The Pittsburgh Press (August 6, 1943)
Allies advance through bitter Sicily fighting
Americans, Canadians battling to sever enemy route of retreat from Catania sector
By Virgil Pinkley, United Press staff writer
Allied HQ, North Africa –
Allied armies smashed through stiffened Axis resistance to within five miles of the key communications town of Adrano on the Mt. Etna Line today while aerial squadrons battered rear-line roads in northeastern Sicily and fired massed enemy evacuation ships in day-and-night raids on Messina.
U.S. forces of the 7th Army, under Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr., were meeting strong opposition around the mountain town of Troina, but Canadians were reported threatening Adrano after pushing five or six miles eastward as the Allies advanced steadily from the Centuripe-Regalbuto sector.
The Germans still held Troina (which had previously been reported captured) and were fighting furiously to block the Americans at that point, some 50 miles from Messina.
Try to break road
The Americans near Troina and Canadians approaching Adrano were striving to break the road west of Mt. Etna by which the enemy might escape from the Catania front. The only other road, running up the coast east of the peak, had been shelled and bombed at points where it is only a narrow ledge in the mountains and was reported impassable for retreating enemy vehicles.
The Americans occupied the town of Gagliano, six miles southwest of Troina and behind the forward lines, and also advanced two or three miles on the north coast where naval and air bombardment of the enemy again aided their progress, today’s communiqué from headquarters of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower said.
Axis position hopeless
The closely-coordinated and intensifying air, land and sea attacks on the northeastern Sicily “coffin corner” was said to make the position of the Axis forces hopeless and it was doubtful whether an evacuation would be possible except for a few specialists and key personnel.
The capture of Misterbianco which was doomed by the fall of Catania, and of the 13 Gerbini airfields (west of Catania), gave the Allies additional bases from which to press their all-out aerial assault as land forces fought to close the Mt. Etna trap on the enemy.
The Italian 434th Battalion, which was left behind as a rearguard outfit when the Germans moved northward from Catania, surrendered unconditionally to the British 8th Army because the capture of Centuripe by a famous Irish brigade which fought well in Tunisia had made the position of Catania untenable. But there was bloody fighting ahead on the roads to Adrano and Randazzo, which lie north of Mt. Etna.
The Germans were fighting desperately, especially against the Americans near Troina, in an effort to hold back the northern claw of the Allied pincers and prevent closing of the trap.
Resistance was described as the fiercest of the Sicilian campaign, with units of the Hermann Göring and the 15th Panzer Division outing up “suicidal opposition.”
Attack day and night
The enemy appeared to be attempting to prepare a new and much shorter line behind Mt. Etna, probably stretching from the Taormina area to somewhere around Naso on the south coast.
The Allied aerial onslaught against Messina and the Strait of Messina area was the greatest of the Sicilian campaign, with Flying Fortresses, Wellingtons and other types of craft participating in day-and-night raids.
The British 8th Army, pushing up the east coast through captured Catania, was believed already threatening Acireale, eight miles to the north and only a little more than 50 miles short of Messina. Front dispatches indicated that the British were probably within artillery range of Acireale.
40,000 still fighting
Other British and Canadian forces, along with the U.S. 7th Army, were hammering the Italo-German armies back toward Messina around an arc reaching the north coast near San Fratello, about 53 miles west of Messina.
Authoritative sources here estimated that only 5,000 Italians and 35,000 Germans were still fighting in Sicily, and a front correspondent for the service newspaper Stars and Stripes said the two forces could no longer be considered allies.
Armed conflicts have been reported between the Italians and the Germans, the correspondent said. The Germans were reported to be hoarding food and keeping it from the hungry Italians.
Flying Fortresses opened the latest series of raids on Messina with a daylight attack on highway and railway communications in the port yesterday.
British Wellingtons took over the assault in darkness, blasting evacuation ships and other craft drawn up in the harbor and on the shore ready for a dash across the two-mile-wide Strait of Messina to the Italian mainland. Troop concentrations were also hit.
Evacuation of key German service personnel was believed already underway, mostly by small boats at night. Any large-scale evacuation was believed impossible, however, because of Allied air and naval supremacy. Allied torpedo boats have already operated in the Strait of Messina.
Medium bombers attacked road communications at Francavilla northeast of Mt. Etna, while light bombers struck at Adrano, a key point on the road looping around the western slope of Mt. Etna.
Other light bombers and fighter bombers in relays hit troop concentrations and road junctions in the shrinking Axis bridgehead.
Daylight raiders also attacked electrical installations on Sardinia, while night intruder aircraft carried out offensive sweeps over southern Italy.
Eight Allied planes were lost in all operations.