Agrigento Airfield was an airfield southeast of Agrigento, on the island of Sicily, southern Italy.
Supposedly, the airfield was originally built as a pre-war Regia Aeronautica Italian Air Force base, but I could not find any references for this. After the area was secured during Operation Husky, it was used by United States Army Air Forces C-47s to evacuate wounded American and Italian troops. Later, it was a command and control base for the 52d Troop Carrier Wing from 1 September 1943-13 February 1944.
On the evening of 13 September 1943 the 64th TCG took off from Agrigento with the troopers of the 504th Regimental Combat Team. Their mission was for a parachute assault on Avellino, a German supply center near Salerno, to cut off the enemy supply routes through the mountains. Continued German counterattacks had led General Mark Clark to request a drop to prevent his men from being pushed into the sea. Within 15 hours of the urgent appeal from General Clark, 1,300 troopers were on the ground at Salerno. Two nights later the 505th RCT jumped behind American lines to reinforce the assault force. Thanks to the airborne intervention, the invasion force was able to move forward and the Salerno beachhead was successfully established. After the American use of the base ended, it was turned over to the Italian Air Force for its use.
Offical capture: A litter patient is loaded aboard a Douglas C-47 at Agrigento, Sicily, for evacuation to Africa for medical treatment. 25 July 1943 (USAAF photo)
Notice the tall grass and lack of even the most basic infrastructure in these photos, taken only 10 days after the area was captured. They make it very hard to believe the Regia Aeronautica and Luftwaffe were runnng an airfield here.
Offical capture: American and Italian wounded at Agrigento, Sicily, await evacuation by plane to Africa for further medical treatment. 25 July 1943 (USAAF photo).
Again, notice the tall grass and lack of even the most basic infrastructure in these photos, only 10 days after the area was captured. They make it very hard to believe the Regia Aeronautica and Luftwaffe were runnng an airfield here.
The position 37°18’50″N013°34’02″E, which is referred to all over the Internet (including Wikipedia) is NOT the correct location. This location is known as the Valle dei Tempoli (Valley of the Temples) and a historic landmark. It is highly unlikely that this location was used as an airfield, because it is along the side of a hill. :-)
Also: on an Allied map (in the September 1943 RAF Mediterranean Review No.4 (13MB, PDF)) Agrigento is not shown as having an airfield. Finally, the airfield was not listed as a primary objective for the ‘Husky’ landings, which happened about 30 miles to the southeast.
Today nothing remains of the former transport base. Even the road running through the area today is not part of the airfield, which was located further to the southeast.
Approach map of Agrigento, presumably late 1943. Notice the trajectory of the road to Agrigento (top right) and compare it to the photo below (from ‘Quei tragici giorni del 43’ (The Tragic Days of 1943) by Salvatore Fucà, via Archeologi dell’Aria).
The location of Agrigento airfield in 2005. The dotted red line indicates the original track of what is today the E931 road to Agrigento. Compare the area with the map above (Google Earth).
Another example: Agrigento Airfield. Wikipedia says: “Today, the site of the airfield is abandoned, although several runways and what appears to be a former sports facility (also abandoned) is visible at the former airfield site.” It would be humor if it was not so sad… At the location that Wikipedia gives
A pre-war Regia Aeronautica Italian Air Force base, the airfield was a primary objective of the Operation Husky landings. After being secured, it was used by the United States Army Air Forces Twelfth Air Force 31st Fighter Group, equipped with three squadrons (307th, 308th 309th) of Supermarine Spitfires. Later, it was a command and control base for the 52d Troop Carrier Wing from 1 September 1943-13 February 1944.
The airfield is also notable because many Italian Air Force airplanes landed at Agrigento in the days immediately following the armistice between Italy and the Allied armed forces in early September 1943. The Regia Aeronautica 8 Gruppo Macchi C.200fighters landed at Agrigento on 13 September. Most were worn out and obsolete, no longer useful for combat, however Italian crews scrounged any parts that they could to keep their aircraft flying against the Germans. Later, the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force (ICBAF or ACI) was formed and incorporated these aircraft.
After the American use of the base ended, it was turned over to the Italian Air Force for its use. Today, the site of the airfield is abandoned, although several runways and what appears to be a former sports facility (also abandoned) is visible at the former airfield site.
- Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1983. ISBN 0-89201-092-4
- Maurer, Maurer, Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II, Office of Air Force history (1982). ISBN 0-8317-1501-4