Created on Friday, 09 March 2012 19:23
The decision to invade Sicily was agreed by the Western Allies at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943. 'Operation Husky' was to be a combined amphibious and airborne attack scheduled for that summer under the supreme command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The invasion of Sicily was designed to open the shipping lanes in the Mediterranean, eliminate the island as an Axis base, and to encourage the fall of Mussolini's government. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was given overall command with British Gen. Harold Alexander designated as the ground commander. The principle forces for the assault were the US 7th Army under Lt. Gen. George S. Patton and the British Eighth Army under Gen. Bernard Montgomery.
The Allies began air attacks on targets in Sicily and Italy in the early summer of 1943. They also attacked the Italian island of Pantellaria, which surrendered to the British 1st Division who arrived there on 11 June.
The Allied advance initially suffered from a lack of coordination between US and British forces as Montgomery pushed northeast towards the strategic port of Messina and Patton pushed north and west. As Montgmery's army began to get bogged down, Alexander ordered the Americans to shift east and protect the British left flank. Seeking a more important role for his men, Patton sent a reconnaissance in force towards the island's capital, Palermo.
When Alexander radioed the Americans to stop their advance, Patton claimed the orders were "garbled in transmission" and pushed on to take the city. The fall of Palermo helped spur Mussolini's overthrow in Rome. With Patton in position on the north coast, Alexander ordered a two-prong assault on Messina, hoping to take the city before Axis forces could evacuate the island. Driving hard, Patton entered the city on August 17, a few hours after the last Axis troops departed, and a few hours before Montgomery. The successful campaign taught the Allies valuable lessons that were utilized the following year on D-Day.