Zuckerman’s analysis of the bombings showed very little damage to the underground facilities. As a matter of fact, the underground hangar and related facilities proved impervious to the Allied bombing. Most above-ground installations were devastated. The data showed surprising results as to which type of bombing platform was the most effective. While bombing had been predicted to place 10 percent of the ordnance within a 100-yard radius of the enemy gun batteries, this was rarely achieved.
Medium bombers did the best with 6.4 percent of their bombs within 100 yards. The B-17s were second at 3.3 percent, while fighter-bombers were last at 1.6 percent. For the entire campaign, a total of 5,285 sorties were flown against the island with a total of 6,200 tons of bombs dropped. U.S. bombers flew 83 percent of the sorties and dropped 80 percent of the bombs.
It was agreed during the post-operation analysis that the most important factor enabling the Allies to conquer Pantelleria from the air was the low morale of the garrison. It would have been nearly impossible to compel the surrender of a fanatical enemy, entrenched behind hardened and deeply buried works, by airpower alone.
Airpower had won a decisive tactical and operational victory on Pantelleria Island. It was also a victory of strategic significance for the Allies in that it opened the door to Sicily. Some airpower proponents could also claim a historic, albeit disputed, achievement that the victory was obtained almost exclusively by airpower.
The valuable lessons learned during Operation Corkscrew would be applied to all future Allied invasions in Europe. While the controversies about airpower effectiveness continued, the Allies had earned the right to pop a few corks in celebration of Operation Corkscrew.
This article first appeared at the Warfare History Network.