U.S. Navy Department (July 28, 1943)
On July 27, Army Liberator (Consolidated B‑24) heavy bombers again attacked Japanese positions on Wake Island. Approximately 25 Zero fighters intercepted the Liberators. Seven Zeros were destroyed, five were probably destroyed and three others were damaged. In spite of heavy anti-aircraft fire, bombs were placed on designated targets. All U.S. planes returned safely There were no casualties to U.S. personnel.
On July 26, fights of Army Liberators, Lightning (Lockheed P‑38) and Warhawk (Curtiss P‑40) fighters, carried out 13 bombing attacks against Japanese installations on Kiska. As a result of these bombings, fires were started and explosions were observed on North and South Heads, the runway, the bivouac and submarine base sections, Gertrude Cove and Little Kiska. Individual targets in these areas were also subjected to strafing. One U.S. Warhawk fighter was forced into the sea but its pilot was rescued by a Navy Catalina (Consolidated PBY) patrol bomber.
On July 27, various formations of Army Liberators, Warhawks and Lightnings carried out six bombing attacks on Kiska. Hits were made in the bivouac area. Spotty weather conditions precluded full observation of the results of the attack.
For Immediate Release July 28, 1943
More than 1,500 vessels of the U.S. Navy, ranging in size from cruisers to small landing craft and manned by well over 40,000 officers and men, effected the landing of U.S. invasion forces on Sicily.
In addition to larger combat units, the fleet included a number of antisubmarine patrol craft and a swarm of motor torpedo boats.
Under the immediate command of VAdm. H. K. Hewitt, USN, commander of U.S. naval forces in North African waters, the vast invasion fleet successfully carried out, in conjunction with British amphibious forces, the largest amphibious operation in the history of warfare, landing and supplying U.S. Army troops on a hostile shore with minor loss of life and equipment. The U.S. forces were under the general operational control of Adm. Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham, Bart., GCB, DSO, who commands all naval forces under Gen. Eisenhower.
Naval units engaged in the landing operation were part of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet which, under the command of Adm. Royal E. Ingersoll, USN, has since the opening of the North African campaign eight months ago, transported several hundred thousand U.S. troops and vast quantities of supplies across the Atlantic.
The actual landing on the Sicilian shore was only the culmination of long months of extensive preparation, of intensive training in the complex maneuvers of amphibious warfare, of working out logistical problems, and of meticulous planning on a vast scale to insure that every vessel would be at the proper spot at the proper moment. The training of personnel was continued in North Africa until the last moment before shoving off.
Naval landing forces Included men specially trained in the unloading of supplies under conditions made hazardous by surf and enemy action. In beach landing operations, naval forces are responsible not only for the transportation of men and supplies across open water, but also for the safe disembarking of the troops and the unloading of supplies to points on shore.
Directing the operations under VAdm. Hewitt were RAdm. Alan G. Kirk, USN, RAdm. John L. Hall, USN, and RAdm. Richard L. Conolly, USN.
The story of the invasion is, from the naval standpoint, the story of the success of the many types of specialized landing craft, large and small, which have been developed to break down the coastal walls of the Axis’ European fortress.
Operating in numbers which dotted the surface of the Mediterranean black, the vessels of every size and shape, each with a specialized job to do and making up the largest amphibious operation in history, constituted by far the greatest number of craft in the invasion fleet.
One of the initial waves of invading U.S. troops was transported across the Mediterranean entirely by landing vessels. One group of hundreds proceeded to the first rendezvous accompanied only by small escorts. Against a 25‑knot wind the fleet of odd‑looking craft plunged and reared steadily and doggedly ahead. PCs and SCs escorting the group sometimes showed half their bottoms as they leaped, spray flying, over the seas. Experienced officers marveled at the seamanship of the crews – many of whom had never seen the ocean a year before – who drove their rearing, blunt‑nosed craft ahead at a steady pace.
As mechanical difficulties developed, special repair crews went into action until, once underway again, an additional knot or two was forced from protesting engines until the lost time was made up. The fleet arrived at the rendezvous on time and intact.
Part of the U.S. forces engaged in the landing had been transported across the Atlantic specifically for the job. Huge convoys took over the men and supplies, and so securely were they ringed by naval escort vessels, including cruisers, that neither convoy was once attacked.
The actual landing of American forces on Sicily began in the early morning. Since surprise was to be one of the elements of the attack, split‑second timing was demanded. Off every possible landing beach the enemy had sown mines. But due to the skillful work of naval minesweepers, not a single contact with an enemy mine was reported during the entire landing operation.
Apart from the actual landing of troops and supplies, naval combat units had three major duties: protection of landing forces from enemy surface and undersea forces; maintenance of anti-aircraft barrages; and gunfire support of advancing troops on shore. Every landing group had offshore a supporting force of destroyers or cruisers or both.
Naval gunfire continued during the next few days to play an important role in the movement of troops inland, blasting enemy positions even in the hills.
With the lessons of the invasion of North Africa eight months before well learned, operational losses of landing craft were extremely low. Special salvage and repair units had been set up afloat and ashore in the opening stages of the invasion, and damaged craft were speedily repaired and returned to service.
Within 48 hours, the entire fleet of landing vessels had made another round trip to Africa and returned loaded to the gunwales with men and supplies.