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PANTELLERIA

Posted 2/7/2011 Printable Fact Sheet
 
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North American A-36
A-36 of the 27th Fighter-Bomber Group, 522nd Fighter-Bomber Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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 USAF Historical Study No. 52: Reduction of Pantelleria and Adjacent Islands (Provided by AFHRA)


The capture of the islands of Pantelleria and Lampedusa, lying in the Mediterranean Sea between North Africa and Sicily, was vital to protect the flank of the planned invasion of Sicily. Geographic features made Pantelleria easily defended against an amphibious assault, so on May 18, 1943, an almost daily aerial bombardment began to pound the island into submission. A naval blockade and bombardment was also initiated. On June 11, when Allied forces began landing on Pantelleria, the military governor surrendered the island and the only Allied casualty among the assaulting troops was a British infantryman who was nipped by a local donkey.

As Pantelleria was surrendering, USAAF B-25s, B-26s, A-20s and A-36 dive bombers and British Wellington bombers began their air assault of the island of Lampedusa. The aerial and naval attack continued into the next day (June 12). By late afternoon, the Allies had flown some 450 bombing sorties plus four "nickeling" missions in which surrender leaflets were showered on the town and airfield.

Island officials surrendered Lampedusa to an RAF sergeant pilot who had landed on the airfield with engine trouble, and to make it obvious to all Allied forces, they displayed white surrender flags early that evening. On the morning of June 13, the island officially passed into Allied hands.

When the invasion of Sicily began on July 10, Allied aircraft based at Pantelleria and Lampedusa provided support to the amphibious forces and increased aerial protection to the Allied sea route from Gibraltar through the Mediterranean. An assault against the two islands had a major impact on the defenders' morale, destroying their ability to resist amphibious landings by Allied troops.

Among the USAAF units participating in aerial attacks on the two islands was the 27th Bombardment Group (later 27th Fighter-Bomber Group), the first group to go into action flying the A-36 Invader dive bomber. The museum's A-36 is painted in the 27th Group's markings.

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