The thirty-six-day Battle for Sicily was one of the most dramatic of the entire Second World War. Its conquest involved the largest airborne operations ever witnessed up to that point, daring raids by special forces, the harnessing of the Mafia, attacks across mosquito-infested plains and perilous assaults up almost sheer faces of rock and scrub.
Operation HUSKY, the Allied assault on the island on 10 July 1943, remains the largest amphibious invasion ever mounted in the history of the world, landing more men in a single day than at any other time. More than 160,000 British, American, and Canadian troops were dropped from the sky or came ashore that day, more than on D-Day in Normandy just under a year later.
It was a ruthless campaign in many ways: the violence was extreme, the heat unbearable, the stench of rotting corpses intense and all-pervasive, the problems of malaria, dysentery, and other diseases a constant plague. This affected all those trying to fight their way across an island of limited infrastructure and volatile landscape, against a German foe who would not give up.
It signaled the beginning of the end of the Second World War. From here on, Italy ceased to participate in the war, the noose began to close around the neck of Nazi Germany, and it marked the first true coalition operation between the United States and Britain. Most crucially, it would be an important learning exercise before Operation OVERLORD, the Allied invasion of Normandy, in June 1944.