Book Review
Sicily 1943
Sicily 1943 The debut of Allied joint operations * Campaign 251
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Operation Husky, the Anglo-American amphibious landings on Sicily in July 1943, was the proving ground for all subsequent Allied amphibious operations including Salerno, Anzio, and finally D-Day. Husky's strategic objective was to knock Italy out of the war, a mission that ultimately proved successful and demonstrated the growing ability of Britain and the United States to conduct extremely complex combined-arms attacks involving amphibious landings as well as airborne assaults. Not only did the Sicily operation represent a watershed in tactical development of combined-arms tactics, it was also an important test for future Allied joint operations. Sicily was a demonstration that the US Army had learned the lessons of North Africa and was now capable of fighting as a co-equal of the British Army. - Osprey Publishing

Sicily 1943 The debut of Allied Joint Operations is the 251th title of the Osprey Publishing Ltd series Campaign. It is available in softcover, ePub, and PDF formats. Authored by Steven J. Zaloga and illustrated by Howard Gerrard, the 96-page book recounts the first joint American and United Kingdom invasion of Europe.
In July 1943 the Axis began to slide over the fulcrum of war to the losing side on almost all fronts. While the gigantic Battle of Kursk raged on the Russian Front and Japan was being pried from Pacific strongholds, US and UK forces marshalled for their first attack out of North Africa.

Operation Husky was that attack, directed at Sicily. It included large airborne attacks and amphibious landings against an island which was, on paper at least, heavily defended. The Axis had large air forces based on and around the island while the Allies had to fly from Malta and North Africa. The Axis also had a potential naval force which Allied planners had to plan for. Finally, the Axis was defending home soil and backed with the elite Herman Goering panzer division. Those forces would defend the country while large garrisons guarded the ports the Allies would need to land supplies. Sicily is dominated by Mount Etna with a road network easily interdicted. The Allied ground forces had been working together for almost a year but command was not particularly unified at all levels. The stage was set for the big Allied test against a fracturing Axis alliance. The battles saw paratroopers fighting Tiger tanks at pointblank range with pack howitzers; Rangers stalking counterattacking tanks through towns with improvised weapons while their commander raced rear to find anti-tank guns; parachutists gaining and then fighting to retain bridges; leapfrogging amphibious landings; hundreds of aircraft shot down; powerful Allied naval units held away by coastal batteries.

Author Steven J. Zaloga is a well-known and erudite author and contributor to scores of historical and modeling venues. He taps his knowledge and resources to condense the enormous story of Operation Husky into 96 pages through 10 chapters:
      The strategic situation * Allied preparation: Operation Corkscrew * Allied preparations: air superiority
    Opposing Commanders
      Axis commanders * Allied Commanders
    Opposing Forces
      Axis forces * Allied forces
    Opposing Plans
      Axis plans * Allied plans
    The Campaign
      Airborne assault: Husky 1 * Airborne assault: Ladbroke * 8th Army landings * Seventh US Army landings * The initial Axis response: American sector * The initial Axis response: British sector * The initial Axis response: air operations * Axis reassessment * Beyond the Yellow Line * The race for Palermo * The fall of Mussolini * Containing the Allies * Operation Lehrgang * The final approach to Messina
    The Campaign in Perspective
    The Battlefield Today
    Further Reading

The text is fortified with full color battlescenes, illustrations, 3-dimensional 'bird's-eye-views', and color keyed maps. Inside the title page are notes on designations of military units of different sizes, plus the Italian practice of classifying gun calibers. A key to military symbols is also included.

Opening the history are six pages outlining the strategic situation., including strengths and weaknesses of the air forces of both sides, and pre-Husky employment of them. Next are five pages introducing the commanders: Italian supreme commander Generale d’armata Vittorio Ambrosio and subordinates, including the autonomous Regio Marina’s Ammiraglio di squadra Pietro Barone; German Oberbefehlshaber Süd Generalfeldmarschall Albert “Smiling Albert” Kesselring; senior Allies General Dwight Eisenhower and General Sir Harold Alexander, and their subordinates. Mr. Zaloga interjects interesting “behind-the-scenes” details concerning the various rivalries and loyalties.

Opposing Forces presents an appreciable overview of the structure and composition of forces with national designations and names. Militia, regular, armored, air, naval and coastal units are sketched out for the reader, with detail including numbers and types of guns, tanks, aircraft, and ships. Opposing Plans describes how those forces were planned to be used, and why. Fifteen pages contain those two chapters.

The invasion and battles are recounted in 59 pages. The style is narrative and not simply cutting from unit histories. There are no personal accounts although such would be difficult to work into a campaign format. Mr. Zagola writes clearly and interjects observations which fortify the historical account. He does not dwell upon the divisive egos and rivalries of several commanders except for the mistrust between the Italians and Germans. I found the early accounts of the invasion to be the most interesting: armored assaults against paratroopers and rangers. Other stories include the British airborne attacks on bridges in an attempt to take Mount Etna, including the Primosole Bridge battle (Related in a recent Osprey book British Paratrooper vs Fallschirmjäger Mediterranean 1942–43, reviewed here on Armorama.) Political backroom dealings to remove Italy from the war, plus the effect of the contingency on Germany’s battles elsewhere, are examined. The ultimate act of the campaign – the Axis evacuation – is explained well.

The remaining six pages wrap up the book with an after-action perspective, The Battlefield Today which recounts monuments and tributes, and Further Reading sources.

photographs, artwork, graphics
Almost every page has at least one photograph. Most are black-and-white. One color photo enhances the image gallery, a USN shot of Mount Etna, as viewed through trees and reeds across a plowed field. Those photos were expertly chosen to fortify the text, not just to “graphic up” the page. If Mr. Zaloga picked the images, his eye for modelers as well as historians is clear. There are excellent scenes: GIs walking past an abandoned Opel; Tommys kicking open a door along a narrow street; Yanks inspecting a downed JG 53 Pik As Bf 109; British Bofors gunners standing at the ready with perhaps the fruits of their handiwork in the background – a downed Macchi 202; Canadian 25-pdr battery in action; a quartet of Siebel ferries in Messina harbor; ruined panzers. Great scenes, all, and so many more!

The reader is oriented to sprawling combat arenas with Opsrey’s 3-D ‘bird’s-eye-views’;
    1. Axis Counterattack On Gela Beachhead, July 10-11, The US 1st Division “Big Red One” beats off an armored counterattack by two Axis divisions during the first days of Sicily campaign: 21 clashes with 20 Allied and Axis units are keyed and diagramed.
    2. Battle for the Catania Gateway, British Special Forces lead the way on the approaches to Catania, July 10-18: 26 actions between 52 forces.
    3. The Race To Messina, The Axis succeed in evacuating a significant force across the Messina Straits: 20 events between 17 combat units.

Osprey further orients the reader with full-color maps depicting major roads, cities and towns, airbases; Axis airbases; Axis mobile and battle groups; Allied Army Group, Allied Army and divisional zone boundaries; other military forces; axis of attacks and withdrawals;
    A. Axis disposition on Sicily, July 10, 1943:
    B. Operation Husky, July 10, 1943: including airborne routes, drop zones and landing sites
    C. Beach-head breakout, July 13-18, 1943: Army and division fronts; FEBA; Etna Line; sub-units
    D. Patton’s race to Palermo, July 19-23
    E. The shift north of Etna, July 23, 1943
    F. Operation Hardgate, July 24-August 7, 1943

Organizational tables and graphics include a key to military symbols plus;
    I. Axis Ground Forces, Sicily, July 10, 1943: commands, corps, armies, detachments, districts; commanding officers
    II. Similar list for Allied forces
    III. Axis evacuation from Sicily: German and Italian forces, per Dates; Men; Vehicles; Tanks; Artillery; Stores (tons); Craft lost; Craft damaged

Three of Osprey popular dramatic in-action centerfold battle scenes with detailed keyed narratives enhance the book:
    a. Tank Attack at Gela, July 10, 1943: Col. Darby’s “Force X” of Rangers and Combat Engineers fight with paratroopers to repulse the counterattack of Gruppo Mobili and supporting units into Gela; Col. Darby raced back to the beach to fetch an anti-tank gun and knocked out a tank.
    b. The Bomber Menace: kette of Junkers Ju 88A-4 from III./KG 54 “Totenkopf” peeling off to pummel Allied naval units while Spitfires desperately try to intercept them.
    c. Operation Lehrgang: evacuation Siebel ferries running the Messina Strait at night under attack from RAF bombers.

Sicily 1943 is a concise presentation of the first Allied attack onto European soil. Mr. Zaloga presents it in a clear and easily followed format. He does not focus on individual skirmishes or firefights but on the overview. The political concerns in the background are discussed in enough detail to put the campaign in perspective. Egos and personality clashes between the generals is not allowed to detract from the campaign.

Photographic support fortifies the text and Mr. Zaloga perhaps picked images with his eye for modeling as well as for historians. Battle artwork is dynamic and depicts interesting scenes and perspectives. Maps and tables assist to orient the reader. Captions and narratives ensure the viewer understands what is shown.

I have no complaints about this book. It revealed a "big picture” of Operation Husky to me in more detail than I previously had, and has clarified specific aspects that I have learned before. I confidently recommend this book.

This book was provided by Osprey Publications Ltd. Please be sure to mention to vendors and retailers that you saw the book reviewed here!
Highs: Sicily 1943 is a concise presentation of the first Allied attack onto European soil, presented in a clear and easily followed format. Excellent choice of photos and artwork.
Lows: De minimis
Verdict: It revealed a "big picture” of Operation Husky to me in more detail than I previously had, and has clarified specific aspects that I have learned before. I confidently recommend this book.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN: 9781780961262
  Suggested Retail: £14.99 $21.95
  PUBLISHED: Jul 12, 2014

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


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