Friday, February 24, 2017

Context: The Day Before D-Day Sicily.

D-Day Minus One - A Busy News Day

"Aerial Gunners - Soon to be seen over Sicily"
Movie Ad, The Montreal Star, July 9, 1943

More than 'aerial gunners' were approaching Sicily on July 9, 1943. The biggest armada of all time, up to that point in history, loomed on the horizon. Canadians in Combined Operations stood by their landing craft, and unbeknownst to them, they were headed toward thirty days of dangerous, strenuous action unlike anything previously experienced.

Headlines and numerous articles from the July 9 issue of The Montreal Star provide context for the ominous day just ahead:

ALGIERS, July 9 - (B.U.P.) - Allied convoys are plying the Mediterranean in a seemingly endless progression, bringing new piles of war materials for the invasion armies based in North Africa, an airplane trip over the coast disclosed yesterday.

(An Axis dispatch broadcast from Paris said the Allies' North African Army totalled 44 infantry and 20 armored divisions, or about 1,000,000 men. The forces, this dispatch said, include two divisions of parachutists and special landing forces.

(A German report said a big convoy passed Gibraltar without stopping yesterday and that seven british hospital ships steamed out of that base into the Mediterranean, leaving behind an aircraft carrier, four destroyers and 30 merchant vessels.

(An Exchange Telegraph report from Istanbul said Nazi Field Marshal Fritz Von Manstein had left to inspect the defences of crete after presiding over a military council meeting at Athens.)

A journey over the coast line in an American DC-3 transport plane made it plain why Axis radios are pouring out speculation on when and where the Allies will invade Europe.

"Ships and Ships All Day"

Months ago the stockpiles began increasing - landing craft of every description, tanks, vast stores of munitions, food and Red Cross supplies.

Warhawk fighter pilots at one fighter station complained that their job of protecting the convoys was becoming boring because they see nothing but "ships and ships all day."

A trip of two months from Cairo along the coast, with visits to key points, disclosed nothing concerning where the invasion forces will strike first. But the Axis idea - anywhere between the Turkish and Spanish frontiers - might be right.

One possibility was that attacks would come simultaneously at either end  of the Mediterranean, one slamming into Italy and france and the other into Greece. A more remote chance was that Turkey might join the Allies, providing air bases dominating all of Southeastern Europe and a convenient jumping off place for troops heading through the Balkans.


ALLIED HEADQUARTERS, North Africa, July 9 - (B.U.P.) - Sicily rocked under its sixth day of non-stop aerial bombardment yesterday as ceaseless waves of Allied bombers pounded its airdromes and communications in a pre-invasion offensive against the outer defenses of Southern Europe, it was announced today.

Striking simultaneously from Northwest Africa and Middle East bases, every type of plane in the Allies' southern arsenal heaped new destruction on the five chief Sicilian airdromes and their satellite landing grounds and on the East Coast port of Catania.

Heavy and medium bombers from the Northwest African air forces wrecked parked planes, hangars, runways, supply dumps and other installations at the Gerbini, Comiso, Biscari, Catania and Sciacca network of airfields yesterday and the previous night. Fighter-bombers concentrated their bombs, shells and bullets on trains, power plants, switches and other vital communications and transportation links. Lightnings also strafed and sank a small schooner off Sicily.

Four-engined American Liberators from the Middle East Command joined in the offensive with daylight raids on Catania Wednesday and yesterday, while R.A.F. heavy bombers took up the slack with a raid on the same port Wednesday night.

Italians Claim Successes

Two waves of Liberators dropped 250,000 pounds of explosives on Catania yesterday. Eight intercepting enemy planes were shot down, four others were probably destroyed and one was damaged. Two Liberators were lost and the American crewmen were machine-gunned by enemy fighters while parachuting.

Though opposition continued on a reduced scale, 40 Axis fighters pounced on a formation of Boston medium bombers over Sciacca, but were driven off by escorting fighters.

(An Italian communique said Italian torpedo planes sank three large merchant ships totalling 40,000 tons and severely damaged a 3,000-ton vessel off the North African Coast.)

Opposition was slight, presumably as result of the crushing weight of bombs that have already blanketed Sicily's defences from one end of the island to the other. Eleven Allied planes were lost from the two African commands, but 18 intercepting fighters were shot down....

In the Wednesday night raid on Catania, R.A.F. heavy bombers touched off fires in barrack buildings, but weather conditions and smoke from the daylight attack prevented further observation of results. Other targets along the east coast of Sicily also were bombed.

* * * * *

The Montreal Star offers the following story about a Nazi boast, perhaps in reference to high-powered bombs delivered by rockets:


Tank and Projector Hit Russians, Say Huns

NEW YORK, July 9 - (A.P.) - Berlin broadcasts recorded by the Associated press reported yesterday that the Germans were employing two new weapons in their drive on the Russian front - a new design tank and a vaguely-described artillery weapon called a "projector."

The tanks were said to be heavier than the 60-ton Mark VI Tigers and "details of these super-Tigers are still treated as a military secret," said one broadcast. It quoted German military circles as reported by Transocean agency.

Another broadcast said a German war correspondent, Hans Ludwig Meyer, transmitted the first mention of the "projector" permitted by the censorship.

He said "projector" batteries took part in the artillery preparation for an attack and gave this description of the effect of the new weapon:

"The woody country through which we are now advancing is no longer forest. Small stumps of trees show that this was once a magnificent forest. The whole terrain looks as if a giant steam roller had gone over it. It is impossible that there is still a human being alive here. We stumble over the first-killed Soviets. There is not only one crater but more than 100 in a small area. The air pressure of these innumerable impacts must extinguish all life."

* * * * * 

And then on another note:

Pilot Falls 20,000 Feet - Then Jumps

New Delhi, July 9 - (C.P.) - A record-breaking delayed parachute drop was made by an R.A.F. pilot, Warrant Officer Francis D. C. Brown, of Canterbury, New Zealand, who fell 20,000 feet while unconscious and lived to tell about it.

In a half-dazed condition Brown pulled his rip-cord when only 3,000 feet from the ground and landed safely. He escaped from his plane after it had been damaged.


REGINA, July 9 - (C.P.) - F. J. Knudson, barrister of Cupar, Sask., has a flower garden of which he is proud for in that garden are five peonies which at present have a total of 325 blooms and buds. One of the peonies has 109 blooms and buds which Mr. Knudson believes is a record.

Editor - And until I hear otherwise, the record still stands!

* * * * *

Canada's Prime Minister Mackenzie King not only states that the invasion of Italy and Sicily is imminent - the day before Operation HUSKY - but shares his thoughts about a United Nations concept to ensure peace in the future: 

OTTAWA, July 9 - (C.P.) - Premier King said today in the House of Commons that the aerial and commando assaults against Italy and Sicily, Sardinia and crete, are parts of a single strategy which the immediate future may be expected rapidly to unfold.

"The war in 1943 must be thought of as a vital part of the war of liberation of the oppressed countries of Europe, of which the liberation of the French Empire in Africa was both an essential and a memorable prelude," Mr. King said.

The Japanese had made "determined efforts" to build and fortify bases for submarines, seaplanes and other aircraft at the Aleutian islands of Attu and Kiska. During May, Japanese forces had been driven out of Attu, which now was under American control. "Kiska remains a potential theatre of attack upon our shores, and upon other parts of this continent," he said.

Mr. King described the new German offensive on 200 miles of the Russian central front. along with the intensified bombings of strategic targets over Europe, as "a place of new beginnings in the war in Europe."

The Premier said that the time is approaching "when, even before victory is won, the concept of the United Nations will have to be embodied in some form of international organization." Speaking in a review of international affairs during discussion of External Affairs Department estimates, Mr. King said that, on one hand, authority in the international affairs must not be concentrated exclusively in the larger powers.


"On the other, authority cannot be divided equally among all the 30 or more sovereign states that comprise the United Nations or all the effective authority will disappear. A number of new international institutions were likely to be set up as a result of the war," he said.

Editor - Though the war is far from over in July, 1943, confidence among Allied countries must be growing if discussions about the future responsibilities and shape of the United Nations is on the table.

"King George VI stands before the bridge of the cruiser Aurora as it enters Malta harbor,
June 20, and salutes the island fortress." Photo - The Montreal Star, July 9, 1943

By Henry Shapiro

MOSCOW, July 9 - (B.U.P.) - Southern Front dispatches reported today that hundreds of 60-ton German "Tiger" tanks were ablaze in the Belgorod sector, reflecting a growing belief that the Red Army was gaining the upper hand in the biggest armored battle of all time.

"We have tamed the terrible Tiger," was the war cry ringing through the field reports which said Russian tanks had stormed into the titanic battle to reinforce Soviet artillery, armor busters and grenade-throwers against the Nazis' steel monsters.

The great armored battle swirled through penetrated Soviet defences in the Belgorod region at the southern end of the thundering battle line, where the Red Army was throwing in every ounce of available strength to stem the Nazi onrush. (The British radio said Moscow correspondents expected a climax in the battle within 48 hours. A Stockholm report of the National Broadcasting Company said the Germans admitted that "rivers of blood" had been drawn from both sides.)

As the Soviets threw their armored forces into a concerted effort to close the Belgorod breaches in their positions and stop the long delayed German summer offensive, Red Army counter-attacks steadily improved the situation to the north in the Kursk-Belgorod region. The fifth day of the offensive brought a growing conviction in Soviet quarters that the Russians had mastered a technique for handling the 60-tonners spearheading  the German armored onslaught.

Tigers Burning

"The Tigers are burning" was the caption over dispatches in the Government organ Izvestia and the Army organ Red Star telling of dozens of miles of battlefront studded with flaming German tanks. The Russian "Tiger-hunters" have averaged a daily bag of roughly 500 German tanks so far in the battle, and "the Tiger is not as black as Hitler painted him," the dispatched said.

Despite the mounting confidence here, the struggle was reported developing at an unslackened pace, and some Soviet quarters predicted even more massive and intense fighting. The titanic tank battle followed four days in which Soviet artillery anti-tank guns and infantrymen armed with gasoline-filled pop bottles had knocked out nearly two-thirds of the Germans' 3,000 available tanks in bearing the brunt of the heaviest armored assault of all time aimed at either end of a 165-mile sector of the Southern Front.

Though Soviet forces at the northern end of the sector held firm and even gained ground in counter-attacks, those around Belgorod, to the south, gradually fell back under the overwhelming weight of the attack.

Tanks Thrown In

When 60-ton Tiger tanks punched two new holes in the Soviet outer defences yesterday, the Red Army ordered its own armored forces into battle and at last reports the opposing tank forces were battling it out on the Russian plains.

(The German High Command said a tremendous tank battle had developed behind breached Soviet positions with the Russians making the "greatest efforts" to stem ever-advancing wedges. Russian losses were given as 420 tanks, many guns, and 117 planes.)

Another headline, The Montreal Star, July 9th

AN ADVANCED ALLIED AIR BASE IN NORTH AFRICA, July 8 - (Delayed) - (A.P.) - Marshal Sir Arthur William Tedder, R.A.F. Air Chief of the Mediterranean Air Command, is slowly reducing Italy's first line defence - the ports and airfields of Sicily.

Operating from bases in Northwest Africa, Malta, and Libya in the Middle East, the great Allied air force is now in the fourth stage of its campaign, which since december has dealt destruction and chaos to important objectives.

The initial stage opened in November with raids on West Sicilian ports feeding supplies to the german Africa corps and other enemy forces in Tunisia. Attacks on Eastern Sicilian ports, principally Catania and the vital train ferry terminus at Messina, came second, followed by the bombardment of airports in Western Sicily. In the fourth or present stage Sicilian air bases are receiving the hardest punch.

The campaign is being advanced without giving any key objective a rest or a chance to rebuild. Besides the pounding by bombers, fighter-bombers are skipping treetops far and wide and strafing everything from radio installations to locomotives. 

Some Opposition

Fighter opposition has ranged from none at all on some days to more than 100 planes on other days. Allied bombers and their escorts destroyed more than 100 planes in the air and on the ground during the past four days. Since the fall of Tunisia several hundred have been knocked out.

Palermo, Marsala, and Trapani, all in Northwestern Sicily, were the first big targets. Heavy and medium night bombers concentrated on harbor installations, severely curtailing the shipment of supplies to North Africa and contributing greatly to the Allies' victory in Tunisia. Bombardment of these parts is being followed up periodically - just to make sure they are not restored.

After the western ports came the interruption of the Messina train ferry - again with regular follow-ups - until four or five ferries operating across the seven-mile strait to Italy were damaged. That blow all but disrupted the fastest and most satisfactory method of getting supplies to the island. The number two eastern port of Catania was hit nearly as hard.

Airports Suffer

The western airports suffered next, first from fragmentation bombs. After them came demolition bombs, filling the runways with craters. Castelvetrano was hit the hardest and raids were conducted recurrently against Bocca di Falco, Sciacca, Trapani, Milo, Borizzo, Licata and Porto Empedocle.

In the fourth stage of the bombing campaign Sicily's great eastern air base at Gerbini, a large field with several smaller stations grouped around it, had been attacked both by day and by night, despite the strongest fighter resistance that has been mustered at any single point.

The important airfields at Comiso, Biscari and Catania also were hit hard, along with smaller bases ay Syracuse, Mazara del Vallo and Catanzaro. Italy is still using these fields, but the attempted restoration of bomb-pocked runways is far from satisfactory.

Movie ad, The Montreal Star, July 9, 1943

* * * * *



OTTAWA, July 9 - (C.P.) - Air Marshal L.S. Breadner, Chief of Air Staff, announced today that "a number of Canadian Wellington bomber squadrons" have arrived in North Africa and have had "many exciting experiences" already.

Canadian airmen have been serving for many months in North Africa but, except for one fighter squadron, they have been attached to R.A.F. squadrons. The squadrons to which the Air Marshal referred are R.C.A.F. squadrons, commanded by Canadians....

The Air Marshal's statement that the Canadian squadrons have had "many exciting experiences" in the short time they have been in North Africa was taken as an indication that the squadrons have been taking part in the recent heavy attacks in the Mediterranean area....


R.A.F. 'Heavies' Resume Mass Assaults on Ruhr

LONDON, July 9 - (C.P.) - The R.A.F., returning to the assault on Germany after a four-night lull in the Allied aerial offensive, made a heavy attack on the Rhineland industrial centre of Cologne last night, the Air Ministry announced today. Eight bombers were lost in the raid, the announcement said.

Mines also were laid in enemy waters during the night and British fighters on intruder patrols simultaneously attacked enemy airfields and railway targets in France and Northwest Germany. Three German minesweepers were reported damaged in sweeps along the French coast.

Day Fighters Active

The heavy British bombers had scarcely returned from their night foray over Germany when formations of Allied fighters swept out across the Channel in the direction of Northern france to continue the offensive by daylight. Britain, meanwhile, passed a raid-free night.

The attack on Cologne was the 119th on that bomb-battered city, target of the first great 1,000-bombed raid a year ago. The big Rhineland industrial centre had been attacked twice before within the last two weeks - once on June 28 and again last Saturday night. Both assaults were highly concentrated.

The R.A.F.'s big bombers had not been out since last Saturday night's raid, when in co-operation with R.C.A.F. aircraft they also struck at Hamburg and targets in the Ruhr. Operations since then have been limited to comparatively minor operations against communications and airfields in occupied territory by intruder patrols.

A Berlin broadcast recorded by the Associated Press, following the usual line taken by Nazi propagandists, described last night's assault as a "terror raid" directed against residential areas. The broadcast indicated that other targets in the Rhineland were hit on, in addition to Cologne, however.

Weather Clears

The R.A.F. night raiders were favored by good weather, the skies clearing last evening after a day of thunderstorms. Despite the unfavorable conditions yesterday, R.A.F. Typhoons and Mustangs carried out offensive patrols over Northern France and the Low Countries. The planes were reported to have destroyed one German aircraft and damaged several locomotives. One R.A.F. plane was listed as lost in the sallies.

Yesterday, R.C.A.F. squadrons also prowled over Northern France on offensive patrols, destroying a number of enemy aircraft and damaging locomotives. R.C.A.F. headquarters reported that all planes returned safely from their missions.

Something for everyone, at work or play, in The Montreal Star,
July 9, 1943. Photos above from Microfilm 

Please link to Context: D-Day Sicily 2 Days Off.

Unattributed Photos GH

No comments:

Post a Comment