The Pittsburgh Press (July 29, 1943)
Allies flank Sicilian line
Seize highway network in advance on Messina
By Reynolds Packard, United Press staff writer
Hints of German-Italian clashes came from Madrid today in reports that Italian soldiers were being sent north to stop the influx of Nazi troops into northern Italy. Developments in Italy shown by the map include:
1. The Po River line reportedly being manned by the Germans.
2. Italian soldiers sent from this area to the Brenner Pass.
3. Sicily, where Allied forces closed in on the Messina corner, capturing three more towns, including Gangi.
Circled cities on the map are the scenes of outbreaks in the wake of the Mussolini resignation. At Bologna, however, quiet was being maintained by the presence of a strong Fascist Blackshirt force.
Allied HQ, North Africa –
Americans and Canadians smashed forward through strongly-defended German positions and over heavily-mined roads toward the Messina corner of Sicily today, capturing an important highway network and flanking the enemy’s defense line along the Dittaino River.
Acting Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson asserted in Washington that the Sicilian campaign had reached its final stage and the island should be completely in Allied hands in a matter of days.
The Americans, making advances of 7-9 miles, raced southward from the coastal road along an important highway leading to central Sicily, occupying Pollina, Castelbuono and Gangi and heading for Nicosia, key point of the last Axis defense line in the central part of the island.
The official German news agency DNB reported that Axis troops had already evacuated Nicosia, which is only 70 airline miles from Messina.
Tough Canadian forces fought their way into Leonforte, eight miles south of Nicosia. The Canadians were the first Allied troops to reach the northern side of Dittaino, having gone around this natural barrier at its headwaters.
The Canadians inflicted heavy casualties as they advanced. They found large numbers of German dead when they reached the outskirts of Leonforte. Fighting had been particularly bitter in this area and one German officer taken prisoner admitted that the Germans had shot Italians who refused to fight.
The Germans had strong reinforcements, including paratroopers. In one case, they lost 225 out of a unit of 250 men before yielding their position.
Stiff fighting was reported in progress in the Catania sector at the eastern end of the Sicilian front where German resistance was compared to Vimy Ridge in World War I.
The Germans were said to have used the white flag truck, displaying the sign of surrender and then firing upon the Allies.
Near main defenses
Capture of Gangi moved the Americans to within 75 miles of Messina, and only five miles from the main defenses. U.S. troops were known to be edging far in advance of their main lines and may already be slamming into German and Italian forces.
The Exchange Telegraph in London heard a Swiss radio report that the Germans were destroying military installations at Catania possibly preparatory to withdrawing.
Wreck 30 vehicles
A-36 Invaders and P-40 Warhawks destroyed at least 30 enemy vehicles in attacks on communications while medium bombers yesterday raided the Regalbuto communications center in the center and hit at shipping off the Sicilian coast. Other planes carried out sweeps over Sardinia. Three enemy planes were shot down for a loss of one Allied aircraft.
The capture of Pollina by Lt. Gen. George S. Patton’s swift-moving Americans represented a push of 8.5 miles from Cefalù, reported taken only yesterday, while the capture of Gangi carried the troops five miles east of Petralia, their last previous strongpoint in the sector San Stefano is only 11 miles from Pollina.
Hit road junction
South African and RAF Bostons and Baltimores hit at a road junction at the town of Regalbuto, on the German defense lines, and laid a carpet of bombs over the targets. One large explosion occurred.
Besides scoring hits on motor transport on roads in the northeastern Sicilian corner, RAF fighter-bombers scored hits on a merchantman at Riposte Harbor where other vessels were bombed. Enemy landing craft at Reggio Calabria on the mainland were attacked.
Allied troops now hold the seven airfields around Gerbini, west of Catania, field reports said, but Axis guns emplaced in the foothills of Mt. Etna prevent their use.