The Pittsburgh Press (July 30, 1943)
By Ernie Pyle
With the U.S. Navy in the Mediterranean – (by wireless, delayed)
In invasion parlance, the day you strike\ a new country is called D-Day, and the time you hit the beach is H-hour. In the invasion contingent for which I am a very biased rooter, H-hour was set for 2:45 a.m. on July 10.
That was when the first mass assault on the beach was to begin. Actually, the paratroopers and Rangers were there several hours before. The other two large American forces, which traveled from North Africa in separate units, hit the beaches far down to our right about the same time. You could tell when they landed by the shooting during the first hour or so of the assault.
It seemed to me out on our ship that all hell was breaking loose ashore, but now that I look back upon it from a firmer foundation, actually knowing what had happened, it didn’t seem so very dramatic.
As I’ve said before, most of our special section was fairly easy to take, and our naval guns didn’t send any fireworks ashore until after daylight. The assault troops did all the preliminary work with rifles, grenades and machine guns. Out on ship we could hear the bop, bop, bop of the machine guns, first short bursts, then long ones.
Tennis match in Sicily
I don’t know whether I heard any Italian ones or not. In Tunisia you could always tell the German machine guns because they fired so much faster than ours, but that night all the shooting seemed to be of one tempo, one quality.
Now and then we could see a red tracer bullet arching through the darkness. I remember one that must have ricocheted from a rock, for suddenly it turned and went straight up a long way into the sky. Now and then, there was the quick flash of a hand grenade.
There was no aerial combat during the night and only a few flares shot up from the beach. To be factual, our portion of the night assault on Sicily was far less spectacular than the practice landings I’d seen our troops do back in Algeria.
A more spectacular show was in the sector to our right, some 12 or 15 miles down the beach. There, the 1st Infantry Division was having stiff opposition and their naval escort stood off miles from shore and three steel at the enemy artillery in the hills.
It was the first time I’d ever seen tracer shells used at night and it was fascinating.
From where we sat it was like watching a tennis game played with red balls, except that all the balls went in one direction. You would see a golden flash way off in the darkness. Out of the flash would go shooting a tiny red dot. That was the big shell. It covered the first quarter of the total distance almost instantly. Then it would uncannily begin a much slower speed, as though it had put on a brake.
Shells seemed on wheels
There didn’t seem to be any tapering down between its high and low speeds. It went from high to low instantly. You’d think it would start arching downward in its the slower speed, but instead, it just kept on in an almost flat trajectory as though it were on wheels being propelled along a level road. Finally, after a flight so long you stood unbelieving that the thing could still be in the air, it would disappear in a little flash as it hit something on the shore. Long afterward you’d hear the heavy explosions come rolling across the water.
Our portion of the American assault went best of all. The 1st Division on our right had some bitter opposition and the 45th on beyond them had some rough seas and bad beaches. But with us, everything was just about perfect.
Our Navy can’t be given too much credit for putting the troops ashore the way they did. You can’t realize what a nearly impossible task it is to arrive in the dead of night at exactly the right spot with your convoy, feel your way in through the darkness, pick out the very pinpoint of an utterly strange shoreline which you’d been told long beforehand to hit, and then put your boat safely ashore right there. In our sector every ship hit every beach just right.
He found the white house
They tell me it is the first time in history that it has ever been accomplished. The finest tribute to the Navy’s marksmanship came from one soldier who later told Maj. Gen. Lucian Truscott, his division commander:
Sir, I took my little black dog with me in my arms and I sure was scared standing in that assault boat. Finally, we hit the beach and as we piled out into the water, we were worse scared than ever. Then we waded ashore and looked around. Right ahead of me was a white house just where you said it would be. After that I wasn’t scared.