Operation Giant I (Revised), 13-14 September 1943

Operation Giant I (Revised), 13-14 September 1943, was the first of two successful attempts to reinforce the Salerno beachhead from the air.

Although the Allies had successfully landed at Salerno on 9 September, they had been unable to link up the two halves of their beachhead, which were separated by the River Sele. Marshal Kesselring, the German commander in southern Italy, quickly managed to build up strong forces around the beachhead, and on 13 September he launched a dangerous counterattack that advanced along the Sele, and got dangerously close to the coast. General Clark, the Allied commander at Salerno, responded by adjusting the Allied line to make it easier to defend, planning for a possible retreat, and ordering all available reinforcements to be rushed to the beachhead. Amongst the available troops was the 82nd Airborne Division on Sicily.

Operation Giant I (Revised) was planned and carried out in a remarkably short period of time. The 51st and 52nd Troop Carrier Wings, which were to drop the troops, were only informed of the operation at 1330 hours on 13 September. The operational orders were issued at 1830, and the first aircraft took off at 1930. Even so the operation was well planned and a total success.

The first aircraft to set off were three pathfinders, carrying fifty paratroops with homing equipment. They dropped right onto the drop zone, which was three and a half miles south of the Sele River, in the American half of the beachhead. They then set up their Rebecca-Eureka beacons and Krypton lamps (designed to produce a blinding flash of light, visible in daylight, every five seconds). In order to protect the incoming paratroops against the sort of friendly fire incidents that had marred airborne operations over Sicily, all Allied AA fire was suspended during the drop.

The Pathfinders were followed by the main force, 82 C-47s and C-53s from the 61st, 313th and 314th Troop Carrier Groups, which were carrying 1,300 men from the 504th Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. The vast majority of the troops landed within 200 yards of the drop zone. B Company, 1st Battalion, landed eight miles to the south-east. No aircraft were lost, and only one paratrooper was injured during the operation.

The reinforcements were gathered together at Albanella, and immediately thrown into the defensive battle. The worst crisis of the battle actually came on 13 September, the day before their arrival, when the Germans threatened to split the beachhead in half. The arrival of the paratroops, combined with a sensible adjustment of the Allied lines, meant that the renewed German attack on 14 September had far less impact, and the crisis was soon over.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 July 2018), Operation Giant I (Revised), 13-14 September 1943 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/operation_giant_I.html

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