The Short Campaign in Sicily

The decision to invade Sicily in order to intensify pressure on Italy, divert German forces from the Eastern Front, and cement the Allied hold on the Mediterranean was made at the Casablanca Conference late in January 1943 by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill, acting with the Combined Chiefs of Staff. General Eisenhower was designated Supreme Commander, and General Alexander, his deputy, was placed in command of ground operations. By mid-February the planning headquarters that Eisenhower set up in Algiers, known as Force 141 from its room number at the Hotel St. George, had chosen the favorable July moon as the target date and designated General Montgomery's Eighth Army (Force 545) and General Patton's I Armored Corps (Force 343) to make the assault. The headquarters of I Armored Corps was largely composed of Patton's Western Task Force headquarters, which had directed the landing at Casablanca. With the additional strength assigned to it for the invasion, the corps was really an army, and was to be designated Seventh Army on landing in Sicily. For the present, to confuse the enemy and conceal the strength of the invasion forces, it was called I Armored Corps (Reinforced). Its major elements were to consist of II Corps headquarters and six divisions—four infantry, one armored, and one airborne.1

At the time his corps was given its mission, General Patton was in Tunisia commanding II Corps. He detailed a group of officers to go to Algiers and represent him in the nomination of troops for Force 343. Among them was Col. Thomas H. Nixon, his Ordnance officer. Nixon had helped plan the landing at Casablanca, had come to North Africa as Ordnance officer of the Western Task Force, and had made an excellent record in establishing extensive Ordnance installations in the Port-Lyautey area. A few years older than Niblo and Medaris, he was described by Colonel Borden as "energetic and forward-looking," and was highly esteemed by Patton.2


Plans for Husky

The Ordnance planning for the Sicily Campaign (HUSKY) was based on the support of three large attack (subtask) forces —CENT, DIME, and JOSS. There was also to be a small reserve force, KOOL (operating with DIME). The rest of the Seventh Army was to follow when the beachheads were secured. In all, one American armored and four reinforced infantry divisions were to be committed, about 228,000 men, along with British and Canadian divisions amounting to 250,000 men. Nobody expected an easy victory. Sicily, a mountainous, rugged country, offered every advantage to the defender and was thought to be held by about 350,000 Axis troops that could easily be reinforced from Italy across the narrow Strait of Messina. The Allied invasion of Sicily was to be the greatest amphibious operation yet attempted— and was to remain the greatest in World War II in terms of initial assault. There were to be more than 3,200 vessels in the vast armada, of which 1,700 were required to carry American men and cargo. By the end of the first week of operations, the United States had landed 132,113 men, 25,043 vehicles, and 515 tanks.3

The proposed Ordnance troop list to support the campaign consisted of 8 battalions of 41 companies: 3 battalions (2 maintenance, 1 ammunition) to support the task forces, and 5 (4 maintenance, 1 ammunition) to follow with Seventh Army. Colonel Nixon planned more depot companies, proportionally, than had been used in the North African operations because of the spare parts problem, and more heavy maintenance companies because of the growing importance of heavy and self-propelled artillery.4

The Ordnance supply planning, supervised by Nixon's executive, Lt. Col. Nelson M. Lynde, Jr., took three and a half months, beginning at Rabat, Morocco, in mid-March, continuing at Oran—to which I Armored Corps headquarters moved early in April—and winding up at forward headquarters at Mostaganem the end of June. The planners soon discovered, as the center Task Force planners had learned in England, that it was very hard to mount an operation in an overseas theater. It was especially hard for HUSKY planners because they had no exact reports as to the weapons, vehicles, and other major items on hand with the troops at the time. Many of the units assigned to the force were not yet in the theater and others were still actively engaged in the Tunisia Campaign. The only way to order supplies for the units was to find out from tables of basic allowances (T/BA's), tables of equipment (T/E's), and tables of organization (T/O's), Ordnance equipment charts, and special authorizations what they ought to have, and to estimate the maintenance parts and spare major items that would be needed, modifying normal amounts according to experience in Tunisia. The planners had been


directed to submit requisitions every two weeks (for delivery thirty days later), without a cut-off date. They were told that operations in Sicily would take four months. General Patton, who disagreed with this estimate, stating in Colonel Nixon's presence, "We'll either take Sicily in 60 days or be forced off the island," finally secured permission to stop requisitioning, but by that time a tremendous amount of matériel was on the way. Between 18 April and 15 July, 140,551 tons of Ordnance supplies, including depot equipment, were ordered, to be delivered in ten bimonthly convoys labeled UGS-11 through UGS-20. The requisitions went from I Armored Corps to SOS NATOUSA, which forwarded them to the New York Port of Embarkation.5

During the spring months supply planners in North Africa became more and more aware of the great power exercised by the New York Port of Embarkation. The port's Office of Overseas Supply scrutinized all requisitions to see that the stocks ordered did not exceed the maximum level prescribed by the War Department for NATOUSA, which was enough supplies to last for ninety days. This process of review, known as editing, was bitterly resented by the men in the theater, but was considered essential by the port in order to keep any one theater from being given more than its fair share of supplies.

When enormous requisitions began to come in from North Africa, the New York port officials suspected that much was being ordered that was already in the theater; that, in fact, requisitioned were not first examining stocks and then ordering but were simply applying combat maintenance factors to the standard T/BA's for the entire troop basis. All through the spring, Army Service Forces tried to find out just what was on hand in North Africa. Reports in February showed that Casablanca had 270 days of supply and Oran 205, but little was known specifically and it was probable that the stocks were unbalanced; for some items the levels were probably not up to the authorized figure of 90. The truth was that NATOUSA did not know what it had in its depots. Most of the records were inaccurate because cards had been posted by French or Italian clerks, who were the only civilian help available locally, but whose English was poor. For great piles of equipment, unloaded helter-skelter to let ships leave the docks promptly, no records existed. The G-4 Division of the Mediterranean theater later admitted that it was not until early in 1944 that inventories at the depots in North Africa "even approached a semblance of accuracy."6

Whatever the reason for editing, the Ordnance men in the theater felt that their requisitions ought to be filled because they


needed the matériel. They were willing to use theater stocks, even though levels on some weapons had been maintained by using obsolete types such as the 1917 model 155-mm. howitzer, but they could not use stocks that were unrecorded and therefore unknown. On the whole, they felt that the New York port was unrealistic in attempting to apply a prewar post-camp-and-station system to a vast, new, and unpredictable combat theater. And in addition to the general editing on the basis of levels of stocks, the Ordnance Section of the Office of Overseas Supply, headed by Col. Waldo E. Laidlaw, was checking requisitions to see whether or not the item ordered was listed in the addendum to the Standard Nomenclature List; if not, the demand was forwarded to the Chief of Ordnance and the theater was advised that the item would probably not be available. In this process there were plenty of opportunities for mistakes on the part of the editors, as Colonel Nixon knew from his own experience. The preceding December he had ordered 2,000 fuzes to replace those lost in the Casablanca landing, and had received exactly 11, which was one-twelfth of a year's maintenance according to the SNL's. In preparing for HUSKY he appealed to General Campbell to see that his requisitions for small, fast-moving items such as electrical parts, gaskets, and seals were filled, even though they were excessive according to the SNL's, and he won his point.7

New Matériel

While the heavy requisitions for HUSKY were being dispatched to the United States, the planners were also studying new types of matériel. The Tunisia Campaign had shown that some way had to be found to combat land mines. The men in the Ordnance shops were working on a mine-destroying vehicle similar to the British Scorpion, which used steel chains attached to a revolving roller to flail the ground in front of a tank; but material for it was hard to get locally. At Mostaganem the mechanics of the 83d Heavy Maintenance Company tried to make a mine-resistant vehicle by lining the floor of a command car with armor plating, but it was not a success. At a demonstration attended by General Patton, they tied a young goat to the seat and set off a Teller mine underneath the car. They reported that "the goat died bravely."8

In Sicily the first bazooka model (the M1 launcher with the M6 rocket), which had been suspended from issue at the end of the Tunisia Campaign, was to be given another chance. To make desirable modifications, teams equipped with materials and tools were being sent overseas from the United States in July 1943; but the new model (the M1A1 launcher and M6A1 rocket) could not be produced in time for use in Sicily. Convinced that the advantages of the M6 rocket far outweighed its disadvantages, Ordnance officers in the theater deplored the suspension, feeling that the


War Department had been too hasty. Colonel Coffey, Ordnance officer of SOS, requested reconsideration of the decision. He was successful and the early bazooka was again issued, but with restrictions on using it at high temperatures because of the belief that the sensitivity of the rocket to heat created the hazard of a premature explosion.9

Some twenty miles west of Mostaganem, where amphibious exercises were going on at Arzew and neighboring Port aux Poules, there were some striking evidences of how far amphibious warfare had advanced since that November morning when the Maracaibos Misoa and Tasajera had grounded off Arzew. Men were using LST's manufactured in the United States from a British design based on the Maracaibo, and LCT's (landing craft, tank), resembling floating flatcars, to take tanks, guns, and vehicles close inshore. More interesting to Ordnance men were the 2 1/2-ton amphibian trucks swimming through the surf—the first DUKW's the men in the theater had seen.10

This strange hybrid that could swim from LST's to the shore and then waddle to inland dumps had been named by the engineers of General Motors: D for the year 1942, U for utility, K for front-wheel drive, and W for two rear driving axles; and was of course nicknamed the Duck. Its ancestor was the amphibious jeep used, though without much success, in the North African landings. In the spring of 1942 the method used on the jeep—that of wrapping around it a watertight hull and adding a rudder and a propeller—had been applied to the 2 1/2-ton truck. The result was a swimming truck that could carry 5,000 pounds of supplies, or 50 men, or a 105-mm. howitzer ashore and then operate over beach sand and coral. Army Service Forces had at first opposed taking on a new special vehicle, with all the maintenance headaches involved, but when the problem of landing on beaches became pressing in the fall of 1942 General Somervell directed Ordnance to procure 2,000. After spectacularly successful tests in late December and early January 1943, the number was increased to 3,000. The later models had a central tire-control system that enabled the driver to partially deflate tires so they could travel over beach sand. A useful accessory was the A-frame, or crane, for unloading cargo.11

The first DUKW's were sent to the South Pacific, where warfare was primarily amphibious. They were used to expedite the turnaround time of ships at places such as Guadalcanal where there were no docks, and were not contemplated for use in assault landings.12 The DUKW's were first


used by an invasion force in the Sicily landings. General Eisenhower included 400 in a requisition for amphibious equipment on 3 March 1943. When they arrived at the invasion training center near Oran they performed so well that everyone wanted them. General Patton doubled his request, and by early summer the theater had more than a thousand.13

The DUKW had its faults. It was small, hard to unload, performed poorly in mud, was slow in the water (about 5 knots was the best it could do), and was so bulky on land that it blocked traffic on narrow roads. As a new and very special vehicle, it was going to present Ordnance with tough maintenance problems, just as Army pessimists had predicted.14 But in the spring of 1943 the DUKW's were new and as yet untried under combat conditions. They were easy to operate and seemed remarkably sturdy. They were hailed with great enthusiasm by the men assembling the vast invasion force along the coast of Africa, and the fact that they were becoming available in large numbers, along with the LST's, made possible a significant change in the tactical planning for HUSKY.15

The first plans for the invasion had provided for a landing by the Americans on the northwest corner of Sicily with the object of capturing Palermo, a large city with good docks. Early in May General Montgomery insisted that, instead, the Americans take over some of the assault area allotted to the British on the southeastern coast, arguing that the enemy would be too powerful to permit the wide dispersion of British forces. He won his point and the plan was changed. Thus II Corps was to attack in the crescent-shaped Gulf of Gela, the 1st Division (DIME Force) to take the town of Gela, and the 45th Division (CENT Force) to land in the east at Scoglitti. Both were to drive inland to capture airfields; and a regiment of the 45th was to make contact with Montgomery still farther east, at Ragusa. Twenty miles west of the town of Gela, General Truscott's JOSS Force, consisting of the 3d Division and a combat team of the 2d Armored Division, was to land at the small port of Licata and make contact with the II Corps on the right. Since Palermo was not to be taken, supplies would have to be brought in by LST's and DUKW's and moved over the beaches for the first thirty days.16 (Map 3)


The Invasion Fleets Depart

To support the task forces, Colonel Nixon selected the 63d Ammunition Battalion, which at Casablanca had been operating one of the largest depots in North Africa; the 43d Maintenance and Supply Battalion, a Western Task Force unit; and the 42d Maintenance and Supply Battalion, which had been released by II Corps to Eastern Base Section to work on battlefield clearance and help mount the Sicily operation in the Bizerte area. Nixon kept his ammunition battalion under army, but assigned his maintenance battalions to the tactical units, the 43d to II Corps and the 42d to JOSS Force, which was later to become the Provisional Corps. As in the later phases of the Tunisia Campaign, the maintenance battalions were combined third and fourth echelon battalions with attached depot companies, but included some specialists that were new—several companies devoted entirely to antiaircraft maintenance, one automotive company trained on DUKW's and another equipped to supply spare parts, and two platoons of a bomb disposal company. Most of the maintenance battalions were to arrive in Sicily after D plus 4. The assault troops were to be accompanied by four ammunition companies, divided evenly between II Corps and JOSS Force, and some detachments for repairing DUKW's and trucks.

CENT Force (primarily 45th Division), arriving combat-loaded from the United States in 28 transports on 22 June, was to sail from Oran on 4 July; DIME Force (primarily 1st Division) was to embark from Algiers the following afternoon; and JOSS Force (primarily 3d Division) would leave from Bizerte still later on 5 July. The Ordnance troops to support not only DIME but CENT, which had with it only the 45th Division's organic light maintenance company, assembled near Algiers and spent most of their time on the last-minute job of waterproofing their vehicles. Waterproofing was still in the experimental stage. There was a serious shortage of kits and such materials as asbestos grease and flexible tubing, and no really satisfactory method of waterproofing trucks and jeeps had been developed.17

During the latter part of June Colonel Medaris, Ordnance officer of II Corps, and most of Colonel Nixon's Ordnance Section left Oran for Tunisia to board LST's for the invasion. At Bizerte, where Force 343 was setting up a small base to handle supply in the first stages of the battle, they found feverish preparations. Harbor lights were blazing all night, in spite of the risk of air raids, so that loading could go on around the clock. Here were concentrated the LST's, LCI's (landing craft, infantry), and LCT's upon which General Truscott's JOSS Force was to embark. In JOSS, the first big shore-to-shore operation, LCT's, which were usually carried on the decks of LST's, were to go under their own power, since the JOSS landing area in Sicily was not much more than a hundred miles away; smaller types of landing craft such as the LCVP and the LCM (landing craft, mechanized ) were carried on the davits of LST's and transports.18


Near Ferryville the 42d Battalion was waterproofing its vehicles for its D plus 8 landing and drawing supplies from a large Ordnance depot installed by Eastern Base Section in the seaplane hangars at the French Navy Yard. In the shop section of the depot there was an Ordnance unit with an interesting history—the 525th Heavy Maintenance Company (Tank), recently arrived from Tripoli. Having crossed the Western Desert with Montgomery's Eighth Army and operated shops at Benghazi and Tripoli, repairing everything from English revolvers to captured German 88's, the company had been brought to Tunisia in early June to prepare the tanks of the 2d Armored Division for the invasion of Sicily. There it came under U.S. control for the first time in its year of overseas service. The men had gotten along well with the British, but never got used to tea.19

At Bizerte and Mateur were huge ammunition dumps. The Mateur dump, where all marked ammunition for Sicily was stored, had just lost about 2,200 tons of ammunition in a fire that broke out on 30 June and spread quickly in a high wind. The fire had been brought under control by the 66th Ammunition Company and maintenance men of the 188th Ordnance Battalion, stationed nearby, who fought it with tanks, trampling out fires carried over the firebreaks and swirling the tanks to throw dirt on the flames. In the midst of thundering explosions and falling shell fragments, the tank crews had had several narrow escapes. In all, there were fourteen casualties, but 10,000 tons of ammunition had been saved.20

D-day was 10 July. On the bright, sunny afternoon of 8 July the ships and landing craft of JOSS Force swarmed out of the harbor and into the dark blue of the Mediterranean. Suddenly the men saw out at sea the great invasion fleet of the CENT and DIME Forces. To Ernie Pyle, aboard a JOSS Force ship, the armada standing on the horizon was a sight he would never forget. It "resembled a distant city. It covered half the skyline, and the dull-colored camouflage ships stood indistinctly against the curve of the dark water, like a solid formation of uncountable structures blending together. Even to be part of it was frightening."21

The huge fleets joined and filed through the Tunisian "War Channel." Then the transports turned south, to deceive the enemy, and the landing craft turned east. All were to converge near Gozo, north of Malta, where the approach dispositions for JOSS, DIME, and CENT were to form; but as they sailed toward the meeting place there was a piece of bad luck that threatened the whole invasion. After days of calm a stiff norther—a true Mediterranean mistral—began to blow on the morning of 9 July and became worse during the afternoon. The sea sprang up, rocking the transports from side to side and pouring over the little landing craft. By twilight it seemed all but impossible to gather the ships together in any kind of order, but the


Photo:  Landing at Gela.  An LST loaded with ammunition burns offshore after a hit from a dive bomber

LANDING AT GELA. An LST loaded with ammunition burns offshore after a hit
from a dive bomber.

armada had proceeded too far to turn back. Good seamanship saved the day and shortly after midnight, when the first ships of the three U.S. forces were within radar range of Sicily, the wind began to die down.22

The Landings

Off Gela, the men at the rails of the DIME transports saw a long line of brilliant yellow and orange lights. They were fires in wheatfields started by Allied bombers. While the mine sweepers combed the waters off Gela, the transports hove to about seven miles offshore, flanked by LST's and LCI's, and began lowering men into landing craft. Once in the craft, the troops took an hour and a half to cover the distance to the beach over a sea that was still running so high that the little boats pitched and shuddered and were all but drowned in great, roaring waves. Searchlights from the shore played over the boats and explosions were heard in the neighborhood of Gela, but the apprehensions of the men were soon quieted, for there was little opposition the first day except from dive bombers and artillery from inland. The coastal area, lightly garrisoned by Italian troops, had been taken by surprise.23


The only serious resistance to the landings came on D plus 1 when the Hermann Goering Division, which was a tank division, arrived on the Gela plain and very nearly succeeded in breaking through to the beachhead. The Germans were stopped by 1st Division artillery and infantry with bazookas, powerfully aided by the guns of the cruisers and destroyers offshore—the most effective large-scale use of naval gunfire in land operations so far in the war. In the afternoon, when Tiger tanks had come up, self-propelled artillery and Sherman tanks, landed from the reserve KOOL Force that came in with DIME, knocked out about one-third of the German tanks, including ten Tigers, and drove off the rest. The beachheads were saved, and on 12 July 1st Division took its main objective, the Ponte Olivo airfield.

The work of the bazooka in the landings and throughout the campaign was watched with great interest. One Ordnance observer claimed that bazookas accounted for Pzkw IV tanks on four occasions; another claimed a Pzkw VI Tiger, though admittedly the Tiger was knocked out by a lucky hit through the driver's vision slot. On the other hand, many officers preferred the rifle grenade to the bazooka as a close-range antitank weapon. An interesting discovery made in Sicily was that the bazooka was effective as a morale weapon against enemy soldiers in strongpoints and machine gun nests. It was no longer thought of only as an antitank weapon, and in its new role was so well liked by the troops that they disregarded the restrictions on its use. At high temperatures three barrel bursts did occur, but fortunately no one was hurt.24

The first Ordnance officers ashore on D-day were men of Medaris' II Corps staff, Maj. William C. Farmer and Lt. Edward A. Vahldieck, who landed at dawn with infantry combat teams to find sites for ammunition dumps and collection points and generally keep abreast of the tactical and supply situation. During the morning the 1st Division's light maintenance company got ashore, crossed the dunes, and bivouacked about a mile inland. Beyond the beach were stone farmhouses, vineyards, and, best of all, fields of ripe tomatoes and watermelons—a delicious change from K rations. To the left, on a small hill that dominated the flat countryside, were the whitewashed roofs and church spire of the little gray stone town of Gela. The swarthy, thin-faced Sicilians the Ordnance troops saw at the farmhouses or driving bright painted wagons down dusty roads were friendly; and many of the Italian soldiers who came running out of pillboxes to surrender seemed actually glad to see the Americans. In spite of heavy bombing, strafing, and artillery fire, in which 1st Lt. Charles P. Bartow of the light maintenance company was wounded, the II Corps Ordnance officers managed to spike a number of the coastal defense guns.25


Photo:  DUKW's in ship-to-shore operation, Sicily


By the afternoon of D-day the beach below Gela was piled for miles with boxes, bags, and crates of every shape and description. All day the ships on the horizon had been unloading their cargoes, mostly into DUKW's. To everybody's great disappointment, the LST's could not get close enough to open their great bow doors directly on the beach, for there were sand bars beyond which the water leading to the true beach was so deep that it could not be forded. Ammunition and artillery had to be brought ashore by the DUKW's. All had been loaded in North Africa before embarkation, 100 with three tons of ammunition each, 28 with shore regiment equipment, and each of the remaining 16 with a 105-mm. howitzer. Four hours after the first assault troops landed, the DUKW's swarmed ashore and in a matter of minutes the four batteries of 105-mm. howitzers were in action. Ton upon ton of ammunition rolled in as the DUKW's raced back and forth from ship to shore. A war correspondent, Jack Belden, described the scene: "The rim of the horizon ten miles out to sea was lined with transports . . . And from the transports new hordes of tiny craft, like water bugs, were scooting toward the shore to add their own heaped-up loads and the chattering of their own roaring engines to the riot and the confusion already on the beach."26


By late afternoon three LST's were able, by rigging causeways, to unload vehicles and men directly on the beach, but the vehicles had hard going. The beaches were mined, and, worse, the sand was soft. The engineers had laid down wire matting, but it could not accommodate all the traffic; trucks sank to their hubcaps in the sand, engines racing, as jeeps tried to pull them out. Many stalled because their motors or batteries had been corroded by salt water during the landing; the waterproofing had not stood up under unexpectedly deep water. Soon the beach was clogged with stalled and disabled vehicles. All were badly needed to bring order out of the mountainous piles of matériel on the beaches.27

Unlike the trucks, the DUKW's, which had desert-type tires as well as the automatic tire-deflating mechanism, ran easily over the sand, and in the first days of the invasion they were badly overworked on land as well as at sea. When the combat troops moved forward, nine DUKW's were commandeered to rush ammunition to the front twenty miles inland because other vehicles could not get through the sandhills. No sooner had they returned to the beach than they were ordered to pull 105-mm. howitzers, needed to stop a German tank attack, over dunes as high as 180 feet. The appearance at the front line of the queer, high-sided vehicle completely mystified the enemy. Some thought it an amphibian tank; a hundred Italians were reported to have surrendered at first glance. One DUKW was captured by the Germans, but they were apparently unable to operate it, and it was recaptured by the Americans twenty-four hours later in exactly the same spot.28

Long hauls over rough roads at high speeds were hard on the DUKW's special tires, salt water and sand damaged their brakes, and overloading at shipside—some DUKW's waddled ashore with as much as seven tons aboard, showing only two or three inches of freeboard above the water —weakened their bodies. The thirty-nine men of the 3497th DUKW Maintenance Company who came ashore at Gela at dawn on the morning after D-day had their work cut out for them. They did not have enough spare tires and parts for propellers, and bilge pumps were sadly lacking. The mechanics, by cannibalizing DUKW's that were wrecked by mines or sunk offshore, kept most of the fleet operating, against great odds.29

In the British landing area also the DUKW plagued the repairmen, but it did so well that its faults seemed minor. The commander of the task force that landed the Eighth Army praised it highly; the British Royal Army Service Corps reported that it "revolutionized the business of beach maintenance." A British commander summed up the feeling of many when he called the DUKW "a magnificent bird."30


DIME Force at Gela had run into more opposition than had CENT Force at Scoglitti or JOSS at Licata. At Scoglitti the surf had been so strong that new beaches had to be found, but by the afternoon of 11 July the 45th Division had succeeded in taking one of its main objectives, the Comiso airfield, had entered the large town of Ragusa, and had stopped a German counterattack at Biscari airfield with the help of the newly arrived 82d Airborne Division, plus a battery of 155-mm. field artillery, a company of Sherman tanks, and heavy fire from the Navy. That night, General Bradley moved the II Corps command post two miles inland, and two days later Maj. John Ray, the II Corps ammunition officer, made arrangements with the Engineer beach group, which controlled supplies on all beaches, to establish a dump for the 45th Division at Vittoria, a town seven miles inland on the coast road, the first Allied ammunition supply point on the island. The beaches at Scoglitti were closed on 17 July. After the 17th, until a better port was captured, supplies were to be landed in the Licata area.31

Because of the early capture of port facilities at Licata, the buildup there had been easier than that at Gela and Scoglitti. On D-day Truscott's JOSS Force, consisting of the 3d Infantry Division and Combat Command A of the 2d Armored Division, took Licata and advanced to occupy strongpoints on the hills beyond. Before dark the countryside far inland was crowded with troops, vehicles, and thousands of boxes of ammunition. Command posts were being established in orchards and old buildings, field kitchens were being set up to cook hot food. Next day JOSS Force began its move up the west coast and by noon was well ahead of schedule.32

Colonel Nixon's Problems

On the afternoon of 12 July Colonel Nixon went ashore at Gela with the rest of General Patton's staff and helped to set up the advanced command post, one echelon in a school building, the other in a grove north of town. As Ordnance officer of the first U.S. army to take to the field in World War II, Nixon had a pioneer job and had to perform it under rather difficult circumstances. He had a very small staff, only 14 officers and 3 warrant officers; for so large an operation as HUSKY he later estimated that he ought to have had at least 4 more officers and 30 enlisted men. He had asked repeatedly for more men but each time had been refused.33

The very rapidity of Seventh Army's advance made Ordnance support difficult. By 22 July General Truscott's JOSS Force, now designated Provisional Corps and


augmented with all the tanks of 2d Armored Division (except Combat Command A), had raced northwest and captured the large port of Palermo. General Bradley's II Corps advanced up the center of the island and captured the hub of the network of roads in the Caltanisetta-Enna area. Then the 1st Infantry Division headed east toward the Messina peninsula, where the Germans were concentrated and the British Eighth Army was stalemated. The 45th drove north and captured San Stefano on the northern coast.

The combat forces outran their Ordnance support. The 45th Division, for example, moved so rapidly that until 27 July it had only its own 700th Light Maintenance Company to repair its guns and vehicles. The 2d Armored Division, in its fast run of about 200 miles in five days to Palermo, starting 19 July from near Licata, had only part of its own maintenance battalion—not more than 30 percent of the support it would normally have demanded. It encountered enemy opposition and had to cross terrain that was extremely difficult for tanks. The roads were mountainous, flinty, and dusty, and at times cut by defiles from which bridges had been blown. Not only tank tracks but truck tires, then and throughout the campaign, suffered from the narrow wagon-track roads covered with volcanic rock.34

General Patton, dashing about in a command car decked with oversize stars and insignia or poring over maps in his office with, his G-3, planning the tactics of his Seventh Army, seemed to General Bradley to be "almost completely indifferent to its logistical needs."35 On the other hand, Colonel Nixon maintained that General Patton put great emphasis on logistics but preferred to delegate responsibility for supply to experts whose judgment he trusted. With one exception (the Battle of the Bulge) Patton never failed before every operation to ask Nixon whether he was prepared to support it, and gave full weight to Nixon's reply.36 The general's attitude had also been illustrated by a remark he had made in the presence of Lt. Col. Carter B. Magruder of ASF during the planning for the Casablanca landing of Western Task Force. On that occasion Patton had said to his G-4, Col. Walter J. Muller, "I don't know anything about logistics. You keep me out of trouble."37

Palermo was captured on 25 July, and the port was quickly opened. Colonel Nixon moved to Palermo with the rest of Patton's staff, and the general established himself in the Royal Palace. An Italian aircraft factory, spared from bombing by arrangement with the various air forces, made an admirable Ordnance depot, eventually to be operated by two depot companies. The 42d Maintenance and Supply Battalion, which landed at Licata on 18 July, arrived in Palermo 28 July. Com-


manded by Lt. Col. John F. Moffitt, it consisted largely of veterans of the Tunisia Campaign, including the 991st Heavy Maintenance Tank Company (the old 30th).38

The men of the 42d Battalion were assigned to maintain the Provisional Corps, but by the time they had arrived, the fighting around Palermo had dwindled to mopping-up operations. The immediate task of Seventh Army in early August was to support II Corps. Bradley's corps now included the 3d Division (replacing the 45th, retired for rest and refitting), which was pushing east along the north coast road toward Messina, slowed by mountainous terrain and stiffening resistance. The 1st Division, aided by the newly arrived 9th Division and reinforced by a brigade of field artillery, was stopped at Troina, near Mount Etna, where the enemy had taken a strong stand. The battle of Troina, in which the greatest weight of II Corps was committed, lasted from 3 to 6 August.

In attempting to support II Corps in the battle of Troina, Colonel Nixon was handicapped by a woefully weak staff, especially after he had to release his ablest officer, Colonel Lynde, to become Ordnance officer of the Provisional Corps. He himself was working from 16 to 18 hours a day, having to devote time to routine details that subordinates could have handled. In addition, information and reports came late from the front because all correspondence, including Ordnance, had to flow through command channels. And he was hindered from sending all-out Ordnance support to II Corps because of the army's inflexibility in the matter of men and supplies. Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Keyes, Patton's deputy at Palermo while Patton was ranging up and down the front every day, jealously guarded army's prerogatives and, far from agreeing to the assignment of more Ordnance troops to corps, insisted that all Ordnance troops remain under army.39

On 3 August Colonel Medaris made the 5-hour trip from the 1st Division front back to Palermo to protest that he was not getting enough support from army. The 43d Ordnance Battalion did not provide him with enough maintenance. He desperately needed another automotive repair company. He had no collection and evacuation point nearer than Palermo, and no maintenance and supply facilities close to the front. To get supplies his men had had to race back to the beaches, sometimes spending days going from dump to dump. This in turn placed a heavy drain on transportation, for trucks and tires wore out rapidly when operated continuously over the lava rock roads of Sicily. He complained that Ordnance matériel in the dumps was being stolen and diverted. And he strongly protested that the supply of ammunition had not been adequate to give the II Corps commander complete tactical freedom.40

"A Black Eye on Ordnance"

The reason for many of these troubles was Seventh Army's supply system. In a command decision very early in the campaign, General Patton gave the supply task


to the 1st Engineer Special Brigade, which would act as an SOS, managing depots beyond the beaches, right up to the front. General Bradley thought it was a mistake. Ordnance objected, but in vain. As Ordnance officers foresaw, the improper handling of ammunition by the Engineers was "a black eye on Ordnance, even though the fault lay elsewhere."41

Confusion was inevitable at the beach dumps; it was when the ammunition began to move inland that Ordnance officers began to worry. They observed that the Engineers considered it just so much tonnage, moving small arms ammunition first, because it was the easiest to handle, disregarding tactical requirements and the recommendations of their Ordnance liaison officer. Three out of four ammunition dumps established by Seventh Army were overstocked with small arms ammunition and never had enough 105-mm. and 155-mm. artillery ammunition, which was what II Corps wanted most. The expenditures for small arms were surprisingly low and, because of the mountainous terrain and Allied command of the air, those for tank and antiaircraft weapons were almost negligible. The only ammunition dump that had enough artillery ammunition was so far from both the north coast and the east front that it took too long to send trucks back to it over the narrow, mountainous roads. One of II Corps chief complaints was that army did not have enough transport to move stocks far enough forward. The dump at Nicosia, closest to the Messina front, reached its artillery target only with the help of corps transport.42

The main reason for confusion at the forward dumps was that the Engineers did not make the best use of Ordnance ammunition companies, which they controlled. The headquarters men of the Seventh Army's 63d Ammunition Battalion, which landed soon after D-day, could act only in an advisory capacity. The Engineers used technically trained ammunition troops as common labor and, over Ordnance protests, did not give them any organic transportation. A few 2 1/2-ton trucks would have enabled the ammunition detachments to segregate types within the dumps and would have facilitated issues immeasurably. When artillery ammunition finally began to move, an Ordnance observer saw in several advanced dumps all four types of 105-mm. howitzer ammunition in one stack, which made night issues extremely difficult. Near the end of the campaign, Colonel Nixon arranged for the 63d Ammunition Battalion to take over from the Engineer special brigade the operation of all forward dumps, but the battalion had no transportation and came too late on the scene to be of much help.43

Nixon believed that the problem created by the Engineers' misuse of Ordnance troops would have been corrected immediately if the troops had reverted to army after the landing operations instead of remaining attached to corps, because he would have had a prompt report on the fiasco. As it was, it took some time for


Photo:  Hauling a 155-mm. gun inland, Sicily


Bradley to inform Patton of the situation through command channels. The decision to attach army Ordnance units to corps without providing for reversion after landing was Nixon's own, and he afterward reproached himself for it—"a bitter lesson" and one that was not forgotten when he became Ordnance officer of U.S. Third Army.44

It took heavy artillery to blast the enemy out of his Etna position on the Messina neck. The Germans had begun to dread the Americans' "mad artillery barrages," which they nicknamed Feuerzauber or "fire magic."45 Keeping the guns operating was the most serious Ordnance maintenance problem of the last two weeks of the campaign. The problem began about 24 July when several field artillery units were transferred from Provisional Corps to II Corps, bringing II Corps artillery to 60 155-mm. howitzers, 25 155-mm. guns, and 54 105-mm. howitzers. Most of the 155-mm. howitzers were of the M1917 or M1918 type and some of these, Ordnance officers surmised, had been used ever since World War I. Many were already worn out, a few actu-


ally condemned, before they arrived in the theater. Others had had hard service in the Tunisia Campaign and afterward not enough assemblies or parts had been available in North Africa to do more than patch them up. They began to fail the first day they were fired in Sicily, and soon 18 were out of action. The new 155-mm. M1 howitzers functioned much better, but had all the idiosyncracies of a new weapon; they also often arrived without spare parts and such accessories as telescopes.46

To repair the guns and howitzers at the Etna position Colonel Medaris had only the 18-man artillery section of his 83d Heavy Maintenance Tank Company. None of the men had ever worked on either the 155-mm. howitzer or the 155-mm. gun, and had no tools for either. Operating near Nicosia, so close to the front that they could plainly hear small arms fire, the men manufactured tools and reshuffled serviceable assemblies. They sent out contact parties to work at the gun positions at considerable risk; they lost two men, 2d Lt. Tom P. Forman and Technician 5 Roland G. McDorman, killed by an accidental explosion while working on a 155-mm. gun.47

Not until 8 August did the 42d Maintenance and Supply Battalion arrive at the front with the experienced 991st Heavy Maintenance Tank Company.48 By then, the campaign was nearly over. The enemy was withdrawing, although he slowed the Allied advance as much as he could with delaying actions and demolitions. Along the north coast road, Truscott's 3d Division, aided by an adroit amphibious landing behind the enemy's front at San Fratello, pushed quickly on to Messina. On 16 August a battery of 155-mm. howitzers was wheeled into position on the coast road and fired a hundred rounds on the Italian mainland—the first U.S. ground attack on the continent of Europe. The next day Truscott's infantry was in Messina, only a few minutes before an officer from Montgomery's Eighth Army raced in. The Germans had made good their escape across the Strait of Messina— but the battle for Sicily had been won.

The Evidence at the End

The Sicily Campaign ended thirty-eight days after the landings on the beaches. Short in time, it was a "first" in several respects—the first massive amphibious landing, the first use of DUKW's in an invasion, the first attempt to supply combat forces for thirty days over beaches. It was also the first test of army support of corps, though not perhaps a really fair one because it was so brief.

General Bradley was critical of the Seventh Army for not giving him enough support; his supply officers, after an attempt by army to borrow trucks from corps, re-


marked, "We seem to be backing Army instead of Army backing us."49 Colonel Medaris continued to maintain that corps, not army, should be made responsible for maintenance and ammunition service in the forward areas.50

On the other hand, II Corps had moved very fast in an advance as far from base as an advance across France to the German border would have been. The supply lines had been long and difficult—more difficult, reported General Lucas (observer for General Eisenhower) than Bradley probably realized. Lucas, traveling from Algiers to the front lines, saw no real breakdowns in supply, and praised the hardworking Seventh Army staff. Colonel Nixon, convinced as were Niblo and Medaris, that Ordnance service ought to be as close to the front as possible, had sent maintenance and ammunition men forward from Palermo as soon as he became aware of the need for them. They arrived too late, but this was mainly because communications between army and corps were never adequate. When General Lucas visited General Bradley at his command post on 14 August, Bradley told him that army did not maintain telephone lines to corps and that no army staff officer had ever visited him. On the vital matter of ammunition, Major Ray, Medaris ammunition officer, was appalled at the lack of liaison and communication between forward ammunition supply dumps, army headquarters, and the Engineer special brigade.51

The combat troops had had enough weapons and ammunition, thanks to less enemy opposition than had been anticipated and to the sheer bulk of matériel. By D-day plus 5 it was plain that too many supplies had been brought in; army stopped the flow after the UGS-11 convoy. Of supplies shipped to Sicily, 50,714 long tons were ammunition (7,500 were expended) and 18,617 long tons were Class II and IV Ordnance supplies; the total for Ordnance accounted for more than half of the matériel supplied by all the technical services. At the same time, many of the weapons that had been taken from stocks in North Africa were old or obsolete, and there were never enough trucks and truck parts to meet the insatiable demands.52

Ordnance service at the front in the short campaign had indicated the need for more automotive companies, proportionally; for a collecting company with recovery and evacuation equipment; and for more men trained on heavy artillery. It had confirmed Medaris in his conviction that versatility was more to be desired than specialization. Sicily had provided the first experience with antiaircraft maintenance companies, and it was disappointing. The men were trained mainly to service directors, and the 40-mm. antiaircraft guns in the forward areas seldom used director control. Ordnance officers strongly recommended that if such companies were kept, they be trained also to repair vehicles, but Medaris felt that a better solution was to


attach antiaircraft maintenance sections to ordinary maintenance companies. Another new type of company that was felt to be wasteful of personnel was the bomb disposal company; most officers preferred separate squads.53

The ammunition companies had been controlled by the Engineer special brigade. Under this arrangement, reported Major Ray, ammunition supply had been "characterized throughout the campaign by ignorance on the part of personnel in rear areas, and by lack of control of types shipped to forward areas."54 Ray strongly urged that Ordnance in the future keep control of ammunition companies. He also recommended a revision and simplification of Ordnance Field Manual 9-6, which set up ammunition supply procedures. Ray's critique contained, in Medaris' opinion, much food for thought and many practical suggestions. When it was sent back to the Ordnance Department, it was given respectful attention because it came from actual battle experience in both North Africa and Sicily and was used in revising the manual.55

Before the summer of 1943 had ended, Ordnance officers in the Mediterranean had learned much about the use of men and about supply methods and were able to apply these lessons in several ways. Colonel Coffey had set up in Oran a stock control system that was eventually to help locate unidentified, "lost" stocks; Colonel Crawford and Lt. Col. William G. Hynds, Coffey's assistant, had returned to the United States and persuaded the New York Port of Embarkation to edit requisitions less stringently. Crawford had also arranged for an eye-witness report on Ordnance support of invasions. Beginning with Sicily, he sent at least one representative from his AFHQ section, temporarily assigned to army staff, to observe Ordnance operations. Maj. William H. Connerat, Jr., of AFHQ went to Sicily with the first contingent. His report, submitted on 2 August 1943, was carefully studied by Colonel Niblo who, as Ordnance officer of Fifth Army, was planning for Ordnance support of the invasion of Italy, soon to take place.56


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Last updated 11 January 2007