Operation Husky Number Two

This was a US airborne operation by part of Major General Matthew B. Ridgway’s 82nd Airborne Division during ‘Husky’ (i) (11/12 July 1943).

The operation was designed to reinforce the beach-head gained by Lieutenant General George S. Patton’s 7th Army in ‘Husky’ (i), and was entrusted to Colonel Reuben Tucker’s 504th Parachute Infantry, which was to be dropped in the area secured by ‘Husky Number One’ with the same basic mission. It was decided on 11 July that ‘Husky Number Two’ would be launched, the whole of the regiment to be dropped in the area already held by the Americans. Every step was taken to ensure that the naval guns and the anti-aircraft artillery ashore would hold their fire. Orders were widely disseminated, Ridgway himself visited the island to warn artillery units, and the aircraft were routed through a known corridor 2 miles (3.2 km) wide at an altitude of 1,000 ft (305 m), running east to west along the coast.

The precautions were all in vain, however, largely as a result of the fact that during 11 July the anchorage had come under heavy Axis air attack, ships had been sunk or damaged, and nerves everywhere were stretched. When the first flights came into the gun-defended area at about 23.40 they were allowed to pass safely but then as the sky seemed to fill with hundreds of aircraft, the crew of a single gun on one ship fired a few shots and in a surge of panic the whole fleet opened fire. The casualties were bad, with 23 out of 144 aircraft destroyed, together with 81 men killed and 148 wounded or missing. Some men were shot after landing by their own side under the impression that they were part of a German airborne counterattack.

Worse, though, was the waste of effort as the landings were widely scattered. Only one company and one light battery landed on the correct drop zone, and by the evening of 12 July only 37 officers and 518 men had been assembled.