Next summer, July, 2013 will mark the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Sicily, Italy. This battle, often referred to as “Operation Husky”, was the first successful European mainland invasion of the Second World War.
This battle would also become recognized as the first independent role for Canadian soldiers in WWII. It began on July 10, 1943 when Canadian soldiers landed at Pachino, Sicily, prevailing against the Italian and German Forces. The success of Operation Husky led to a second major front, making liberation of Italy possible, and thus played a significant role in the victory of Allied forces. Twenty-five thousand Canadian soldiers fought in Operation Husky, and 562 soldiers lost their lives.
And yet, it is a contribution often overlooked when remembering the Second World War.
To commemorate this historic event, Explorica Educational Travels, a Canadian company specializing in educational tours, has been chosen as the exclusive tour operator in honour of the 70th anniversary of Operation Husky. Founded in 2000, Explorica creates educational tours designed to connect students with new people, cultures and languages through educational world travel. The company was selected by Canada Company, a not-for-profit organization intended to support Canadian soldiers at home and abroad, as part of the “Operation Husky 2013” memorial campaign to honour those who fought and died.
Canada Company Quebec Chapter President, Steve Gregory, was inspired to organize the “2013 Canadian Citizen’s Memorial Campaign in Sicily” (later renamed Operation Husky 2013). While helping his son do research on the Sicily Campaign for a history project, he realized that there was a lack of information and awareness surrounding the victory.
“We have to honour these men,” he says. “Operation Husky was the first time Canadian Troops fought under their own command in WWII.”
After earning the reputation as “Red Patch Devils” among the Nazi forces, Gregory believes that most veterans feel that their sacrifice has been overlooked in favour of D-day at Normandy.
And he is not alone. Many veterans, historians and military experts have joined Operation Husky 2013. Dr. Lee Windsor, Italian Campaign historian and military expert with the University of New Brunswick’s Gregg Center for the Study of War and Society, has been collaborating with Explorica to design significant itineraries and events for the commemorative tour. Planned events will include revisiting the route taken by the 1st Canadian Infantry Division and conducting remembrance ceremonies at the significant locations of the Canadian advance.
Explorica and Operation Husky 2013 will be offering tours for military members and their families, as well as war history enthusiasts, experts, and teachers and students. Those interested can contact Alison Shepstone at [email protected] for more information on tour options. You can also call 1-888-378-8845 or visit their website Explorica.ca, as well as join them on Facebook and Twitter (twitter.com/exploricacanada).
Leslie Dunnett is a military spouse, mother of two puppies, amateur cartoonist, and recovering shoe addict.