Sicily

For the initial phase of the Sicilian campaign the 5th Field Artillery Group was attached to the 3rd Infantry Division. The 62nd Armored Field Artillery Battalion went in with the assault echelon on July 1Oth, while at the same time the M-7’s of the 58th and 65th were used in the assault by the organic artillery battalion of the Division.

The 62nd, soon after landing was attached to Combat Command A of the 2nd Armored Division for an attack on Naro and Canicatti, and subsequently was attached to the 82nd Airborne for its march up the west coast; and returned to the 2nd Armored Division for its assault on Palermo, after which it returned to Group Control. The forward echelons of the Group Headquarters and the 28th and 65th sailed from Bizerte on July 12th and arrived in Licata on the l4th. Debarking in the late afternoon the vehicles were promptly de-waterproofed and all units moved into combat positions that night, the 58th going to Riesi and taking over the M-7’s from the 39th and 41st Field Artillery Battalions and the 65th taking over their M-7’s from the 10th Field Artillery Battalion near Palma. The Group Headquarters set up near the 3rd Division Artillery CP north of Licata and displaced with them to a position three miles southwest of Naro on the l6th. In the meantime the 58th on the 15th moved to positions east of Favaro where, with the 65th, 10th and 77th Regiment, they supported the attack on Agrigento.

On the l7th Group (less the 62nd) with the 9th Battalion of the 3rd Division was ordered to positions north of Canicatti to support the 15th Combat Team in an attack on Serradifalco. However, at about 2400 a message came from Combat Command A of the 2nd Armored Division “Do not fire until we get our tanks out of town”!

On the 18th the Group (less the 62nd and 65th) with the 58th and 9th attached, moved to assembly area in the vicinity of Favaro. Because of a change in plan of attack the Group moved back through Canicatti, Serradifalco and on to positions in the vicinity of Milena to support the 15th Infantry attack on Casteltermini.

The “Rat-race” to Palermo was started and new positions were occupied each day. Following the 7th Infantry on the 21st, the 58th found a clear road and pushed through three rapid displacements to positions south of Corleone when they were forced to halt for lack of gas. During the evening infantry closed on the Group Headquarters and the 58th and for the 22nd of July the 3rd Division was given the mission of taking Marineo and driving through to Palermo. This plan left the enemy an avenue of escape east down the coastal road with no sure provision for cutting them off.

Upon the, recommendation of the Group Commander, the Commanding General Third Infantry Division assigned the 58th the mission of independently cutting the coastal highway at Trabia. A blown bridge, defended by a company of Italian riflemen, between Ventimiglia and Trabia delayed the column temporarily. A by-pass was constructed and the march continued taking three companies of Italian prisoners enroute. Trabia and 1500 prisoners had been taken before dark. Continuing east a portion of the battalion occupied Termini Imerese and continued on to contact the 45th Infantry Division at Cefalu.

During this operation the Coastal Defense Commander of the area Altaville Millicia, Termini Imerese surrendered with his entire command. total of 2700 prisoners were captured and the civil offices of the occupied towns were taken over and managed by the 58th until relieved by units of the 3rd and 45th Divisions.

In the meantime the Group Headquarters and 9th Field Artillery Battalion had gone into positions two miles south of Misilmeri and Palermo had fallen to the 2nd Armored and 3rd Infantry Divisions. The 62nd and 65th reverted to Group control with the fall of Palermo.

Seventh Army in W Sicily in WWII

Seventh Army in W Sicily in WWII

Orders were received the 23rd of July relieving the Group from attachment to the 3rd Infantry Division and attaching it to II Corps. The frontlines at this time ran from St. Stefano to Nicosia making a curve to where the British were held up at Catania. The Corps mission was to drive on Messina with the 3rd and 45th Divisions leapfrogging along the north coast and the 1st and 9th Divisions leapfrogging in the general direction of Mt. Etna and on to Messina, The Group moved to assembly areas in the vicinity of Petralia on the 26th where the rear echelons of the Group Headquarters and the battalions were assembled after landing at Licata on the 23rd, awaiting the Group.

Because of the very mountainous terrain, roads and road space were always at a premium and no moves were made without clearance and priority. Also because of the terrain, battery positions were practically non-existent and since firing was generally not heavy, the Division Artillery Commanders did not appreciate non-divisional light artillery occupying the few possible position areas available. This necessitated the occupying of positions by our guns either with or in front of the infantry, or from six to 8000 yards behind our forward elements, which was too far back to take the fleeing Krauts under fire.

On the 30th of July the 58th was attached to the 179th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Division for the drive on Mistretta and the flank attack on St. Stefano. The remainder of the Group, attached to the I3th Brigade, was ordered to position areas in the vicinity of Nicosia for an attack on the towns of Cerami and Capizzi and the high ground adjacent. By 0845 on the 3Ist, after a heavy artillery preparation, the towns and Mt. Margi had fallen.

At noon on July 3Ist there was a timely arrival of provisional antiaircraft battery for protection of the Group position area, for on the morning of August 1, enemy planes twice bombed and strafed the roads in the area of the Group. Four of the enemy planes were shot down by ground fire, after swooping down over the Group Headquarters Battery breakfast chow line. No damage was sustained except for a few overturned mess kits. These were the last enemy planes reported near the Group Headquarters during the Sicilian campaign.

While the 62nd went to support the 18th Combat Team of the 1st Division for an attack in the direction of Gagliano, the Group Headquarters and 65th moved to positions on the road south of Capizzi. At that time the Goumers (Free French Moroccan Goumiers) were operating on the north flank of the 1st Infantry Division, working their way across country impassable to any transport except pack animal. They had taken Capizzi and were attempting to dislodge the Germans from Mt. Acuto and the adjoining high ground. Mt. Acuto is a peaked hill of over 1300 meters elevation dominating the Troina River basin 4 1/2 miles north and east of Troina. The area north an east of Mt. Acuto was known to contain considerable enemy artillery, and Mt. Acuto was itself a strongpoint. On August 3rd the 65th was given the mission of supporting the colorful Moroccans. That afternoon their forward observers, using pack mule transport, began placing heavy concentrations on the critical Acuto areas. A scouting party which later visited the area reported any German dead and much material damage.

On August 5th the 60th Combat Team of the 9th Division supported by the 65th moved through the Capizzi area to begin a drive which was to carry through Mt. Pelato to Mt. Camolator and the town of Floresta, crossing some of the steepest and roughest terrain in Sicily. The 65th, leapfrogging with the 60th Field Artillery Battalion, pushed forward as engineers pioneered a new mountain road. When engineers were unavailable the 65th used their light forward observer tanks as bulldozers to widen impassable mule trails, the tanks being of more value as such than in their primary role. Here the definite superiority of the armored battalion to the towed 105’s became very evident. This operation, exposing the Germans north flank, affected the attack on Troina considerably, which was, . holding up the front in the whole United States sector.

On the south the 62nd supporting the 18th Combat Team , played a prominent role in the attack on Troina, and then, under Group control, continued supporting the 84th Field Artillery Battalion and the 39th Combat Team of the 9th Division against Randazzo, where it fired its last rounds of the Sicilian campaign The only road continuing east was through the town and even the M-7’s had to wait for the engineers to clear a way through because of the utter destruction. Randazzo was nothing but a heap of rubble, the like of which has not been seen since by this Group Headquarters.

On the north along the coastal road the 58th, attached to the 3rd Infantry Division, was participating in amphibious flanking movements, supporting the action with two 4-gun batteries. The first landing, in the vicinity of San Agata, took the enemy completely by surprise and many prisoners were taken. The second, just west of Brolo on August 12th met much stiffer resistance in the form of tanks, infantry and artillery. A terrific day long battle raged in which the 58th lost seven of their M-7’s destroyed and the eighth one damaged by a combination of artillery and tank action and attack from the air. Four enemy tanks were knocked out in the action and there were many enemy dead. When our howitzer crews lost their M-7’s they fought as infantry. Two officers, including the battalion executive, and seven men were killed and two officers and twelve men were listed as captured or missing and 25 wounded. However the enemy’s resistance was broken and the 3rd Division pushed on through toward Messina. The 58th remained in bivouac in the vicinity of San Agata for the remainder of the action.

During the final week of action the Group Headquarters moved from Capizzi to a position three miles east of Troina on 10 August and thence through Cesaro to a position three miles northwest of that town on 12 August. On the 16th, the drive of the 3rd Division against Messina having pinched out all further advances of other American troops, all combat was over for the Group.

When Messina fell on the 17th the Group except the 58th which remained at San Agata, went into bivouac in the vicinity of Floresta.

During the Sicilian campaign the units of the Group participated in three amphibious assaults., .supported the Goumers, the 1st, 3rd, 9th and45th Infantry Divisions, and the 82nd Airborne and 2nd Armored Divisions.

In the Floresta area, on the 14th of August the Group Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment was reorganized under a new War Department table of Organization and became Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 5ih Field Artillery Group. Men finally received ratings for positions held through two major campaigns. Also in this area a young steer was bought by the officers on the staff and slaughtered — the first fresh meat we had had since the4th of July feast.

Beginning on the 2lst the group moved to a training area near the 2nd Armored Division just west of Palermo. Here the Group remained, training with the 2nd Armored Division, until the 9th of September. On the 9th the Group was relieved from assignment to 7th Army and assigned to 5th Army and moved to a staging area near Termini Imerese, awaiting shipment to continental Italy.

Because of changes in shipping priorities the Group remained in the staging area and approximately the middle of October received alert orders for transfer to the United Kingdom. The time in Termini area was spent in training, swimming, small arms firing, and test firing of the 105’s with various types of shells. The menu improved here with periodic treats of all the ice cream we could eat. This was prepared by the kitchen personnel and frozen in a local factory. During this period three decoration ceremonies were held at one which the 7th Army Commander was the presenting officer. Lieutenant Colonel RAYM0ND C. CONDER replaced Colonel JONES on the l2th of November.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*