By most accounts, the Allies’ massive 1943 invasion of Sicily—a strike at the perceived "soft underbelly" of Hitler's Europe—was a success. The island became the first piece of the Axis’ homeland to fall during World War II. But when U.S. Gen. George S. Patton moved in for an expected final battle in Messina in mid-August, he found no enemy forces. Some 114,000 German and Italian troops had escaped to the Italian mainland with vehicles, supplies, and ammunition.
Gregory Hospodor of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, whose research focuses in part on World War II military operations in the Mediterranean, examines the campaign, the “bitter victory” it achieved, and Italy’s political dilemma at the time: how to exit an increasingly unpopular and unsuccessful war, knowing it would risk a violent German response.