Operation Musket

This was an Allied unrealised contingency plan for an amphibious assault on Taranto in southern Italy by Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark’s US 5th Army, using Major General Ernest J. Dawley’s VI Corps to land Major General Ernest N. Harmon’s 1st Armored Division, Major General Charles W. Ryder’s 34th Division, Major General Fred L. Walker’s 36th Division and Major General Matthew B. Ridgway’s 82nd Airborne Division, to be followed ashore by one unspecified US or Free French division (summer 1943).

The plan was prepared at the instigation of General George C. Marshall, the US Army chief-of-staff, who instructed General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commanding the Allied forces in North Africa, to use staffs spare at the time of the ‘Husky’ (i) operation against Sicily to scheme a number of contingency operations. The 5th Army first prepared ‘Brimstone’ (ii) against Sardinia in association with ‘Firebrand’, a French operation against Corsica, but after the initial Allied successes in Sicily it was decided that the 5th Army might be able to proceed straight to an Italian landing so, after ‘Brimstone’ (ii) had been reallocated to the French, the 5th Army set to work on ‘Musket’ designed to put US forces ashore in the ‘heel’ of Italy between Taranto and Bari.

After the fall of the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, on 25 July, it was decided that more ambitious operations against Italy could be undertaken, and on 27 July the 5th Army was instructed to abandon ‘Musket’ in favour of ‘Avalanche’ in the Bay of Salerno just south of Naples.