Patton’s Seventh Army (Sicily) and the Race to Messina
My wife and I spent about two weeks in Sicily towards the end of October 2018. It was both for pleasure and for visiting the WW2 battle sites that I have written about in my Patton biography “Patton: The Madness behind the Genius.”
It has taken some weeks to sift through the extensive video recorded mainly by my wife. It also gave me a chance to study these battles in more detail, and I learned a lot. The videos below are my way of sharing some of the highlights of our travels and what I learned.
We limited our travels to the northern coast of Sicily. We visit Palermo, Cesaro, Troina, San Fratello, Brolo, Milazzo, and the Aeolian Islands offshore. It’s not all war since there is also humor, music, and beautiful scenery. I have made extensive use of Google Earth Pro for showing the terrain, with many graphic overlays and flyovers. I think this is an incredible tool for showing military battles.
I broke it into 3 parts:
Part One (15 min): Palermo, the Invasion, and Troina
Part Two (19.5 min): San Fratello and Brolo
Part Three (7.5 min): Rebuilding the coastal highway, and Off to the Islands.
Patton’s Third Army
In France in 1998, because of a change in plans, I found myself with a week to drive around by car looking for evidence of WWII. I was just starting to get interested in the war, and doing a lot of reading. Unlike certain WWI battlefields, such as Verdun, which I had visited years earlier, it was more difficult to find vestiges of the war—bullet holes, foxholes, scarred buildings, etc. Europe had recovered and rebuilt, and you had to know what you were looking for. Furthermore, WWII in Europe was a mobile war, having been fought largely via the system of roads, as well as the waterways and airspaces.
When I returned to Europe in 2002 for a week, I had mapped out some routes. This time I brought a video camera. Driving a stick shift car, shooting with the video camera, navigating with a map, and avoiding accidents kept me busy. I was hungry to see the places I had read about, and probably drove several thousand miles. I returned to various European battlegrounds in 2003, 2004, 2005 (twice), 2006, and 2008, though with less videotaping.
I freely asked questions of strangers in English, and when necessary, in my meager French or German. My unscripted narration contains a few errors due to the primitive state of my knowledge at the time. Rather than trying to overdub the sound track, I have corrected most of these errors using subtitles in order to preserve spontaneity. I have also inserted subtitles to help the viewer understand French and German names. Video from uneventful stretches of road have been sped up (including my narration) by 50%. These guided video tours were divided into segments of 15 minutes or less—not necessarily convenient tours for others to repeat. For veterans revisiting Europe, and for WWII enthusiasts who haven’t yet traveled there, I hope you will enjoy sharing my voyages of discovery.
TOUR 1; Lorraine: Mt. Toulon (near Nancy), Nomeny, Port Sur-Seille, Mailly, Delme Ridge, Han-Sur-Nied, Bois d’Aulnois, Fresnes, Dieulouard bridgehead, Chateau Salins, Oriocourt, Laneuville, Fonteny, Moyenvic, Cote St. Jean (Hill 310), Dieuze, Rodalbe [15 min].
TOUR 2; Lorraine: Valhey, Bethelmont, Lezey, Juvelize, Morville-les-Vic, Morhange, St. Avold (largest US military cemetery), Dursel, Mackwiller, Adamswiller (the firing of Gen. John P. Wood by Gen. Manton S. Eddy) [15 min].
TOUR 3; Lorraine: Corny-sur-Moselle, Fort Driant, Fort St. Blaise, Dornot bridgehead, Fort Jeanne d’Arc, Metz, Veckring, Fort Hackenberg, Sinz, Butzdorf, Bannholz Woods, Siegfried Line, Orscholz Switch, Schloss Thorn, Nennig, Schloss Berg, Schloss Bübingen, Peace Monument to 94th Inf. Div, Tettingen, Höckerlinie, Dragons’ Teeth [15 min].
TOUR 4: Mosel-Rhine (Palatinate): East of Bernkastel, Mosel valley, Tres-Kardin assault crossing, Waltertheim (Rte. 420), Rheinpfalz, Nierstein, Third Army Rhine crossing, Aschaffenburg (route of Patton’s Hammelburg Raid), Lohr, Gemünden, River Main, Burgsinn, Gräfendorf, Lager Hammelburg (OFLAG XIII-B) [15 min].
Battle of the Bulge
TOUR 5: Crossing Mosel from Germany into Luxembourg, Hamm, Luxembourg American Cemetery, Patton’s grave, German cemetery, Ettelbruck (Patton Museum), Clerf valley, Clervaux, Clervaux Castle, Monument to G.I.s [15 min].
TOUR 6: (Col. Hurley Fuller’s narrow escape), Claravallis Hotel (Jean-Paul Gillen, proprietor), St. Vith, Poteau museum, Werbomont, Bel. (Peipers’ high-water mark), Stoumont, La Gleize museum, King Tiger Tank, Trois-Ponts, Stavelot [15 min].
TOUR 7: Ambleve bridge, Stavelot, Ligneuville incident, Malmedy massacre, Baugnez corner, Bütgenbach, Büllingen, Elsenborn Ridge, Rocherath, Monschau, Brandsheid, Schnee Eifel, Sellerich, Prüm [14:40 min].
TOUR 8: Roetgen, Rott, Dragons’ Teeth, Paustenbach, Burgberg, Bergstein, Vossenack, Kall River, Mestrenger Mühle, Kall River Gorge trail, WWII relics at Kommerscheidt (Mr. Gregor Naas), newly discovered GI grave (Sgt. Lemuel Herbert), Schwammenauel Dam, Roer River, Schmidt [11:30 min].
Marseille German bunkers
TOUR 9: A windy day at Les Goudes (guided by French biochemist and colleague Dr. Xavier Morelli), gun emplacement, bunkers, inside a bunker, windsurfers [3:30 min].