New Light on the Struggle for the Mediterranean
by Vincent P. O’Hara
Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2019. Pp. x, 324.
Illus., maps, tables, figures, appends., notes, biblio., index. $34.99. ISBN: 1682474607
The author of Struggle for the Middle Sea, Clash of Fleets, and many other works in naval history, O’Hara has produced a detailed account of one of the most critical periods of the war in the Mediterranean, a four month period during which the Italians managed to briefly gain control of seas between Italy and North Africa, albeit that neither side attained a decisive advantage. The fleets and their supporting air forces waged what was essentially a battle not so much over “command of the seas”, as one of “access to the seas”, as the Italians and Germans successfully maintained their supply lines to North Africa, while the British barely held on to Malta.
Making extensive use of previously classified materials, O’Hara shows the Axis – particularly the Italians – were generally better at intelligence until early 1942, which aided their ability to make use of the sea lanes, helped along by the fortuitous mining of several British warships and the daring sinking of two battleships in Alexandria harbor by underwater special operations forces. He also shatters some well-rooted myths, arguing that the Italian fleet generally gave a good account of itself, despite British propaganda and German memoirs to the contrary; his analysis of the Second Battle of the Gulf of Sirte (March 22, 1942) demolishes the British version of the encounter.
O’Hara fits these operations into the larger war, covers the rather neglected logistical side of the campaign in considerable detail, and touches on its impact on the Desert war and the global war, while giving the reader very good accounts of some desperate sea fights.
Six Victories is an excellent read for anyone with an interest in naval operations, and particularly the Mediterranean during World War II
Note: Six Victories is also available in several e-editions.
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