During the Sicilian Campaign of World War II, Allied forces conquered the island, which dominates the Mediterranean Sea, in a matter of weeks. This secured vital shipping lanes, provided bases, and set the stage for the invasion of mainland Italy. To further tell this story, the American Battle Monuments Commission has released the Sicilian Campaign Interactive. This free, digital tool allows users to follow the path of Allied forces in Sicily from the landings on July 10, 1943 through the Axis evacuation of the island in mid-August 1943.
Including dynamic maps showing the locations of units over time, narrative videos, and an encyclopedia of people, places, organizations and equipment involved, the Sicilian Campaign online interactiveprovides comprehensive insight into this critical World War II campaign.
After Allied forces invaded North Africa in November 1942, planning was soon underway for the invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky. President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill committed to the campaign during the Casablanca Conference of January 1943, giving Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower his instructions to invade Sicily. Key objectives included securing lines of communication in the Mediterranean, diverting German divisions from France and Russia, and keeping pressure on the Italian Dictator Mussolini in the hope of forcing the Italians out of the war.
American Gen. George S. Patton and British Gen. Sir Bernard Montgomery led Allied ground troops in the fast paced campaign. The invasion began July 10, 1943 with airborne and amphibious landings on the southeastern portion of the island. Initial resistance was limited overall, although the Americans repelled several dangerous counterattacks from the perimeters of their beaches. Within two days the Allies secured their beachheads and began to push inland.
Less than two weeks later Patton captured Palermo, Sicily’s capital city on the island’s northern coast. A drive on Messina followed. Just a few miles of water separated Messina from mainland Italy, so Messina was a vital base and a logical final objective for the Allied campaign. It fell on August 17.
During the Allied advance on Messina, Mussolini was overthrown by the Italian government. The Italians, weary of Fascist rule and the wars Mussolini had involved them in, negotiated an armistice with the Allies. The armistice was announced when the Allies entered mainland Italy through Salerno in September, and the Germans overran most of the country. Italy declared war on Germany, and the Allied campaign became one for national liberation.
It took the Allies another nine months to liberate Rome. The campaign in Sicily was swift, but the campaigns in Italy proved to be longer and harder. Thousands of Americans lost their lives, along with thousands of their Allies. The American dead are honored at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery.