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Remembering WWII Operation Husky
by U.S. Navy Megan Mills, NAS Sigonella
August 5, 2021

77 years ago, a group of American men fought valiantly and died tragically at Ponte Dirillo during Operation Husky in World War II. This year, several ceremonies in nearby Gela and at the historic battle site honored their sacrifice.

Commander, U.S. Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Sicily Cmdr. Brian Evans, Mayor Lucio Greco of Gela, President Franco Citta of the Rotary Club, members of the Kiwanis Club, several American Sailors, and several Italian citizens commemorated the anniversary of this valiant effort on July 10, 2021.

July 10, 2021 - U.S. Sailors parade the colors, during a ceremony, jointly hosted by Navy Communications Telecommunications Station Sicily and the City of Gela, for those who lost their lives during Operation Husky in 1943 at Ponte Dirillo. The Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, was a major large-scale World War II amphibious and airborne operation in which the Allies liberated the island of Sicily from the Axis Powers. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Josh Coté)
July 10, 2021 - U.S. Sailors parade the colors, during a ceremony, jointly hosted by Navy Communications Telecommunications Station Sicily and the City of Gela, for those who lost their lives during Operation Husky in 1943 at Ponte Dirillo. The Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, was a major large-scale World War II amphibious and airborne operation in which the Allies liberated the island of Sicily from the Axis Powers. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Josh Coté)

Operation Husky was a massive amphibious campaign to liberate the island of Sicily from the Axis powers. The 82nd Airborne Division sent paratroopers from Tunisia on July 10, but severe weather blew members of the 1st Battalion of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment off course. They landed among heavily fortified German forces, including three pillboxes and several Tiger tanks.

Nevertheless, the American Soldiers, led by Lt. Col. Arthur Gorham, fought the Italian and German forces through the night and into the morning of July 11. By the end of the battle, 39 men, including Gorham, lost their lives, but not before wreaking havoc on their enemies. In recognition of his heroism, Gorham was posthumously awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses, the second highest award for bravery bestowed by the United States Army.

Operation Husky ultimately succeeded in bringing Sicily under Allied control.

Evans described the importance of the operation. “At this moment, seventy-eight years ago, Operation Husky was underway,” he said. “Elements of the U.S. Seventh Army, with beachheads established near here, continued to land forces throughout the day. These landings here on Sicily in 1943 marked the beginning of the liberation of Europe. As the fighting transpired that day, July 10, 1943, and the next, July 11th, 39 brave Americans rendered the ultimate sacrifice near this very spot."

In the first ceremony of the day, held at the pier on the Gela waterfront, Greco and Citta unveiled a memorial stone in honor of those who fought and those who sacrificed.

July 10, 2021 - Lucio Greco (left), mayor of Gela, along with Franco Citta, president of the Gela Rotary Club, unveil a new monument during a ceremony, jointly hosted by Navy Communications Telecommunications Station Sicily and the City of Gela, for those who lost their lives during Operation Husky in 1943 at Ponte Dirillo. The Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, was a major large-scale World War II amphibious and airborne operation in which the Allies liberated the island of Sicily from the Axis Powers. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Josh Coté)
July 10, 2021 - Lucio Greco (left), mayor of Gela, along with Franco Citta, president of the Gela Rotary Club, unveil a new monument during a ceremony, jointly hosted by Navy Communications Telecommunications Station Sicily and the City of Gela, for those who lost their lives during Operation Husky in 1943 at Ponte Dirillo. The Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, was a major large-scale World War II amphibious and airborne operation in which the Allies liberated the island of Sicily from the Axis Powers. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Josh Coté)

“It was here that the Anglo-American troops fought valiantly and with honor, and were also violently counterattacked,” said Greco. “Many were the victims on both sides, but what changed the outcome of the battle was the American Air Force, which, with its absolute dominion of the skies, intervened massively over the landing zones.”

Greco continued, “When the immense Allied Anglo-American fleet appeared in front of the coast of Southeast Sicily, it was the beginning of the end. Without Operation Husky, the 20-year Fascist period would probably not have ended on the morning of July 25th and the history of our country and of us all would have changed.”

Later, the president of the local Kiwanis Club laid a wreath at the memorial plaque behind the Gela town hall.

After these two ceremonies, NCTS Sicily conducted a ceremony at Ponte Dirillo outside of the town of Gela. NCTS Commander described the importance of the operation and the bravery of the soldiers.

“As authoritarian regimes again cast a shadow of “Operation Husky” tyranny over mankind, NCTS Sicily draws resolve and focus from the memory of these men,” he said. “As we each swore during our oath in service to our Navy and nation, we remain steadfastly committed to the principle of individual liberty.”

The memory of those who participated in Operation Husky, and especially those who gave their lives at Ponte Dirillo, is important to both Americans and Italians. “We are here today because we are called not to forget what has been, and to pass it on to the new generations, year after year, anniversary after anniversary, ceremony after ceremony,” said Greco.

Evans also expressed appreciation for the commemoration of the day and collaboration between countries. “It is our shared belief and devotion to liberty for all mankind that will prevail against authoritarian competition now and in the future,” he said. “It is why the Navy and NCTS continues to operate here in this beautiful country. We could not accomplish our mission otherwise, and certainly not without our Italian allies by our side.”

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