After General Patton’s “end run” across the Island of Sicily, taking the western half and the old city of Palermo on the run, his II Corps headed eastward entering the mountainous northern half of the island. Quickly the pace of advance was reduced to a slow ridge line, or river line, or old hilltop town clearing process. Skillful German rearguard actions, holding the key terrain features, maximized German-Italian efforts to delay both the American and British advancing armies as preparations continued for the cross strait Messina final evacuation to mainland Italy.
The Battle for Troina was a week-long bitter struggle to seize control of the old Sicilian hilltop town and nearby “mountain” terrain. Being somewhat central on the endgame Allied frontal map lines of Sicily, with the Americans battling along the northern coastal road at San Fratello, and the British around the flanks of volcanic Mt. Enta to the southeast, the town of Troina was seen by both sides as a linchpin or hinge to stall or finish the Sicilian island campaign.
Linchpin or hinge on the military maps, the American 1st “Big Red” Division wanted the town and access to the eastern narrow highway SS120 beyond towards Cesaro and eventually Messina itself. The German 15th Panzergrenadier Division, their hilltop town and nearby low mountains having a view of the American advance, planned the defense with deadly precision. The Americans didn’t disappoint them, their August 1st first probing frontal attack was quickly rebuffed when launched by the 39th Regiment (transferred in from US 9th Division to support the 1st Division).