947), pp. 266-71; ASF Manual M409, 14 Dec 43, sub: Logistical Planning and Reference Data.]

The various new craft, products ofAmerican and British imagination and industrial skill, in large measure provided the answer to the chief problem of amphibious warfare-the rapid transfer of men and materiel to the, far shore. But the Sicilian beaches presented a peculiar problem. Between the false beaches and the true beaches were depressions, or runnels. To overcome this hazard, the Navy devised two methods of transferring vehicles and other cargo from the large landing craft across the runnels to the shore line. The first was the pontoon causeway, several of which were constructed at Bizerte and Arzew under the direction of Admiral Conolly. A number of pontoon units were clamped securely together to form a causeway or portable bridge either to be towed to Sicily or carried there on the sides of LST’s. The second method married an LCT to an LST. Cut out, hinged sections of selected LCT’s permitted these modified craft to be joined to the bow of an LST, at right angles to the larger vessel. The vehicles, or other cargo, on the LST could then be moved across the lowered bow ramp of the LST onto the LCT. From the first LCT, the vehicle or cargo could then be transferred to a second LST, bow to bow, and the second LCT could transport the load to shore.

Naval and Air Plans

The peculiar difficulty in planning HUSKY was that the operation did not fall specifically into either a ship-to-shore or a shore-to-shore operation. In the first place, it could not be called shore-to-shore since the 45th Division was tactically loaded in the United States before the final tactical plan was firm. On the other hand, many of the vessels allotted to the army units were the types specifically designed for shore-to-shore operations, a situation which posed untold problems since this technique of amphibious warfare had been given little study in the United States and there was little official American literature on the subject.

As late as the middle of May the naval staff was planning to employ equipment whose capabilities and limitations were virtually unknown. Nor was there a sufficient number of any category of craft for component forces within the Army to be similarly equipped. The 45th Division, coming directly from the United States, was loaded on the pre-TORCH principle of “Trans-Divs” (Transport Divisions), consisting of combat-loaded AP and AK ships. [N5-34] The 1st Division, executing a shore-to-shore operation, had for the most part ship-to-shore ships and craft with the bulk of its vehicles loaded into AK or other types of cargo ships. The 3rd Division alone had an adequate number of shore-to-shore craft entirely suitable for its task.

[N5-34 The term AP is used to denote a troop transport vessel; the term APA to denote an attack transport. The AK designation refers to a cargo ship; the term AKA to an attack cargo ship.]

There could be no argument with the sub-allotment of the available shipping: Patton did not have enough of anyone kind to go around. He chose to concentrate in a single sector-that of the 3rd Division-the means to put ashore rapidly a powerful armored force which in the initial phases could have a material effect on the whole of the subsequent campaign. When deciding on the allotment of landing craft to the divisions, Patton felt that one of the most vital, if least spectacular, of the assigned tasks was the protection of the left flank of the Allied landings against counterattacks from the strong German formations known to be in the western part of the island. The rapid disgorgement of armor onto the 3rd Division beaches would greatly assist in meeting any such threat.

Whether it was vital to soften the beach defenses by naval gunfire before the landings was a question on which the Army and Navy took opposite views. Not optimistic about the effect of naval gunfire on fixed beach defenses, Army planners were concerned with the safety of paratroopers dropped ashore before the landings; they were also interested in achieving tactical surprise. The Navy planners argued that it was impossible to expect to achieve surprise because of the heavy preparatory air bombardments, the dropping of paratroopers several hours before the beach assault, and the approach of huge convoys in bright moonlight.

The Army prevailed. There was to be no preparatory naval fire. Yet the Army wished the warships to be ready to furnish fire support after the troops were ashore. To this end, fire control parties from each artillery battalion received some training in observing and controlling naval gunfire on ground targets; arrangements were made for air observation and control of naval fires; and a naval gunfire liaison officer was assigned to each infantry division staff.

In the event that the enemy discovered the invasion forces offshore and began to take effective measures to prevent the landings, the Navy was to be ready to take shore targets under fire. The planners prepared a system of prearranged fires, Army planners selecting certain targets for the Navy, others for the Air Forces.

Unlike the naval planners who cooperated closely with Army planners, the Air Forces refused to co-ordinate its planning with either Army or Navy. Part of this was due to the influence of the British concept, which held that the air service was independent of and coequal with the other services–a concept different from the American point of view, which saw the air arm as having a support function as well as a more or less independent mission. But the Air Forces adopted as its primary mission the neutralization of Axis air power, and until that objective was accomplished to the satisfaction of air commanders, little could be done to secure ground support.

The Air Forces’ position was that air strength should not be parceled out to individual landings or sectors, but should instead be kept united under a single command to insure the greatest possible flexibility. Thus, air power could be massed where it was needed and not kept immobilized where not needed. Because the enemy air forces remained the overriding target, and since enemy aircraft comprised “a fluid target not easily pinpointed in advance,” the air plan gave ground and naval commanders no concrete information on the amount and type of air support they could expect on D-Day.

The air plan issued late in June was described by one American general as a “most masterful piece of uninformed prevarication, totally unrelated to the Naval and Military Joint Plan.” D-Day bombardment targets were not disclosed, except those diversionary bombardments in support of the airborne drops.

Ground and naval commanders had no idea of the degree of protection they could expect, and when the assault troops set sail for Sicily, their commanders had not the faintest idea of when, where, under what circumstances, and in what numbers they would see their own aircraft. The U.S. XII Air Support Command (Major General Edwin House) had the mission of providing air support for the Seventh Army. The command comprised seventeen squadrons of aircraft: six of fighter-bombers, ten of day fighters, and one reconnaissance squadron. The command also included signal construction and signal operation units for maintaining and operating an extensive communications network plus a signal aircraft warning battalion which could provide radar coverage over the battle area and ground control for the aircraft. Of the allotted aircraft, however, only the reconnaissance squadron operated under the direct control of the XII Air Support Command; all fighter-bomber and day fighter aircraft were placed under the operational control of the RAF’s Malta Command and under NATAF itself, operating through XII Air Support Command’s rear headquarters in Tunisia.

The most support that would be furnished the Seventh Army during the initial phases of the Sicilian Campaign consisted of a maximum of eighteen tactical reconnaissance missions per day, each mission lasting some thirty minutes. Despite ground dissatisfaction with air plans, the Allied air forces actually performed their pre-invasion roles effectively. Furnishing all the fighter and fighter-bomber support and much of the light and medium bomber support, the NATAF moved three Spitfire wings from North Africa to Malta in June to bring the air strength on that island to twenty fighter squadrons. An American P-40 fighter group moved to Pantelleria, also in June, to cover the assault landings at Gela and Licata. American aviation engineers in the remarkably short time of twenty days constructed a new airfield on the island of Gozo, near Malta, to base another American fighter group. By the end of June, Allied planes based on the three islands totaled 670 first-line aircraft. Units ready to support ground operations in Sicily and prepared to move to Malta as soon as planes there shifted to newly captured airfields on Sicily. The NASAF started its Sicilian operation by first attacking the southwestern group of Sicilian airfields, then shifted during the final week before the invasion to the eastern fields. Enemy air opposition proved surprisingly light.

On the Cape Bon peninsula of North Africa, twelve newly constructed, or improved, Axis airfields went to the XII Air Support Command and to the Tactical Bomber Force. The British Desert Air Force, based in the Tripoli area and employing fighter-bombers entirely, was support plan. Several air officers tried to secure close co-ordination with the ground forces, Colonel Lawrence Hickey in particular. Working with General Patton on air problems, Hickey became persona non grata with air force commanders and was prevented from receiving a command as the result of the personal intervention of Air Marshal Cunningham, who felt that the “Hickey-Patton relationship [was] a weakness.” [See correspondence in 0407/418. See also Ltr, No. 1 Planning Staff, Force 545 (Air), 2 Jun 43, to Deputy Air CinC on Matter of Air Support for Seventh Army, 0403/10/251.]

The Final Days

The general plan for the forces approaching Sicily from the west, which included the entire American assault and a goodly portion of the British assault force, was an accretive process in which the layers were added in consideration of the mounting areas, the relative speeds of the vessels, the mutual protection of the convoys, and to the end of providing maximum traveling comfort for the troops.

First to sail, the 45th Division to embarked on the afternoon of 4 July at Oran on the same ships that had brought the division from the United States only a short time before. The 1st Division, less a few units staging through Tunis, boarded transports in the Algiers harbor on the following afternoon. Still later, the 3rd Division departed Bizerte, CC-A of the 2nd Armored Division, Oran. General Patton, accompanied by General Ridgway, sailed on Admiral Hewitt’s flagship, the Monrovia. The subordinate ground commanders sailed with the naval commanders who headed the smaller task forces carrying the three major elements of the Seventh Army invasion force: Generals Bradley and Middleton with Admiral Kirk on the Ancon; General Allen with Admiral Hall on the Samuel Chase; General Truscott and Admiral Conolly aboard the Biscayne.

The Mediterranean was relatively calm until the morning of 9 July when wind and sea began to rise. From a velocity of ten miles per hour, a westward wind increased to a maximum of almost forty miles in early afternoon. Discomfort and seasickness increased, especially among the troops crowded into the LCI’s. As the invasion fleet turned to the north in the late afternoon of 9 July for the final approach, the ships began taking the wind and seas broadside. This slowed the landing craft to the point where it was difficult to maintain the speed required to keep up with the convoy. Some of the LCT formations began to straggle. Other vessels, including control ships, lost their places in column.

As LST’s and LCI’s rolled heavily, cargoes shifted, and courses and speeds had to be changed. All the convoys were about an hour late in arriving at their assigned areas offshore, and many of the vessels were not on proper station. The gale also had its effect on Generals Eisenhower and Alexander who had gone to Malta to await reports on the invasion. As increasing tension developed over the weather, the question arose whether the operation ought to be postponed twenty-four hours. Once made, the decision could not be revoked, for the naval forces needed at least four hours to transmit the information to all concerned. After conferring with Admiral Cunningham’s meteorological experts, Eisenhower decided against postponement. After dinner, hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the troop carrier aircraft towing the gliders filled with men of the British 1st Airborne Division, Eisenhower scanned the skies. He saw a few planes.

He rubbed his ever-present seven lucky coins and offered up a silent prayer for the safety and success of all the troops under his command. Returning to the governor’s palace, he sent a wire to General Marshall to inform him that the invasion would take place as scheduled. Then he returned to Cunningham’s underground headquarters to await first news of the invasion.

On Sicily, meanwhile, General Guzzoni’s intelligence had reported early in July that 90 percent of available Allied troops, 60 percent of the air forces, and 96 percent of the landing craft were concentrated in the central-western Mediterranean and directly threatening Sicily.

As the weather during the first ten days of July seemed particularly propitious for an amphibious landing, information from Italian and German intelligence sources repeatedly warned of the Allied danger to Sicily and Sardinia, with emphasis on Sicily. Though the Germans were not entirely convinced, the Italians began to feel certain that the Allies would make a massive effort including, in all probability, the use of parachute troops.

When news came to the Sixth Army headquarters at Enna on 4 July that an Allied convoy of twenty-five merchant vessels with naval escorts had been observed in North African waters, Guzzoni issued an estimate of the situation that stressed the lessened threat to Sardinia, the increased danger to Sicily, particularly the eastern part, and also to Calabria. Noting the “substantial number” of Allied fighter planes on Malta, the movements of heavy Allied warships, and increased Allied air bombardments, Guzzoni alerted his forces to the possibility of an Allied invasion during the period up to 10 July-when the moon would be invisible. The Germans still inclined toward the opinion that the Allies would launch simultaneous attacks against Sardinia, Sicily, and Greece, though not in the immediate future, but Guzzoni thought an attack “against Sicily could come even today. We must be extremely alert.”

Noting on 5 July an increase in Allied hospital ships from two to sixteen, the Italians took this to mean an operation was imminent. By nightfall, Italian reconnaissance pilots observed a convoy traveling under an umbrella of barrage balloons. With the location of the British Eighth Army confirmed on the same day, Guzzoni in his evening bulletin concluded that that army would operate against Sicily. To him this was “a very serious and decisive indication. The danger of an imminent attack is increasing.”

Italian military commanders in Rome by then held a similar opinion. So much on edge were staffs in Rome that many officers interpreted Supermarina reports on numerous fires near Marsala on 7 July as indications of Allied landings. Late that same day, German reconnaissance pilots reported the presence of a large Allied convoy four miles off Licata. The report turned out to be false, but in the meantime an alert had sent coastal defenders hurriedly to their posts.

By 8 July Guzzoni had ordered the ports of Licata, Porto Empedocle, and Sciacca on the southern shore prepared for demolition. Comando Supremo ordered Trapani and Marsala rendered useless by dumping earth and rock into the harbors; when this proved impractical, the Italians demolished the docks in the hope of interfering with Allied landings. When Luftwaffe headquarters on the morning of 9 July reported seventy to ninety landing craft and transports traveling at high speed not far from Pantelleria, Guzzoni concluded that an invasion on the southeastern corner of Sicily, from Gela to Catania, was not far off.

[N5-45 Faldella, Lo sbarco, p. 102; IIIPz. Rgt. H.G., KTB Nr. I, 9.XI.42-15.IX.43. Typewritten copy of the war diary of the 2nd Battalion of the Panzer Regiment of the Hermann Gӧring Division, in OCMH folder X-878.]

At 1810, 9 July, Guzzoni received another message reporting the approach of additional convoys. Late in the evening and during the night, information kept coming in to Sixth Army headquarters of several Allied convoys of varying size off the southeastern corner of the island. Meanwhile, Guzzoni, at about 1900, issued the order for a preliminary alert; three hours later, he ordered a full alert. [N5-4747 IT 99a, 9 and 10 Jul 43; OKWjWFSt, KTB,I.-3I.VII.43, 9 and 10 Jul 43 (time of first alert reported by OB SUED as 1840); MS #T-2 (Fries et a/.), p. 10; Faldella, La sbaTca, p. 105 (time of first alert reported as 1930); Maravigna, Rivista MilitaTe, 1952, p. 17.]

When Hitler learned of the approaching Allied fleet on 9 July, he ordered the German 1st Parachute Division to be alerted for immediate transfer, by air if necessary, from France to Sicily, a movement that could be made in five days. [N5-48 OKW/WFSt, KTB, I.-3 I. VII.43, 9 Jul 43.]

That evening Allied air forces bombed Caltanissetta (headquarters of the Livorno Division), Syracuse, Palazzolo Acreide (headquarters of the Napoli Division), and Catania, where serious damage was caused to the various Italian command installations. Naval gunfire was reported to have struck Syracuse, Catania, Taormina, Trapani, and Augusta.

At nightfall on 9 July the waters off Sicily seemed deserted. Yet despite the windy weather and rough sea, the coastal defenders were a ware of the presence of a huge fleet of vessels somewhere in the darkness. Filled with American and British soldiers, the ships were moving toward the island. The Italian and German island defenders could do little except await the resumption of Allied air bombardments that would signal the start of the invasion.

SOURCE: Sicily and the Surrender of Italy: BY; Lieutenant Colonel Albert Nutter Garland & Howard McGaw Smyth (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Sicily (2-6): Allied Invasion July 1943

World War Two: Mediterranean (1-4); Axis Situation-Italy