|Operation Husky: The Allied
Invasion of Sicily, 1943
by Thomas E. Nutter
Aspects of the Allied Invasion of Sicily, 1943
IV. Allied and Axis Plans and Dispositions.
On June 7, 1943 Eisenhower outlined his plan for the invasion of Sicily to the
War Department. In addition to the elaborate air plan, which called upon each
of the various air commands in the Mediterranean area to contribute to either
the build-up or the invasion itself, Eisenhower described a series of
simultaneous seaborne assaults, assisted by air landings, to capture the
seaports of Licata and Syracuse and the airfields between these cities, in
order to lay the groundwork for operations against the airfields at Gerbini,
Catania and Augusta. Patton's Seventh Army would be aboard the ships of the
Western Naval Task Force, commanded by U.S. Admiral Hewitt, while the Eastern
Naval Task Force, commanded by British Admiral Bertram Ramsay, would convey
Montgomery's Eighth Army. The latter was to operate in the eastern sector, and
had as its objectives the port of Syracuse and the airfield at Pachino. Its
XIII Corps was to land south of Cap Murro Di Porco with 5th Division on a
two-brigade front, 50th Division on a one-brigade front and 3d Commando. XXX
Corps would operate on three sides of Passero, where the 231st Brigade, 51st
Division would advance on a one brigade front, while Canadian 1st Division
would do so on a two brigade front, next to the 40th and 41st Royal Marine
Commandos. XIII Corps was to move on to the port and airfield at Augusta,
thence to the airfields at Catania and Gerbini. XXX Corps would effect a
junction with the right flank of U.S. Seventh Army. This American force was to
land at Cap Scalambri, Scoglitti, Gela and Licata. II U.S. Corps, comprising
the 1st Infantry Division and 45th Infantry Division, would take the fields at
Biscari, Ponte Olivo, Gela and Comiso. At the same time, 3d Infantry Division
and an armored Combat Command from 2d Armored Division would capture the port
and airfield at Licata, the rest of the 2d Armored Division remaining in
reserve. Admiral Hewitt later reported that the placing of the 1st Infantry
Division and 45th Infantry Division (corresponding to CENT and DIME
landing forces respectively) under II U.S. Corps command created "many
difficulties". He believed that it was neither desirable nor feasible to place
the CENT and DIME naval forces under one command. For one
thing, the CENT transports arrived in the theatre from the United
States under naval command. The overlay of the Army Corps command had no naval
equivalent, thus causing needless conflict. There was also trouble with the
echelon of the air command for the campaign. While an air officer on the same
echelon as the Naval Commander, Western Naval Task Force, and Commanding
General, Seventh Army, was established, the air officer lacked authority to
order aircraft into the assault area. The naval and army officers in question
also lacked authority to direct the use of aircraft to support the assault
force. This command arrangement was "not conducive to success".
There had been a plan to use the available airborne troops to neutralize the
beach defenses, but this notion was abandoned in the final plan. Under the
revised scheme, the British 1st Airborne Division was to drop by parachute and
glider in the area south of Syracuse to seize important tactical targets, while
four battalions of the U.S. 82d Airborne Division dropped in the area behind
Gela. Staging for the invasion was a most complex affair; for example, British
and Canadian troops were to come from the United Kingdom, the Middle East and
Tunisia, while their American allies came not only from nearby North Africa,
but in the case of the 45th Infantry Division, directly from the United States
as well. As a result, many of the assaulting units were required to bring with
them at least 21 days maintenance, with an additional 7 days maintenance in
reserve. All of this, of course, placed a tremendous strain on Allied shipping.
Because the new plan abandoned the concept of seizing the port of Palermo, FORCE
343, or U.S. Seventh Army was denied a useful harbor. This meant, in
turn, that this force had to plan on being supplied over the beach until at
least D plus 30. Since the first convoy from the United States was not
scheduled to arrive in Sicily before D plus 14, special measures had to be
taken to ensure continuous supply of the fighting troops. These included an
arrangement with FORCE 545 (British Eighth Army) for the partial use
of Syracuse after D plus 14. In addition, 2500 service troops were detailed to
Syracuse, and special depots were established near the town, all for the
purpose of supplying FORCE 343 prior to the arrival of the first
convoy from the United States.
The total number of vessels in the combined Allied naval forces exceeded 3200;
1700 were assigned to the Western Naval Task Force, and the remainder to its
eastern counterpart. Two thousand of these boats and ships were to participate
in the initial assault. In protecting this fleet, Eisenhower and his staff were
concerned not only with the Axis air forces, but also with the potential threat
posed by the Italian Navy. In view of the consistent failure of this force to
successfully engage the Royal Navy, the Allied commanders rated it low in
morale and tactical ability. Nevertheless, it could not be ignored, possessing
as it did six battleships and two cruisers, and the view was that if it were
ever to stand and fight, this would be the occasion. The Allied force deployed
to counter the threat of the Italian Navy was a formidable one, comprising the
First Battle Squadron of the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean. This consisted of
two commands, FORCE H, including the battleships WARSPITE, VALIANT,
NELSON and RODNEY, and the aircraft carriers IDOMITABLE
and FORMIDABLE, and FORCE Z, with the battleships KING
GEORGE V and HOWE. On D minus 1, FORCE H was to move
into the Ionian Sea in such a way as to appear to threaten the west coast of
Greece on D Day, thus serving as a means to divert the enemy's attention at the
critical moment, and it was to maintain this position until D plus 2. Both FORCE
H and FORCE Z were, of course, to be available to intervene
against the Italian Navy should it put in an appearance, as well as to offer
fire support to the invasion force, should the need arise. In the event,
neither such contingency transpired. In addition to the British First Battle
Squadron, the Western and Eastern Naval Task Forces boasted eight cruisers and
eight destroyers for use in a fire support role, as well as seven Royal Navy
submarines---SAFARI, SHAKESPEARE, SERAPH, UNRUFFLED,
UNSEEN, UNISON, UNRIVALLED ---serving as beacons off
the coast of Sicily.
The Allied cover plan provided for false D-day and false destinations for the
assault force, and the movement of the assault convoys was designed to further
this deception by being scheduled for the routes of normal through convoys. By
these means did the Allies intend for the Axis to be forced to contend with at
least two other threatened invasions, one in the Balkans and the other in
southern France. Thus, as FORCE H maneuvered in the Ionian Sea for the
apparent invasion of Greece, so also would the Allied convoys, moving in their
accustomed routes, converge south of Malta to suggest a threat to Crete. Behind
these deceptions lay the Allied fear of the Germans, and in particular their
fear that the Germans would reinforce Sicily ahead of the scheduled invasion.
The Allied target date of July 10 was in part based on an assumption that the
Tunisian campaign would be concluded by April 30. In the event, this did not
occur until May 13, a circumstance which caused Eisenhower and his staff
considerable concern about whether the assault would take place in a timely
fashion. To some degree, this concern was caused by the fact that the Allied
forces involved needed, but lacked, adequate training in combined operations. A
combined training center was established at the Algerian port of Djidjelli.
From here the British 51st Division and 78th Division were able to participate
in combined training; three complete naval rehearsals and one combined
rehearsal were carried out with these forces, the only elements in the Eastern
Task Force to be involved in such full rehearsals. Other components of the
Eastern Task Force were not so fortunate; the Canadian 1st Division trained in
the United Kingdom, while the British 5th Division and 50th Division and the
231st Brigade trained in the Middle East, where a shortage of landing craft
restricted training to the desert, with the exception of several "incomplete"
landing rehearsals in the Gulf of Aqaba.
U.S. forces had the benefit of six bases in Algeria, as well as two in Tunisia.
The U.S. 3d Infantry Division trained in Tunisia, while the 1st Infantry
Division and the 2d Armored Division underwent amphibious training in Algeria.
On June 22 the 45th Infantry Division arrived in combat loaders directly from
the United States. Its elements disembarked at Oran. The 1st, 3d and 45th
Infantry Divisions were able to undergo some rehearsals, but Eisenhower
referred to them as dry runs on a reduced scale. They involved landing only
selected units of each Regimental Combat Team on the rehearsal beaches, with
the result that there was no complete unloading of even a limited number of
ships and craft. As a result, these rehearsals stopped short of what Eisenhower
called the "critical phase", in which beaches become crowded and disorganized
through the accretion of supplies and disabled boats and other equipment. These
exercises had to suffice, however, because of the immediate presence of Axis
aircraft and submarines.
The Allied rehearsals were complete by July 4. Thereafter, vehicles used in
them had been returned to concentration areas for rewaterproofing and reloading
aboard ship. The troops were returned to their final staging areas. The 82d
Airborne Division arrived in Tunisia from Casablanca. The port of Bizerte was
choked with 15 days reserve supplies for 140,000 men, three and a half units of
fire, and replacements for 25% of the combat vehicles, 10% of the general
purpose vehicles, and 10% of the weapons.
During the period immediately before the landings in Sicily, the Allied air
forces at Malta were dramatically increased in size, from 200 first line
aircraft in November 1942 to over 600 in June, 1943. These were operating from
enlarged and newly constructed airfields, from which Mosquitoes and Spitfires
harried the enemy on Sicily during June. Added to these forces were an
additional 70 aircraft based on Gozo and Pantelleria (following its
liberation). There was, in fact, an excess of aircraft available to the Allies,
although the same was not true with respect to the available fuel and
ordinance. Indeed the air campaign against Pantelleria consumed so much in the
way of necessary bombs and gasoline that only just sufficient supplies of these
materials were available for the Sicilian operation.
From June 11 to July 10, 1943 the primary target for the Allied air forces was
the system of Axis air bases on Sicily and Sardinia. In the previous three
months the number of bases available to the enemy had increased from 19 to over
30 on Sicily alone, so that approximately 600 fighter aircraft could be
accommodated. The Allied air assault on these bases began on June 12, the
Sicilian bases being attacked repeatedly until June 30. The Allies also
attacked the Sardinian bases, beginning on June 28. These raids were not
heavily contested by the enemy, who lost a good number of fighters on the
ground, and transferred still others to bases thought to be more secure, namely
those in the eastern part of Sicily. During the last week before the invasion
the attention of the Allied air forces turned to these bases as well. The
result was that by July 10, the enemy had virtually no fully serviceable
airfields on the island, and indeed most of its bases had been rendered totally
Meanwhile, the Allied air forces had also been attacking the enemy's
communications centers in Naples, as well as Messina, and the Sardinian ports
at Olbia and Golfo Aranci. The Allies struck Naples and its neighboring rail
junction four times during June. The Sardinian ports suffered a like number of
air strikes during the same period. Messina received particular attention.
During the weeks immediately preceding the invasion, the Allies bombed it seven
times, including three raids on successive nights during which the ferry
facilities on both side of the Straits were thoroughly blasted. Finally, during
the night of July 9-10, the Allied air forces delivered large scale attacks on
what remained of the enemy's air bases in Sicily, as well as upon the assault
One gains a general appreciation of the context in which HUSKY occurred
by first considering the relative position of the island of Sicily in its
Mediterranean setting. Sicily is generally triangular in shape. It is oriented
along a roughly east/west axis, and its base extends from north to south
between Messina and Cape Passero. The southern side of the island stretches
from the Cape to Marsala, while the equally lengthy northern side reaches from
Messina to Trapani.
An exceedingly narrow body of water, the Straits of Messina, separates Sicily
from the Italian mainland. The area thus separated from Sicily is the toe of
the Italian boot. The Tyrrhenian Sea to the north divides the island from
Sardinia, Corsica and the principal cities of Italy, such as Rome and Naples.
The Mediterranean to the south and east creates a substantial barrier between
Sicily and its neighbors in North Africa, Tunisia, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica.
Of particular significance for the coming battle were the islands of
Pantelleria, nearly equidistant between Sicily and the northeastern coast of
Tunisia, and Malta, situated almost directly south of Cape Passero by a
relatively few airmiles.
Sicily enjoys rather hot summers and mild winters. In July, when the Allied
invasion came, the normal temperature range is between 70 and 90 degrees
Fahrenheit. Rainfall is moderate at best, averaging between 10 and 20 inches
from the first of May to the end of October. In July, Sicily is typically in a
boundary zone between a high pressure zone that prevails over the Atlantic
Ocean and a low pressure zone that covers the whole of the Eurasian land mass
and North Africa. The planners of the invasion, and those who would fight in
it, could therefore expect hot and dry weather, which nevertheless might be
interrupted by storms of some severity.
Sicily is part of the Alpine system which predominates throughout southern
Europe, northern Africa and northern Turkey. Mountainous terrain extends
generally from the center of the island to the coasts. In the north, the hills
virtually touch the coast, while in the south a narrow strip of flat ground
lies between the sea and the mountains. The approaches to Messina are protected
in the west by the Caronie Mountains. Along the eastern coast, south of Messina
and immediately north of Catania, lies Mount Etna, the most dominant
topographical feature on the island.
Apart from the southern coastal strip, there are three relatively flat areas on
the island of sufficient breadth and depth to allow an invading force to land,
deploy and move inland. The first of these, at the western end of Sicily,
extends from Trapani to Mazara, thus embracing the entire tip of the island. At
its midpoint, this coastal plain is approximately twenty miles deep, from
Marsala at the water's edge where the mountainous terrain begins. Inviting as
this potential landing ground is, however, the Allies eventually elected not to
land a single soldier there. This was in part due to the fact that several
enemy formations were stationed directly behind the potential landing zones.
More importantly, the more substantial Axis units were located at the eastern
end of Sicily. To engage these troops from the west would require traversing
virtually the entire length of the island.
In the middle of the eastern end of Sicily, beginning in the foothills of Mount
Etna and reaching southward along the coast to Augusta, lies the Plain of
Catania. It is roughly twenty miles deep and twenty miles wide, although deeper
and wider than this in certain places. To the southeast of this plain, and
separated from it by a chain of hills, is another coastal plain, reaching from
Licata in the west around the southeast tip of the island to Syracuse. The two
deepest portions of this plain, between Gela and Scoglitti on the south coast,
and at Cape Passero on the southeastern tip, are both approximately fifteen
miles in depth. In the event, the main force of the Allied blow fell in these
The Axis forces committed to defend Sicily included a variety of German and
Italian troops, some of whom were stationed on the island on July 10, 1943, and
some of whom were shifted to the island as the battles progressed. All Axis
forces on the island operated under the direction of Armed Forces Command
Sicily, commanded by Generale d'Armata Alfredo Guzzoni. This headquarters had a
German liaison office attached to it, under the able General Ferdinand von
Senger und Etterlin, as well as German naval and Luftwaffe headquarters.
Tactical control of all Axis units on Sicily, both Italian and German, resided
with Sixth Italian Army, also under the command of Guzzoni. The headquarters
subordinate to Sixth Italian Army included XII Corps (Italian) and XVI Corps
[Italian); the anti-aircraft defense command for Sicily; the separate and
independent Italian Navy and Royal Italian Air Force commands for Italy; and
the XIV Panzer Korps, under General der Panzertruppen Hans Valentin Hube.
The major German units to fight in Sicily were 15. Panzer-Grenadier-Division,
Hermann Goering Panzer-Division, 29. Panzer-Grenadier-Division and 1.
Fallschirm-jaeger-Division. When the Allied onslaught came, 15.
Panzer-Grenadier- Division was a unit in transition. Indeed, this
formation, commanded by Generalmajor Eberhard Rodt, actually took its
final shape during the battle. Its initial parts included the remnants of 15.
Panzer-Division, which the Allies had destroyed in Tunisia two months
earlier and Division "Sizilien," a collection of miscellaneous units
cobbled together by the Germans on the island, principally replacement units
originally intended for Tunisia, along with Panzer-Abteilung 215 .
The nominal order of battle of a Panzer-Grenadier Division in 1943
included two Panzer-Grenadier regiments, each of three battalions, and
including a self-propelled flak company, a motorized infantry gun
company and a motorized engineer company; an armored battalion, in which
assault guns (a total of 42) frequently substituted for tanks; an armored
reconnaissance battalion, a motorized artillery regiment, a motorized
tank-destroyer battalion, an anti-aircraft battalion and an engineer
The makeup of 15. Panzer-Grenadier-Division on July 10, 1943 was
typical of many German formations at this stage of the war, in that it varied
substantially from the prescribed establishment. Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment
104 deployed three rifle battalions of three companies each, one heavy
weapons company, one anti-tank company, and an infantry gun company. Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment
129 and Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 115 were organized like their
sister regiment. The Division also included Panzer-Grenadier-Bataillon
Reggio, Panzer-Abteilung 215, Artillerie-Regiment 33, Flak-Bataillon 315,
Pioneer-Abteilung 33, service troops and a panzerjaeger battalion.
Panzer-Abteilung 215 was composed of three companies with a total of
six Panzer Mk III and 46 Panzer Mk IV tanks.
29. Panzer-Grenadier-Division also differed from the nominal
establishment of such a formation. On Sicily, this division included Panzer-Grenadier-Regiments
15 and 71, each of three battalions; Panzer-Abteilung 129,
which sent 43 Stug III assault guns to the island; Artillerie-Regiment
29, which possessed three battalions of self-propelled guns; and Flak-Bataillon
Generalmajor Walter Fries commanded 29. Panzer-Grenadier-Division
at the time of the Allied assault. The division had come into existence in
1936. It became a motorized formation in the autumn of 1937, after which it was
designated 29. Infanterie-Division (Mot.) . It distinguished itself
both in Poland and in France during the race for the English Channel. In June,
1941, the division began its service in Russia with Army Group Center. It
fought in several major engagements in that year, at Bialystok and Minsk, at
the Dnieper crossings, and at Smolensk. The following year, it served again the
German campaign in South Russia, fighting at Kharkov and in the Don bend. It
was part of the assault force at Stalingrad, where it was encircled and
destroyed in January, 1943.
The 29. Panzer-Grenadier-Division that fought in Sicily was
reconstituted in southern France the following spring. Its core formation was
345. Infanterie-Division (Mot.). Generalmajor Fries was a
well-decorated officer, holding the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords,
and had formerly commanded Infanterie-Regiment (Mot.)15. of 29.
Infanterie-Division (Mot.) during 1941-1942.
In general, the establishment of a panzer division in 1943 included a panzer
regiment of two battalions. In theory, the first battalion was to have four
companies of 22 Panther tanks each; the second battalion was to have
the same organization, but with Panzer MkIVs . The divisional
establishment also had two motorized infantry regiments, each having two
battalions. There were also a motorized artillery regiment, having three
battalions; an armored reconnaissance battalion; a tank-destroyer battalion; an
anti-aircraft battalion and an engineer battalion.
Panzer-Division "Hermann Goering" that fought in Sicily under the
command of Generalleutnant Paul Conrath exceeded in strength the
accepted establishment for a panzer division. It was composed of Panzer-Regiment
"Hermann Goering" (three battalions); Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 1
"Hermann Goering" (two battalions); Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 2
"Hermann Goering" (two battalions); Panzer-Artillerie-Regiment
"Hermann Goering" (three battalions); Flak-Regiment "Hermann Goering";
Panzer-Aufklarungs-Abteilung "Hermann Goering"; and Panzer-Pioneer-Bataillon
"Hermann Goering". The establishment of the Panzer-Division "Hermann
Goering" exceeded the norm in that its panzer regiment had three
battalions, and it fielded an anti-aircraft regiment rather than just a
On Sicily, Panzer-Regiment "Hermann Goering" fielded two tank
battalions, totaling 43 Panzer MkIIIs mounting long 50mm guns, three
Panzer MkIIIs with 75mm guns and 32 Panzer MkIVs with long 75mm
guns, and a battalion of 29 assault guns. Its Panzer-Aufklarungs-Abteilung
"Hermann Goering" and Panzer-Pioneer-Bataillon "Hermann Goering"
both fought as motorized infantry. Its Panzer-Artillerie-Regiment "Hermann
Goering" committed only three of its four battalions, one light
battalion of two batteries, and two medium battalions, each having two medium
field howitzer batteries and one battery of 100 mm. guns. In addition, its Flak-Regiment
"Hermann Goering" was under strength, fielding only one mixed battalion
of three medium and three light batteries. Finally, both of the division's
panzergrenadier regiments fought on Sicily; however, while both battalions of
Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 2 saw action, only the first battalion of Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment
1 accompanied it, and all three units operated under the command of Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment
1. Fallschirm-Jaeger-Division, which was to serve with great
distinction in Sicily and elsewhere, was nominally composed of Fallschirm-Jaeger-Regiments
1, 3 and 4, Fallschirm-Artillerie-Regiment 1, Fallschirm-Flak-Abteilung
1, Fallschirm-Panzerjaeger-Batallion 1, Fallschirm-Pioneer-Bataillon 1 and
a signal battalion. Not all of this force, however, joined in the battle.
Absent were Fallschirm-Jaeger-Regiment 1, Fallschirm-Flak-Abteilung 1,
all but one battalion of Fallschirm-Artillerie-Regiment and most of
the anti-tank and signal battalions.
The officer commanding 1 Fallschirm-Jaeger-Division in Sicily was Generalleutnant
Richard Heidrich, an officer decorated with the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves
and Swords. Heidrich had previously commanded Fallschirm-Jaeger-Regiment
of 7. Flieger-Division, the unit from which 1.
Fallschirm-Jaeger-Division was formed in Russia in the fall of 1942. He
was well-experienced, having served in the invasion of France, the airborne
assault on Crete and at the siege of Leningrad. Heidrich withdrew 1 Fallschirm-Jaeger-Division
from Russia in early spring, 1943, taking it to southern France to complete its
fitting and training.
Also present on Sicily, and assigned to Panzer-Division "Hermann Goering",
was the second company of Schwere-Panzer-Abteilung 504. This unit
fielded 17 Tiger tanks, each mounting the formidable 88mm gun. 
Several Italian Army units defended Sicily as well. Foremost among these was
4th (Livorno) Division, commanded by Generale di Divisione Domenico
Chirieleison. It was composed of 33rd and 34th Infantry Regiments,
a mortar battalion, XI Commando Battalion, IV Anti-Tank Battalion,
28th Artillery Regiment , three anti-aircraft battalions and an engineer
battalion. Although other Italian units on Sicily were characterized as
"mobile," Livorno was in fact the only such formation on the island. It was
generally superior to all other Italian formations, with troops of exceptional
quality and enough of its own transport to move all of its regiments at
There were three additional "mobile" Italian formations of divisional size on
Sicily. One of these was 28th (Aosta) Division, under Generale di
Divisione Giacomo Romano. It fielded 5th and 6th Infantry Regiments,
171st "Blackshirt" Battalion, XXVIII Mortar Battalion, 22nd Artillery
Regiment, two anti-aircraft batteries and an engineer battalion. The
second was 26th (Assietta) Division, eventually commanded by General
di Divisione Ottorino Schreiber. It was composed of 29th and 30th
Infantry Regiments, 17th "Blackshirt" Battalion, CXXVI Mortar Battalion, 25th
Artillery Regiment, two anti-aircraft batteries and an engineer
battalion. The third such formation was 54th (Napoli) Division, under
General di Divisione Giulio G.C. Porcinari. It included 75th and 76th
Infantry Regiments, 173rd "Blackshirt" Battalion, 54th Artillery Regiment
and two anti-aircraft batteries .
The Italians also deployed several static coastal defense units on Sicily. XII
Corps, under the command of Generale di Corpo d'Armata Mario Arisio, included
202nd, 207th and 208th Coastal Divisions, and 146th Coastal Regiment. XVI
Corps, commanded by Generale di Corpo d'Armata Carlo Rossi, had 206th and 213th
Coastal Divisions, as well as XVIII and XIX Coastal Brigates. These static
formations were composed primarily of Sicilian conscripts in the higher age
groups. The weaponry issued to these units was outdated, and consisted
primarily of small arms and some low grade artillery. In addition to being
poorly armed and manned, these Italian coastal defense units were assigned
unreasonably large stretches of beach, so that what little strength they did
have was dissipated. As a result of these deficiencies, they failed to acquit
themselves well on the day of the invasion.
On the eve of the invasion, the principal Axis forces on the island were
roughly equally divided between the western and eastern ends, because of
uncertainty about where the Allies would land. At the western end of Sicily the
slightly under strength 15. Panzer-Grenadier-Division lay between 28th
(Aosta) Division on the north and 26th (Assietta) Division on the south. All
three units were deployed in the hills immediately behind the coastal plain. At
the island's other end, from west to east, were 4th (Livorno) Division, Panzer-Division
"Hermann Goering", also under strength, and 54th (Napoli) Division. "Hermann
Goering" and 54th (Napoli) divisions were directly west of Syracuse, in
the hills to the south of the plain of Catania. 4th (Livorno) Division was also
in the hills, north of Licata and Gela. A smaller Axis force, a collection of
various formations known as Group Schmalz, was positioned north of the plain of
Catania, at the foot of Mount Etna. 29. Panzer-Grenadier-Division and
1. Fallschirm-Jaeger-Division were not on Sicily when the Allied assault
The total Axis forces ultimately involved in the defense of Sicily has been
variously estimated at between 270,000 and 370,000 men. Of this figure, the
maximum number of German troops was about 62,000. Arrayed against the
island's defenders was a very considerable Allied ground force, consisting of
more than two armies. While General Eisenhower led the overall operation, his
ground commander was General Sir Harold R.L.G. Alexander, Commander-in-Chief,
15th Army Group. Alexander's principal subordinates were General Sir Bernard
Law Montgomery, commanding Eighth Army, and Lieutenant General George S.
Patton, Jr., commanding Seventh United States Army.
Eighth Army's XIII Corps, under the command of Lieutenant-General Miles
Dempsey, included three divisions. The first of these was 5th Division, under
Major-General H.PM Berney-Ficklin. It was composed of 13th Infantry Brigade,
15th Infantry Brigade and 17th Infantry Brigade. 5th Division also disposed of
a reconnaissance regiment, an anti-tank regiment, a light anti-aircraft
regiment, three field artillery regiments and additional support units.
XIII Corps' second major formation was 50th Division (Northumbrian), under
Major-General Sidney C. Kirkman. This division fielded 69th Infantry Brigade,
151st Infantry Brigade and 168th Infantry Brigade. 50th Division also possessed
an anti-tank regiment, a light anti-aircraft regiment and three field artillery
regiments, plus additional support troops. The third division under the command
of XIII Corps was 1st Airborne Division, under Major-General G.F. Hopkinson.
1st Airborne Division included 1st Parachute Brigade (three battalions), 2nd
Parachute Brigade (three battalions), 4th Parachute Brigade (three battalions)
and 1st Airlanding Brigade (two battalions). 1st Airborne Division fielded a
reconnaissance squadron, a light artillery regiment, two anti-tank batteries, a
light anti-aircraft battery and three squadrons of engineers. It also possessed
a myriad signals and medical support units. Finally, XIII Corps had under its
command 44th Royal Tank Regiment.
The commander of XXX Corps was Lieutenant-General Sir Oliver Leese. First among
his troops were those of 51st (Highland) Division, under Major-General Douglas
Wimberley. 51st Division included 152nd, 153rd and 154th Infantry Brigades. It
also had three regiments of field artillery, one regiment each of light
anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns, and other support units. The other major
formation under the control of XXX Corps was 1st Canadian Division, under
Major-General G.G. Simonds. It had 1st, 2nd and 3d Infantry Brigades, a
reconnaissance regiment, an anti-tank regiment, three regiments of field
artillery and other troops, including combat engineers.
In place of a third division, XXX Corps controlled three additional independent
brigades. One of these was 231st Infantry Brigade, commanded by Brigadier R.E.
Urquhart. This unit was composed of three battalions of infantry, a regiment of
field artillery and a company of combat engineers. XXX corps controlled in
addition 1st Canadian Army Tank Brigade and 23rd Armored Brigade, each of which
fielded three regiments of tanks.
15th Army Group also had available a substantial reserve. This included 78th
Division (three infantry brigades) under Major-General V. Evelegh. This unit
was comparable to its sister divisional formations, in that it too contained a
reconnaissance regiment, an anti-tank regiment, three field artillery
regiments, a light anti-aircraft regiment as well as additional troops,
including three companies of Royal Engineers. 15th Army Corps had at its
disposal further independent units, such as three units of commandos.
Seventh United States Army was, like its British counterpart, a most formidable
formation. The Army's II Corps, under Lieutenant-General Omar N. Bradley,
controlled two divisions. One of them was 1st Infantry Division, which began
the invasion under Major General Terry de la Mesa Allen, later succeeded by
Major General Clarence R. Huebner. It had three infantry regiments, each of
which formed the core of a Regimental Combat Team (RCT). The division had four
field artillery battalions, plus additional units, including an engineer
battalion, a reconnaissance battalion, a medical battalion and other support
troops. Also attached to the division for the landing on Sicily was 67th
Armored Regiment, Darby's Rangers, composed of 1st and 4th Ranger Battalions,
two additional battalions of engineers, and troops of a chemical battalion.
45th Infantry Division, under the command of Major General Troy H. Middleton,
was the second component of II Corps. It also had three regiments of infantry
and four battalions of field artillery. The division also fielded a combat
engineer battalion, a medical battalion, a mechanized reconnaissance troop and
numerous other support units. 753rd Medium Tank Battalion was attached to 45th
Infantry Division for the invasion.
Seventh Army had an additional large and powerful force available for the
invasion, known as JOSS Force. It included 3d Infantry Division under
Major General Lucian K. Truscott, the core of which was composed of three
infantry regiments and four battalions of field artillery. 3d Infantry Division
also had an engineer battalion, a chemical mortar battalion, a medical
battalion, a reconnaissance troop and numerous support and headquarters units.
It also had as a floating reserve 66th Armored Regiment, 41st Armored Infantry
Regiment and additional reconnaissance and field artillery units, all of which
constituted Combat Command A of 2d Armored Division. In addition to all these
units, the Division had attached to it combat engineer, Ranger, infantry and
artillery units, plus additional headquarters units.
JOSS Force also controlled Seventh Army's floating reserve. This
comprised Combat Command B of the 2nd Armored Division, 9th Infantry Division,
82nd Airborne Division, 18th Infantry Regiment, 540th Engineer Shore Regiment
and two anti-aircraft battalions.
Eighth Army was to attack south of Syracuse along the Gulf of Noto, including
both sides of Cape Passero. The Allied intention was that the Port of Syracuse
would quickly be brought on line, and that the advance would proceed with
alacrity, soon making available the harbors at Augusta and Catania. On the
other hand, the Seventh Army was to land along the gulf of Gela, roughly
between that city and Licata. Although both of these towns offered modest port
facilities, in fact the Americans would be compelled to rely upon supplies
brought ashore through the assault beaches.
Alexander's broad concept of the battle for Sicily was that Eighth Army would
dash along the coast to the Straits of Messina to deny the Axis forces an
avenue of retreat, while Seventh Army advanced in parallel to protect its left
flank. For this purpose, Eighth Army would land four divisions and one brigade,
whose first objectives were Syracuse and a neighboring airfield. The British
would drop their 1st Airlanding Brigade before the main body of troops arrived
ashore. Its task was to seize the Ponte Grande bridge over the Anapo River near
Syracuse. Preceded by a drop of a reinforced regimental combat team of the 82d
Airborne Division a few miles inland of Gela, Seventh Army would place ashore
three divisions between Licata and Gela.
British XIII Corps was on the north end of the British landing zone, and was to
put ashore 5th Division near Cassibile and 50th Division near Avola. It also
controlled British 1st Airborne Division, which was to land just south of
Syracuse. This formation, along with Commando units, was to support 5th
Division in seizing the port city. XIII Corps would then advance northward on
Augusta and Catania.
XXX Corps would land on either side of Cape Passero. On the right, 231st
Infantry Brigade was to maintain contact with XIII Corps while 51st Division
secured the town of Pachino. On the left, two Royal Marine Commando units and
1st Canadian Division were to advance and make contact with Seventh Army at
Ragusa. They were also to take the airfield at Pachino. 51st Division would
then also begin to move northward.
Seventh Army's invasion force had two primary elements, 3d Infantry Division
and II Corps. The former would land in the region of Licata, while the latter,
including 1st Infantry Division and 45th Infantry Division, would attack on
about sixty miles of beach to the east. Patton's reserve was divided into four
main elements, namely 2d Armored Division, reinforced with a regimental combat
team from 1st Infantry Division; that portion of 82d Airborne Division not
involved in the air drop; a regimental combat team from 9th Infantry Division,
plus that division's artillery; and the balance of 9th Infantry Division.
The final operational plan required Patton to capture the airfields at Licata,
Ponte Olivo, Biscari and Comiso. He was assigned to take and restore to
operation the ports of Licata and Gela. To accomplish these tasks, Patton
intended to land simultaneously at Scoglitti, Licata and Gela for the purpose
of securing, by the end of D plus 2, the ports of Licata and Gela, an air
landing ground at Farello, and the airfields.
Third Infantry Division constituted the left side of Patton's invasion force.
This division, reinforced by Combat Command A of the 2d Armored Division and a
battalion of French colonial troops, the 4th Moroccan Tabor of Goums, totaled
about 45,000 men. The division was to attack on four beaches, two each on
either side of Licata, to seize the city, its port and the airfield. Since the
division was on the far left flank of Seventh Army, with the task of protecting
that flank, its first important objective was to capture Campobello and Palma
di Montechiaro. These inland cities controlled avenues of approach from the
northwest, and getting at them would require the division to overcome
significant natural obstacles.
In the landing zone of II Corps, 45th Infantry Division was to land on the
right, and 1st Infantry Division on the left. First Infantry Division's area of
operations extended from a point midway between Licata and Gela eastward to the
Acate River. In addition to its small port, Gela was noteworthy for being near
a coastal highway and an air landing ground, and for having behind it an open
plain suitable for maneuver. The final plan assigned 1st Infantry Division two
Ranger Battalions and other supporting units as reserves, as well as six
beaches on a total frontage of six miles. One regiment of the division was to
move inland, link up with paratroopers near Niscemi, and move on the airfield
at Ponte Olivo. The second regiment was to move toward the airfield also. The
Ranger battalions were to take the town of Gela.
45th Infantry Division had before it a landing zone of fifteen miles in length.
Immediately inland of the beach lay a broad plain. At a distance of about ten
miles were situated the towns of Biscari and Comiso. These towns, and the
airfields associated with them, constituted 45th Infantry Division's primary
objective. One of the division's regiments was to land east of the mouth of the
Acate River and drive north to capture Biscari and its airfield, as well as
Ponte Dirillo, where the coastal highway crosses the Acate. A second regiment
was responsible for taking Scoglitti and Vittoria. The division's final
regiment had to seize the airfield at Comiso, while also maintaining contact
with Eighth Army at Ragusa.
The portion of the 82d Airborne Division which would land before the primary
invasion force was to lend support to the 1st Infantry Division by taking the
ground near Gela to be in a position to defend against an enemy counterstroke
from the north and east. These forces would come under the command of II Corps,
and had been trained to occupy road intersections, not only to hold them open
for American troops advancing from the beaches, but also to obstruct efforts by
the enemy to move units to the beachhead in an effort to throw the invaders
The Allied plan called for the paratroops to be ferried aboard 227 C-47s under
the command of the 52d Troop Carrier Wing. The aircraft were to drop their
loads at the appointed zones between 11:30 PM July 9 and 12:06 AM July 10, and
then return to their points of origination in North Africa. Because of fear of
the naval convoys and their anti-aircraft arrays, the planners eschewed a
short, straight flight over Pantelleria in favor of a more circuitous route
over Malta that required three sharp turns over water at night, and six hours
flying time. In addition, no pathfinders were to go in ahead of the troop
carriers, and hence the drop zones would not be marked. Pilots were required to
commit distinguishing marks to memory and be able to discern them by moonlight.
Finally, because of the enormity of the enterprise, and the demands which it
placed upon Allied air forces, the paratroops were to receive no fighter
protection, and would instead be forced to rely upon tactical surprise.
As might be anticipated, logistic considerations were paramount in an
undertaking the size of the HUSKY operation. In the American zone of
operations, 45th Infantry Division began with twenty-one days of maintenance
and ten units of fire, all to be conveyed with the assault and in the first
follow-up convoy on D plus 4. In the second follow-up convoy of D plus 8, this
unit would receive seven more days maintenance and an additional one and
one-sixth units of fire. Its partner in II Corps, 1st Infantry Division, went
into action with seven days maintenance and two and one-third units of fire,
and would receive from the D plus 4 follow up seven more days of maintenance
and an additional one and one-sixth units of fire. The last follow up convoy, D
plus 8, would bring this division fourteen more days maintenance and two and
one-third units of fire. Third Infantry Division generally followed this plan
except that it received about one half of the maintenance and fire units in the
third follow up convoy.
In addition to the supplies specifically designated for each unit, the plan
provided for sizable provisions to be placed aboard ships in North Africa and
then transported to the landing zone for ready transfer ashore. Thus, almost
three weeks worth of ammunition and supplies would be available from cargo
vessels in the invasion area, beginning two weeks after the invasion. Yet
further supplies, ammunition, weapons and equipment remained at Bizerte, ready
for immediate shipment to Sicily.
A particularly noteworthy aspect of the HUSKY operation was the manner
in which the Allies' logistics system had improved. This was observable
primarily with regard to the Allies' amphibious equipment and its manner of
use. Indeed, much new equipment was used in large numbers for the first time.
The most prominent of these were four amphibious vehicles, namely the LCVP
(landing craft, vehicle or personnel), the LST (landing ship, tank), the LCI
(landing craft, infantry) and the LCT (landing craft, tank). All were intended
to bring their cargoes to the water's edge and discharge them there with speed
and efficiency. Among Allied leaders, however, there was some anxiety about
their performance for the simple reason that time had not permitted testing of
the vehicles under all possible conditions. In contrast, another new piece of
equipment, the DUKW (known, naturally enough, as "the duck"), enjoyed a high
level of confidence. This amphibious truck was capable of 50 miles per hour on
land and over 5 knots at sea, and had been designed to carry up to five
thousand pounds of cargo, men and their equipment, and wounded. Seventh Army
expected the DUKW alone to resolve many anticipated logistics problems.
The interrelationship among the respective army, navy and air force commands in
anticipation of HUSKY was a curious one. One would expect that the
services would be forced to confer regarding the matter of naval gunfire in
support of the landing, and such conferences naturally took place. However, the
two sides held opposite views from the outset on the question of whether naval
gunfire should be used to "soften" the invasion beaches prior to the landings.
The navy urged that such "softening fire" be used; the army argued,
successfully as it turned out, that the fire should be withheld in the interest
of achieving tactical surprise, and to protect paratroopers already on the
ground. Both sides agreed that naval gunfire would be necessary and forthcoming
in support of the infantry once it had come ashore.
While the navy and army were able to cooperate in establishing a fire support
plan, the air force command steadfastly refused to work with either of them.
There does not appear to be a compelling explanation for this behavior, and it
is remarkable that Eisenhower tolerated it. In brief, the Allied air forces
made it clear that they would not provide ground support until they had first
succeeded in neutralizing the Axis air forces. Since the Allies lacked
sufficient forces to perform both tasks at once, and since Allied air
commanders were committed to the concept of massed forces, and finally since
destruction of the Axis air forces was regarded as the primary objective, there
would be no ground support until Allied air commanders were prepared to give
it. As a result, the air plan issued in June failed to provide army and navy
commanders with meaningful information as to what air support they could expect
to have on the day of the invasion.
In spite of the shortcomings of the air plan, in fact quite sizable air support
was made available for the Sicily invasion. The Northwest African Tactical Air
Force (NATAF) provided twenty fighter squadrons on Malta, an American fighter
group on Pantelleria, and yet another American fighter group on the isle of
Gozo, near Malta. The aircraft thus amassed totaled almost 700. Added to these
were additional fighter-bombers and tactical bombers operating from bases in
North Africa. Some of these aircraft were designated to move to Sicily when
captured airfields became available.
The Allied air forces which took part in HUSKY were organized under
the umbrella of the Mediterranean Air Command (MAC), headed by Air Chief
Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, General Eisenhower's deputy commander for air
operations in the invasion. MAC included Northwest African Air Forces (NAAF),
the RAF, Middle East (RAFME) (which had the U.S. Ninth Air Force attached to
it), and RAF Malta. NAAF, under the command of General Carl Spaatz, was made up
principally of Northwest African Strategic Air Force (NASAF), Maj. Gen. James
H. Doolittle commanding, and Northwest African Tactical Air Force (NATAF) under
Air Vice Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham.  NASAF included four groups of
American B-17s, five groups of American medium bombers (B-25s and B-26s) and
four wings of RAF Wellingtons, as well as five American fighter groups, flying
P-38s and P-40s. NATAF, whose purpose was almost entirely tactical in nature,
included three additional groups of American medium bombers (A-20s and B-25s),
two RAF and one South African wings of tactical bombers and two tactical
reconnaissance squadrons. 
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Copyright © 2003 Thomas E. Nutter
Written by Thomas E. Nutter. If you have questions or comments on this
article, please contact Mr. Nutter at: email@example.com.
About the author: Tom Nutter is in his 25th
year of practicing domestic and international patent, copyright and trademark
law, and is the Managing Partner of an intellectual property law practice in St. Louis, Missouri. He holds
the Masters and Doctorate degrees in diplomatic/military history from the
University of Missouri. His interests include railroad history as well as
European and American military history in the Nineteenth and Twentieth
Centuries. He lives in St. Louis with his wife, three children and two German
Shepherd dogs, Caesar and Cleopatra.
Published online: 03/01/2003.