July 9, 2023
[As Prepared for Delivery]
Good evening. Thank you to the Rotary Club of Gela and Naval Air Station Sigonella for organizing this important event to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Operation Husky.
I am honored to be here in the presence of our distinguished guests. I would like to acknowledge Col. Bruce Clarke for his service as a military veteran and for the virtue and sacrifice of his father, Lt. Col. Arthur Gorham, who was killed while leading an airborne assault during the first wave of Operation Husky. I also note the role of the many distinguished units of the U.S. military who fought in Sicily, including of course the Rangers in Gela and the Third Infantry Division, with which my brother, Major Kyle Crowley, has served in the more recent past.
As many of you know, Operation Husky was a turning point in the war. Over 38 days in 1943, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom liberated Sicily, re-opening the Mediterranean to Allied operations. It was the first step in Allied efforts to defeat totalitarianism in Europe. By the end of Operation Husky, Mussolini was out of power and Hitler was in retreat.
Operation Husky was the largest amphibious invasion of the war to that point. It served as the template for the landing at Normandy one year later. During the battles here, more than 14,000 soldiers and many civilians perished.
A generation has passed since the landing here in Gela. Many of our children are unfamiliar with the political, social, and military consequences of a war that united us around a common purpose. That purpose was to defeat totalitarianism and fascism. We must keep this legacy alive, forever remembering our shared history and the sacrifices of Lt. Col. Gorham and so many like him.
Eight years after Operation Husky, the United States and Italy share a deep and enduring friendship. This friendship is rooted in our mutual goals of peace, prosperity, and respect for human rights around the world. We are close NATO Allies and G7 partners, with strong bonds between our peoples, embodied by the 18 million Americans who proudly claim Italian heritage.
Those of you in this room help strengthen those ties every day. We are grateful to Sicily for hosting more than 4,000 U.S. service members, Department of Defense civilians, and their family members. These individuals are part of the more than 30,000 U.S. forces and their families living in Italy and working each day with our Italian allies.
The legacy of Operation Husky and the abiding lessons of the Second World War are as important today as they were in the past. Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine has shown us that wars of conquest continue today, even on the European continent. Those who sacrificed here in Sicily would be proud to know that the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Germany are all helping the brave people of Ukraine defend their lives, their liberty, and their freedom, as well as the values of the UN Charter.
The alliance between Europe and North America is stronger and more united now than it has been for decades. We owe it to those who fought and died here in Sicily to defend the fundamental values of freedom, democracy, equality, and opportunity for all. Thank you.