Battle of Sicily
US forces landed in the Gulf of Gela with British forces landing on the south-eastern portion of the island. The initial landings of US forces were met with heavy resistance, including a counter-attack by armour of the Hermann Goering division. Strong winds hampered the airborne assault, and when airborne reserves were called in on the second day of the invasion, a costly friendly fire incident saw several transport planes shot down by the Allied fleet in the belief they were German bombers.
The Canadian landings at Pachino were done on a two-brigade front, with spirited resistance offered against only one of the brigades. Many transport vehicles and items of equipment had been lost by the 1st Division when a ship was torpedoed and sunk on the way to Sicily.
Once ashore, there was no master plan to co-ordinate the activities of the US 7th Army and the British 8th Army, and the two formations operated independently during the campaign.
After initial heavy counter-attacks against the Americans, which were repulsed by the use of naval gunfire, resistance stiffened on the British front while US forces broke away from the beachhead. Faced with the formidable obstacle of Mount Etna, the 8th Army commander, General Montgomery, persuaded the 15th Army Group commander, General Alexander, to shift the inter-army boundary and allow room to maneuver to the west. During this operation, the US 45th Infantry Division was forced to break conact with the XIV Panzer Corps, which escaped a likely encirclement.
The 1st Canadian Division - described by Montgomery as "fat" - were given time to rest and acclimate (while most of the 8th Army formations were veterans of the desert, the Canadians had moved to the Mediterranean from Scotland where they underwent amphibious and mountain operations training). Once they were moving, they first saw action at Grammichele and Piazza Armerina.
Other actions to the north included Valguarnera on 17-18 Jul, the first true divisional operation of the war for Canadian soldiers. The Canadians traded 140 casualties for 500 Germans killed, wounded and captured. The battle saw the first combat use of the Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank, the first combat shoot of the entire divisional artillery, and the first true combat actions for several battalions such as The Royal Canadian Regiment.
The US 7th Army, relieved of the burden of fighting up the centre of the island where the Canadians and British were now employed, pressed to the northwest in an impressive but tactically irrelevant sweep to capture the city of Palermo. Strategically, the capture of Palermo led to a coup that deposed Mussolini, Italy's dictator and war leader.
Both the 7th and 8th Armies now turned to the task of capturing Messina, and heavy resistance was offered both armies. Canadian successes described as "brilliant" took place in the hilly terrain southwest of Mt. Etna from 20-22 Jul, including a surprise night attack by the 1st Brigade at Assoro which was followed by successful defence against persistent counter-attacks, and the capture of Leonforte by the 2nd Brigade.
Operation HARDGATE began on 29-30 Jul, intended to open the way for the British XXX Corps, and aimed at taking Regalbuto, Centuripe and Adrano. Canadian and British units took all these objectives in the first week of Aug, with other actions at Agira on the way.
When Adrano fell to the British 78th Division, the Canadians found themselves "squeezed out" of the line of battle, as US forces in the north and British forces to the east converged and carried on to the northeast to Messina. Only one unit, The Ontario Regiment, saw action after Adrano during the Pursuit to Messina, and the 1st Canadian Division was withdrawn to the centre of the island.
As the Allies raced to Messina, substantial numbers of German troops with their equipment managed to withdraw to the Italian mainland. Some 100,000 men and 10,000 vehicles were so evacuated during the course of the battle.
The battle officially ended on 17 Aug 1943 after Allied troops entered Messina and the last Axis forces on the island surrerendered. In all the Allied campaign had lasted 38 days, in wich the Axis suffered 29,000 killed and wounded and 140,000 (mostly Italians) taken prisoner.
Canadian troops remained on Sicily in anticipation of the next phase of the Italian Campaign which began with the Landings at Reggio in Sep 1943.
The following Battle Honours were granted for Canadian units participating in the Battle of Sicily:
Dramatizations and Portrayals