Sicily and Italy

The 45th Infantry Division was the only unit to ship straight from the United States into the battle to take the Island of Sicily from the Axis Powers in June, 1943. The other units who fought had been in North Africa for a year and were already veterans of the war. Despite being a “green” unit, the 45th Division fought as well as any of the other divisions in taking Sicily.

After taking the Island of Sicily in 38 days, the Allies then launched an attack on Italy. Italy had been a member of the Axis Powers. After the Allies took Sicily, Italy surrendered and the Nazis occupied their nation. So, the soldiers in the 45th were fighting only German troops from now on.

Italy is a small country with many mountains. So, the fighting was slow because it is hard to move trucks, food, tents, and ammunition through mountains. The Allies tried a risky attack to sneak behind the Germans. They landed troops in boats at a place called Anzio. The Germans were ready for the attack, though, and they trapped the 45th infantry in Anzio for 135 days, or four months and two weeks. The Germans attacked the 45th every day during those months, but the 45th never gave up. The 45th was able to break out of the siege and capture the capital of Italy, Rome, on June 4, 1944.

Soldiers from the 45th Infantry marching towards Messina, Sicily.
Image courtesy of the National Archives Signal Corps Records.

Soldiers from the 157th Regiment marching towards Ponte, Italy. One of them has stopped to pick a tomato.
Image courtesy of the National Archives Signal Corps Records.

Soldiers of the 179th Infantry Regiment on the way to the front, north of Salerno, as Italian citizens watch while
gathering water from a well.
Image courtesy of the National Archives Signal Corps Records.

A wrecked Panzer IV on the beach near Salerno.
Image courtesy of the National Archives Signal Corps Records.