Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July 10, 1943 - Allies Invade Sicily

Operation Husky begins with the Allied invasion of Sicily, Italy.
Crew from the tank "Eternity" check their vehicle after landing at Red Beach 2, Sicily.
The Allies took Sicily from the Axis (Italy and Nazi Germany). It was a large scale amphibious and airborne operation, followed by six weeks of land combat. It launched the Italian Campaign.

The plan for Operation Husky called for the amphibious assault of the island by two armies, one landing on the south eastern and one on the central southern coast. The amphibious assaults were to be supported by naval gunfire, and tactical bombing, interdiction and close air support by the combined air forces. As such, the operation required a complex command structure, incorporating land, naval and air forces. The overall commander was the American General Dwight D. Eisenhower, as Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces North Africa. The British General Sir Harold Alexander acted as his second in command and as the Land Forces / Army Group commander. The American Major General Walter Bedell Smith was appointed as Chief of Staff. The overall Naval Force Commander was the British Admiral Andrew Cunningham.

To distract the Axis, and if possible divert some of their forces to other areas, the Allies engaged in several deception operations. The most famous and successful of these was Operation Mincemeat. The British allowed a corpse disguised as a British officer to drift ashore in Spain, carrying a briefcase containing fake secret documents which supposedly revealed that the Allies were planning to invade Greece and Sardinia, and had no plans to invade Sicily. German intelligence accepted the authenticity of the documents with the result that the Germans diverted much of their defensive effort from Sicily to Greece. Still, there were a large number of German and Italian soldiers on Sicily when the invasion started. The Germans in particular had soldiers on Sicily that they had withdrawn from North Africa and had not yet reassigned to the Eastern Front.