Operation Husky: The Canadian Invasion of Sicily, July10–August 7, 1943.


504 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-1-55365-324-0
DDC 940.54'2158





Reviewed by Trevor S. Raymond

Trevor S. Raymond is a teacher and librarian with the Peel Board of Education and editor of Canadian Holmes.


This is Mark Zuehlke’s fourth volume about the Canadian military in Italy 1943–1945, but chronologically it comes first. It is a meticulously documented narrative of our role in the initial Allied invasion of occupied Europe: the campaign to capture Sicily and gain a base from which to launch air attacks against southern Europe. Although “no Canadian work dedicated solely to this campaign has previously been published,” Zuehlke has brought it to life from an “incredible” amount of “paper … chronicling it”: personal diaries, memoirs, interviews, and archived military records. There are nearly 1,100 source notes, a bibliography, appendices, and maps.


Zuehlke writes of the quarrelsome planning for the invasion and how Canada came to be added to it. Americans, relative newcomers to the war, had already fought in North Africa while Canadians trained endlessly in England. Domestic and international politics demanded that Canada engage the enemy and so “about 26,000 Canadian soldiers would join in the largest amphibious invasion in history.” Regrettably, on their long voyage from Britain some of their supply ships were sunk, taking with them almost 500 trucks. Thus, while the British and Americans were “highly motorized,” Canadians walked 120 miles through difficult mountainous terrain, choking dust, and temperatures that scorched to 1100 Fahrenheit.


The overall campaign was dominated by its commanders, the competitive and flamboyant Montgomery and Patton, whose egotistical clashes were, unhappily, not exceptional; the working relationship of Canada’s senior commander, Major-General Guy Simonds, with his officers was often abrasive and difficult. But Zuehlke never loses sight of the war as the soldier experienced it. His narrative is rich in anecdote and names of individuals—how they fought and how they died. Canadians earned a reputation for being second to none in combat; astonishingly, one of their bloody but victorious struggles was watched from a nearby hill by Simonds and Montgomery as well as by Churchill himself, who was well satisfied with what he had witnessed.


Some of the 562 Canadians who died in Operation Husky were lost at sea, but most are buried in a well-tended but awkwardly located and seldom-visited war cemetery in Sicily. The achievement of these men and their comrades has been sadly eclipsed by the attention history has given to the invasion of Normandy, and this valuable book will help keep their memory green.


Zuehlke, Mark., “Operation Husky: The Canadian Invasion of Sicily, July10–August 7, 1943.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/28583.