On this day in 1943, Operation Avalanche, the Allied land invasion of Salerno, and Operation Slapstick, the British airborne invasion of Taranto, both in southern Italy, are launched.
The U.S. 5th Army under Lt. Gen. Mark Clark landed along the Salerno coastline while British Commando units and their American counterparts, the U.S. Rangers, landed on the peninsula itself. Salerno had been chosen as the first site for invasion of the peninsula because it was the northern-most point to which the Allies could fly planes from its bases in Sicily, which they had already invaded and occupied. Rockets launched from landing craft provided cover, and the beach landings went relatively smoothly. It wasn’t until two days later that the Germans, with some Italian troops coerced into service, mounted a heavy counterattack on the beachhead. But Clark called in the 82nd Airborne for support, and by the 15th, Salerno was in Allied hands.
Meanwhile, the British 1st Airborne Division, having successfully landed at Taranto, captured the airfield at Foggia.