#Story - Italy

The San Fratello line

The San Fratello line represented the last defensive line organised by the Axis forces to slow down the Anglo-American advance into Sicily.

After the landings on the south-western and south-eastern coasts of Sicily in 1943, the Axis military commanders decided to concentrate their forces to set up a defensive line between the Nebrodi mountains and Mount Etna. The aim was to stem the Anglo-American rush towards Messina.  

 The San Fratello line was created to counter the advance of Anglo-American troops during Operation Husky. It was also known as the Etna line or the Hube line (named after General Hans-Valentin Hube who had been in charge of commanding German troops in Sicily since mid-July). The line passed between the towns of San Fratello, Cesarò, Troina, Adrano, Biancavilla and Acireale, drawing an arc among the most defensible towns on the north-eastern tip of the island. It was defended by the German 1st Hermann Göring Division, the 15th Panzergrenadier, the 29th Panzergrenadier and the Italian divisions Aosta and Livorno. 

Some of the bloodiest battles of Operation Husky took place right along the San Fratello line. In Troina, perched on high ground, the German soldiers of the 15th Panzergrenadier Division and the Aosta Division barricaded themselves in from 1 to 5 August, resisting the American attacks which were also supported by artillery and air force. The intense American bombardment caused considerable destruction in the town of Troina and more than 100 civilian casualties. There were also numerous losses among the belligerents: the 15th Panzergrenadier Division lost more than 1,600 soldiers in Troina. In the night of 5 to 6 August, the Germans retreated towards Cesarò.  

On the Etna front line, particularly important and bloody battles took place in Centuripe and Adrano. In Centuripe, between 2 and 4 August, the 78th British Infantry Division supported by the Allied Air Force succeeded in conquering a strategic point from the Göring Division. This opened the way to Adrano where, together with the 1st Canadian Infantry Division, they engaged in another battle with the Göring Division. The municipality of Etna was liberated on 7 August 1943.