Veteran Stories:
Sheridan Edward Atkinson

Army

  • Prisoners of War Magazine Clipping, July 12, 1943. It pictured the Italian Army Captain from whom Sheridan Atkinson obtained a pistol.

    Sheridan E. Atkinson
  • Picture of Beretta 9mm Automatic Pistol, resulted from a successful military operation.

    Sheridan E. Atkinson
  • Sheridan Atkinson in Dress Uniform, Fall 1942.

    Sheridan E. Atkinson
  • Military Identity Card of Sheridan Atkinson, 1942.

    Sheridan E. Atkinson
  • English-Italian Dictionary issued with escape kit, invasion money, maps, on invasion of Sicily, Italy, July 1943.

    Sheridan E. Atkinson
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"We were told, when you read in the books, you’ll find that it says there was no opposition. Well, that’s hard to explain to a fellow who’s dead."

Transcript

Sicily took 38 days, I believe if I remember correctly, to be conquered or liberated. The Canadians were involved for 28 days, lost about 500 killed in the 28 days and several thousand wounded. I can’t tell you how many, I think somewhere around 3000 in 28 days.

I can’t give you any idea of how many merchant ships there were there. I can’t give you any idea of the number of landing craft of all varieties that there were there. And all these landing craft and landing ships had been assigned to a specific boat and had to find them in the dark with no lights, no GPS like we have today or any of that nature, and offload the troops and the guns and the trucks and so on and so forth, in the middle of the night, in pitch dark, on the small boats.

Every boat has a different dance in the water. A large freighter, for example, rolls from side to side very slowly and up and down very slowly and sometimes even nose to stern a bit and so on and so forth. But they have their own rhythm and depending upon the stuff that’s in them, and how big their keel is and the length of them and so forth, each one is different.

Landing craft of various sizes have a different dance because they are flat bottomed, in most instances, so that they can get into shore, and even the ones that aren’t have their own dance. So now in the middle of the night, pitch dark, you have these two boats hugging each other. Now, if you make a mistake, you probably put the truck or the gun right through the bottom of the boat.

I and my platoon was due to land at H+30. H+30 means 30 minutes after the initial invasion. And we didn’t make it, like nobody else did either because of the rough water, because of the delays in getting stuff into the, the boat and so on and so forth. And the fact that there were sand bars close to the shore that nobody knew about and the boat got stuck on and so on.

However, we did land with very little opposition on the beach. We had one or two killed on the beach and relatively little opposition in comparison to what we expected. We were told, when you read in the books, you’ll find that it says there was no opposition. Well, that’s hard to explain to a fellow who’s dead.

To secure the beach would be close to half a day anyway, close to noon time of that day. But then we had objectives from there, we had an airfield called Pachino, PACHINO, which was an objective of my regiment. But the business of the beach operations went on, well, probably for most of the campaign anyway because they have no other way to get supplies except to shore. They have no harbours or ports, and it was ammunition and fuel and food has to be looked after and brought ashore. Prisoners have to be taken offshore. Wounded have to be taken offshore. I know that I was flown over to Libya in a [Douglas] C-47 [Dakota] aircraft eventually. But that’s well on in, you know, we’re talking two weeks later.

I must tell you this, that I do know, and it has been written, that operation had eventually 300 000 troops and 3000 craft of various type, naval craft and landing craft and merchant ships and everything else, conducted the landing in Sicily. And it was a magnificent operation, in spite of the fact there were lots of mistakes made. They did what they were supposed to do.

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