Sicily is a large island to the south of the Italian mainland. Once Tunisia had been captured, the next logical step for the Allies was to invade Sicily. The decision was taken at the Casablanca Conference by the Allied leaders and Chiefs of Staff and the codename ‘Husky’ assigned to the operation. The key factors in authorising this operation were to utilise the growing number of American formations arriving in the Mediterranean (as there was no reasonable prospect of a ‘second front’ in North West Europe in 1943) and to force Italy out of the war.
Force 141 was formed for the invasion of Sicily, under the command of General Sir Harold ALEXANDER. It was later redesignated as 15 Army Group (or it is referred to in some documents as the Allied Armies in Sicily). The Army Group had the U.S. 7th Army and British 8th Army under command.
The landings on Sicily on 10 July 1943 were the largest of any seaborne operation during the Second World War. Parachute and glider borne landings were made by the British 1 Airborne Division and 82 U.S. Airborne Division, with landings by sea undertaken by three British, one Canadian and three U.S. infantry Divisions. Supporting armoured units were also put ashore, as were British commandos and U.S. rangers.
The intention was for the British 8 Army to advance up the eastern coast of the island, with the Americans taking the west of the island. In the event, the British met stiff resistance from German forces, whilst the Americans exploited less resistance to sweep around Mount Etna from the west to capture Messina on 16 August 1943. The Germans managed, however, to successfully withdraw the vast majority of their forces safely back onto the Italian mainland.