Today’s Sunday entry from the RedState Department of History deals with the second major operation involving American troops in World War II’s European Theater of Operations. Today is the anniversary of “Operation Husky“, the invasion of Sicily.
After the eventual success of the African Campaign (Operation “Torch” for the Americans), Churchill and Roosevelt agreed at the Casablanca conference that Churchill’s Mediterranean strategy would take precedence in Allied planning for 1943.
The Americans wanted to consider a cross-Channel invasion (then known as Operation Roundup) in 1943, in agreement with the desires of Joseph Stalin, but Churchill saw Italy as the famous “soft underbelly of the crocodile” and believed Italy could be forced out of the war by direct invasion.
The British, as they often did in meetings between Churchill and Roosevelt, got their way and preparations were made to invade Sicily as a precursor to the invasion of Italy.
The result was Husky, a combined landing of British and American troops. The British Eighth Army under General Bernard Law Montgomery landed in the southeast, east of the U.S. Seventh Army under Lieutenant General George S. Patton, with vital assistance provided by the 82nd Airborne Division. Though Dwight Eisenhower was Supreme Commander and General Harold Alexander was Ground Forces Commander, the six-week battle immediately devolved into a personal competition between Patton and Montgomery.
The British faced the stronger opposition, having to deal with entrenched German forces on Mount Etna. Meanwhile, Patton’s forces swept across the island with some style. Many Sicilians had relatives in the United States and were only too happy to greet the Americans as liberators.
The Allies forced defending German and Italian troops into the northeast corner of the island, from which they were forced to evacuate across the Straits of Messina to the Italian mainland. Valuable lessons were learned about combined operations which would be put to good use in the invasion of Normandy the following spring.
American casualties amounted to approximately 9,800 killed in action, wounded or missing, with just under 13,000 British and Canadians counted as casualties. German losses amounted to just under 28,000 while the Italians lost nearly 190,000 men including 152,933 missing or taken prisoner.
Perhaps most importantly, the invasion of Sicily led to Mussolini’s fall from power. With the invasion just over two weeks old, Il Duce lost a vote of confidence from his own Fascist Grand Council and was forced into exile.
Have a great Sunday and enjoy today’s open thread!