A year before D-Day, Allied forces made their first thrust into the 'soft underbelly of Europe' — here's how Operation Husky played out

Christopher Woody
US Army soldiers troops Messina sicily italy world war ii operation husky wine

(AP Photo/Pool/Acme)

On April 30, 1943, a fisherman off the coast of Huelva, Spain, recovered the body of Maj. William Martin, a dead British soldier. Spanish authorities quickly buried the body, but his personal effects — including the briefcase handcuffed to the dead man's wrist — were turned over to the Germans.

For the Germans, it was an intelligence coup. Documents in the briefcase revealed that the Allies, who were on the verge of defeating Axis forces in North Africa, would next invade Sardinia and Greece. Hitler moved entire divisions of troops away from Sicily and southern Italy to prepare for the attacks.

But the Germans had been fooled.

Maj. Martin was a homeless man from Wales who had killed himself in London the previous winter. British intelligence agents concocted his identity and created false invasion plans as part of Operation Mincemeat, which was meant to disguise what was coming on July 10, 1943: The Allied invasion of Sicily and a thrust into what British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called "the soft underbelly of Europe."

Below, you can see how the invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, played out in July and August 1943.

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