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121 CHAPTER 5 The Strong Right Arm What one observed, in apparently unrelated patches, was small loose bodies of men moving down through narrow defiles or over steep inclines, going methodically from position to position between long halts and the only continuous factor was the roaring of the big guns.—Eric Sevareid1 Operation HUSKY, I Armored Corps, May–June 1943 The Sicily operation was an unhappy and contentious decision taken at the Allied conference at Casablanca in January 1943 against the strong objections of George Marshall and the Americans, who viewed any Allied efforts separate from the invasion of France as British imperial maneuvers. If the intention of the high command was creative ambiguity, or allowing the field commanders’ necessary flexibility, the result was “uncertainty, confusion, and bickering.”2 The objectives of each Allied combatant encompassed long-­ standing political, military, and economic interests, but at least they agreed on the immediate political goal of Italian capitulation. That would be achieved by harnessing the Allies’ momentum and available forces in the theater to establish a base on enemy soil, including airfields for the heavy bombers of US Fifteenth Army Air Force. Bringing the industrial and vital heart of the Reich under precision daylight bombardment from the south would increase the pressure from the intensifying efforts of the US Eighth Air Force, whose B-­ 17 bases blanketed the English countryside. Success would also consolidate Allied control of the Mediterranean, divert enemy forces away from the Eastern Front, and most important, gain time and experience in large-­ scale amphibious operations, especially the unique problems of combined Allied operations. Consistent with the unresolved political issues after the meeting, no general invasion plan was outlined or approved, 122 Part I Becoming a Commander let alone an overall strategic concept of operations, and this was a pattern that plagued the entire Mediterranean campaign from start to finish. The Americans remained skeptical of the whole enterprise, especially its draining of resources from the cross-­ Channel attack, which had been scheduled for mid-­ 1944 during a period of low tides and moonlit nights.3 The command setup for Sicily, code-­ named Operation HUSKY, was the same as for Tunisia, with Ike as American “Chairman of the Board” and three functional British subordinates, all battle-­ tested, running the ground, air, and sea campaigns.4 Gen. Sir Harold Alexander activated the BR 15th Army Group, which had under command the desert war veterans of the British Eighth Army led by Gen. Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, and the American I Armored Corps under Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr. With Bradley’s II Corps and the other American and British divisions, the combined Allied forces numbered some two hundred thousand men, two thousand tanks and guns, fourteen thousand vehicles, and a few days of fighting supplies aboard the invasion fleet. Large supporting naval forces were once again under Adm. Sir Andrew Cunningham, with the American Western Naval Task Force under the command of R. Adm. H. K. Hewitt, the Yanks’ best amphibious man in the Mediterranean. ACM Sir Arthur William Tedder commanded the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces, mostly made up of tactical ground support aircraft. It was the largest amphibious invasion yet attempted, and it was second only to the D-­ Day landings in the European war.5 The longer than anticipated campaign in Tunisia and the temporary reassignment of Patton to lead II Corps after Kasserine Pass delayed and complicated the Sicily invasion planning. The original American idea was to make a simultaneous, dual landing at opposite sides of the island with two “coastal pincers”: Montgomery’s Eighth Army landing along the southeastern coast near Syracuse and moving north along the coastal road to Messina and Patton ’s Seventh Army landing at the port of Palermo on the north shore and driving east. Both “arms” would converge on the port of Messina, the strategic objective of the invasion. The US 82nd Airborne Division, in its combat debut, and other special units such as Col. William Orlando Darby’s Rangers and the British Commandos would operate behind the enemy lines to block enemy reinforcements, hold vital roads, and take key objectives, especially the dozen enemy airfields. Immediately after receiving the American proposal, Montgomery objected, insisting that both armies land next to each other, in position to support the other in the drive, and most important, that they should not be separated. Chapter 5 The Strong Right Arm 123 After vehement arguments, Montgomery persuaded Alexander to accept the British plan. Montgomery’s...


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