July 1944 – Sicily Invasion and Counterattack

Historical: Sicily invaded by US (south coast) & British (east coast); Mussolini ousted

With Derek leaving the west basically empty, and with a Jagdgeschwader based out of Messina, Operation Husky opened with a lone Dakota air-dropping the 509th Para battalion into an empty Marsala. But, still inexperienced, they land heavily and failed to take the port – DRAT! Inauspicious omens! This, of course, immediately set of the alarm bells in Palermo, and the garrison quickly fell out to bolster the defences around Messina and Palermo.

After first shooing off the 109s in Messina, the US invasion fleets hove into view. The two areas selected for invasion were the western tip centred on Trapani, and the southern coast around Agrigento and Licata. Because of the lack of range of good fighter cover, these were the only viable options without slipping within range of the Axis submarines. The Axis threw every bomber they could at the fleets, and despite the fighter and carrier cover, a good half-dozen hits were inflicted – including an irritating trend of singling out the divisional HQs for special treatment (3 out of 5 units hit over the next few turns were on the HQs!). However, despite that, the boys got ashore, pushed aside the coastal defenders with the assistance of the other para drops and established nominal 15pt+ beachheads.

Meanwhile, the Brits formed outside of Tripoli with their full strength and gave them ‘what for’. The dice gods played along, and gave us our 50:50 roll, forcing an impossible retreat from the city. This released the Poms for their Med duties, though they had to scamper north for 2 turns by plane, train or boat to get to any usable ports. The Med timetable being behind schedule was the last straw needed to cancel plans for a major ’43 invasion of northern France. Thus Britain started being emptied of any troops of consequence – including the (ex) Home Fleets.

Reasoning that the best chance to get at the Allies is before they can build up their shore-strength, Derek assembles a large stack in Sicily built around the Hermann Göring division. Getting a long run-up from Messina, it slams into the unarmoured flank of the Americans at Licata for an HX, cadreing the HG and (with the aid of a pesky coastal division) destroying the 3rd Division lock, stock and 2 smoking barrels. Also, despite solid Allied CAP over the southern ports, 2 of the remaining 3 are bombed out. A Palermo Pest division scuttles out to isolate the southern coast forces from the one remaining supply port at Trapani.

In the July II Allied turn, the laborious build-up proceeds: the 2nd Armoured, and rebuilt 1st Armoured HQ land and assist with re-opening the link between Trapani, Marsala and Agrigento – better to be safe, with un-isolated troops, than to push on to disaster. (I wish I could heed that advice later!!)