Operation Husky
The invasion of Sicily
July-August 1943

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Operation Husky
The invasion of Sicily
July-August 1943

 

Written, edited, compiled by Eric Rieth

This is about, primarily, the role that the 45th Infantry Division played in Sicily. I am aware that other divisions American and British were involved and you can find many other resources to study them. This is not the complete story of every soldier, nor details every activity of the Thunderbirds. It is based on what information I presently have available. It will hopefully answer the questions of where exactly were they and to some degree what did they experience.

Background

With War clouds looming across the world's sky the 45th Infantry Division was activated to federal service in September of 1940. Just over a year latter on December 7th, 1941 Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and shortly after Germany declared war on the United States. Those who were fighting and dying already, Britain and the Soviet Union, were eager to see US get involved with men as well as materials.

By August of 1942 it was decided that the best place to get the US Army involved was to be North Africa. In the words of Winston Churchill, "Well, if the enemy rushes into Tunisia where he can probably forestall us if he so determines, where is a better place to kill Germans?" It was decided in September that November 8th would be the date for invasion giving three months for planning, training, and transport.

At this time the 45th Infantry Division was conducting amphibious landing training at Fort Devens/Camp Edwards, Massachusetts. When training was complete the Thunderbirds anticipated going to War, but instead went to Fort Drum, New York to freeze for the winter. Events overseas unfolded without them.

Fighting in North Africa continued from November 1942 through early May 1943. The US Army experienced a major set back at the Battle of Kasserine pass in February of 1943, leaving our British Allies serious doubts on the capabilities of the American fighting force. At the Casablanca Conference it was decided that Sicily and Italy would be the next major objectives, before a Cross Channel landing in France.

All planning for further operations were subordinate to considerations for this future event (which finally occurred June 6th, 1944). Arguments continued between resources allocated for Northern France and activities in the Mediterranean Sea. Planning almost appears to be done on a basis of "We're not ready to invade France today, what else can we do?" basis. No long range planning occurs in any detail through out Sicily and Italy.

Planning in earnest for the invasion of Sicily begins in May after the Surrender of German forces at Bizerte, Tunisia. Fighter coverage from Malta seems to be the deciding factor as to where the Allies land, based on this suggestions to land at Catania and Palermo were disregarded. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was chosen as supreme Allied commander for the Sicilian operation, with three Britons as his land, air, and sea component commanders. General Sir Harold Alexander was Eisenhower's principal deputy and the actual commander of Allied land forces. Alexander's 15th Army Group directed the U.S. Seventh Army, under the command of Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., and General Sir Bernard Montgomery's British Eighth Army.

The sea born invasion force landing the British Eighth Army was designated the Eastern Naval Task Force and those for U.S. Seventh Army were Western Naval Task Force. Montgomery's troops had the primary burden, landing in Pozzallo, Pachino and Syracuse thrust northward, capturing in succession Augusta, Catania, and the airfield complex at Gerbini before capturing Messina and closing off any chance at resupply and reinforcements of Axis troops. Patton's Seventh Army as envisioned by the plan was to seize key airfields and protect Eighth Army's left Flank. After the initial landing Seventh Army's objectives were a bit vague.

Seventh Army/ Western Naval Task Force:

Task Force 80, supporting Joss Force commanded by General Lucien K. Truscott's heavily reinforced 3rd ID;

General Bradley's II Corp was supported by:

Task Force 82 landing U.S. 1st Infantry Division on Dime beach

Task Force 85 landing the U.S. 45th Infantry Divison on Cent beach.

Task Force 85

USS Ancon AGC - 4,
June 11th 1943
Having Left Newport News, VA. Enroute North Africa
Flag ship of Cent Attack Force 85


Transdiv 1 (179th Regimental Combat Team)

USS Leonard Wood APA - 12
transport flagship under the command of Commodore W. B. Phillips, USN, carried the Combat Team commander, his staff, and troops of the 1st Battalion 179th Infantry.
USS Dorothea L Dix AP - 67, photo taken during operation Husky, Carried 2nd Bn Soldiers
USS Florence Nightingale AP - 79 Carried 3rd Bn 179th Infantry
USS HARRY LEE AP - 10, alternately maligned as the "Listing Lee" or "Horrible Harry," carried Service Co.,Anti-Tank Co.,Cannon Co.,Medical Detachment, and Headquarters Company
USS James O' Hara AP - 90
B Btry, 189th FA
USS Alcyone AKA -7
served as the Regimental cargo vessel, carrying a supplementary 5 day supply of gas, ammunition and rations as well as additional equipment that was not essential for the initial landing.
 

As of this time I do not know on which ships they were transported but Transdiv 1 also had the 160th Field Artillery Battalion, B Company 120th Medical Battalion, 1 Company of the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion, and B Company 120th Engineers.

Transdiv5 (157th Regimental Combat Team)

USS Charles Carroll
carried the Combat Team commander, his staff, and troops of the 1st Battalion 157th Infantry.
USS Thomas Jefferson
USS Susan B. Anthony AP- 72,
Oran Algiers July 5th 1943
USS William P. Biddle APA - 8
USS Procyon
served as the Regimental cargo vessel, carrying a supplementary 5 day supply of gas, ammunition and rations as well as additional equipment that was not essential for the initial landing.
USS Arcturus

As of this time I do not know on which ships they were transported but Transdiv 5 also had the 158th Field Artillery Battalion, A Company 120th Medical Battalion, 1 Company of the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion, and A Company 120th Engineers. Possibly also A btry 189th FA

Transdiv7 (180th Regimental Combat Team)

USS Calvert PA - 32
USS Neville APA - 9
USS Anne Arundel AP - 76
USS Frederick Funston AP - 89
USS Bellatrix AKA - 3
served as the Regimental cargo vessel, carrying a supplementary 5 day supply of gas, ammunition and rations as well as additional equipment that was not essential for the initial landing.

Which ships transported which units of the 180th RCT, I presently do not know, but Transdiv 7 also had the 171st Field Artillery Battalion, C Company 120th Medical Battalion, 1 Company of the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion, and C Company 120th Engineers. Possibly also C btry 189th FA

Other ships in Task Force 85 Supporting the landing of the 45th Infantry Division were:

USS Philadelphia (1 CL)
H.M.S. Abercrombie

USS Staff (AM114)
USS Skill (AM115)
USS Speed (AM116)
USS Strive (AM117)
USS Davidson (DD618)
USS Mervine ( DD489)
USS Quick (DD490)
USS Beatty (DD640)
USS Tillman (DD641)
USS Cowie (DD632)
USS Knight (DD633)
USS Doran (DD634)
USS Earle (DD635)
USS Parker (DD604)
USS Laub (DD613)
USS Kendrick (DD612)
USS Mac Kenzie (DD614)
USS Boyle (DD600)
USS Champlin (DD601)
USS Nields (DD616)
View of the task force enroute to Sicily, from the USS Ancon
July 8th, 1943 USS Leonard Wood and other ships of Task Force 85
     
The above section covers
the German and Italian forces opposing the ALLIES
Click above to see LARGE Map of Sicily with Location of opposing forces on
July 10th, 1943

 

 

 
 
The final Husky assault plan had more than seven divisions, including three
British, three U.S., and one Canadian, coming ashore simultaneously along a front of 100
miles (see appendix C). The areas covered by the assault and the assault forces
themselves would be larger than those of the Normandy invasion nearly a year later. In
fact, the Sicily assault would be the largest and most dispersed amphibious assault of
World War II. General Alexander had no specific plan to develop the land campaign
from the initial beachhead, but instead preferred to get the two armies firmly ashore
before launching out. He counted on Montgomery’s Eighth Army to make the main effort
of driving north along the east coast quickly through Catania and up to the Strait of
Messina. Patton’s Seventh Army would protect Montgomery’s flank.7 3Albert N. Garland, Howard M. Smyth, and Martin Blumenson, Sicily and the
Surrender of Italy (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1965),88-89
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