Victory at Pantelleria Gave Allies False Confidence

Operation Corkscrew or the invasion of Pantelleria (11 June 1943) saw the British occupy this fortified Italian island without a shot being fired, after the garrison was subjected to a heavy aerial bombardment.

Pantelleria is located half way between the south-western tip of Sicily and the North Africa coast, and had been portrayed by the Italians as their equivalent to Gibraltar or Malta, a strong fortress that would be very difficult to assault. No foreigners had been allowed to visit the island for some time, so nobody was sure how strong it actually was. The island was lined by cliffs, and the only suitable place for an invasion was at the town of Porto di Pantelleria in the north-west of the island.

The Italians had fortified the island. There was a large airfield at the northern end of the island, capable of taking four engined bombers and operating up to eighty fighters, and with a 1,100ft long underground hanger to its south-east. There were over 100 gun emplacements on the island, some dug out of the local rock, others built from concrete. These covered the harbour at Porto di Pantelleria and all other possible landing points. There were also a large number of pillboxes and machine gun positions built across the island. There was also a Freya radar base on the island. Allied intelligence estimated that the Italians had 10,000 men on the island. After the invasion the Allies took 11,000 prisoners of war.

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