443rd Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion in World War II

SICILIAN CAMPAIGN

"IF"
(Author Unknown)

If you can strive to make yourself proficient
In every detail of the gun you man,
And know that that alone is not sufficient
Unless you practice every time you can;
If you can learn to keep your weapon firing
By treating it as you would treat a friend,
If failure only makes you more untiring
To prove yourself its master in the end.

If you can trust the keenness of your vision
To spot the foe that lurks about the sky,
If you can learn to make a quick decision
And aim your gun unerringly by eye;
If you can curb the natural temptation
To fire before the enemy's in range
And face what comes with grim determination
Then give him all you've got in fair exchange.

If you can keep your head in heat of action
And calmly ply the principles you know
If cannon-guns and bombs prove no distraction
Because your mind is bent upon the foe;
And shoot down as a hunter would a bird,
Your name and deeds will both go down in story,
The history of the old Four Forty Third.

In Sicily, telephones to local observation posts were usually out of the question because of distances, terrain and frequent moves. Thus enemy planes could attack and be gone without any prior warning to AAA gunners. The 443rd needed radio equipment for early warning of enemy air attack, as well as for command and control. But it was not to be received in Sicily.

The German command was becoming increasingly nervous over the rapid US advance as well as over the fire support being given by Allied cruisers and destroyers, just three miles offshore from the mouth of the Furiana River. In addition, the flanking, amphibious attacks had taken the enemy by surprise and heightened his concern. So enemy planes began attacking Allied warships, as well as ground positions, in a renewed show of strength. One LST, near San Stefano, received a direct bomb hit. In spite of these attacks, Allied air reconnaisance reported considerable enemy shipping, north and northeast of Messina Straits, as the Germans began to evacuate equipment, men and supplies, from Sicily to the Italian mainland.

On 8 August, the 30th Regiment’s 2nd Battalion made another amphibious attack, landing over two miles northeast of San Agata. Taking the enemy completely by surprise, (several hundred were found sleeping about 150 yards from the beach) the Americans captured many prisoners and soon made contact with the 7th Regiment, advancing east after having taken San Agata. On 11 August the 2nd Battalion repeated its amphibious maneuver to the rear of the enemy’s main line of resistance between Brolo and Sinagra. Initially surprised, the Germans counterattacked from east and west, throughout the day, using tanks, artillery, mortars and machine guns. By evening, however, the Germans began to withdraw toward Capo Calava and Patti. So rapid did the withdrawal become that, at times, contact with the enemy was lost in spite of close American pursuit. Enemy planes continued sporadic harassment of advancing US units. US field artillery and signal units then began to move by sea, and with naval support, in a flanking maneuver to Patti. This increased pressure caused a general German withdrawal on 16 August. The enemy used maximum strength road blocks and demolitions covered by machine gun and rifle fire. The defense was augmented by field artillery and tanks with 150 mm guns. In spite of this action, American troops captured delaying positions near Spadafora, DuTorri and Gesso. During the day on 16 August, American 155 mm guns fired 100 rounds into the Italian mainland. US artillery continued such fire all through the night. Between 3 and 16 August, most of the Italian defenders in Sicily had fled the island in some disorder, leaving the Germans to fight an excellent, rear guard action.

By 17 August no front line existed for the 7th Army. The final enemy evacuation to the mainland across two miles of the Messina Strait had ended. During the campaign, as well as at its close, the enemy had limited amounts of transportation available and frequently abandoned the majority of Italian personnel and equipment, saving only the German troops and equipment. Thus the surrender in Messina at 10 am on 17 August was made by the senior Italian Military Authority remaining, Col. Michele Tomasello.

The 3rd Reconnaissance Troop escorted General Patton-7th Army, General Bradley-II Corps, General Truscott-3rd Division and General Fredericks-45th Division, into Messina for the official surrender. 443rd Commander Larson was one of the first to enter Messina on 17 August — his birthday. A bit later, General Montgomery, British 8th Army, escorted by his Scotch Piper Band, entered Messina to be greeted by General Patton in Messina’s town square. He was amazed and chagrined since he had predicted that he would be first to take Messina.

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