US 1st Infantry Division at Troina

Afrika

US 1st Infantry Division at Troina

A brutal 19-day advance through mountainous Sicilian country-side ended with the capture of Troina, breaking the back of German resistance and opening the Allied road to Messina and the straits beyond. In 37 days of fighting the Division took 18 towns and captured 5,935 prisoners at a cost of 1,738 casualties.

The 1st Infantry Division, after a brief respite and refitting, embarked from Algiers on July 15 for Sicily.

Thirteen Italian and German divisions defended the island. The Allies planned to take Sicily before launching the main assault against the Italian mainland.

The 1st Infantry Division would play a leading role in “Operation Husky,” the Allied Invasion of Sicily. The Division stormed ashore at Gela on July 10, and quickly overpowered the preliminary Italian defences. A few hours later the Division came face-to-face with the Panzers from the Herman Göring Panzer Division, which was attacking down the Gela Road in an effort to drive the Americans back to the sea. 

With the help of naval gunfire, its own artillery and their Canadian allies, the 1st Infantry Division fought their way over the island’s hills, often encountering stiff resistance from the Axis defenders, but slowly driving the enemy back.   

On 2 August, Allen (Commanding Officer of the 1st Infantry Division), keeping the 1st Division in the fight, sent the 26th Infantry Reg. north of the town and the 16th Infantry Reg. across the virtually trackless, hilly terrain to the south. The town of Troina was an ideal defensive position for the 15th Panzer Division. The highest town in Sicily, it sat atop a 3,600-foot mountain. 

The 26th Infantry Regiment’s (under the command of Col. John Bowen) fighting was fairly typical of the action around Troina.  

The US drive on Troina
Looking down from Troina in 1943

The 26th’s assignment was to outflank Troina by seizing Monte Basilio two miles north of town.

From here, the regiment would be positioned to cut the Axis line of retreat. Bowen moved his soldiers forward on 2 August supported by the firepower of 6 Battalions of Howitzers. Despite this heavy bombardment, German artillery fire and difficult terrain limited the regiment’s advance to half a mile.

The next morning one of the regiment’s battalions lost its bearings in the hilly terrain and wandered around ineffectually for the remainder of the day. A second battalion reached Monte Basilio with relatively little difficulty, only to be pounded by Axis artillery fire directed from the surrounding hills. 

The 129. Panzergrenadier Regiment (15. Panzergrenadier Division) launched a major effort to retake the mountain that afternoon, but the 26th Infantry’s riflemen and machine gunners, supported by the artillerymen in the rear, repulsed the attackers.

For the next two days Axis artillery and small arms fire kept the men on Monte Basilio pinned down. Determined to hold Troina for as long as possible, the Germans reacted strongly to the threat the 26th Regiment posed to their line of communications. 

Axis pressure practically cut off the men on Monte Basilio from the rest of the 1st Division, and attempts to resupply them by plane were only partially successful. 

Troina in 1921
By 5 August food and ammunition stores were low, and casualties had greatly depleted the regiment, with one company mustering only seventeen men effective for duty.

It was at this point that the German infantry attacked again, touching off another round of furious fighting. During the battle, Private James W. Reese moved his mortar squad to a position from which he could effectively take the advancing German infantry under fire.

US troops move through a Sicilian village

The squad maintained a steady fire on the attackers until it began to run out of ammunition. With only three mortar rounds left, Reese ordered his crew to the rear while he advanced to a new position and knocked out a German machine gun with the last rounds. He then shouldered a rifle and continued to engage the enemy until killed by a barrage of hostile fire.

The 26th Infantry successfully held its position and Reese was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. The Germans evacuated Troina later that night. Hard pressed by American forces all along the Troina sector and unable to dislodge the 26th Regiment from its position threatening his line of retreat, General Hube withdrew the badly damaged 15. Panzergrenadier Division toward Randazzo. As the 9th Infantry Division took up the pursuit, the 1st Division retired for a well-deserved rest.

The Germans blocked the road approaches to Troina; they had demolished bridges and mined the bypass routes. A number of Engineer battalions were used to rebuild bridges, clear mines and generally help with the moving of vehicles, weapons and equipment forward. Bulldozers and Angledozers were utilised on existing road as well as to make temporary roads along the axis of advance.
Scenario

The fighting around Troina offers a number of interesting scenarios for Flames Of War. The Advance on the German positions around the town can be fought with either the Hold The Line mission or, if you would like to include more prepared positions and mines, using the Big Push mission.

By using the Big Push mission the support of the heavier US guns can be represented with the Preliminary Bombardment rules.

As an alternative you make like to try Hold The Line with only a quarter of the German defender’s platoons off table in reserve and allow the attacking US force a Preliminary Bombardment.

A US Medic attends a wounded soldier as some Sicilians look on
Forces

The fighting around Troina was carried out by the US 1st and 9th Infantry Divisions against the 15th Panzergrenadier Division (mainly from the 129th Panzergrenadier regiment).

US Infantry Force
1st Battalion, 26th Infantry regiment,
1st Infantry Division (from Afrika)

 

Company HQ
HQ Section
Add 2 Bazooka teams

20 points
30 points
Combat Platoons
 
Rifle Platoon
3 Rifle Squads


130 points

Rifle Platoon
3 Rifle Squads

130 points
Rifle Platoon
3 Rifle Squads

130 points
Weapons Platoons
 
Weapons Platoon
Mortar and 2 Machine-gun Sections

135 points
Machine-gun Platoon
2 Machine-gun sections
Add Jeep with .50cal AA MG
Add Jeeps with trailers

100 points
15 points

Mortar Platoon
3 Mortar Sections

135 points
Anti-tank Platoon
2 Sections 125pts
Upgrade to M1 57mm guns

110 points
40 points
Support Platoons
 
Field Artillery Battery
2 Sections

165 points
Engineer Combat Platoon
Weapons Squad and 2 Operating Squads
Add Pioneer Supply 2½-ton track
Add 3 Bazooka teams
Add Bulldozer   

165 points
25 points
45 points
10 points
Total
1385 points
German Panzergrenadier Force
129. Panzergrenadier Regiment,
15. Panzergrenadier Division

 

Headquarters Platoon
Company HQ section

45 points
Combat Platoons
 
Motorised Panzergrenadier Platoon
3 Squads   

220 points
Motorised Panzergrenadier Platoon
3 Squads

220 points
Motorised Panzergrenadier Platoon
3 Squads

220 points
Weapons Platoons
 
Machine-gun Platoon
2 Sections

155 points
Mortar Platoon
2 Mortar Sections

150 points
Support Platoons
 
Anti-tank Gun Platoon
3 Sections 5cm Pak 38 guns

145 points
Artillery Battery
2 Gun Sections

220 points
Total
1375 points

Terrain

The town of Troina is situated on a hill overlooking a valley surrounded by more high ground. The photographs should give you an idea of the sort of terrain. There are a few rocky outcrops, hedges and other cover, but other that the terrain is fairly open. The town itself is positioned on a rocky outcrop.


Last Updated On Friday, February 8, 2008 by Wayne at Battlefront