Operation Husky No.1, 9 July 1943

Operation Husky No.1 (9 July 1943) was an American airborne operation designed to occupy key areas of high ground inland from the American beaches on Sicily.

The plan was for paratroops to be dropped near Farello, and then capture nearby high ground around the Ponto Olivo airfield,  a key road junction six miles to the east of Gela at Piano Lupo, in order to protect the beaches where the US 1st Division would land later. Another party was to take the Ponte Dirillo bridge across the Acate River, towards the eastern end of the bridgehead, between the 1st and 45th Division sectors

The aircraft were to take a doglegged route, first flying east from Tunisia to Malta and then turning north to approach Sicily. This route was chosen to reduce the risk of being fired on by the Allied anti-aircraft gunners in the massive invasion fleet, and to provide a navigation point as close as possible to Sicily. The plan was to make landfall at Cape Passero, at the southern tip of Sicily, fly west across the coast to the landing zone at Gela, drop the troops, and then fly directly west back to Tunisia, flying over Pantelleria on the way. 

The operation involved 226 C-46s, carrying 3,405 paratroops from the US 82nd Airborne Division. Many of the aircraft missed the turning point at Malta, but most reached Sicily. However they arrived much later than expected, and a mix of darkness and smoke and fire from Allied bombing made it very difficult to pick out the landing zone. As a result the paratroops were scattered across a wide area, with some ending up in the British zone.

Enough of the paratroops landed in the correct area for them to be able to take their initial objectives. The scattered troops also performed a valuable task, causing confusion behind the Axis lines and demoralising many of the Italian coastal troops. They were also able to take the town of Marina di Ragusa, ten miles to the south-east of the right flank of the main US landing zone, and were then able to make contact with the US 45th Division, the right-hand US division. It is also worth remembering that this and Operation Ladbroke were the first large scale Allied airborne assaults of the Second World War, and there was thus no pool of experience to draw on when planning it.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (10 April 2018), Operation Husky No.1, 9 July 1943 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/operation_husky_no1.html

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