#Story - Italy

The airborne troops

Several phases of Operation Husky employed the use of airborne troops. However, the launches, at least in the first hours of the invasion of Sicily, were marked by the difficult weather conditions in which they took place.

On the night of 9 to 10 July 1943, the night Operation Husky began, American and British airborne troops were parachuted into Sicily to assist the landing in progress. However, due to the strong winds blowing over the island, only a portion of them were able to land on their intended targets, while many of the men involved in this operation ended up missing.

The date of 10 July, after all, was chosen specifically to take advantage of the cover offered by the partial obscuring of the moon. The airborne troops were supposed to neutralise the existing defences on the beaches facilitating maritime assaults, but this initial plan was made difficult by the unsuccessful outcome of many launches. In fact, the fire produced by the naval and aerial bombardments concealed the landing sites chosen by the Allied troops, for example at the mouth of the Acate river and the Biviere marshes. The presence of anti-aircraft also increased these difficulties and even caused some planes to return to Africa and give up their jumps.

Many paratroopers ended up out of position, in the areas surrounding Vittoria and Caltagirone: so far from the place where they were supposed to land, they found themselves having to move without having useful map references to allow them to orient themselves. For them, the only possible salvation became that of reuniting and trying to rejoin the troops that had landed from the sea as soon as possible. A similar, if not worse fate befell the gliders of the British airborne troops. Many of them, disturbed by the strong and tense wind, even ended up in the sea and their pilots drowned. Despite this, their deployment achieved its main objective: to prevent the Axis forces from destroying the Ponte Grande over the Anapo river in Syracuse.

During Operation Husky, there was another major episode involving airborne troops. Operation Fustian called for a group of Allied paratroopers to seize the Primosole Bridge, a key junction for reaching Catania, as part of the Battle of the Simeto. The Anglo-American forces succeeded, but on that occasion the German forces also resorted to airborne troops, the 1st Fallschirmjäger Division, to try to occupy the bridge in advance and demolish it, so as to slow down the action of the Allies.