The Pittsburgh Press (August 3, 1943)
AXIS ROLLED BACK IN SICILY
Foe forced out of 3 important towns by drive
Yanks push toward Mt. Etna; Canadians threaten enemy flank at Catania; 8th Army smashes ahead
By Virgil Pinkley, United Press staff writer
Allied HQ, North Africa –
Allied troops captured three more important towns in a general advance on a 65-mile front in northeastern Sicily today and fought fiercely over rough mountain country for the knockout punch against the wavering Axis armies.
Americans of the 7th Army, who conquered the entire western half of the island in a lightning campaign, captured the important Axis defense point at Troina after a 12-mile drive from Nicosia and pushed eastward toward Bronte at the base of Mt. Etna.
Canadian forces to the south of the Americans drove forward seven miles and took Regalbuto from the German 15th Panzer Division and provided a good wedge for the Allied attack on the Axis flank at the western end of the Catania plain.
8th Army attacks
The British 8th Army, attacking the length of the southern front, captured Centuripe, six miles southeast of Regalbuto.
The Americans also took Capizzi and Cerami while racing up the winding road to Troina, and a headquarters announcement said they had cleaned up at least 12 small villages.
Units of Lt. Gen. George S. Patton’s 7th Army that captured San Stefano on the northern coast were moving eastward along the coastal road and were reported within 60 airline miles of Messina, nearing San Stefano.
The Canadians and the British had driven a large bridgehead into the Catenanuova sector, just southwest of Regalbuto and north of Ramacca, from which they could start rolling down the Catania plain.
The American advance threatened to tear apart the Axis defense around Mt. Etna. From Bronte, they would be able to branch out north and south on the road encircling Etna.
U.S. troops had reached a densely-wooded district. Resistance by the Germans and Italians had stiffened and most of the Allied gains were made by infantry, because of the rugged terrain and the fact that the retreating Axis had blown up toads and bridges.
Feel out Axis strength
The British 8th Army carried out a series of artillery engagements and were advancing from Ramacca, feeling out the enemy’s strength.
Capture of Troina and Centuripe was first announced by Prime Minister Churchill in the House of Commons. Military observers in London said that the Allied offensive threatened to crush all Axis resistance in Sicily within a few days.
Allied air fleets increased their direct support of land troops with attacks on harbors, communications and front positions.
The British were engaged in patrol activity and artillery shelling in the Catania area along the east coast of the island.
Allied troops were fighting their way uphill at many points and were sweltering from the hot sun and intense humidity. The battle was one of foot-slogging and slugging at close quarters after artillery had laid down barrages.
British Wellingtons took over the offensive against Italy’s big supply and reinforcement port of Naples, blasting its docks, railway yards, harbor installations with hundreds and blockbusters, while medium and fighter bombers strafed and bombed troop concentrations and supply roads.
Blow up dumps
A dispatch from an advanced Allied airdrome said the Germans were blowing up the remaining forward dumps in the Mt. Etna region, an indication that they do not hold out much hope of prolonged resistance. An unusually large number of Axis ship was also reported gathering in Messina Strait, but there was no immediate sign of whether these were to be used for an escape attempt or to reinforce the faltering armies in their last stand.
Relays of Kittyhawk bombers with escorts of Spitfires attacked the ships in the narrow strait and it was believed likely that Allied motor torpedo boats would also join in the raids.
Blast enemy harbors
The Allied air forces concentrated on enemy harbors in Sicily through which supplies have been reaching the Axis, road and rail transport in the northeastern part of the island and against enemy trenches and gun emplacements.
U.S. medium bombers blasting at Adrano, 18 miles northwest of Catania while other planes dumped explosives on Randazzo, 27 miles northwest of Catania. Both are important Axis communication centers. U.S. fighter-bombers made low-level attacks on the docks at Milazzo, Messina and Reggio Calabria, the latter across the Messina Strait in Italy.
In all yesterday’s air operations, six enemy planes were destroyed and seven Allied planes were missing.