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Sicily | The Assault | Securing the Bridgehead | The Drive eastward | Campaign Map | Canadian Advance | Change of Plans | German Retreat | Further Reading  





The German Retreat from Sicily

The Canadian Division's active participation in the Sicilian campaign ended with a bloodless crossing of the Simeto River by the 3rd Brigade on the night 5-6 August.  Only pursuit operations remained, for after the loss of Regalbuto and Centuripe the enemy had begun falling back from the Catania Plain; on the 5th and 6th he gave up all the towns south of Mount Etna from Catania to Adrano.  In the American sector Troina fell to the 1st U.S. Division on 6 August after a bitterly contested five-day battle, but on the northern coast the 3rd Division was held up by determined resistance west of Sant'Agata.

The final ten days of the campaign revealed General Hube's mastery in the retreat.  On 26 July Hitler had authorized a withdrawal from Sicily; the evacuation began on 10 August.  By sharp rearguard actions and extensive demolitions in the rugged terrain of the Messina peninsula Hube was able to hold Allied progress to his own timetable of withdrawal.  Although he had very little air support and no naval support, he maintained effective control of the Messina Strait with his artillery, which included a heavy concentration of antiaircraft guns.  Thinning out his forces on a succession of shortening lines of resistance, he succeeded in evacuating to the mainland the entire surviving German garrison and a large quantity of equipment.

During the last week of operations the 30th Corps took over control of the narrowing Eighth Army front.  On 15 August the 78th and 51st Divisions completed the encirclement of Mount Etna, and on the same day the 50th Division on the coast reached within 30 miles of Messina.  Meanwhile the American advance along the north coast had been accelerated by two amphibious landings, and on the morning of 17 August infantry of the 3rd United States Division entered Messina, followed shortly by British Commando troops, who had landed ten miles down the strait two nights before.

Southern Italy

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