HERE’S A REPORT ON THE FIGHTING OF EACH U.S. DIVISION IN SICILY – The 1st Division Veterans from Tunisia Distinguished Themselves Again While Others, New to Battle Took the Campaign in Stride.

“What kid of battle did the 45th Division fight? I used to know some of those guys when we were at Pine Camp last summer.”

“Before I got into this training cadre, I was with the 16th Infantry. What did they do over there against the Germans?”

These are the questions that the average soldier asks about the Sicilian campaign. We couldn’t get the answers from the news reports while the fighting was going on because of censorship didn’t allow the correspondents to name specific units engaged in most of the battles.

Everyone knows now that the American Seventh Army did our fighting in Sicily alongside the British Eighth Army. Commanded by Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr., it consisted of six divisions organized into two corps, one under Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley and the other under Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Keyes. Here is an account of what each of those six divisions did during the 39-day campaign-gathered by YANK correspondents who covered the action and from other sources. It is a complete a Who’s Who of the American forces in the Sicily campaign as we can publish now. A lot of the play-by-play details are still restricted military information, of course, and will probably remain that way until the end of the war.

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The map shows clearly the course of battle and the principal routes of invasion followed by each of the American divisions. There were many offshoots from the main invasion routs, as units of the divisions mopped up bypassed areas en route, but only the main invasion routes are indicated. The British and Canadian operations, also shown on the map, were in many respects more important than our own and often even merged with them, but in this summary we are concerned only with the American divisions which YANK readers know.

The first Americans to land on Sicily, after seven days of “saturation” bombing by Allied air fleets and heavy shelling by men-of-war, were the troops of the 82d Airborne Division, pioneer American airborne outfit and without battle experience. The airborne infantry and paratroopers of the 82d, carried to Sicily in giant C-47s and gliders late in the night of July 9, were blown off their course by buffeting winds and landed in scattered groups over an area perhaps 40 to 50 miles wide.

After cutting enemy communications and disorganizing rear installations far inland along a line running roughly from Licata to Vittoria, the paratroopers and airborne infantry re-formed into a solid division. In these operations, separate combat teams mopped up several Sicilian towns, including strategic Vittoria, just north of Scoglitti on the southeast seacoast. One tough 82d detachment was charged by Italian horse cavalry but broke the charge with tommy guns. In a continuous drive along the southern coast, the 82d swept headlong to Campobello and Marsala and seized Trapani on July 25, fanning out from the city to wipe out surrounding areas.

A few hours after the 82d descended from the sky, the Rangers, under Lt. Col. William O. Darby, came ashore on the beach at Gela as a shock battalion, paving the way for the main American seaborne invasion force, which landed early on July 10 through waters whipped up dangerously by an unexpected squall.

This main invasion force hit the Sicilian beaches in a three-pronged drive. The 1st Division waded ashore behind the rangers at Gela. Its right flank was covered by the landing of the 45th Division at Scoglitti. The left flank was protected at first by the 3d Division landing at Licata and later the 2d Armored Division, which apparently rolled its tanks and half-tracks out of the boats somewhere between Licata and Gela. meanwhile, the Rangers were already fighting inland ahead of the 1st Division, veering to the westward out of the line of the 1st’s advance. Within 10 days, they took Porto Empedocle and moved swiftly along the southwest shore.

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The “Fightin’ 1st,” under Maj. Gen. Terry Allen, fought one of the bitterest battles of the campaign at the very beginning. Hampered by a lack of tanks, Allen’s men were quickly thrown back to the Gela beaches by strong German counterattacks. Aided by airborne troops, but mostly through its own resolute fighting, the 1st Division clung fiercely to its shaking position until the tanks arrived, then blasted away at the Nazis and rolled the panzers back.

Heading inland, the 1st Division marched directly northward and quickly passed Niscemi, a right flank threat that was met by the 2d Battalion of the 16th Infantry, which fought hard battles early in the march. Within a week the 1st Division was at Barrafranca, where the 26th Infantry had seized the surrounding hills to pave the way for the division’s march into town.

In rapid succession the 1st then seized and passed beyond Enna, Petralia, Ganzi and Nicosia. At Enna, an important communications center, the 1st Division and Canadian forces fought together, but the climax of the battle was a dash to the rear of the town by a regiment of American infantry. Between Nicosia and Troina, the 1st Division ran into a long, bitter engagement. Fighting from crest to crest and along sharp turns of the highway at the Falcon Mountain, the division pressed in on Troina.

In the meantime, the 45th, Oklahoma’s so-called “Indian Division” commanded by Maj. Gen. Troy H. Middleton, drove hard against the beaches at Scoglitti in a smashing blitz and pushed quickly to Vittoria (already taken by men of the 82d Division),  fighting beside the Canadians for a short time. The 45th marched probably the greatest distance in Sicily. It moved from Vittoria to Caltagirone, then swept in a wide arc along a curve covering Mirabella and Aidone, crossing behind the 1st Division and proceeding westward to Caltanissetta. From there it took of bypassed the towns of Mussomeli, Vicarello, Montemaggiore, Caccamo and, finally, Termini, just east of Palermo on the northern shore. At the same time the 1st and 45th were landing at Gela and Scoglittia, the 3d Division, under Maj. Gen. Lucian K. Truscott, and the 2d Armored Division, Maj. Gen. Hugh J. Gaffey’s famous “Hell on Wheels,” landed at Licata and nearby points. The two divisions quickly took Canicatti and Agrigento and within nine days were near Siculiana. Spearhead of the 3d Division was one of the most famous regiments, the number of which must be withheld. The only battalion not participating in this action was the 3d, which in a daring drive had left the regiment before Siculiana and made a forced march across the country from Aaragona to San Stefano, covering 52 miles in 36 hours.

Meanwile the rest of the 3d Division pushed on to Castelvetrano, then turned northward in a race with 2d Armored Division columns to take Palermo. This town was captured on July 23, the American units then fanning out to break down resistance in nearby areas. The 3d Division is the outfit that on one occasion covered 25 miles in a forced march over mountains without losing a man and then went directly into battle. At Carleone, the division walked 32 miles in one stretch and then engaged in an 18-hour close-in battle.

After 15 days about two-thirds of Sicily was under Allied control. The Germans and Italian lines were withdrawn to the northeast corner of the island, and the American divisions began converging from the south and the west upon the Axis concentrations.

The 9th Division, motorized, commanded by Maj. Gen. Manton S. Eddy, landed from the sea at Palermo about Aug. 2 under terrific enemy air attacks and rolled quickly along the already conquered north shore to San Stefano. Then the 9th Division veered sharply to the south as far as Nicosia and joined the 1st Division, engaged in savage battle with the Nazis at Troina. Relieving the 1st, which had already participated in the two greatest American engagements in the campaign, the 9th Division advanced against the Nazis. The 1st Division quickly rejoined the fight, however, and together with the 9th pounded the enemy and captured Troina on Aug. 6.

A week later, the 9th, joined by a British division, was the first American outfit to enter Randazzo, where elements of both U.S. divisions fanned out northward and eastward to cover the southwestern approaches to Messina, important port just across the straits from the mainland of Italy.

The 45th Division, swinging eastward at Termini, and the 3d Division, marching eastward from Palermo, drove along the coastal route toward Messina. The 45th at first led the way along the shore, but later elements of the 3d jumped ahead by means of three “leap frog” maneuvers along the coast. Striking behind the German lines with stabs from the sea, these units landed on Aug. 8, 10 and 16 near Santa Agata, Grojosa Marea and Milazzo respectively. Patrols of the 3d were the first Allied units to enter Messina on Aug. 17. Units of the 45th reached Messina soon afterward.

The campaign was over. Sicily, springboard to the continent of Europe, was in our hands.

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For More Information Check Out:

Big Red One

The Big Red One: America’s Legendary 1st Infantry Division Centennial Edition, 1917-2017 (Modern War Studies (Hardcover))

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