Operation Husky No.2 (11-12 July 1943) was an almost disastrous attempt to fly reinforcements to the US paratroops dropped on Sicily in Operation Husky No.1.
Husky No.1 had been meant to drop 3,405 paratroops in the Gela area, to capture key features just inland from the beaches, but the paratroops had been scattered across much of south-eastern Sicily. Those troops that had been dropped in the right area had captured their targets, but it was feared that they lacked the strength to hold onto them. As a result it was decided to fly 2,000 paratroops from the 504th Regiment Combat Team onto to Sicily, dropping them at the Farello airfield near Gela.
The aircraft were to take roughly the same route as Operation Husty No.1, flying east from Tunisia to Malta, then north to the southern coast of Sicily. From there they would fly along the coast to the drop zone, then head straight back to Tunisia, flying in a westerly direction past Pantelleria. This meant that they would have to fly sideways along the length of the American beachhead for 35 miles. The operation was put on in a great hurry. As a result many of the Allied naval ships off Sicily hadn’t been warned about the operation, and no safe route had been set up.
As a result the incoming aircraft ran into a storm of anti-aircraft fire. This began before they even reached Sicily, when the guns of the fleet opened fire. When they reached the shore American AA batteries near Marina di Ragusa (ironically taken by the paratroops from Husky No.1) opened fire, and the aircraft came under friendly and hostile fire as they flew along the coast towards the drop zone. The drop itself was a mess. Some pilots refused to drop their troops into the inferno of AA fire while others scattered their men across a zone than ran from Gela to the British zone on the east coast. The aircraft continued to come under fire for twenty miles after they left Sicily heading for Tunisia.
A total of 23 aircraft were lost in the operation and twice as many badly damaged. On the ground the scattered paratroops caused as much confusion on their own side as amongst the defenders. The Allied troops had been alerted against the danger of German paratroops, and in some places the drop of the 504th was mistakenly reported as a German attack.
On 14 July the survivors from the 504th and 505th RCTs were united near Gela. They were joined by a standard infantry RCT and posted on the left of the American sector.