U.S. casualties 7,400 in Sicily
British losses placed at 11,835 in campaign
By Ned Russell, United Press staff writer
15th Army Group HQ, Sicily, Italy – (Aug. 20, delayed)
Gen. Sir Harold R. L. G. Alexander, Allied ground commander in the Mediterranean theater, revealed today that 7,400 U.S. soldiers were killed, wounded or captured in the conquest of Sicily, which he said clinched the ultimate defeat of Germany.
The 38-day campaign put the Germans in the worst predicament they have yet faced, Gen. Alexander told Anglo-American war correspondents.
The Germans are in a jam. We are closing in on them now. We are bound to win now and the Germans must be thinking they are bound to lose. We’ve got them all right, but it will take time.
British lose heaviest
The British suffered the heaviest casualties in the Sicilian campaign, losing 11,835 dead, wounded and missing, he reported, while Canadian casualties totaled 2,388 for a grand total for all Allied forces of 21,623. The figures covered the period up to last Tuesday, when the campaign ended with the capture of Messina.
An official statement issued at Allied headquarters in North Africa last Wednesday estimated Allied casualties at 25,000, but this figure presumably included air force and naval casualties, while Gen. Alexander’s report covered only ground forces. The headquarters statement also estimated Axis dead and wounded at no fewer than 82,000 and Axis prisoners at more than 135,000.
30,000 killed, wounded
Gen. Alexander said the enemy lost 30,000 of their original 300,000 troops in killed and wounded, and 134,000 in prisoners. The original Axis forces comprised 94 Italian battalions assigned to coastal defenses, four Italian divisions of mobile reserves and two German divisions in “poor, widely-scattered positions” as battle groups, he said.
Many Sicilian soldiers deserted, donned civilian clothes and returned to their villages and farms. Gen. Alexander said he was not concerned with them unless they engaged in sabotage or espionage, which, he warned, would be punished with death.
Gen. Alexander said the Italians “just collapsed” when the Allies landed, but the Germans fought bravely and hard to the end.
Gen. Alexander revealed he originally expected the Sicilian campaign to take up to three months, and was agreeably surprised when it took only one month and one week. He said the fighting taught the Allies many lessons, especially in the use of airborne troops, which he acknowledged had not been perfected completely.
He singled out U.S. Army Engineers for special praise, paying tribute to their “remarkable road-building feats in the wild Sicilian mountains.”
Fix bridges quickly
I visited the American front for several days and never saw such remarkable military engineering accomplishments. It was magnificent. The American engineers built miles of road at night over mountains you wouldn’t think you could get a mule over.
The Germans blew up 15 bridges in 20 miles along one sector of the coast, but they delayed the Americans only a matter of hours. It was a wonderful feat.
The Americans went from Palermo to Messina in a fortnight. You wouldn’t hike it in a fortnight in peacetime.
Enemy’s casualties put at 1,222,000
London, England (UP) –
Official British figures disclosed today that Axis casualties in the Mediterranean and African theaters since Italy’s entry into the war in June 1940, total 1,222,000 killed, wounded and captured – more than two-thirds of them Italian.
The Axis casualties included 227,000 killed or wounded and 995,000 prisoners.
British Empire losses in the same theaters up to last May 18 were placed at 220,000 killed, wounded or prisoners, including 35,000 casualties in the battle of Tunisia. In addition, British, American and Canadian casualties in Sicily have been estimated at 25,000 men.