Sicily, Invasion of

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Sicily, Invasion of (1943).The invasion of Sicily on 10 July 1943, a combined American and British operation, was the first major Allied attempt to seize a foothold on homeland territory of an Axis power. Code named “Operation Husky,” it followed total victory over Axis forces in the North Africa Campaign two months earlier. It was undertaken because success in North Africa had made pressing on with the British‐backed Mediterranean strategy strategically logical for the Allies. But the U.S. War Department regretted that it delayed for another year the war‐winning invasion of occupied France across the English Channel from Britain.

Operation Husky's invasion armada, consisting of 2,500 ships sailing to Sicily from North Africa, Britain, and the United States, was the largest assembled to that time. Two armies—the U.S. Seventh Army on the left, commanded by Gen. George S. Patton, and the British Eighth Army on the right, under Gen. Bernard Law Montgomery—effected the landings on an 85‐mile front between Licata and Syracuse on the southeast corner of Sicily. Landing craft for tanks and infantry that were to feature prominently in subsequent Allied amphibious warfare were employed for the first time.

The invasion, under the overall command of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, was to be spearheaded by airborne operations, but U.S. paratroopers and British glider‐borne forces were dispersed by gale‐force winds. The amphibious landings, preceded by powerful naval and air bombardments, proved successful. The 180,000 troops put ashore on the first day met little initial resistance from war‐weary Italian defenders. But mounting a fierce counterattack the following morning, German armored forces almost drove the Americans back into the sea at Gela. Nevertheless, within forty‐eight hours of the first landings, all the beachheads were secured. Subsequent operations in Sicily proved the fighting abilities of American troops as well as General Patton's aggressive combat leadership, demonstrated by Patton's success in achieving final victory on the island by capturing Messina, across from the Italian mainland, while Montgomery remained bogged down short of the city.

Enemy resistance in Sicily was totally crushed by 17 August—though not before faulty tactical planning by the Allied command permitted most of the German forces on the island to escape. The conquest of Sicily, and control of its air bases, led to the invasion and conquest of Italy a month later.

Allied casualties in the Sicily operation were: U.S. Army, 8,781 killed and wounded; U.S. Navy, 1,030. British, 11,843 army, 729 navy. Estimated German casualties totaled 29,000; the Italian estimated total was 145,000, including those captured.
[See also World War II: Military and Diplomatic Course.]

Bibliography

Omar Bradley , A General's Life, 1983.

Norman Gelb