On the Overseas Adventure Travel trip Sicily: Ancient Landscapes and Timeless Traditions, one real highlight for me was visiting the World War Two Landing Museum. This museum documents the invasion of Sicily by allied troops in 1943, an event that was a turning point for Sicily in the war and marked the beginning of the strategy to invade Italy and stop Mussolini and Hitler. It was known by allied forces as “Operation Huskie.” It was not mentioned in all that we saw, but it was also a part of the efforts of the Monuments Men to reclaim looted art that had been stolen by the Nazis. And it was extremely personal for me, since my mother’s brother, First Lt. Edward B Kane died in Tunisia during the war per a letter we had signed by President Roosevelt. Among his items that were sent home along with his remains, was a marble ashtray in the shape of Sicily, and the inscription Sicily 1943 engraved in it along with the names of various cities.
Prior to vising the museum, we had driven down the coast where the Sicilian invasion took place and saw so many bunkers that still dot the coastline after 75years. I could only imagine that this was scenery that my uncle had seen, if not places he stayed in. This is now the second OAT trip that has given me connective tissue across time and ancestry to an uncle I was never graced to know, but whom I have no doubt knows me. That side of my family felt like they were with me on the trip. It’s terrific to make a family connection when traveling, especially when all the family is now gone. It’s just that much more special.
The World War Two Landing Museum was the one museum in the world that gave me a glimpse of my uncle’s time in the war, something I heard so much about as a child since he never returned. While his remains were sent home along with his uniform, dog tags, and various souvenirs that I now own, I have a childhood memory of an American flag that came back with him that was intended to hang upside down (a flag in distress as I understood it). We played with that flag as children. And there in the museum was one of the American upside-down flags next to a US soldier in uniform. I learned from our local guide that since he died in Tunisia, he may have never been actually stationed in Sicily, since ships were taking soldiers back and forth all the time, which took about three hours each way. The action in North Africa was well underway at the time of the Sicilian invasion. We even saw newspapers reporting about current events in Tunisia relative to the war. This was a real highlight for me, made all the better because it was on my birthday. But it was an even bigger highlight in the war itself, because over 250,000 Nazi and Fascist troops surrendered in Tunisia. So after that, the next strategic step was for Allied Forces to take Sicily, and march forward into Italy itself. Every soldier was even introduced to the Sicilian culture, and given the Soldier’s Guide to Sicily, as shown below.
There is so much more to the invasion of Sicily, that I was spellbound during our visit to the museum. We experienced a simulation of being in one of the bunkers while under aerial bombardment. But most impressive to me as I learned about the war strategy, was the allied effort to divert Nazi and Fascist attention away from Sicily as the area of the invasion. British and American forces staged “Operation Mincemeat” to divert attention towards Corsica and Sardinia, where German forces were deployed. And they did it by planting false papers on a corpse deposited off the coast of Spain!
Click on the following links to read more about Operation Huskie and the Sicily World War Two Landing Museum.