The march towards Rome required a pit stop at the island of Sicily to which some 2,600 Allied ships and 478,000 Allied soldiers took part.
With Northern Africa free of fascist tyranny, the Allies now focused their attention on the Italian mainland in an effort to knock out the weaker Italian forces from under the Axis banner. But before the Italian coast could be hit, the Allies would need a staging point - this staging point became the German-held island of Sicily.
A massive invasion forces rolled over heavy seas on the morning of July 9th, 1943. Within the fleet were two distinct invasion forces made up of Americans, Canadians and the British. The American 7th Army was led by none other than General George S. Patton while the British 8th Army was headed up by legendary General Bernard Law Montgomery. Patton's forces would make an invasion landing on the west coast of the island while Montgomery's forces would be charged with making headway in the east. Before them stood approximately 300,000 enemy soldiers, with the bulk of these made up by Italian Army personnel.
British airborne elements took off in gliders towed behind their transport planes but rough skies jostled the group about. An American paratrooper force took off a few hours later only to be greeted by the same skies. The rough air forced down some of the transports, hands and all, while others made it to their locations in Sicily. Still others were forced completely back to home base. As can be expected, many of the airborne forces that survived the trip to Sicily landed in locations other than those that were expected.
British forces soon landed via the sea and quickly overtook the surprised Italian defenders along the coast, their batteries captured in full. Some alert Italian artillery units further inland opened fire on the British invaders but these installations were quickly annihilated by offshore shelling from the Royal Navy. With the beachhead in place, British and Canadian forces began making their way to shore en mass.
To the west, the American 7th Army faced an alert Italian coastal defense. Offshore artillery shelling of the positions ultimately cleared the path for Patton and his forces to come ashore. Despite a response from German and Italian aircraft, both invasion forces began making headway inland. The invasion of Sicily was now in full swing.
With chaos and confusion being brewed by the misplaced Allied paratrooper elements inland, the invasion forces operated at speed. Ponte Grande was in British hands for the moment but an Italian offensive beat the outnumbered British invaders. A handful of British soldiers remained and controlled the bridge point for a time while another detachment made their way into contact with the invasion force, bringing back with them some mechanized firepower. The returning forces quickly took the bridge back and further advances towards Syracuse itself were made in the process. Syracuse was in British hands by the end of the first day of the invasion.
The American 7th Army has conquered some 40 miles of beachfront property and equally benefited from the paratrooper's antics inland. Within two weeks, Patton's forces had made it to the northern coast and had also captured the Sicilian capital of Palermo. Canadian forces made their way inland and could lay claim to taking Enna in the center of the island.
With Italian dictator Mussolini overthrown back in Italy and Italian soldiers less-than-eager to continue the fight, Hitler was forced to evacuate the remaining Axis soldiers and equipment from the northern coast. In the two-day operation, some 100,000 soldiers were saved from capture. Operation Husky proved an overwhelming Allied victory when the US 3rd Division in Messina at the northeastern tip of the island signaled victory.
The first steps toward invading the European mainland had now been taken.
• Sink the Bismarck!
• The Invasion of Crete
• Operation Barbarossa
• The Arctic Convoys
• The Siege of Leningrad
• The Battle of Sevastopol
• Soviet Offensive - Battle for Russia
• The Attack on Pearl Harbor
• Japanese Conquest of the Pacific
• Operation Blue
• The Battle of Coral Sea
• From Gazala to Tobruk
• The Battle of Midway
• Operation Jubilee
• The Battle of El Alamein
• The Solomon Islands
• Operation Torch
• Kokoda Trail
• The Landings at Anzio
• Monte Cassino
• "Big Week"
• D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy
• The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot
• Operation Bagration
• Beyond Normandy
• The Warsaw Uprising
• Operation Market Garden
• The Battle of the Bulge
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