This Day in History… July 10, 1943

Allied Invasion of Sicily 

U.S. #2765c from the 1943: Turning the Tide World War II sheet.

On July 10, 1943, the Allies launched their successful invasion of Sicily, dubbed Operation Husky.

The main wartime disagreement among the Big Three – Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt – concerned the Allied invasion of western Europe. Although it was agreed a second fighting front should be established in western Europe, Roosevelt and Churchill could not agree on when and where to invade.

U.S. #2765c – Invasion of Sicily Silk Cachet First Day Cover.

F.D.R. wanted to take northern France as soon as possible; Churchill felt an invasion of France before Allied forces were fully prepared would be disastrous, and opted for invading Italy instead. In January of 1943, the two met in Casablanca, where they agreed to invade Sicily. It was hoped that this move would make the Mediterranean safe for Allied ships, as well as drive a war-weary Italy out of the war.

U.S. #1026 pictures General Patton along with two tanks that bear his name.

That April, German agents discovered the body of a British pilot with a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. Adolf Hitler examined the enclosed documents and found that the Allies planned to attack Sardinia and Corsica and sent his troops and ships there. However, the body was a diversion, meant to draw them away from the actual invasion of Sicily.

U.S. #3394 – Bradley commanded the 7th Army at Sicily.

The battle got underway just after midnight on July 10, 1943 with American and British airborne troops making a combat drop. Later that morning, the Allies launched one of the largest amphibious operations in history. This included 150,000 American and British troops, 3,000 ships, 600 tanks, and 4,000 aircraft.

Ignorant of the enemy’s plans to attack Sicily, the Axis forces were ill-prepared on that fateful day. Coastal defenses, manned mainly by Sicilians unwilling to turn their homeland into a battleground, rapidly collapsed. The fight went on for several weeks, with the Allies forcing the German and Italian troops into northern Sicily.

U.S. #4249 – Journalist John Hersey was with the Allies when they invaded Sicily.

Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini was arrested on July 24 and replaced by Marshal Pietro, who began secret peace talks with the Allies. By mid-August, the German and Italian armies began evacuating to Messina. General George Patton expected one final battle there, but found all the Axis troops had disappeared. Though the Allies had taken Sicily, they failed to capture Axis troops, which would make the fight in the Italian mainland more challenging. By September, Italy was under Allied control.

Click here for a video from the invasion.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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