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Operation Husky
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 Operation Husky:  The Allied Invasion of Sicily, 1943
Operation Husky:  The Allied Invasion of Sicily, 1943
by Thomas E. Nutter

Aspects of the Allied Invasion of Sicily, 1943

V. HUSKY in Execution

B. The Naval Experience (Part 1)

The Allies spent the period between June 22 and July 4, 1943 carrying out rehearsals of the assault landing and in special training of task groups. The time was also used to install special equipment. Because of the proximity of enemy aircraft and submarines, these rehearsals were not full scale. Nevertheless, the Allies managed to conduct three complete naval rehearsals and one combined rehearsal. Unfortunately, these were not always carried out with the same craft, as other commitments, mechanical breakdowns and refittings took some boats out of service. Even so, by the time HUSKY was commenced in earnest, all craft had performed their roles at least once, and some had done so several times. In addition, all brigades conducted individual combined rehearsals, and many combined signal exercises were carried out.[117]

Admiral Hewitt commanded over six hundred ships and landing craft, one hundred and thirty of which were allocated for escort, covering and fire support. On July 9 the weather was unfavorable for convoys, with the wind velocity at about 35 knots and a moderate sea. The LSTs had difficulty making 8 knots, and the LCIs and smaller craft were making heavy weather of it. The LCT convoy proceeded independently and there was considerable doubt whether the LCT tank waves would arrive at the assault beaches in time to support the infantry. The JOSS Force LSTs and LCIs, in spite of the wind and sea conditions, pushed on as hard as they could in order to meet H-hour. This resulted in some LSTs lagging behind to the extent that they lost sight of the next group ahead, so that some craft became separated from their proper groups and anchored in the wrong area of the beachhead. The Control Ships, acting as escorts during the approach, likewise became separated and were not in their proper positions in the rendezvous areas to assemble and lead the assault LCVPs to the beach. [118]

Three British submarines acted as beacons, taking up positions in the Gulf of Gela on July 7. On July 8, low flying aircraft caused SERAPH and SHAKESPEARE to dive; that evening, an E-Boat forced down SERAPH. These submarines left for Malta on D- day; a JU-88 attacked SAFARI without success; SERAPH rescued a US soldier fallen overboard.[119]

Opposition was light on all beaches with the exception of YELLOW, RED 2 and GREEN 2. The surf was about three feet high, and many landing craft broached. In the CENT area, delays in loading boats prompted the attack force commander to order postponement of H-Hour to 3:45 AM. Landings were generally unopposed, due to the pre-assault cruiser and destroyer shore bombardment. The 157th Regimental Combat Team landed on its assigned beaches, moved inland and captured the designated initial objectives ahead of schedule. The 179th Regimental Combat Team landed on the correct beaches, but experienced delay in movement through the dunes because of extensive mine fields. The 180th Regimental Combat Team gained its assigned D-day objectives after completing a successful landing. However, the landing was not on the correct beaches, and this caused delay in marching and forming up.[120]

In the JOSS area initial attack waves landed according plan in spite of delay caused by bad weather. The landings were over the correct beaches according to schedule in spite of some enemy fire. There was not much fire on GREEN, YELLOW and BLUE beaches; however, there was considerable artillery and machinegun fire on RED beach.[121]

In Admiral Ramsay's operational area, the LCT convoy for BARK EAST had been held up by the weather and had eventually made BARK SOUTH, arriving nearly six hours late. Similar convoys for ACID and for BARK SOUTH were each about two hours late. The most timely was the LCT convoy for BARK WEST , which arrived only thirty minutes late.[122]

The ships at the release positions in the British naval sector were apparently not detected by the shore defenses, and the only difficulties experienced in lowering and forming up landing craft were those imposed by the weather. The defenses were taken generally by surprise when the assaulting formations landed and there was little organized resistance on the beaches. A proportion of the coast defenses were not, in fact, manned on that night; those that were manned were, in the majority of cases, not stoutly fought. At first light there was a certain amount of shelling from shore batteries, but these were effectively dealt with by supporting monitors, destroyers and gun boats. The effectiveness of the supporting fire from British naval forces was remarked upon by friend and foe alike.[123]

Because of the late arrival of the LCT convoys the only LCTs to beach before daylight were those at BARK SOUTH. The unloading of the ships was commenced without delay, and proceeded satisfactorily, despite bad exits and soft sand in the ACID sector and false beaches and soft sand at BARK WEST. Both the LST and the LCI proved, in Admiral Ramsay's view, invaluable in their respective roles, and he considered that the speed with which both vehicles and personnel were landed was one of the principal factors in the success of the operation from the naval point of view. Although at times the rate at which stores were unloaded appeared to be disappointing, the totals unloaded for the beaches were, in fact, greater than the planned figures.[124]

Neither BARK SOUTH nor BARK EAST were worked to capacity during HUSKY. The LST, LCI and the DUKW fulfilled the highest expectations of the British. They considered that the beach organizations worked satisfactorily, and that the shortage of transport ashore to clear the beach dumps resulted from the very quick forward advance of the army. Admiral Ramsay observed, however, that "[T]his is not likely ... to obtain in future operations undertaken against a more determined enemy."[125]

The general absence of enemy air attacks in Admiral Ramsay's sector was as surprising in its extent and considerably greater than the British had been led to expect. According to the Admiral, British ships were not attacked until 10:15AM on July 10 when the enemy raided the ships at ACID beach. On subsequent days there were intermittent air attacks, principally on the East coast, and an increasing number occurred at night. Ramsay considered it fortunate that more damage was not done by these attacks; only three transport ships and a hospital ship were sunk as a result of them. The enemy attacked and sank the hospital ship TALAMBA and also attacked the ABA and DORSETSHIRE, all of which were assailed while lying over five miles from land and fully illuminated. Ramsay had ordered that all such hospital ships remain darkened and with the fleet at night and that full illumination would only be switched on when the ships were five miles clear of the beaches and on passage to or from the assault area. After the sinking of the TALAMBA the British kept all hospital ships with the fleet all night without lights.[126]

In the CENT area, destroyers were used to cover and support the landing. They opened preparatory fire at fifteen minutes before H-hour; each destroyer was assigned an area of responsibility and covered it with 5 inch shells. As a result, 45th Infantry Division landed practically unopposed.[127] Stores, ammunition and supplies were distributed along several miles of beaches. Exits were few, difficult and mined. Several boats were lost on the rocks of GREEN 2 and YELLOW 2 beaches and casualties were sustained. In the DIME area, the beaches were heavily mined and bulldozers, DUKWs and other vehicles were lost. In the JOSS area, the GREEN beaches proved to be the most hazardous; the entrance was rocky, and the shallowness of the beach made it impossible to retract or to render assistance to those beached until succeeding waves landed. Most boats were stuck on the sand. LSTs had great difficulty because of soft sand on RED beach; so they were unloaded at either YELLOW or BLUE beaches or in Licata harbor[128]

The original attack plan had called for the softening of the beach defenses by paratroops, whose intervention was deemed vital to the success of the seaborne assaults, so that the dropping of the paratroops effectively determined D-day and H-Hour (July 10, 2: 45 AM, or two hours before first light). To Admiral Hewitt's great regret, the plan was later changed, so that the role of the paratroops became not the softening of the beaches, but the seizure of high ground round Gela and the capture of the airfield at Ponte Olivo; the date and time of the invasion, however, remained the same, even though Hewitt regarded both as "unsuitable from a naval viewpoint". [129]

The Appreciation of FORCE 141 , which originally called out the role of the paratroops, stated that the selected date would "afford the approach to the coastline the cover of darkness". The fact was, however, that the assault forces were required to make the approach to the beaches in a brilliant waxing moon which would not set until the vessels had hove to in the initial transport areas immediately under the coast defense guns of the enemy. These facts were well known to the naval planners, who pointed out the fact that the moon phase selected was most unfavorable for naval purposes. The date for the landing, however, was not changed because it was reiterated that this phase of the moon was most favorable to the dropping of the paratroops who were the only means available to "neutralize the beach defenses opposing the seaborne assaults". The time for the landing (2:45 AM) had been fixed by the fact that it required the paratroops about three hours from dropping time to assemble and carry out their mission of the "softening of the beaches"; in fact, however, ultimately the paratroops were directed away from the beach defenses.[130]

Since the softening of the beach defenses was vital to the whole plan, naval planners then suggested the employment of naval gunfire against beach defenses. This was not acceptable to the Army on the ground that "surprise" (a "fundamental principle of war") was to be achieved in the assault. Since H-hour required the Allied transports to be in the initial transport areas in brilliant moonlight, the prospect was remote that the enemy would fail to observe such a concentration of hostile shipping off his shores. It was apparent, moreover, that any illumination of the Allied forces, either accidentally by the Allies or purposefully by the enemy, would alert the enemy and disclose Allied intentions. Further, since heavy Allied pre-invasion bombing and the dropping of paratroops had preceded H-hour by almost three hours, the idea that surprise could be preserved was illusory. It was the naval viewpoint that surprise on the assault beaches was not feasible, and indeed not necessary provided there was a rapid seizure of a beachhead.

Owing to the limited capacity of the LCVPs, many trips to and from the beach were required to move any great quantity of supplies, creating operational fatigue in boat crews. The LCVP was a reliable and rugged boat but easily swamped upon beaching unless promptly unloaded. Many boats were ordered away from congested beaches and returned to their ships without unloading. DUKWs were loaded in LSTs and LCTs for the initial purpose of assisting in the unloading of the combat loaders. The problem was that after the first trip to shore, few of these vehicles returned to the ships for further loading, having been diverted by the army for employment onshore. This diversion of the DUKWs not only interrupted the unloading plan, but led to the loss of many DUKW s.

The adoption of the so-called "Montgomery Plan" had serious implications for the Western Naval Task Force. Not only were the beaches required for the Plan inferior for the assault, but also the problem of maintenance reached serious proportions. The beaches south of the Gela River, and particularly those south of the Acate River, introduced unusual natural obstacles. These beaches were backed by soft sand dunes, with undulations reaching a height of from 40 to 80 feet, for a distance of one-half mile to one mile from the sea. Barren slopes and patches of thick shrub bordered the landward side of these vast dunes. Cart tracks running parallel to the beaches lay between the shore line and the nearest metalled road located from one to three miles from the sea. Exits from the beaches to the hinterland were non-existent. The fact that many beaches were flanked by groups of rocks, and all beaches were bordered to seaward by bars or runnels, indicated that there would be difficulties in beaching landing craft, and in preventing stranding unless unloading of the boats was accomplished with special dispatch. The locale and condition of the landing beaches thus suggested the need for reinforced Shore Parties, with particular emphasis on road construction units to prepare exits from the beaches; increased motor vehicle transportation to move stores from beaches to inland dumps and to the advancing troops; and finally a greatly increased labor force to quickly unload boats and craft at the beaches.[131]

In the event, the organization and operation of the beaches during the assault phase presented some of the greatest difficulties in the HUSKY operation. The recurring delay in getting boats unloaded after the first few hours of the assault was present on all the CENT and DIME beaches, and to a lesser extent on the JOSS beaches. From about noon on D-day to the night of D+1, after the assault troops had reached inland objectives and were well engaged with the enemy, demands for ammunition and equipment were greatest. At the same time, the invasion force was inferior to the enemy in artillery and possibly in infantry. It was at this critical period that boat crews and shore parties fell behind in unloading, when the beaches became congested, and when there was a grave danger of complete breakdown in the supply system.[132]

Admiral Hewitt found the Beach Battalions to be the weakest link in the naval organization, while at the same time faced with one of the most arduous and difficult tasks.
During the assault phase of the operation the efficiency of the beach parties was no better than that of the shore parties of which they were a part. As the engineers of the shore parties became primarily involved in normal combat missions, with little concern for the operation of the beaches, the beach parties failed similarly in the prompt and full execution of their responsibilities. There was no concerted effort made to carry out prompt hydrographic surveys at first light on D day. Since thorough surveys were not promptly carried out by all the beach parties, there was a dearth of channel markers. This resulted in LCTs and LSTs standing in to beaches to unload without any guidance as to favorable or unfavorable sites, resulting in the grounding of some craft some distance from shore and causing delays in beaching. In view of the dependence upon the successful employment of pontoon causeways, the off-shore investigations should have been planned in detail and executed promptly with the break of dawn. Since the beach party is not provided a boat from which to carry out this off-shore work, beachmasters have had to confiscate boats to do this work.[133]
Hewitt pointed out that while so-called traffic control boats were supposed to accompany supply boats following the assault craft to the beaches, the traffic control boats failed to materialize, leaving the supply boats to land without direction. As a result, congestion on the beaches followed, a condition aggravated by the fact that the loads remained unloaded, owing to the failure of the Shore Party to perform this part of its task. In consequence, literally dozens of fully loaded supply craft were swamped or stranded ashore, so that the beaches were unavailable to following craft. Many supply craft sat unloaded for as long as 20 hours.[134]

Hewitt complained that there was a general lack of communication between the Shore Party and vessels such as LSTs moving in to land. This was in part due to the wide dispersal of Shore Party personnel over the beaches, where "[D]iscipline, leadership, and control were absent." Changes were made to the CENT beaches as many as eight times during the first two days of the assault, on the ground that beaches with better exits were being sought. This particularly irked Hewitt, who pointed out that the absence of suitable exits had been "conclusively shown" during the preliminary planning stages for the invasion. The planners had recommended that exits and roads would have to be constructed by the Shore Party, and Hewitt claimed to have personally recommended that the CENT area have available an enhanced corps of road construction troops so that the problem could be resolved on D-day.[135]

Hewitt had under his command three navy Beach Battalions, one assigned to each of the CENT, JOSS and DIME force beach areas. He complained that because of the unsatisfactory conditions on these beaches, including the fact that the Beach Battalions lacked the proper equipment, the members of these units were engaged in pursuits not related to their main task, including loading and unloading boats, trucks and ships, road building, serving as gun crews, and acting as guards for POWs. The Beach Battalions stayed on their beaches for periods of weeks performing tasks for which they were not trained or equipped. Many of these troops were incapacitated by fever, malaria and dysentery. Hewitt accordingly believed that in addition to being more lavishly equipped, these units should be better trained. In particular, he believed that they required "more navy life", meaning that they should receive intensive shipboard training in order to instill in them "the necessary naval background."
They should be taught clean and orderly living in the field, how to get along with little and make that little do, how to take care of arms, equipment, and clothing and the necessity for doing so. Physical fitness, military courtesy and discipline should be emphasized in this training which should include overhead firing and other battle courses. These units are seamen first, and they should be garbed in a distinctive uniform in order that they may be distinguished on the beach. Helmets should be painted and marked so as to identify them as members of the Beach Party.[136]

Hewitt was convinced that many of the problems on the beaches could be traced to command issues.

Many of the failings...have been due to the lack of rank, experience, and personality of the Beachmasters. Such officers become submerged in numbers and seniority of the Army ashore. They lack the necessary rank and assurance to stand up against the constant succession of conflicting requests, orders, instructions and commands received on the spot from higher ranking Army officers, who are interested in getting one particular task done, but have no immediate interest in the overall beach task. Many high ranking Army officers, not in the Shore Party, call upon the Beachmaster to subordinate his tasks in the behalf of this seniors' peculiar interests, notwithstanding the capabilities and limitations of the Beach Party. Naval officers of suitable rank, experience, and quality can cope with such interferences and prevent diversion of effort.
The sole exception to this pattern was on the JOSS beaches, where Group Commanders, all Captains and Commanders, "were very effective in bringing the JOSS beaches from disorder to efficiency."[137]

Similar complaints, in reference to the beaches in the British area of operations, were made by Admiral Ramsay. He found that "[B]each parties were not as well trained in the full scope of their duties as they should have been, and this fact was adversely remarked on by senior army officers." According to Ramsay, however, this deficiency was corrected by the time the operation took place, so that "in general it may be said that the naval beach parties carried out their duties very creditably." In spite of this success, however, Ramsay echoed his American counterpart, recommending that in future beach parties be commanded by Lieutenant Commanders, with senior Lieutenants "of character" to assist them. Observing that the officers attached to the beach party on BARK SOUTH were "very keen and hard working", he nevertheless concluded that they "had not the personality, experience or seniority to take complete charge of these beaches." The ability to take control of such a situation, especially in the dark or adverse weather conditions, would be crucial to success in any future similar operation. [138]

Operating in the Scoglitti area during the first four days of the operation was Destroyer Squadron 15, commanded by one C.C. Hartman aboard his flagship, the USS MERVINE . In addition to this vessel, the squadron included eight other destroyers, all of them mounting 5 inch guns, as well as both 40mm and 20mm cannon. Prior to the assault, seven of the squadron's ships acted as a screen for the transport groups, while the remaining two ships were on detached duty, escorting LSTs from Tunis to the Scoglitti area. During the invasion, three of the squadron's vessels served in a screening role with vessels from another squadron, while the remainder of Destroyer Squadron 15 provided fire support. Until July 13 the squadron's vessels continued to alternate between screen duty and fire support.[139]

Late on the evening of July 9, as the squadron lay off shore at Scoglitti, the weather was highly favorable for the invasion, as indeed it would be for several days thereafter. Between 10:20PM and 11:35PM, Hartman's squadron stood on station, prepared for the beginning of the assault. During that time, the crews observed steadily increasing activity on the island, including repeated incidents of heavy anti-aircraft fire, flare detonations, and even searchlights. Hartman believed that most of this activity was directed at Allied bombers and transport aircraft carrying Allied paratroopers. Indeed, one flight of American bombers flew over the squadron at a height of less than 600 feet heading south, giving Hartman and his crews "quite a start." Fortunately for the airmen, they had the presence of mind to switch on their running lights, so that the ships held their fire.[140]

At about 3:00AM on July 10, after nearly an hour's delay, the assault vessels began moving in. Between 3: 45AM and 4:20AM Destroyer Squadron 15 poured supporting fire on the beach area, against non-existent opposition. The assault waves were then safely ashore. Shortly thereafter, as small force of enemy bombers attacked the transport ships, although apparently without much effect. Hartman's ships continued to provide fire support, silencing even small caibre guns or batteries. In fact, the firing of the squadron's own guns was perhaps the most excitement experienced by the crews in the invasion. Neither the ships nor the troops landing met with resistance from the enemy ashore, and the enemy's naval forces made no appearance from the seaward side to harass Hartman's men. So complete was victory for Destroyer Squadron 15 in the Sicily invasion that it suffered no casualties whatever.[141]

The USS MONROVIA , commanded by T. B. Brittain, had what for her crew must have been a particularly interesting experience during the first few days of the HUSKY operation. Although the MONROVIA acted as a transport vessel, it embarked with "the Naval Commander Western Task Force, his operational staff, Fighter Control Group, the Commanding General Seventh Army, his Deputy Commander, full staff and a large Headquarters Detachment of various units. All together 126 officers, 670 men." The ship also carried many tons of equipment, fuel and ammunition. The combination of so many dignitaries and so much cargo meant that the MONROVIA was unable to directly participate in the assault. Instead, it furnished boats, boat crews and boat officers to two other vessels to assist them in getting the assault waves ashore. These conditions also extended unloading operations over a period of three days, when under normal circumstances the unloading would have taken half that time.[142]

The progress of the invasion in the sector of DIME Force on July 10 may be glimpsed from the MONROVIA's activities on that day. At shortly after midnight on July 10, MONROVIA moved into the transport area to which it had been assigned and began to lower boats. At 8:43AM it anchored off the island, and by 9:00AM it began to discharge cargo, and continued to do so for the rest of that day. The next day, the MONROVIA continued to unload cargo, and in the midmorning Admiral Hewitt debarked with some staff officers for an inspection tour. During this day, however, MONROVIA was attacked by enemy aircraft on three separate occasions, suffering some minor damage. In one such attack, aircraft damaged and sank a merchant ship anchored quite near the MONROVIA. [143]

July 12 was a particularly noteworthy date for the crew of the MONROVIA. At 6:30AM that morning, General Eisenhower came aboard for a conference with Admiral Hewitt and General Patton. The Supreme Commander and his staff stayed aboard for approximately one hour and twenty minutes, shortly after which MONROVIA completed unloading its cargo. Shortly before noon, however, Vice Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten and his party came aboard and stayed for two hours. At approximately 5:00PM General Patton and his staff and equipment disembarked, and an hour later the MONROVIA joined a convoy and its destroyer escort to leave the area.[144]

At least as far as the MONROVIA was concerned, the resistance offered by the enemy in the DIME force sector appears to have been minimal. For example, in discussing the conduct of his officers and men, Brittain noted that "[T]hey made their landings and disembarked their troops in the face of such opposition as was present on the assigned beaches." Only two members of the ship's crew were wounded, neither of them seriously, and the crew expended relatively little ammunition. The only damage suffered by the MONROVIA was to its engine room, sustained when a bomb from a Heinkel 111 exploded in the water on the ship's port side. This damage was minor, and the crew quickly repaired it.[145]

Brittain recommended one of his crew, seaman second class Thomas B. McMonagle, for the Navy Cross in connection with his actions during the assault. The story of this seaman's bravery is an interesting one. However, it also illustrates the relatively light enemy resistance encountered in the DIME sector. McMonagle was the coxswain in command of MONROVIA'S Boat 31. He landed his boat at the appointed beach, during which operation he was wounded by enemy machine gun fire. Most interestingly, his commanding officer then reports that "[T]he Army boat team refused to embark even though the ramp was down and the boat well beached." In view of this, McMonagle backed the boat off the beach, silenced the enemy machine guns with his boat's weapons, and then relanded the boat farther down the beach. The seaman continued to maintain control of the boat and returned her to the ship to which he had been assigned, all the while refusing to be relieved by his crew. Only when he was overcome by weakness would he relinquish control of the boat.[146]

The story of seaman McMonagle further shows that the Axis troops did not offer a blistering defense in the DIME area of operations. McMonagle, after all, was able to beach his boat twice, encountering only enemy machine gun fire, and silencing even that with his own weapons, and apparently without assistance in the form of naval gunfire or air support. It seems unlikely that McMonagle and his men were successful in killing all of the enemy machine gunners from the deck of a moving assault craft; the more plausible explanation is that they abandoned their posts after having first offered token resistance. The most interesting aspect of the McMonagle saga, however, would seem to be the refusal of the Army boat team to leave Boat 31 in the face of enemy resistance. Obviously, these assault troops would have been raised to a fever pitch by their commanders, since this was to be the first American landing against a defended shore in the European theatre. One would expect such men to be eager to leave the landing craft under any circumstances---unless it was obvious that the enemy was not resisting elsewhere, and a safer point of egress could therefore be found. It is curious also that the troops "refused" to leave the boat, meaning not only that they declined to obey the commander of the vessel, namely McMonagle, but also that they remained recalcitrant in the face of an order from the man in charge of the party, whether he was a commissioned or non-commissioned officer. It is, of course, unthinkable that the man in command of such a landing party would be in any way implicated in such a refusal to disembark. Finally, it is noteworthy that Brittain, in his report of the incident, does not call for an investigation of its circumstances and the punishment of the perpetrators. Surely some punishable offense---cowardice in the face of the enemy, insubordination, dereliction of duty all come to mind---was at least arguably committed by someone on Boat 31. It therefore seems odd that Brittain did not seek charges against men who apparently failed to obey their orders after McMonagle had been wounded obeying his.

C.W. Harwood, a Captain in the U.S. Coast Guard, commanded the USS JOSEPH T. DICKMAN, as well as a task group consisting of the DICKMAN, H.M.S. PRINCE CHARLES and H.M.S. PRINCE LEOPOLD, both of the Royal Navy, and a small fleet of landing craft. Harwood's group had the task of landing 1st Ranger Battalion, 4th Ranger Battalion, 1st Battalion 39th Engineers and 83d Chemical Warfare Battalion on the beach at Gela on July 10. The group encountered heavy weather during the day of July 9, 1943. While these conditions did not directly affect the DICKMAN or its landing craft, it may have indirectly affected the course of the invasion in the Gela area by delaying the arrival of two of the group's control ships.[147]

The DICKMAN group approached the beach at Gela safely and surely through the use of a submarine beacon. After experiencing some difficulty in obtaining an accurate reading of its position relative to the shore, the DICKMAN launched a marking boat which found and marked the center of the beach. DICKMAN began lowering landing boats at 12:45 AM. There were thirty such boats in all; twenty-six had been preloaded with troops before being lowered, while the remaining four boats, preloaded with equipment only, received their troops by means of nets over the ship's side. The DICKMAN completed lowering the landing boats at 1:25AM. Captain Harwood then held the boats nearby while he awaited the arrival of the primary and secondary control boats. After waiting unsuccessfully for another thirty minutes, Harwood directed the boats to proceed without the control ships.[148]

Fortunately, the control boats arrived as the landing vessels moved toward the shore. As a result, all of the boats landed on the correct beach, but were thirty minutes behind schedule. The enemy greeted the boats with some machine gun fire, as well as with light cannon fire. Casualties among the boat crews included five wounded and one killed. An Army officer was also killed while still aboard his landing boat. In general, however, the troops crossed the beach without suffering many casualties. The enemy directed its fire at the boats, and at least two of them were damaged. Support boats silenced many of the enemy weapons by firing rockets.[149]

The DICKMAN and its landing boats began unloading on July 10, and continued until they were finished at 8:00PM on the next day. The enemy subjected the DICKMAN to assault from the air on the morning of 11 July. This attack was without effect, but the enemy launched another such attack at about 4:00PM on the same day, using a large formation of bombers. The DICKMAN suffered some superficial damage from this bombing attack, and six of her crew were slightly wounded. There was yet a third attack by enemy aircraft approximately forty minutes later, but no bombs were dropped near the DICKMAN. However, a nearby transport vessel, the SS ROBERT ROWAN, was struck by at least one enemy bomb and caught fire. The DICKMAN took aboard 92 survivors before the ROBERT ROWAN exploded. One of the DICKMAN'S landing boats shot down an enemy fighter plane near the beach with its own machine guns. Despite this success, however, the repeated enemy air attacks led Harwood to the rather gloomy conclusion that "it is unlikely that a determined enemy plane assault could have been beaten off."[150]

Cruiser Division Thirteen spent an eventful five days during the assault phase of the invasion of Sicily. The Division formed a part of a Cover and Support Group for the JOSS attack force which assaulted the southern coast of Sicily in the Gela-Licata area. The Group comprised Cruiser Division Thirteen, including the cruisers BROOKLYN and BIRMINGHAM, as well as Destroyer Squadron Thirteen, which consisted of the destroyers BUCK, ROE, SWANSON, NICHOLSON, LUDLOW, WOOLSEY, WILKES, BRISTOL and EDISON. L. T. DuBose commanded the Group from his flagship, the cruiser BROOKLYN .[151]

DuBose's Group made its approach to Licata without incident. Shortly after 2:00AM on July 10 the several ships in the Group took their stations for close fire support along the coast before Licata. At about 3:00AM, however, the destroyers ROE and SWANSON collided, resulting in serious damage to both vessels. DuBose directed them to proceed to Malta for repairs, and their places were taken by the BUCK and LUDLOW, which had previously been assigned to screen BROOKLYN and BIRMINGHAM , respectively.[152]

Throughout the assault phase, the members of the Group had great difficulty in communicating with their individual shore fire control parties. Because of such a problem, the BROOKLYN reverted to firing on prearranged targets, beginning at 4:42AM and continuing until 5:20AM. An unidentified enemy aircraft attacked the BROOKLYN shortly after it had commenced firing, straddling it with two bombs. On this occasion, as on many others over the next four days, enemy aircraft approached without warning, having thwarted the ships' radar by flying at low level. The Group provided supporting fire during the first two hours after daylight. Although the cruisers were equipped with their own spotter aircraft, they were not provided with adequate cover by Allied fighter planes, and DuBose ordered their recall, fearing loss of both the aircraft and their pilots. In spite of this difficulty, at 8:05AM the Italian flag was removed from the Castel St. Angelo above Licata, and the American flag hoisted up. About an hour later DuBose received an order to cease firing.[153]

The remainder of the Group's stay in the invasion zone was rather ordinary, but not without points of interest. On July 11 the BIRMINGHAM was assigned a fire support mission off Port Empedocle, while the rest of the Group patrolled in the landing area. The next day also passed without incident until shortly after 10:00PM, when radar alerted the Group to the approach of hostile aircraft. The ships maneuvered independently, and a stick of bombs missed the BROOKLYN by about 200 feet. For the next twenty minutes the enemy aircraft shadowed the BROOKLYN, but did not again attack. The enemy again attacked the BROOKLYN from the air on July 13, with the same lack of success. The rest of that day was spent patrolling and rendering fire support. On July 14 there was some excitement when first the WOOLSEY and then the BROOKLYN each detonated a mine. In neither case, however, was the damage more than superficial, and by 2:45PM Cruiser Division Thirteen was on its way to Algiers for fuel and ammunition.[154]

The destroyer USS MERVINE, under the command of D.R. Frakes, sailed from Oran during the afternoon of July 5, 1943 as a part of Task Force 85 escorting a convoy to the theatre of operations for the invasion of Sicily. The MERVINE did not encounter the enemy during this voyage, but did experience rough seas on the afternoon of July 9, and a wind of force four from the Northwest.[155]

The wind and sea in the assault area became calm after sunset. Between approximately 10:30PM on July 9 and 2:00AM on July 10, the MERVINE observed flares, searchlights and heavy anti-aircraft fire behind the beaches in the vicinity of Gela. At 3:10AM the first wave of landing boats started for GREEN 2 Beach at a speed of six knots. At 3:48AM the MERVINE began firing on an entire series of pre-arranged targets, and continued to do so until 4:17AM. Between 4:30AM and about 5:07AM, enemy aircraft attacked several nearby ships with bombs, and the MERVINE was able to take one of them, a twin-engined German bomber, under fire, albeit unsuccessfully. The MERVINE's captain was proud to report, however, that while neighboring vessels continued to fire at covering Spitfires "throughout the day", believing them to be enemy aircraft, his own crew refrained from such a potentially egregious error. The MERVINE's forbearance on this account, Frakes admitted, was due to the fact that the ship had received an officer specially trained in aircraft recognition on leaving the US.[156]

The MERVINE was able to establish communications with its Shore Fire Control Party shortly after 6:00AM, and thereafter destroyed an enemy gun emplacement which had been firing on the beaches. However, this was the last opportunity for the MERVINE to fire its guns. There were no further requests for fire support, and at 2:30PM the MERVINE was attached to the anti-submarine screen, and stayed with it until it left the invasion area on July 13.[157]

Task Force Eighty-Five, also identified as the CENT Attack Force, included the destroyer USS BEATTY, commanded by Commander Frederick C. Stelter, Jr. The task force assembled off the isle of Gozo on July 9, and began its approach to Sicily. Like her sister vessels, the BEATTY encountered, after 10:00PM, increasingly favorable weather, with cloudless skies, force one winds from the Northwest, and calm seas. These conditions obtained until at least first light. Shortly after 11:30PM the crew of the BEATTY first sighted transport planes when five of them passed close by at an altitude of about 100-200 feet.[158]

At about 10:40PM anti-aircraft fire began around Gela and several other areas in the CENT-DIME zone. The fire was quite intense and continued so until after midnight, when it became more scattered. The enemy were also observed using flares to advantage, especially against aircraft dropping paratroops. The crew of the BEATTY began observing aircraft falling from the sky in flames at 11:25PM.[159]

On arrival in the invasion area, the BEATTY undertook screening operations with the transport ships until the latter were in their anchorage area, and then took her station as part of a fire support group in the CENT-DIME zone. While the BEATTY and her cohorts awaited the departure of the first wave of invasion troops, the entire force was illuminated by two searchlights located on the beach. The lights were eventually shot out, having caused the fire support group great consternation, though little damage.[160]

Although the transports to which the BEATTY was assigned were originally scheduled to depart for the beach at 1:51AM, in fact they did not do so until 3:42AM, apparently because some of the landing boats could not be made ready in a timely fashion. At 4:07AM one of the landing craft requested the BEATTY and another destroyer, the USS COWIE, to open fire. The two ships then fired on the landing zone for a period of six minutes, covering it with a hail of projectiles. After completing this task, the BEATTY took up anti-aircraft/anti-submarine patrol while it awaited contact with the shore fire control party. At 4:20AM the BEATTY and other vessels in the vicinity came under air attack by aircraft that could not be seen and were undetectable by radar, because of their low approach. The enemy scored no hits.[161]

First light occurred at 4:01AM, inaugurating a day of tension, anxiety and intense activity for the crew of the BEATTY and her neighboring ships. About an hour and a quarter later, two bombs from enemy aircraft landed in the water, the first 2000 yards from the BEATTY's starboard beam, and the second at approximately the same distance from her starboard bow. At 8:30AM the BEATTY managed to contact its Shore Fire Control Team, attached to the 2d Battalion, 180th Regimental Combat Team, which reported that the landing was successful, good progress was being made, and that fire support was not yet needed. Thereafter, the activity of enemy aircraft was almost continuous. Stetler reported that hostile planes would appear at the beachhead flying low and fast from overland to strafe and bomb the invasion troops and then disappear. The commanding officer of the BEATTY went so far as to say that:
They maintained their nuisance value the entire period of daylight, usually appeared in the temporary absence of our fighters and in general gave an excellent account of themselves.
The reason for the success of the enemy fighters was that because of their low altitude, the ships could not fire on them with impunity, for fear of injuring Allied troops. At the same time, Allied fighters would not follow the enemy down, because when they did so, they too were fired on by small craft and beach parties. At midmorning the 20mm cannon of the BEATTY contributed to the destruction of one enemy plane which crashed inland after running the gauntlet of shipboard batteries. At 10:46AM, however, the BEATTY's crew misidentified a P-51 as an Fw-190 and discharged a barrage of machine-gun, 20mm and 40mm fire at it, luckily without effect. Stetler characterized the incident as "excusable", in view of the crew's state of anxiety, and the fact that the enemy aircraft were "going about their business with no air oppostion."[162]

Air activity continued around the BEATTY after noon. The crew observed two Fw-190s shoot down an Allied plane Southeast of Scoglitti at about 1:15PM. Two hours later, Stelter observed enemy bombers over the DIME sector, as well as a Ju-88 above the transport area, apparently on a reconnaissance mission. Allied fighters did not intervene in either case. The enemy bombed the beach in the DIME sector at 5:35PM, and at 6:47PM the crews of several LCTs fired on friendly aircraft. Finally, between 8:40 and 9:00PM a very heavy enemy bomb landed in the water quite close to the BEATTY, shaking her "considerably", and two aircraft fell in flames behind the beach. As darkness approached, Stelter could see twelve distinct fires ashore in the CENT area, caused by heavy gunfire from ships, small craft and shore parties.[163]

An hour after sunrise on July 11 the BEATTY fired on a low flying Me-110 that was retiring at high speed from a bombing attack in the DIME sector. Although the plane was under heavy fire from other ships as well, it managed to escape overland without damage. Thereafter, the BEATTY fired its cannon almost continuously for over three hours at predesignated targets ashore, under the direction of the Shore Fire Control Party. During this sequence, Stelter's vessel fired 799 rounds, and was forced to cease firing because of the depletion of its ammunition supply. The BEATTY took station in an anti-submarine screen at 11:40AM, having been relieved by the USS LAMB .[164]

At 7:00PM the BEATTY moved south of Scoglitti, taking up an anti-aircraft/anti-submarine patrol while it awaited formation of a convoy to which it had been assigned. Between 10:30 and midnight, the surrounding area was alive with gunfire from both ships and the beaches. Flares illuminated the transports just off shore, their effect being enhanced by a cloudless sky, a half moon, and the dark background along the beaches. During this period, Stelter observed at least ten aircraft crash into the sea in flames. Then, at about 10:45PM, the crew of the BEATTY heard an aircraft approaching the ship's starboard bow out of the dark over the beach from Scoglitti. The aircraft could not be seen, and appeared to be making an unusual amount of noise. Simultaneously, fragments from a five inch shell, fired at the plane by another ship, struck the BEATTY on its starboard side, after the shell detonated on impact in the water nearby. The aircraft then flashed across the bow of the BEATTY at a height of about forty feet, narrowly missing the forecastle, and crashing in the water about fifty feet from the ship. During the plane's passage through the BEATTY's line of fire, the vessel's 20mm battery managed to fire sixty rounds at it, before it was identified as a C-47. Fortunately, the BEATTY was able to rescue the aircraft's crew intact. It had already dropped its cargo of paratroops, in spite of a gauntlet of fire thrown up by both friend and foe.[165]

A glimpse into the hazards that might have confronted the HUSKY invasion force, particularly if the obvious landing beaches had been manned by a resolute and well-equipped foe, can be obtained by considering the experience of the USS FREDERICK FUNSTON and her crew. The FUNSTON was a combat loader and carried 2,000 troops of the 45th Infantry Division to the invasion zone, about six miles northwest of Scoglitti. The FUNSTON arrived at its destination at about 11:00PM on July 9, 1943, and began launching landing craft and support boats at about 12:30AM on July 10. Thereafter, the crew worked continuously without respite at the task of unloading troops, supplies and equipment, until at 6:00PM on July 13 the FUNSTON departed from its position in the invasion area, having set a course for the naval base at Oran.[166]

Although the FUNSTON completed its assigned mission, and did so with dispatch and without damage to itself or its crew, nevertheless there occurred a number of misadventures and incidents that highlighted the potential for catastrophe present in the HUSKY operation. For example, the FUNSTON possessed sixteen landing and support boats, no less than twelve of which were stranded ashore during the operation and had to be rescued by the ship's salvage party. As the FUNSTON's commanding officer reported, the loss of these boats "was a prime factor in delaying vital supplies to the landed and engaged troops." One reason for this situation was the deplorable condition of the beach, the surface of which was rough and incredibly uneven for hundreds of feet out to sea. In addition, the surf was very bad, so that many landing craft broached or sank after having made only one or two trips to the beach. Inability to handle the surf was in turn due to lack of skill on the part of landing craft personnel, as well as to shortcomings in their equipment, which was underpowered and difficult to handle.[167]

The FUNSTON's commanding officer generally praised the men under his command, saying that "the behavior under fire, the untiring work in unloading for a continuous sixty hour period, the determined spirit to get the job done in the shortest possible time displayed by all hands was of the very highest caliber." He also said that "[T]here was observed not a single case of hesitation or reticence in the performance of any task, regardless of existing conditions of war or battle."[168]

In spite of the tenor of these remarks, however, the FUNSTON's captain, J.E. Murphy, felt compelled to disclose the darker side of the experience. The more questionable actions of the men under Murphy's command occurred on the beach, and included what Murphy termed "cases...of culpable inefficiency and neglect of duty." Murphy described encountering landing craft fully loaded with "such vital supplies as ammunition" abandoned by their crews on the beach. Evidently, there had been a delay in unloading by the shore parties, and the boat crew had simply "wandered off " rather than commence unloading on their own. Murphy also found that other boats, stranded by the low tide, had been abandoned by their crews. The same boats were later easily rescued under their own power at higher tide by salvage parties. In still other cases, boats that had been sunk or stranded were retrieved by the salvage crews, following which the assigned boat crew would appear as if by magic to take over the vessel, having observed the rescue from the safety of a nearby trench. Murphy was distressed and frustrated by such conduct.

It seemed to be "the thing to do" to some crews when a little difficulty with their boat was had, to dismount the machine guns, set them up inland and "pot shot" at passing enemy planes of which there were considerable during the first two days. Those things reflect on the basic selection and/or training of these crews; something that the ship's officers in their short period of association and intensive training with these crews cannot overcome. Unfortunately, the above described cases could not be identified with the guilty personnel due to the other numerous and vital activities going on.[169]

The reports of the FUNSTON's landing boat officers accompanied that of Murphy, and are equally revealing about the details of the actual assault landing itself. For example, Ensign R.R. Groves reported that on July 10, 1943 he was ordered to "ride to the line of departure" on board the Primary Control Vessel of the USS CALVERT. The FUNTSON's boats were carrying a large number of troops and supplies from the nearby CALVERT ; the "Primary Control Vessel" was a boat detailed to each transport ship for the purpose of controlling the progress of the assault craft. When Groves and the Primary Control Vessel arrived at the line, the Ensign found that "[T[hings...were very ragged".

The control vessel received orders to leave for the beach before the first four waves were formed. After going approximately eight hundred yards orders were received to report back to the CALVERT. Word was passed over the P.A. system and a wide turn was made and the boats led back to the rendezvous area. When the waves were again almost formed, the officer in charge issued orders for all boats to report back to the CALVERT. Just after this word was passed the CALVERT's Boat Group Commander came alongside saying shove off for the beach; therefore boats were going both ways.

Although the boats to which Groves was assigned eventually made it to the beach in good order, the situation continued to be difficult. Because of the rough condition of the beach, compounded by the surf, better than half of the assault boats were encountering difficulty in retracting. Even worse, when Groves' vessel landed, it picked up men from the CALVERT and another ship, the USS ARUNDEL . From these men Groves discovered that the assault boats were all landing on the wrong beach. From that point forward Groves directed the incoming boats to the "new beach", only to find that it was not correctly marked. Groves observed that the traffic control boat assigned to this beach was "never seen", and that those on the beach offered very little help in either unloading or getting boats off the beach.[170]

One of Groves' colleagues, Ensign O.J. Barr, departed with him from the FUNSTON at 12:30AM on July 10 and went at once to PC-542, the control vessel for the CALVERT. After Groves had debarked, the crew of the control vessel told Barr that the CALVERT's Scout Boat, with which Barr and his boat were to rendezvous, had left for the beach an hour before. Barr then searched for the Scout Boat of another transport, the USS NEVILLE, but failed to locate it. Barr patrolled in toward the shore, until about 2:30AM, when he encountered the NEVILLE'S Scout Boat. Together, they searched another half hour for the CALVERT's Scout Boat, without success. The two craft then separated, but the NEVILLE'S Scout reappeared a few minutes later, leading two waves of assault craft toward the beach. Enemy resistance was light, no shots were fired at Barr's boat, and after first light he was able to move ashore and assist in marking the beach.[171]

Ensign Barr's boat thus apparently failed in its mission, through no fault of its crew and commander, but rather as the result of the confusion that evidently reigned in the sector. Barr and his charge transferred supplies from the FUNSTON to shore on July 11 and 12; on the following two days the ensign went aboard the FUSNTON to assist in unloading her holds. When his ship returned to base, Barr reported to his commanding officer that in his opinion the beaches to which the CALVERT and NEVILLE had been assigned were "absolutely unfit" for operations by LCVs, particularly because of a shallow sand bar that paralleled the beach for miles at distances from 10 to 150 yards offshore. This sand bar, and the running surf, swamped and broached "numerous" LCVs. As to the boats which made it ashore, many of them remained "sitting...waiting to be unloaded", in part because the shore party was undermanned, but also because of poor marking of the beach, clogging of the beach with boats that were unable to retract, and lack of proper traffic control. All of this was exacerbated by the unwillingness of boat crews to tow, and thus salvage, boats that had been broached. Barr reported making seven trips to the beach, during all of which time he never observed a boat in trouble being towed by one of her sister craft.[172]

Another boat officer from the FUNSTON, Ensign J.W. Auter, was assigned to the CALVERT on D-day, and had a similarly disquieting experience. Auter made three trips to the beach on July 10, and on the remaining days stayed aboard the FUNSTON working with repair crews and unloading supplies. The Ensign boarded the CALVERT at 1:00AM on July 10, only to be informed that the boats from the first wave, to which he was attached, had already been lowered into the water and were forming a rendezvous circle. Auter then made an unsuccessful attempt to obtain orders for alternative action, and then accompanied another officer in one of the sixth wave boats. When they reached their rendezvous circle, however, they found that the first four waves had left the area, and that the remaining boats were "moving in disorderly circles, apparently without definite orders or purpose." Again, because Auter and the other officers had not been given alternative orders, a long period of time passed, and the disarray continued, until orders were received directing the boats to form waves astern the secondary control vessel.[173]

Auter's first trip to the beach was "equally disorderly". In general, the boats involved did not form waves or maintain station. The boat that Auter was in had difficulty from the start as a result of poor loading; the vessel was too heavy in the bow and listed to starboard, and as a result was swamped. The boat hit a sand bar about 50 yards from shore, and because of its condition, the crew had to drive it through the sand to the beach, even though they knew this would mean that the boat could not be retracted. Auter found the beach itself to be "very difficult" because of high surf and the lack of necessary markings. Auter reported that these factors, as well as the unseaworthiness of fully loaded LCVs in moderately heavy seas, contributed to the great number of boats left abandoned on the beach. The most important element, however, seems to have been the "SLOWNESS OF SOLDIERS leaving the boats", which caused the ramp to be in the water longer than necessary, with the result that the boats were filled with water.[174]

The experience of Ensign S.E. Frank, another boat officer on board the FUNSTON and detailed for work on the CALVERT , illustrates the tenuous nature of the HUSKY undertaking. Frank reported that after going aboard his assault craft at 3:00AM, he encountered "much difficulty" in the rendezvous area. The rendezvous circles were not well ordered, in part because the fifth, sixth and seventh waves were "broken", and the primary control vessel repeatedly left the area in which it was supposed to be. After cobbling together a makeshift wave from assault craft left behind by the first four waves, Frank followed the secondary control boat to the departure line. There, he was once again delayed by the many boats broached on the sand bar. Although Frank should have had a scout and raider boat to guide his wave to the shore, he did not see them during the entire operation. As a result of all of this, it was 5:30 AM and light before Frank and his wave hit the beach, thankfully without opposition. Frank reported that the beach party had not properly marked the beach. He also gave his opinion that the many boats lost on the beach resulted from four factors, namely (1) the absence of adequate help to unload the landing craft; (2) overloading of assault vessels; (3) the lowering of the vessel's ramp before help was available to unload; and (4) the failure to test motor vehicles before loading them in assault craft, with a view to having some assurance that the vehicles would start once on the beach.[175]

Another combat loader engaged in the Sicily operation was the USS ANN ARUNDEL, commanded by L.Y. Mason, Jr. It arrived on station off the coast of Sicily at approximately 11: 45 PM on July 9, 1943, along with the USS NEVILLE and other vessels in the attack force. Within a few hours it had all of its boats in the water, and began disembarking troops and high priority cargo at shortly after 7:00 AM. It began a shuttle to "NEVILLE Red Beach" that continued almost without interruption thereafter, night and day, until the ship's mission was completed. All of this did not occur without incident. The ARUNDEL experienced numerous bombing attacks, and at one point all of its LCVPs were stranded on the beach, apparently because of congestion and slower unloading caused by the large volume of package cargo then being deposited ashore. The ship's captain also reported a distinctly disconcerting incident that occurred at 10:30 PM on July 11, when a "considerable" flight of aircraft was in the area. These included both friends (transports with paratroops) and foe, the latter dropping both bombs and flares. As a result of the enemy presence, however, there was "a very considerable volume of fire...put up by the transports." Mason estimated that at least five aircraft were shot down, it being impossible to determine their origin.[176] The ARUNDEL sailed from Sicilian waters at about 5:15 PM on July 13, having successfully completed her mission, without substantial damage to the vessel or injury to her crew.

One officer who had an opportunity to observe and comment upon the landing phase of the Sicily invasion in the sector of the 45th Infantry Division was W.B. Phillips, the Commander of Transports, Amphibious Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. Phillips had his headquarters on the USS ANCON , from which he directed twenty-one additional transport vessels divided into four divisions. One of these, the Third Division, comprised of eight vessels, departed for North Africa on May 10, 1943 with a full complement of invasion troops. The remaining three divisions stayed in the Chesapeake Bay region for additional training without troops. Final embarkation took place between May 24 and June 7, and on the following day the three divisions formed a convoy and departed for Oran, Algeria, where it arrived on June 22.[177]

The period between June 22 and July 4 was spent in intensive preparation for the coming invasion. These preliminaries included "a complete rehearsal landing" on the night of June 24-25 and a joint Army/Navy conference on board the USS LEONARD WOOD on July 3, at which the entire operation was given a detailed review. Two days later three of the transport divisions left Oran in the company of ten additional control vessels and made their way without incident to the waters south of Malta. Finally, at 6:00 PM on July 9 the transport vessels under Phillips' command began their final approach to Sicily from the area southwest of Malta. Transports, escorts and control vessels of the so-called DIME task force were in the lead, while those in the CENT task force followed.[178]

Phillips' convoy ran a parallel course to that taken by a convoy of the British BARK force. The seas in the approach lanes thus became rather crowded. At about 6:15 PM the CENT and DIME forces deployed into five columns of ships, and about an hour and a quarter later the convoy, its escorts and the control vessels passed the Gozo Island lighthouse inbound for Sicily. However, the wind had begun to blow at about 35 knots, kicking up a moderate sea and swell, so that it began to appear that a successful landing could not be made. For an hour or more, the convoy maneuvered at 50 degree turns in order to avoid other convoys in the crowded and rough seas. By about 9:30 PM, however, the seas had settled enough to permit the convoy to undertake its final approach course. As the approach continued, Phillips observed intermittent gunfire ahead and on both bows, as well as several flares dropped by enemy aircraft near the beach.[179]

According to the plan under which Phillips and his convoy were operating, the disembarkation phase of the assault was to begin at 2:45 AM on July 10. The operational plan, however, was based on the assumption that the landing force would arrive in the so called Transport Area at least three and one-half hours prior to disembarkation. This would permit the force two and one-half hours to get out the landing boats and load and assemble the four assault waves, plus another fifty-eight minutes to make the 10,000 yard run to the beach. The last assault transport, the USS NEVILLE , did not arrive in the Transport Area until fifteen minutes past midnight. The net effect of this was that the convoy would have at least an hour less time to work with in order to meet its established deadline. This situation was not made better by the fact that the moderate sea and swell which was now being encountered was slowing down the debarkation of troops, vehicles and equipment from the assault transports. Moreover, the convoy was observing large fires ashore, a powerful searchlight in operation, and anti-aircraft fire at various locations on the beaches. In view of this, the task force commander extended H-hour for a period of one hour to 3:45 AM.[180]

It may have been this delay in getting off the mark which ultimately caused the confusion that infected the American beaches. At 2:45 AM the USS LEONARD WOOD'S control vessel set off for its line of departure for YELLOW beach with its first four assault waves. Eighteen minutes later the control vessel for the USS FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE left for the GREEN beach departure line, likewise with four assault waves. At about the same time respective control vessels for the NEVILLE and CALVERT left for the RED beach departure line. Assault boats from the FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE and the LEONARD WOOD set off for the beach at about 3:36 AM. As a result of an erroneous calculation of their starting position, however, the assault boats from the FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE landed not on GREEN beach, as intended, but on YELLOW beach instead. Course corrections were made to allow other boats from the FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE to land nearer GREEN beach.[181]

Cover fire on beaches GREEN and YELLOW was provided by the destroyers USS TILLMAN and KNIGHT, which commenced firing at 3:30 AM. Additional support was provided by eight support boats which accompanied the first four assault waves from the LEONARD WOOD and the FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE. These support boats laid down a "very effective" rocket barrage as the first waves from each ship were about one thousand yards from the beach. The landing of the first four assault waves was thus an overall success, even though eight special beach marking scout boats that had been assigned to mark RED, GREEN and YELLOW beaches were "never seen" by the assault boats and their control vessels, leading Phillips to conclude that the scout boats "had not proved of any advantage". Nevertheless, the fifth, sixth and seventh assault waves appear to have gotten to the beach without mishap, and most of the assault craft were successfully recovered, even though the surf was running at four to six feet.[182]

At about 6:00 AM the transport vessels began to move to inshore anchorages, after which they began to debark vehicles, equipment and supplies. This procedure continued throughout the morning. By 10:00 AM, however, it became apparent that the unloading process was in trouble, chiefly because of the stranding of the ships' boats on the beach. Phillips assigned blame for this condition to the inexperience of the crews, the high surf and the inability of the shore party to unload the boats promptly. Organized salvage parties were active on GREEN and YELLOW beaches, "but the rate of stranding exceeded their efforts".[183]

An inspection party arrived at GREEN and YELLOW beaches at 3:00 PM to assess the situation. In addition to the surf running at 4 to 6 feet high, they discovered a very small gradient which forced the boats to make the final landing at low speed. This rendered the boats vulnerable to broaching unless they were unloaded and retracted promptly. Out of a total of 157 boats from Transport Division One, 76 were stranded, some containing vehicles which could not be unloaded. The beaches were improperly marked, and the party could only find the Beachmaster with difficulty. The beach parties were not coaching boats into proper landing places. Salvage boats were available off the beach, but no one from the beach party was there to direct them. At 5:30 PM a pontoon causeway being used to unload on GREEN beach began breaking up, and unloading was stopped.[184]

Because of the problems being encountered on YELLOW and GREEN beaches, an effort was made to locate landing beaches for LSTs where pontoons would not be necessary. This attempt failed, as did an investigation of Scoglitti harbor, which was found to be suitable for unloading only amphibious DUKWs . At 6:25 PM the officer in charge of the transports directed officers and boat crews to stand by their stranded boats for the purpose of assisting salvage parties. The transport commander also ordered each transport ship to send its own salvage party to the troubled beaches. In spite of all this, an attempt was made to continue unloading throughout the night, but this was hampered by the lack of available boats and "the inability of the Shore Parties to unload the boats". Flares and bombs being dropped by Axis forces also hampered the operation.[185]

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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:

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.
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