Sicillian Airfields to 1943

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Carl Schwamberger
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Sicillian Airfields to 1943

Postby Carl Schwamberger » 23 Apr 2012 00:39

Earlier there was a fair ammount of response with descriptions and sources for information on Sardinian & Corsican airfields.

These were some of the sources offered, and they seem to have some application to Sicilly.

http://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/psf/box5/a57c01.html has some data.

Gives what was were in 1940:
http://xoomer.virgilio.it/ramius/Milita ... _1940.html

http://yourarchives.nationalarchives.go ... rld_War_II

Are there any other good sources for descriptions of those on Sicilly? My current interest is for 1940, but info for the entire time to 1943 is welcome.

Graci y Thanks

Dili
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Re: Sicillian Airfields to 1943

Postby Dili » 24 Apr 2012 16:28

Sciacca was a "secret" airfield. In middle of orchards it was only found by allies already in 1943.

arturolorioli
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Re: Sicillian Airfields to 1943

Postby arturolorioli » 24 Apr 2012 17:57

Carl Schwamberger wrote:Are there any other good sources for descriptions of those on Sicilly? My current interest is for 1940, but info for the entire time to 1943 is welcome.


There were several airfields in Sicily.

Biscari - Santo Pietro (built 1941 - alternate to Gela and Comiso)
Castelvetrano
Chinisia (Trapani)
Comiso
Finocchiara (satellite field of Gerbini)
Fontanarossa (Catania)
Gela-Ponteolivo
Gerbini Nord (Catania)
Gerbini Sub (Catania)
Lentini (Catania)
Licata
Milazzo
Milo (Trapani)
Palermo Boccadifalco
San Salvatore (satellite field of Gerbini)
Sciacca (1940)
Sigonella (Catania)
Spina Santa (Catania) (Satellite of Gerbini)

There was also the Pantelleria airfield (but that's not properly on the Sicily "mainland").
Aighe-va

Arturo Filippo Lorioli
Via Cipro 47
00136 Roma (Italy)

Carl Schwamberger
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Re: Sicillian Airfields to 1943

Postby Carl Schwamberger » 24 Apr 2012 23:24

I'll avoid the 'capacity' question for now. What is important is a understanding of how many of these were 'all weather' airfields or otherwise capable of standing up to sustained large scale operations. i recall remarks by various authors stating only two or three were usefull for sustained operations in all weather, and another gave "eight" as having paved runways & taxiways and sufficient shelter for ground operations accomidating several air groups. Are there any sources that have details for this?

Dili
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Re: Sicillian Airfields to 1943

Postby Dili » 25 Apr 2012 16:48

If there was a big rain the capacity would be reduced drastically. Comiso, Palermo, Catania, Trapani-Milo, Gela-Ponte Olivo were the airports with hard surface runway.

Some others had a sort of specially compacted ground like Castelveltrano.

But some biggest airfields were in simple ground. Gerbini was a giant complex of several landing grounds that was build in war.


Floatplanes bases:
Augusta (SR)
Siracusa
Stagnone (TP)
Marsala (TP)
Milazzo (ME)

This were the Allied qualifications for 1943

Augusta = Seaplane Station
Biscari/S.Pietro = Landing Ground - few or no facilities
(Palermo)Bocca Di Falco = Aerodrome suitable heavy bombers
Borizzo(Allied designation - This is Trapani-Chinisia) = Aerodrome suitable medium bombers
Castelvetrano = Aerodrome suitable medium bombers
Catania = Aerodrome suitable heavy bombers
Comiso = Aerodrome suitable heavy bombers
Gela Farello = Emergency Landing Ground - no facilities
Gela Ponte Olivo = Aerodrome suitable heavy bombers
Gerbini (+ 7 satellites) = Aerodrome suitable heavy bombers
Licata = Landing Ground - few or no facilities
Marsala = Seaplane alighting area
Milazzo = Seaplane alighting area
Milo = Aerodrome suitable medium bombers
Pachino = Landing Ground - few or no facilities
Palermo = Seaplane Station
Pantelleria = Aerodrome suitable medium bombers
Sciacca = Landing Ground suitable medium bombers
Stagnone = Seaplane Station
Syracuse = Seaplane Station
Termini = Emergency Landing Ground - no facilities

All weather is not directly related to size.

Note also for example the Allied designation of Trapani-Chinisia. The allies say able to operate medium bombers but the Germans employed there the six engine Me323. So it all depends the qualification. Maybe "medium bombers" means a full wing.

JamesL
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Re: Sicillian Airfields to 1943

Postby JamesL » 25 Apr 2012 17:25

My F-I-L served in a US Army engineer aviation battalion attached to the 3rd Infantry Division. They built or repaired a number of airfields in Sicily in 1943. I have 2 CDs of the battalion records.

Short answer to your question – Boca di Falcon, Gerbini (Main) and Catania were all weather airfields prior to the Sicily Invasion.

Below are some snips from the battalion records regarding Sicilian airfields. Most were for dry weather use only. (There was only one rainstorm during the campaign.) The battalion supported 3rd Infantry, the British, and a French artillery battery. Other EABs (809th & 814th) supported other US divisions so the list of Sicilian airfields is incomplete.



Licata
Pre-invasion planning contemplated the preparing of this field as the initial mission of the battalion. A personal reconnaissance of the field, however, showed the construction only about ten per-cent complete and in such a dispersed manner that it was impractical to convert it into an airfield except as a major project. The equipment arrived at the site about 1700 hours on D plus 1 and by 1700 hours on D plus 2, the field was operational. C Co performed Air Corps service functions, refueling and re-arming planes, until D plus 8. The Licata field was improved … at which time the field consisted on only one dry weather runway 200 feet by 6,000 feet with taxiways and hardstandings for 90 planes.

Torrenti Communeli
One platoon of C Co arrived at Torrenti Communeli, which was situated 13 km west of Gela and constructed one dry weather runway 200 ft by 6,000 ft with taxiways and handstandings for 50 airplanes.

Agrigento
One platoon from C Co arrived at this site which was 7 miles east of Agrigento, and constructed a dry weather runway 150 ft by 4,500 ft with taxiways and hardstandings for 85 airplanes. The runway could not be lengthened.

Boca di Falcon
The field was an all over air field which had been rendered inoperational by the standing of 55 gallon drums all over the field. These drums were tested for mines and the field completely cleared in 2 ½ hours. The field was a rocky, all weather field with a rough surface, pitted as a result of Allied bombing. Several small hangers and an extensive barracks area were badly damaged by the withdrawing of enemy and civilians. Subsequent work on the field consisted of widening the 150 ft runway 50 feet and extending its length of 3,000 ft by 1,000 additional ft. This extension had a width of 150 ft. Further improvement on the field consisting of providing an asphalt runway had been started when the responsibility for the work was transferred to the 814th Engineer Aviation Battalion. On 28 August 1943, B Co left for San Antonio, Sicily.

Termini (East)
One platoon of B co arrived and constructed a dry weather runway 150 ft by 6,000 ft with taxiway and hardstandings for 40 planes. The size of this field was very limited prohibiting expansion.

Termini (West)
C Co arrived at this air field, which was originally an old German 3,000 ft landing strip. The soil was found to be too loose and sandy, hence another strip was located 200 yards inland, still parrelling (sic) the coastline. The field consisted of a runway 150 ft by 5,140 ft and taxiways and hardstandings for 81 planes. It was used as a base for fighter planes and air-evacuation of the wounded.

Falcone
A Co arrived and started construction on a dry weather runway 150 ft by 4,000 ft with taxiways and hardstandings for 50 planes.

San Antonio
B Co arrived and constructed a dry weather runway 150 ft by 4,500 ft with taxiways and hardstandings for 100 planes. The field was located in the Milazzo plain area and was cleared from a grape vineyard. The loose dust presented quite a problem. However, the many captured tank trailers used for continuous sprinkling aided considerably in combating this condition.

Barcelona
C Co arrived and constructed a dry weather runway 150 ft by 4,500 ft with taxiways and hardstandings for 75 planes. The loose dust presented quite a problem here. Bunker oil was made available by the British Navy at Syracusa. However, this long haul was deemed impracticable and after approximately 13,000 gallons of oil had been spread, the use of water was resumed.

Gerbini (Main)
C Co arrived at Gerbini Main airfield, which was an all weather field with paved runways and taxiways. The work consisted of normal maintenance of a bombed field and tearing down damaged hangers, clearing out dispersal revetments and maintaining taxiways and roads. A study was made of the housing facilities with the idea of making this a permanent all-weather bombing base.

Milazzo (East)
The first platoon of A co arrived and constructed a dry weather runway 150 ft by 3,500 ft with taxiways and hardstandings for 100 planes. The field was located in a grape vineyard…. The removal of the vines and the cropping of the roots resulted in a very serious dust hazard which was alleviated somewhat by water, at all times operations permitted.

Milazzo (West)
The 3rd platoon of Co A arrived and constructed a dry weather runway 150 ft by 3,800 ft with taxiways and hardstandings for 100 planes. The field, like the other in the area, was cleared from a vineyard. The loose dust created quite a hazard, which was alleviated considerably by the continuous sprinkling of the airfield with water.

Catania
B Co arrived and took over the project from the British airfield construction group. Upon arrival, the airport was in operation. The airfield was typical of all other bomb damaged permanent airfields in that an indefinite amount of work could be performed to increase the value of the field.


Source: 'History of the 815 Engineer Aviation Battalion', Maxwell AFB.

The 815th worked on 13 airfields in 5 weeks. They removed 6,000 land mines without one injury.


Palermo was a dry weather field which was converted to a 4,000 ft all weather field by C Co, 814th EAB. A magnetic device was utilized to clear the field of bomb fragments which could puncture aircraft tires. (If I remember correctly a B17 carrying Monty overshot the runway and crashed at Palermo. Monty dusted himself off and went to meet with Gen. Patton.)

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Re: Sicillian Airfields to 1943

Postby Carl Schwamberger » 25 Apr 2012 18:59

Excellent. All this will be very helpfull for my small inquiry. Hopefully some other inquiring mind will find it usefull as well.

It fairly well answers my secondary question for conditions of 1943. Since much of this information draws from post 1940 as late as 1943 it reflects in part the improvements made by the Italians and German from 1941. Anything else that clarifies the conditions o 1940 would be welcome.

Thanks again

Dili
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Re: Sicillian Airfields to 1943

Postby Dili » 25 Apr 2012 19:23

For 1940 the military airbase par excellence was Comiso since it didn't had any significant civilian propose, it had a hard runway and modern installations, also Gela-Ponte Olivo while Trapani-Milo, Palermo-Boccadifalco, Catania had also civilian use. The others except the floatplane bases(Siracusa,Stagnone) were Campi di Manovra, so they didn't had anything definitive, using sometimes civilian houses for support.

JamesL
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Re: Sicillian Airfields to 1943

Postby JamesL » 25 Apr 2012 23:42

Addition:

San Stefano
C Co ... a 75 ft by 2,200 ft runway with dispersal for 20 planes was graded 3 miles east of San Stefano to accomodate reconnaisance planes for the advance headquarters of the 7th Army at San Stefano.

massi
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Re: Sicillian Airfields to 1943

Postby massi » 28 Apr 2012 09:44

Dili wrote:For 1940 the military airbase par excellence was Comiso since it didn't had any significant civilian propose, it had a hard runway and modern installations, also Gela-Ponte Olivo while Trapani-Milo, Palermo-Boccadifalco, Catania had also civilian use. The others except the floatplane bases(Siracusa,Stagnone) were Campi di Manovra, so they didn't had anything definitive, using sometimes civilian houses for support.


Hello everybody, my 1st post.
The above information is not totally accurate. In 1940 Comiso didn't have a hard surface runway while other airbases in Sicily had already provided with long before. Trapani Milo and Catania Fontanarossa were among them. Comiso will receive a concrete runway much later, at the end of 1942.
Regardless their possible civilian use, the construction of such runways at that time was being promoted and carried on only by the Regia Aeronautica. The presence of civil air traffic was really marginal then and didn't affect much the planning of airports. Later on, when the war in the Mediterranean area developed, further sicilian airfields were upgraded under pressure of the German Air Force.

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Re: Sicillian Airfields to 1943

Postby Carl Schwamberger » 28 Apr 2012 14:36

Masi,,,, thanks for joining the dialog here. Do you have other sources for this information than that given above. Your post also raises the question of the extent of changes made from 1939 to 1943 & when they were made? I have seen remarks elsewhere about improvements, usually made in 1941-42, but do details.

massi
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Re: Sicillian Airfields to 1943

Postby massi » 28 Apr 2012 16:46

The matter regarding the italian airfields in the 1940-43 era is intriguing because is not publicly documented as their later use under the Allied hands. However a fair amount of data about this topic does exist, even though is still locked either into allied and axis archives. I've tried - and still trying - to access, with good results, to these sources. Please let me know if you like to receive more info about a specific subject.

Dili
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Re: Sicillian Airfields to 1943

Postby Dili » 28 Apr 2012 18:41

I have seen some references - i think it was an unit history - to hard surface runway in Comiso in 1940, it could also been a mix up. Do you have any 1940 photo? I remember i have seen some building photos and they were modern.

massi
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Re: Sicillian Airfields to 1943

Postby massi » 28 Apr 2012 23:51

Here is Comiso 1942. Works on the runway still at an early stage.
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Last edited by massi on 28 Apr 2012 23:54, edited 1 time in total.

Carl Schwamberger
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Re: Sicillian Airfields to 1943

Postby Carl Schwamberger » 28 Apr 2012 23:54

massi wrote:.... I've tried - and still trying - to access, with good results, to these sources. Please let me know if you like to receive more info about a specific subject.


My primary inquiry is the condition of the airfields in 1940. That information will help understand the advantages and constraints the Axis air forces operated with that year & later, what the nominal operating capcity was, ect... Anything you have time to post here would be appreciated

Graci


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