Italy and the Balkans (July 1943-October 1944)
On 10 July 1943 Montgomery's 8th Army and Patton's 7th Army landed on the south coast of Sicily. The Allies caught the Germans by surprise. In an operation involving 'the man who never was', phoney plans for the invasion of Sardinia and Greece were planted on a corpse which was washed ashore and fell into German hands. Hitler was taken in by this deception, although Kesselring, who commanded the troops in Italy, felt that the plans were a hoax and believed that the Allies would land in Sicily. 'Operation Husky' was badly planned and poorly executed. Although the landings were marginally more efficiently conducted than for 'Torch', 47 of the 134 British gliders landed in the sea and a counter-attack by the Hermann Goering Division drove the invaders back to the beaches. The situation was saved only when naval guns were levelled against the Panzers. Faced with such unequal firepower, the Germans were obliged to withdraw.
The Germans had inadequate forces for the defence of Sicily and 'Ultra' informed the Allies of their movements and intentions. Complete air and naval supremacy, plus the enthusiasm of the Italian troops for surrender rather than for fighting, guaranteed the success of the operation. The crucial mistake made by the Allies was not to block off the German retreat across the straits to the mainland where they could regroup. Patton's army dashed across the island then headed eastward, reaching Messina on 17 August. Montgomery took a painfully long time to cover a shorter route along the cast coast. General Hube had time to build a defensive front which was punctured only when fresh troops were brought in from Tunis.
The Germans retreated across the straits in a brilliantly conducted operation which resulted in minimal casualties. Had the Allies