on “Operation Husky” in Sicily
In 1943, America was in the thick of WWII. On the
home front, men and women struggled daily with the restrictions
placed on them by a wartime economy.
But off the small Mediterranean island of Sicily,
a brave group of Allied soldiers were preparing for an invasion,
which, if successful, would knock out one of the most powerful Axis
Among them was Ralph Brauser,
a young corporal who was part of an Amphibious Combat Engineer regiment,
a small-town boy who grew up in Narrowsburg.
The invasion of Sicily was the second big campaign
Brauser had been involved with, the first being the invasion
of Africa. And the memory of the event is still clear in his mind:
“Here we were approaching our destination, Licata,
Sicily, on this early morning of July 10, 1943 under heavy German
air raids from their big bombers.
“My ship was an infantry-landing craft equipped
with a large front ramp that drops down as it hits the shoreline.
“I and about 13 other soldiers were on the left
side of the ramp, ready to jump off. Coastal guns were facing us.
“We did not know as we jumped that an earlier air
raid left some large craters right in our path and, with full field
packs and all equipment, weighing about 75 or 80 pounds, we readily
sank to the bottom in about a 20-feet-deep crater...
“Our floatation equipment was a wrap-around tub-
type device with two cartridges that, when pierced with a pliers-type
unit, readily inflates the preserver.
“But it was a different story under heavy stress
and being scared beyond all measure. We GI’s were fighting to find
the pliers device to inflate our equipment. After some time that
seemed like eternity, and by God’s help, we all managed to come
up coughing and choking with seawater. It took some time until we
were able to proceed to shore with no casualties, as yet.
“It was a time in our life that registered how
close death was...
“It was on an early July morning. My buddy and
I were on guard, up on the steep hill overlooking the Licata Harbor,
where all our supply ships were loaded and awaiting for the supplies
to be removed.
“Just as the darkness disappeared, we were waiting
for our guard shift to end when in the distance we heard what seemed
like an engine noise approaching. All at once, a German Messerschmidt
fighter plane dropped from behind the mountain, almost in idle throttle.
And it was almost directly over us—not more than 200 feet—ready
to drop its bomb under the wing on our ships in the harbor.
“As we were trained for this kind, it wasn’t long
before our Ml’s were in action. Those semi-automatic rifles were
one of the best. We got off, between the two of us, 64 shots at
a range it seemed you could not miss.
“The plane just floated gently out toward the bay,
never dropping his bomb. We were both amazed as we watched it glide
away. But it was a very short time later that we both observed smoke
trailing behind the plane. It was not a jet...
“In closing I would like to say very proudly that
if it wasn’t for all who served in that great war, and all those
on the home front backing us up, I am sure no U.S. flag would be
flying over our great country today.”