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Italian Air Power - History

Italian Air Power - History


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The Italians used their airforce extensively to bomb the forces of Emperoro Haile Selassie, who were defended Abyssinia (Ethiopia) from Italian attack.


History [ edit | edit source ]

Italy is one of the nations that possess one of the oldest traditions in the field of aviation. In 1884, the Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito) was allowed to equip with their own air component, the Aeronautical Service ( Servizio Aeronautico ) with the command center in Rome. In 1911, during the Italo-Turkish war, the country, was the first in the world to build aircraft for reconnaissance and bombing.

On March 28 of 1923, it was founded as an independent government by King Emmanuel III the Kingdom of Italy (Regno d'Italia). The air force was known as the Regia Aeronautica, which equates to "Royal Air Force."

During the 1930s, the Italian Royal Air Force was involved in its first military operation, initially in Ethiopia in 1935, and later in the Spanish Civil War, between 1936 and 1939. After a period of neutrality, Italy entered the World War II on June 10 of 1940 on the side of Germany. in which the Italian Air Force could offer more than 3,000 aircraft, even though less than 60% were useful. She fought from the icy steppes of Russia to the desert sands of North Africa, losing men and machines. After the armistice between Italy and the allied forces on September 8 of 1943, Italy was divided into two sides, and so did the Italian Royal Air Force. The end of hostilities on 8 May 1945, the doors in April for the rebirth of military aviation in Italy.


How to Cook Sausage in the Air Fryer?

Full Ingredients and Instructions in Recipe Card

Cooking the sausage in the air fryer is a simple process. I am going to show you my foolproof method for the perfect sausage in the air fryer and you are going to love it.

The sausages that I used in this recipe were Italian sausages that I got at Trader Joes. This time I got the HOT Italian sausage because I was being adventurous but they also have Mild Italian sausage which is also fine for this recipe if you do not like spicy.

Before we even get into cooking the sausage I want to give you a tip. Line the air fryer basket with parchment paper like the picture above. Not only will it cut down on the smoking of the air fryer but but it will also make cleanup easier.

The parchment paper trick in the air fryer is a great trick for chicken wings too. Put that tip in the vault. Do NOT poke holes in the sausages. If you would rather jump to recipe it is at the bottom of the page.

Step 1 – Line the Air Fryer Basket with Parchment Paper

The reason that you want to line the air fryer basket with parchment paper is to absorb the grease which will cut down on the smoke created during cooking. It will also make cleanup easier.

Step 2 – Preheat Air Fryer

Preheat your air fryer to 360 degrees. I do recommend preheating you air fryer even though it is not required. I feel it make the skin a bit crispier if preheated.

Step 3 – Place Sausages in Air Fryer

Place the sausages in the air fryer in a single layer leaving some space in between for good air circulation. Close the air fryer and set your timer for a total cooking time of 20 minutes.

Step 4 – Saute Peppers and Onions

Even though this recipe is just about cooking sausage in the air fryer I threw together some peppers and onions with the sausages because I think they’re delicious.

If you would like to also do that the peppers and onions all that I did was slice up a pepper and onion and saute them in a Tablespoon of olive oil for about 15 minutes over a medium heat.

Step 5 – Flip the Sausages and Finish Cooking

After 15 minutes of cooking time open the air fryer and flip the sausage. At this point, they should be looking almost done. Once you flipped fry sausages 5 more minutes and they should be done.


Early Period

Even though the heaviest amount of immigration didn't occur until the late nineteenth century, Italians had an important role in the settlement of the American colonies and even in the creation of the country. In fact one of the earliest "English" explorers who gave England a claim in the New World was actually an Italian, John Cabot, or Giovanni Caboto. It was also another Italian explorer, Giovanni Verrazzano, that discovered New York Harbor. As the colonies grew and flourished, many Italian artists, architects, and sculptors were invited to come to America to help in creating buildings or providing art for the wealthy colonists.

Thomas Jefferson had a close friend who was an Italian immigrant, Filippo Mazzei, who penned the words, "All men are by nature free and independent." These words greatly influenced Jefferson who used them when he in turn penned the Declaration of Independence. And it was another Italian, Constantino Brumidi, who installed the beautiful fresco inside the capitol building of the new country.

Many Italian missionaries were sent by the Catholic Church to the New World. They usually labored and served the Native American populations. Others were sent to the colonies to serve the Catholics who had come to America in order to practice their religion freely. The first Catholic Bishop in the United States was an Italian, Alessandro Geraldini.

While most of the Italian immigrants tended to stay in the northeast, often in the port cities to which the ship arrived, there were pockets of Italian Americans all over the colonies. However, the largest Italian influence continued to be in the northeast. Italian immigrants, though always maintaining many practices from their mother country, were fiercely patriotic to their adopted homeland. They served in the army during the Revolutionary War and during the Civil war, mostly on the Union side.

    - Peter Alberti was the first Italian immigrant to New York, then called New Amsterdam. (PDF) - This is an in depth look at the way Italians immigrated to the U.S. - An article which examines at the history of Italian immigration, including why they immigrated and the prejudice they faced when they arrived. - This paper looks back at Mother Italy and discusses Italians in America, even during its early years. - Even though John Cabot was an Italian by birth, he was financed by England, giving the crown a claim in the New World. - Princeton has retained some of the letters from Thomas Jefferson to Mazzei. - This biography documents the artist who gave the capitol building its distinctive interior. - Read about how Verrazzano became the first European since the Vikings to set sail along the coast of North America.

How North Africa Became a Battleground in World War II

American troops in M3 medium tanks storm the western regions of North Africa.

David T. Zabecki
March 1997

The battle for North Africa was a struggle for control of the Suez Canal and access to oil from the Middle East and raw materials from Asia. Oil in particular had become a critical strategic commodity due to the increased mechanization of modern armies. Britain, which was the first major nation to field a completely mechanized army, was particularly dependent on the Middle Eastern oil. The Suez Canal also provided Britain with a valuable link to her overseas dominions—part of a lifeline that ran through the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, the North African Campaign and the naval campaign for the Mediterranean were extensions of each other in a very real sense.

The struggle for control of North Africa began as early as October 1935, when Italy invaded Ethiopia from its colony Italian Somaliland. That move made Egypt very wary of Italy’s imperialistic aspirations. In reaction, the Egyptians granted Britain permission to station relatively large forces in their territory. Britain and France also agreed to divide the responsibility for maintaining naval control of the Mediterranean, with the main British base located at Alexandria, Egypt.

Italy was the wild card in the Mediterranean strategic equation at the outset of WWII. If the Italians remained neutral, British access to the vital sea lanes would remain almost assured. If Italy sided with Germany, the powerful Italian navy had the capability to close the Mediterranean. The navy’s main base was at Taranto in southern Italy, and operations from there would be supported by Italian air force units flying from bases in Sicily and Sardinia.

Italy did remain neutral when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. When Germany invaded France in June 1940, however, Benito Mussolini could not resist the opportunity to grab his share of the spoils. On June 11, 1940, six days after the British evacuation at Dunkirk, France, Italy declared war on Britain and France. Britain and Italy were now at war in the Mediterranean.

On paper, at least, Italy enjoyed a considerable advantage over Britain in the Mediterranean theater of operations. In June 1939, Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham’s Mediterranean Fleet had only 45 combat ships against the Italian navy’s 183. The Italians held an especially large edge in submarines, with 108 against Cunningham’s 12. The French surrender on June 25, 1940, placed the entire burden of controlling of the Mediterranean sea lanes on the Royal Navy.

The Royal Air Force (RAF) was in a slightly better position, with 205 aircraft against the Italian air force’s 313 planes. On the ground, Italian Marshal Rodolfo Graziani had some 250,000 troops in Libya, while General Lord Archibald Percival Wavell, British commander in chief of the Middle East, had only 100,000 troops to defend Egypt, Sudan and Palestine. The British ground forces, however, were far better organized, trained and equipped and had superior leadership.

The British and Italian armies faced each other across the Libyan-Egyptian border in an area known as the Western Desert. It was an inhospitable region with no vegetation and virtually no water. From Mersa Matruh in western Egypt to El Agheila on the east side of Libya’s Gulf of Sidra, only one major road connected the region’s few towns and villages. A sandy coastal strip of varying width ran along the southern shore of the Mediterranean. Inland, a sharp escarpment rose to the 500-foot-high Libyan Plateau. There were only a few passes where wheeled or even tracked vehicles could ascend the escarpment. Once on the plateau, however, military vehicles had good cross-country mobility across limestone ground covered by a thin layer of sand. The commander of Germany’s 21st Panzer Division, Lt. Gen. Johann von Ravenstein, described the area as a tactician’s paradise and a logistician’s hell.

On September 13, 1940, Graziani reluctantly moved into Egypt, almost a month after he had been ordered to do so by Mussolini. Some six Italian divisions drove east, bypassing a small British covering force along the border, and halted at Sidi Barrani, just short of the main British positions at Mersa Matruh. Graziani apparently had no intention of going any deeper into Egypt. Italian control of the airfield at Sidi Barrani, however, seriously reduced the operational reach of British air power and posed a threat to the Royal Navy in Alexandria. With the Battle of Britain reaching its climax and Great Britain facing a possible German invasion, the British were in no immediate position to counter the Italian thrust.

By October 1940, the threat of a German invasion of the British Isles had eased, and the British began to reinforce Wavell. Through that December, an additional 126,000 Commonwealth troops arrived in Egypt from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and India. On November 11, British naval air power seriously damaged the Italian navy in a surprise attack against Taranto. On December 9, the Western Desert Force, under Lt. Gen. Sir Richard O’Connor, attacked the Italians at Sidi Barrani.

The British pushed the Italian Tenth Army out of Egypt and then, on January 3, 1941, scored a major victory at Bardia, just inside Libya. Driving into Cyrenaica (eastern Libya), the British took the vital port of Tobruk on January 22. O’Connor continued to pursue the Italians, trapping them at Beda Fomm on February 7, 1941. The Italian Tenth Army collapsed. In two months, a British force of about two divisions had advanced 500 miles, destroyed 10 Italian divisions, and captured 130,000 prisoners, 380 tanks and 845 guns. In the process, the British had suffered 555 dead and 1,400 wounded.

Following the British successes in North Africa, Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided on February 22 to commit British troops to defend Greece against the Axis. Most of those forces came out of Cyrenaica, which left Wavell only five brigades in Libya. Just a few weeks earlier, however, Adolf Hitler had decided to shore up the Italians in North Africa by committing German forces. On January 8, the Luftwaffe’s Fliegerkorps X arrived in Sicily from Norway and immediately began attacking Allied shipping destined for the Libyan port of Benghazi. That threat forced the British forward units in Libya to resupply through Tobruk, more than 450 miles away.

Two German divisions and two additional Italian divisions began crossing from Italy into Libya. On February 12, Brig. Gen. Erwin Rommel assumed command of the German units that later became the famed Afrika Korps. He lost no time in regaining the initiative. Rommel probed El Agheila on March 24. When he found that the British defenses were thin, he launched a general offensive despite Hitler’s orders to maintain an overall defensive posture.

Near the end of March, O’Connor was replaced by Lt. Gen. Sir Philip Neame as commander of the Western Desert Force. The magnitude of the German attack became apparent when the British were forced out of Benghazi on April 3. O’Connor was sent back to the front as an adviser to Neame. The Germans captured both British generals from their unescorted staff car on the night of April 6.

Rommel drove rapidly to the east, surrounding Tobruk on April 10. Unable to take the port on the run, he left a siege force of mostly Italian units there and continued his push for the Egyptian border. It was a decision Rommel later regretted. The Tobruk garrison, which held out against the siege for 240 days, remained a thorn in Rommel’s side–an annoying sideshow that tied down vital Axis manpower.

On April 14, Rommel’s main force reached Sollum on the Egyptian border, and his troops occupied the key terrain of the Halfaya Pass. The German high command, meanwhile, was concerned about the speed of Rommel’s advance and his failure to take Tobruk. They sent General Friedrich von Paulus to North Africa to assess the situation and ‘bring Rommel under control. Paulus’ report back to Berlin described Rommel’s weak overall position and his critical shortages of fuel and ammunition. The report also reached Churchill via Ultra intercepts.

From this report, Churchill wrongly concluded that the Germans were ready to collapse with one strong push, and he started pressuring Wavell to mount an immediate counteroffensive. Meanwhile, a British supply convoy, code-named Tiger, made its way to North Africa carrying 295 tanks and 43 Hawker Hurricane fighters. Despite heavy air attacks, the Tiger convoy arrived on May 12 after losing only one transport that carried 57 tanks.

Prior to launching his counterattack, Wavell wanted to gain control of Halfaya Pass. On May 15, he launched Operation Brevity, under the command of Brig. Gen. William Gott, to secure the pass and Fort Capuzzo beyond. Rommel skillfully parried the thrust, and the British withdrew from Fort Capuzzo the next day. By May 27 the Germans had recaptured Halfaya Pass. Unable to advance any farther because of supply shortages, they dug in and fortified their positions with 88mm anti-aircraft guns. The British troops began referring to the heavily fortified and fiercely defended Halfaya Pass as Hellfire Pass.

Under continuing pressure from Churchill, Wavell launched his major offensive on June 15. Operation Battleaxe began with a frontal attack on the Sollum-Halfaya Pass axis. Skillfully using the 88mm anti-aircraft guns as anti-tank weapons, the Germans blunted the British attack. Then Rommel counterattacked. Battleaxe was over by June 17, and Wavell had lost 91 of his new tanks. Churchill relieved Wavell on June 21 and replaced him with General Sir Claude Auchinleck. General Sir Alan Cunningham (the brother of Admiral Cunningham) was given command of the Western Desert Force, recently redesignated the British Eighth Army.

Auchinleck resisted Churchill’s constant pressure for an immediate British counterattack. When Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union on June 22, Rommel’s force in North Africa became even less a priority for Germany’s logistical support. Most of the Luftwaffe units in the Mediterranean were sent to Russia, which gave the British a freer hand in attacking Rommel’s supply convoys at sea and from the air. Rommel continued to grow weaker. By November, he had 414 tanks, 320 aircraft and nine divisions (three German), four of which were tied down in the siege of Tobruk. The British had some 700 tanks, 1,000 aircraft and eight divisions.

The British became increasingly obsessed with eliminating Rommel. On the night of November 17, 1941, a small commando force, led by 24-year-old Lt. Col. Geoffrey Keyes, tried to penetrate Rommel’s headquarters and assassinate the Desert Fox. The raid failed–Rommel was not even there–and Keyes died in the attempt. The Germans gave Keyes a funeral with full military honors, and the gallant Rommel sent his personal chaplain to conduct the services. The British later awarded Keyes, the son of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes, a posthumous Victoria Cross.

Operation Crusader opened on November 18, with the British XIII Corps advancing on Halfaya Pass and the XXX Corps attempting to sweep around Rommel’s southern flank to reach the besieged garrison at Tobruk. The XXX Corps reached Sidi Rezegh, 20 miles southeast of Tobruk. After a series of fierce tank battles on November 22 and 23, Rommel drove deep into the British rear with two panzer divisions. He attempted to relieve the Axis forces at Halfaya and at the same time cut off the Eighth Army.

With his tank losses mounting, Cunningham wanted to halt the operation. Auchinleck immediately relieved him and replaced him with Maj. Gen. Neil Ritchie. The British continued to press the attack, and on November 29 they broke through to Tobruk. By December 7, an overwhelmed Rommel was withdrawing his dangerously depleted forces. In order to avoid encirclement in the Benghazi bulge, Rommel retreated back across Cyrenaica, reaching El Agheila on January 6, 1942. Operation Crusader resulted in a clear victory for the British, but one they were unable to exploit due to a lack of reinforcements.

As Rommel withdrew to the east, the RAF continued to attack his supply convoys in the Mediterranean. Only 30 tons of Axis supplies were shipped to North Africa in November 1941, and 62 percent of them were lost en route. Hitler reacted by shifting Fliegerkorps II from Russia to Sicily and ordering the German navy to send 10 U-boats into the Mediterranean. Throughout December, Rommel’s resupply situation improved significantly, with shipping losses dropping to 18 percent. Meanwhile, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor caused the British to reroute forces from North Africa to India and Singapore. By mid-January 1942, Rommel was operating on shorter supply lines, and his shipping losses were below 1 percent. He now was ready to return to the offensive.

On January 21, 1942, Rommel launched his second offensive and quickly drove the British back almost 300 miles. The aggressive German commander recaptured Benghazi on January 29 and continued to push east, reaching Gazala on February 4. There he halted along the Eighth Army’s defensive line between Gazala and Bir Hacheim. For most of the next four months, the adversaries sat on either side of the Gazala Line, building up strength.

On May 26, Rommel launched Operation Venezia–his attack against the Gazala Line. Both forces were roughly equal in strength, but General Ritchie had his armored units widely dispersed, while Rommel kept his concentrated. Using his armor, Rommel swept around the Free French Brigade at Bir Hacheim and turned north, cutting across the Allied rear. An Axis secondary attack in the north pinned down the Allied forces there.

By May 28, the Axis armored units behind the Allied lines were in trouble. Rommel had lost more than one-third of his tanks, and the remainder were running short on fuel and ammunition. On May 29, the Italian Trieste Division cleared a path through the center of the Gazala Line. That opening became a lifeline to Rommel’s panzers. On the 30th, Rommel consolidated his armor in a defensive position that came to be known as the Cauldron.

On June 5-6, Rommel successfully beat off Ritchie’s series of piecemeal counterattacks. On June 10-11, the Axis finally drove the Free French forces out of Bir Hacheim, and on June 11 Rommel’s panzers broke out of the Cauldron. The Eighth Army once more started falling back to the Egyptian border. On June 15, German tanks reached the coast and Rommel shifted his attention to the Tobruk garrison. This time he would not make the same mistake of leaving the thorn in his side.

Tobruk fell on June 21, and the Axis forces captured 2.5 million gallons of much-needed fuel, as well as 2,000 wheeled vehicles. The fall of Tobruk, however, had unforeseen consequences for the Axis. Churchill heard the news during a meeting with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the United States. The American president immediately offered help. The resulting 300 Sherman tanks and 100 self-propelled guns would later play a pivotal role at El Alamein.

The British fell back to defensive positions at Mersa Matruh, about 100 miles inside Egypt. Rommel, who had been promoted to field marshal for his success at Gazala, pursued. Auchinleck relieved Ritchie and personally assumed command of the Eighth Army. With only 60 operational tanks, Rommel attacked at Mersa Matruh on June 26 and routed four British divisions in three days of fighting. The British fell back again, this time to the vicinity of El Alamein, another 120 miles to the east.

Now less than 100 miles from Alexandria, Auchinleck was determined to hold near El Alamein. Under constant pressure from Rommel’s forces, Auchinleck improvised a fluid defensive line anchored on Ruweisat Ridge, a few miles south of the El Alamein defensive perimeter. Rommel attacked on July 1, attempting to sweep around El Alamein. For three weeks, Auchinleck skillfully battled Rommel to a standstill. Auchinleck launched a major counterattack on July 21-22, but gained no ground. Exhausted, both sides paused to regroup.

Despite the fact that Auchinleck had finally halted Rommel’s advance, Churchill relieved him in early August and named General Sir Harold Alexander commander in chief of the Middle East. Sir William Gott was promoted to general and given command of the Eighth Army. On August 7, the day after his appointment, Gott was killed when his airplane was attacked by a German fighter during a flight to Cairo. The relatively unknown Lt. Gen. Sir Bernard L. Montgomery succeeded Gott as commander of the Eighth Army.

Although Churchill desperately wanted to win a clear victory for political purposes and to raise morale, neither Alexander nor Montgomery was inclined to take the offensive without first amassing an overwhelming advantage. On August 31, 1942, Rommel launched what he believed would be the final attack in the Axis drive to the Nile. The British, however, had made extensive preparations around El Alamein, based on a plan developed by Auchinleck and adopted by Montgomery. The British commander also had the advantage of knowing Rommel’s intentions through Ultra intercepts.

Rommel planned to sweep south around Ruweisat Ridge, then cut off El Alamein and take it from the rear. In preparation, the British laid extensive minefields and heavily fortified Alam el Halfa Ridge, which was located behind El Alamein to the southeast. By September 3, the Axis attack had run short of fuel and petered out. Montgomery counterattacked immediately, but broke off the operation as soon as the Axis forces were pushed back to the vicinity of their starting positions. Both sides again hunkered down to build up their strength. Taken together, the battles of Ruweisat Ridge and Alam el Halfa were the real strategic turning point of the war in North Africa.

Montgomery used the time after the Battle of Alam el Halfa to rest and train his troops, integrate the new American tanks he had received, and carefully plan his counterattack. Rommel, meanwhile, became ill and returned to Germany on sick leave. When Montgomery finally launched the attack, his forces and equipment were three times greater than his opponent’s.

The Battle of El Alamein began on October 23 with a massive artillery barrage fired by 900 British guns. Rommel immediately returned from Germany to resume command. The Allies tried for five days to break through the Axis positions, sustaining 10,000 casualties in the process. On October 30-31, Montgomery renewed the attack with strong support from the RAF. Critically short on fuel and ammunition, Rommel started to disengage on November 3. At first, Hitler insisted on his usual no-retreat orders. On the 4th, he grudgingly gave Rommel permission to withdraw, and the 1,400-mile pursuit to Tunisia began.

For the next three months, Montgomery followed Rommel across the northern coast of Africa. Despite constant urging from his German and Italian superiors, who wanted him to save Libya, Rommel was more interested in preserving his force to fight another day. He paused at El Agheila between November 23 and December 18, and again at Buerat and Wadi Zemzem, from December 26, 1942, to January 16, 1943. Rommel reached Tripoli on January 23 and the Tunisian border at the end of the month. By the time he got to Tunisia, however, another Allied force was there waiting for him.

On November 8, 1942, just four days after Rommel started his long withdrawal, the British and Americans had executed Operation Torch, the Northwest African landings. In a coordinated series of landings, the Western Task Force, under Maj. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr,. landed on the Atlantic coast near Casablanca, Morocco the Center Task Force, under Maj. Gen. Lloyd Fredendall, landed just inside the Mediterranean around Oran, Algeria and the Eastern Task Force, under Maj. Gen. Charles Ryder, landed near Algiers. Although all the landing sites were in Vichy French territory, the ultimate objectives of the operation were the Tunisian port and airfield complex of Bizerte and the capital city of Tunis. Command of those facilities would allow the Allies to bomb Sicily, protect the Malta convoys, and strike at Rommel’s supply lines.

While the Allies established themselves ashore and attempted to negotiate terms with the Vichy French, the Germans reacted swiftly, sending troops from Sicily to Tunisia on November 9. Hitler also gave the order for the German military in occupied France to take control of the remainder of Vichy France. The French fleet at Toulon, however, was scuttled before the Germans could seize it.

From the moment the Allies landed, the campaign in Northwest Africa and the race for Tunis was a logistical battle. The side that could mass forces the fastest would win. For the Germans, control of the Tunis complex was critical to prevent Rommel from being trapped between Montgomery in the east and the newly formed British First Army in the west. On November 28, the Allies reached Tebourba, only 12 miles from Tunis, but a well-conducted Axis counterattack drove them back 20 miles in seven days.

The Germans won the initial race for Tunis because they had shorter supply lines, and their aircraft, operating from closer bases, had greater time over the contested area. In January 1943, the winter rains and resulting mud brought mechanized operations to a halt in northern Tunisia. Waiting for better weather in the spring, the Allies continued to build up their forces. The British First Army, under Lt. Gen. Sir Kenneth Anderson, was organized into three corps–the British V Corps, the U.S. II Corps and the French XIX Corps. The Axis forces in northern Tunisia now consisted of Lt. Gen. Hans-Jürgen von Arnim’s 5th Panzer Army.

Once Rommel’s Panzerarmee Afrika crossed into southern Tunisia, it occupied positions in the old French fortifications of the Mareth Line. Rommel’s 10 divisions were well below half strength, with only 78,000 troops and 129 tanks. Before he had to face the rapidly closing Montgomery, Rommel intended to eliminate the threat of the British First Army to his north.

On February 14, the Germans launched the first leg of a two-pronged offensive, with Arnim’s forces attacking that day through the Faid Pass toward Sidi Bou Zid. The following day, Rommel, in the south, attacked toward Gafsa. The bulk of Rommel’s forces, however, remained in the Mareth Line. By February 18, Kasserine Pass was in Axis hands, and U.S. ground forces had suffered their first major defeat of the war. Rommel tried to advance north toward Thala through Kasserine Pass on February 19, but the support he expected to receive from Arnim did not materialize. After several days of slow advances, he reached Thala on February 21 but could advance no farther. Hampered by a divided German command structure and rapidly massing Allied reinforcements, the attack stalled. The Allies pushed forward and recaptured Kasserine Pass on February 25. Rommel returned to the Mareth Line and prepared to face Montgomery.

When the Eighth Army reached Tunisia, the Allies modified their command structure to conform with decisions made at the Casablanca Conference in January. General Dwight D. Eisenhower became supreme commander of all Allied forces in the Mediterranean west of Tripoli. Alexander became Eisenhower’s deputy and, at the same time, commander of the Eighteenth Army Group, which controlled the First and Eighth armies and the now separate U.S. II Corps. Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder assumed command of the Allied air forces, and Admiral Cunningham retained command of the naval forces.

On February 24 the Axis also realigned its command structure. Rommel became commander of Armeegruppe Afrika, which included the Afrika Korps, Arnim’s 5th Panzer Army, and the Italian First Army under General Giovanni Messe. The Axis forces finally had a unified command structure in Tunisia, but Rommel probably was not the best choice. By that point in the war, he had become frustrated and dispirited, the cumulative effect of the long seesaw campaign. To make matters worse, Arnim, who detested Rommel, continued to do pretty much as he pleased.

The Axis position in North Africa was hopeless, the final outcome clearly in the hands of the logisticians. As the Allies consolidated their control over the northwest African coast, the Axis pressure on Malta eased, which in turn enabled the Allies to further restrict the Axis supply convoys from Sicily. Without first coordinating with Rommel, on February 26 Arnim launched Operation Ochsenkopf, a drive toward Beja. By March 3, that offensive had stalled, at the cost of 71 precious tanks.

Montgomery’s forces, which had crossed into Tunisia on February 4, had reached Medenine on the 16th and established defensive positions. Hoping to catch the British off-balance, Rommel attacked south from the Mareth Line on March 6. Spearheaded by 140 tanks, it was the most potent offensive Rommel mounted since arriving in Tunisia. It would also be the last. Warned by Ultra intercepts, Montgomery was waiting. The Germans ran into skillfully prepared anti-tank defenses and lost 52 tanks. Right after the failure of the Medenine attack, Rommel returned to Germany a sick man. Arnim assumed overall Axis command, and Messe took command in south Tunisia.

After the American debacle at Kasserine Pass, command of the U.S. II Corps passed to Patton. He wanted to mount an attack to drive to the coast, but Alexander would authorize only limited attacks designed to draw German forces away from the Mareth positions. At that point, Alexander simply did not trust American units. In fact, many among the British forces disparagingly referred to their American allies as our Italians. Patton’s limited attack between March 17 and 25 was successful, however, tying down the 10th Panzer Division near El Guettar.

On March 20, Montgomery attempted a night penetration of the center of the Mareth Line. The attack had failed by March 22. The next day, he shifted the weight of the main attack around the southwestern flank of the line, through the Matmata Hills. By March 26, his forces broke through the Tebaga Gap. The Italian First Army and the remainder of the Afrika Korps were forced back. Under continuous pressure from the Eighth Army on one side and the U.S. II Corps on the other, the Axis forces withdrew to Enfidaville.

By April 7, the Allied First and Eighth armies linked up, squeezing the Axis into a small pocket. On the east coast, the Eighth Army took Gabés on April 6, Sfax on April 10, Sousse on April 12, and Enfidaville on April 21. In the north, the U.S. II Corps, now under Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, took Mateur on May 3 and Bizerte on May 7. Montgomery’s 7th Armoured Division captured Tunis on May 7. The remaining Axis forces in Tunisia were caught in two pockets, one between Bizerte and Tunis, and the other on isolated Cape Bon.

Arnim surrendered his forces on May 13, 1943. The Royal Navy, waiting in strength offshore, made sure that few Germans or Italians escaped to Sicily. Axis losses in Tunisia alone totaled 40,000 dead or wounded, 240,000 prisoners, 250 tanks, 2,330 aircraft and 232 ships. British and American casualties were 33,000 and 18,558 respectively. For the entire North African campaign, the British suffered 220,000 casualties. Total Axis losses came to 620,000, which included the loss of three field armies.

On the strategic level, the North African campaign was a watershed for the Western Allies. For the first time in the war they had decisively defeated the Axis, and especially the Germans, on the ground. The psychological value of the victory cannot be minimized. The U.S. Army, too, had finally gotten into the war and acquitted itself well after a shaky start at Kasserine Pass. The British and Americans perfected the combined command structure that would serve the Grand Alliance for the remainder of the war. The various Free French factions were finally united and organized under the Allied command. And perhaps most important, the British proved the value of Ultra intelligence and refined the system for getting the necessary information to the field commanders.

On the downside, the Allies were now out of position with a huge force of almost 1 million men and their equipment. With very limited means of transportation and no way for that force to strike directly at Germany, a follow-up campaign in Sicily was almost the only feasible next course of action for the Allies.

The loss was a stunning strategic setback for Germany. At first, North Africa had been a rather effective economy-of-force campaign. At the risk of only three German divisions and a number of Italian divisions of questionable quality, the Axis was able to tie down a proportionately larger force and at the same time pose a significant threat to one of Britain’s strategic lines of communication. But after the defeat at El Alamein, Hitler’s sense of pride once again overcame his meager grasp of strategy, and he committed a second field army to North Africa that he could neither sustain logistically nor afford to lose. The forces Hitler threw away in May 1943 just might have made some difference for the Germans fighting in Russia or Sicily.

On the tactical and operational levels, several factors conspired against the Axis despite the battlefield brilliance of Rommel and the superb fighting of the Afrika Korps. Although North Africa was a logistician’s hell, logistics was the deciding factor. In the end, the Allies triumphed with sheer mass. The Axis forces could not overcome Allied air and sea power–both of which enhanced Allied logistics and degraded Axis logistics.

This article was written by David T. Zabecki and originally appeared in the March 1997 issue of World War II magazine. For more great articles subscribe to World War II magazine today!


Italians in World War II

The performance of the Italian armed forces during the Second World War has been the butt of jokes for over 70 years. However, the notion that the Italian army (WW2) fought poorly and surrendered readily is not exactly true as there are examples of Italian forces fighting quite successfully and bravely.

But the widespread belief seemed to be that the Italians were cowards, with disasters such as the failed takeover of a much weaker Greece and ineffective fighting in North Africa used as evidence. While these and other military mistakes by Italy do stand out, these debacles were not due to soldiers’ cowardice: what the Italian military lacked during their offensive campaigns was not bravery, but modern weaponry and good leadership, along with a clear lack of desire to achieve Mussolini’s goals.

Italy WW2 – Poor Weaponry

When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Italy was in no way ready for an offensive war. However, Mussolini desperately wanted to participate in the redrawing of the map of Europe and overlooked the state of Italy’s military-industrial complex in order to feed his ego.

Italian industrial power was a mere fraction of that of Britain, France, or Germany and was not ready to produce the guns, ammunition, artillery, tanks, and trucks on the scale that was needed. When Italy entered the War in 1940, its forces were equipped more in line with the First World War, rather than World War II.

Italy’s artillery included vestiges of the previous century, with a contingent of horse artillery and many leftovers from World War I. The newer models, while very effective, were never made in large enough numbers. Modern tanks were virtually non-existent at the start of Italy’s war effort, as all that was available were lightly armored vehicles and “tankettes”. By the time Italy started producing better tanks and mobile artillery that could compete with allied weaponry, it was too late to make a difference.

Small arms, such as Beretta pistols and automatic rifles were very capable, but several machines and sub-machine gun types were often poorly made. Even the shoddy models were always in short supply since Italy lacked the industrial strength for mass production.

The Italian shipyards produced (or retrofitted) fast and well-designed ships, but they had the fatal flaws of being light in armor and without radar. To combat their shortcomings, the Regia Marina created cheap, but nearly suicidal craft such as Explosive Motor Boats and Il “Maiale”, a two-man human torpedo/mine – hardly the equipment to inspire confidence, but certainly an example of Italian bravery.

Italian airpower looked good on paper, but was virtually non-existent, with only a few thousand aircraft at the start of the war, many of them bi-planes. The few modern aircraft created were underpowered, poorly designed, and no match against allied fighters. The Regia Aeronautica also had the deplorable task of dropping poison gas during the conquest of Ethiopia to the disgust of the international community.

Italy WW2 – Poor Leadership

Graziani: the butcher of Ethiopia

Of all the major military forces involved at the start of World War II, Italy had by far the least competent high command. Mussolini, the leader of Italy during WW2, filled the officer positions with men whose only “qualification” was loyalty to Il Duce. With this said, the Italian military was already one step back from success.

Before the start of hostilities, Italy did have some capable generals – especially those who experienced the mistakes made during World War I. However, things would change once Mussolini attempted to militarize Italy as he would purge the country of anyone whose allegiance was questioned. Many men from titled families, whose ancestors had been fighting for centuries were considered more loyal to the King, and so stripped of their status and given menial positions.

Anyone unlucky enough to be more outspokenly against Mussolini would be sent to the confino and exiled to wastelands like Italy’s holdings in Somalia to suffer in the heat. What was left were a group of military commanders short on any talent or innovation, but long on loyalty to Mussolini’s long-term fascist goals.

The Italian navy, with a limited number of fighting ships, was handcuffed by an extremely conservative approach by its admiralty. Conversely, men like Rodolfo Graziani, the “Butcher of Ethiopia” were loyal to Mussolini until the end and would throw his men into fights he knew that they could not win. It would not take long to prove how poorly the high command would lead Italy’s troops and unfairly put into question their bravery.

When the poorly led Italian troops were used in conjunction with, or under German forces, they fought considerably better. The Italian forces that participated in Hitler’s invasion of Russia were known to have fought particularly well. Despite facing vastly superior numbers of Soviet troops and harsh weather. In fact, the bravery of the Italian Alpini (mountain troops) and Voloire (horse artillery) regiments during Operation Barbarossa was legendary. Even when the entire offensive started to fail, Radio Moscow was heard to say “Only the Italian Alpini Corps is to be considered unbeaten on the Russian Front.”

On several occasions these brave men were surrounded by enemy forces, only to successfully battle back to their own lines. Italy’s attempt to take over Greece was a complete disaster Italy was beaten back by the much weaker Greeks into Albania. Once Germany took over the Greece campaign, the Italian forces under their command fought much more effectively than under their own generals, whom they regarded as little more than Mussolini’s butchers.

Italy in WW 2 – Poor Willingness to Fight

In truth, Italy seemed uninterested in war from the start. The announcement of Italy’s entrance into the War was not met with enthusiasm, but despair. It seemed that only Mussolini and his Fascist cronies were interested in fighting. With the Fascist Regim and Mussolini, the leader of Italy during WW2, victory wasn’t doomed. Still, in 1940, Italy started out on the attempt to conquer the Mediterranean with troops that had no faith in their commanders or a desire to fight.

The botched attempt to take over Greece was met with fierce resistance from men fighting for their lives and homeland: the Greeks were ready to die for their freedom the Italians barely knew what they truly fought for.

A willingness to fight and/or a desire to protect your homeland are two factors in warfare that should never be underestimated. History has countless examples of how these factors have turned the tide against vastly superior foes, such as Ancient Greeks defeating the mighty Persian Empire.

More recently, it has been shown that modern leaders often do not learn from the past, but are instead doomed to repeat these military blunders. The Soviet defeat in Afghanistan by the Mujahideen, the defeats in Vietnam for both France and the United States, and the 2000s war in Iraq are all testaments to how a determined force, willing to fight and die, can often turn the table on what is considered the more powerful force.

Conclusion

In retrospect, it almost seems that the Italian military was doomed to failure from the start and was thrown into a war that they were not equipped for, nor willing to fight for Mussolini’s cronies. The very fact that Italy became an aggressor during the war was solely to appease the arrogance of Mussolini (the fascist leader of Italy during ww2), without a thought to the preparation of the country.

The Italian army with lacked competent leadership and modern weapons, still had thrust in the battle. When ill-equipped forces of disheartened men were defeated, Il Duce could not see his own mistakes and simply labeled his men as cowards. However, it has been shown that while under command of competent German leadership, Italian troops fought very well – contributing to the final defeat of Greece and acts of great bravery on the Russian front.

In conclusion, it was these factors and not cowardice that leads to Italy’s poor performance during World War II. The thoughts of one veteran seem to sum up the situation:

“The Italians were smart enough to see that it was a lost cause, in the end, Germany would dominate anyway, so why get killed for nothing? It was brains, not cowardice.”

Print and Online Sources:

An incredibly useful source to learn more about the military history of Italy during the Second World War is the website Comando Supremo, with plenty of articles dedicated to the history, the people, and the strategic choices of Italy during WW2.


Italian philosopher and writer Niccolo Machiavelli born

On May 3, 1469, the Italian philosopher and writer Niccolo Machiavelli is born. A lifelong patriot and diehard proponent of a unified Italy, Machiavelli became one of the fathers of modern political theory.

Machiavelli entered the political service of his native Florence by the time he was 29. As defense secretary, he distinguished himself by executing policies that strengthened Florence politically. He soon found himself assigned diplomatic missions for his principality, through which he met such luminaries as Louis XII of France, Pope Julius II, the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, and perhaps most importantly for Machiavelli, a prince of the Papal States named Cesare Borgia. The shrewd and cunning Borgia later inspired the title character in Machiavelli’s famous and influential political treatise The Prince (1532).

Machiavelli’s political life took a downward turn after 1512, when he fell out of favor with the powerful Medici family. He was accused of conspiracy, imprisoned, tortured and temporarily exiled. It was an attempt to regain a political post and the Medici family’s good favor that Machiavelli penned The Prince, which was to become his most well-known work.

Though released in book form posthumously in 1532, The Prince was first published as a pamphlet in 1513. In it, Machiavelli outlined his vision of an ideal leader: an amoral, calculating tyrant for whom the end justifies the means. The Prince not only failed to win the Medici family’s favor, it also alienated him from the Florentine people. 


Italian Air Power - History

CAMPAIGN SUMMARIES OF WORLD WAR 2

ITALIAN NAVY AT WAR, including Atlantic Submarine Operations and Italian Air Force in the Mediterranean

Part 1 of 2 - 1940-42

Each Summary is complete in its own right. The same information may therefore be found in a number of related summaries

(for more ship information, go to Naval History Homepage and type name in Site Search)

1919 - Treaty of Versailles - Under its provisions, Germany was to be disarmed, the Rhineland occupied and reparations paid. At this time Poland was recreated from parts of Germany and Russia, as were other Central European states out of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

1921-22 - Washington Naval Treaty - Britain, United States, Japan, France and Italy agreed to limit the displacement and main armament of capital ships, aircraft carriers and cruisers, and total tonnage and age of the first two categories.

1922 - Benito Mussolini and his Fascist Party came to power in Italy

1927 - Geneva Naval Conference failed to reached agreement on total tonnage of cruisers, destroyers and submarines.

1930 - London Naval Treaty - Britain, US and Japan agreed on total tonnage, tonnage and armament limitations for cruisers, destroyers and submarines. Also that no new capital ships were to be laid down until 1937. Neither France nor Italy were signatories.

1934 - The 1932 Geneva Disarmament Conference finally broke down and Japan announced its intention to withdraw from the 1922 and 1930 Naval Treaties when they expired in 1936.

1935 - October - Following border disputes between Italian Somaliland and Abyssinia, Italy invaded. League of Nations sanctions had little effect and by May 1936 the country was taken over by Mussolini's forces.

1936 - July - The Spanish Civil War started Italy and Germany became aligned with one side and Russia with the other. November - London Protocol -The major powers including Germany agreed to prohibit unrestricted submarine warfare against unarmed ships. December -The 1922 and 1930 Naval Treaties were allowed to lapse and the major powers moved towards rearmament.

1937 - Italian battleships "Littorio" and "Vittorio Veneto" were laun ched.

1939 - March - The Spanish Civil War came to an end. April - Italy invaded Albania. May - Germany and Italy joined forces in the Pact of Steel. September 1st - Germany invaded Poland 3rd - Britain and France declared war on Germany

Maritime Situation - These were based on the assumption Britain and France were ac tively allied against the European Axis powers of Germany and Italy. The Royal Navy would be responsible for the North Sea and most of the Atlantic, although the French would contribute some forces. In the Mediterranean, defence would be shared between both Navies, but as it happened, Benito Mussolini's claimed ownership of the Mediterranean - his 'Mare Nostrum' - did not have to be disputed for another nine months.

Italy - declared its neutrality

Strategic Situation concerning the Mediterranean and Red Sea Areas

Mediterranean - Italy stood astride the central basin, with Italy itself, Sardinia and Sicily to the north and Libya with its provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica to the south. Albania on the Adriatic Sea and the Dodecanese Islands in the southern Aegean off Turkey were Italian. In the western half, Britain and France between them controlled Gibraltar at the narrow entrance from the Atlantic, southern France, Corsica, Algeria and Tunisia. Malta at the centre was a British colony. In the eastern half, Britain maintained a hold on Egypt and the Suez Canal, Palestine and Cyprus. In the Levant, Lebanon and Syria were French.

The Neutral countries in the western Mediterranean were Spain, and in the east, Greece and Crete, Yugoslavia and Turkey.

Red Sea Area – In between the Sudan and Somaliland were the linked Italian colonies of Eritrea, Ethiopia (Abyssinia) and Italian Somaliland. Bordering them to the south was British Kenya. To the east of the Red Sea, Saudi Arabia had close ties with Britain, and at the southern end of the Red Sea, Aden was a British colony. On the west shore were Egypt and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, and further south French and British Somaliland.

Military and Maritime Circumstances

A large Italian army in Libya (Tripolitania and Cyrenaica) threatened Alexandria and the Suez Canal, against which only a relatively small British and Dominion force could be fielded. Fortunately this had been reinforced earlier in the year by Australian and New Zealand troops. From bases in Italian East Africa the Italian Air Force and Navy were capable of cutting Allied supply routes to Suez through the Red Sea. The Italian army was also powerful enough to conquer British and French Somaliland and posed a threat to the Sudan and Kenya. The Italians' one major problem was the impossibility of supplying these forces other than by air from Libya.

Even allied to France, Britain's position in the Mediterranean was not guaranteed. Gibraltar may have beeen secure, assuming Spain's continued neutrality, but Malta was considered indefensible in the face of the Italian Air Force based in Sicily. As it happened only the later arrival of the German Luftwaffe turned this threat into a near reality. However, Malta's well-equipped base had to be abandoned by the Mediterranean Fleet for the poorer facilities at Alexandria in Egypt. These threats to Malta, Suez and the Red Sea depended on Italy taking and holding the initiative. Instead, Malta became a thorn in the side of Axis supply routes to Libya. And Libya and Italian East Africa in fact become endangered from the very Allied territories they threatened. Over the next three years, Malta above all became the pivot about which the whole Mediterranean campaign revolved - both the problems of its supply and its effectiveness as an offensive base. Later Axis plans to invade the island so invaluable to the Allied cause came to nothing.

Major Naval Strengths

The Italian Navy maintained a small but useful force in the Red Sea. Against these could be deployed ships of the East lndies Command based at Trincomalee in Ceylon. But the Italian’s overwhelming strength was in the Mediterranean.

The Royal Navy maintained a small force of destroyers at Gibraltar, largely for Atlantic convoy work, but the Western Mediterranean was primarily the responsibility of the French Navy - although British reinforcements could soon be dispatched from the Home Fleet as shortly happened. The Eastern Mediterranean was in the hands of the Mediterranean Fleet and a small French squadron based at Alexandria. It was up to strength in major units but still weak in cruisers, destroyers and submarines when compared with the Italian Navy. This was partly offset by the presence of carrier “Eagle” to accompany battleships “Malaya”, “Ramillies”, “Royal Sovereign” and “Warspite”.

Mediterranean
Italian NAVY

Mediterranean
ALLIED TOTAL

Notes:

(a) Plus 10 British destroyers at Gibraltar
(b) included 2 new battleships completing.
(c) Plus over 60 large torpedo boots.
(d) Based at Massawa in the Red Sea were another 7 destroyers, 8 submarines and 2 torpedo boats.

Italy Declared War - Italy declared war on Britain and France on the 10th. Two weeks later France was out of the war. Still on the 10th, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa declared war on Italy.

France - The French Government of Marshal Petain requested armistice terms from Germany and Italy on the 17th. Later in the month Italian forces invaded southern France but with little success. A Franco-Italian Armistice was signed on the 24th, and included provision for the demilitarisation of French naval bases in the Mediterranean.

12th -The Mediterranean Fleet with “Warspite”, “Malaya”, “Eagle”, cruisers and destroyers sailed from Alexandria for a sweep against Italian shipping in the Eastern Mediterranean. South of Crete, light cruiser “CALYPSO” was to rpedoed and sunk by Italian submarine “Bagnolini”.

13th - Mediterranean Fleet submarines operated out of Alexandria on patrol off Italian bases and soon lost three of their number (1-3) . At the time mines were usually blamed, but it turned out that Italian anti-submarine forces were far more effective than expected. While Royal Navy submarines suffered their losses, the many Italian submarines on patrol suffered more heavily. The first British loss was “ODIN” (1) off the Italian coast in the Gulf of Taranto, sunk by the guns and torpedoes of destroyer “Strale”. 16th - The second British submarine “GRAMPUS” (2) , minelaying off Augusta, Sicily was caught and sunk by large torpedo boats “Circe” and “Clio”. 17th - Six Italian submarines [1-6] were s unk in the Mediterranean itself, half by the Royal Navy. However the first to go, “PROVANA” [1] was r ammed and sunk off Oran, Algeria by French sloop “La Curieuse” after attacking a French convoy, and just a week before France was forced out of the war. 19th - Towards the other end of the North African coast, the third British loss “ORPHEUS” (3) was sent to the bottom by Italian destroyer “Turbine” north of the Cyrenaica port of Tobruk, soon to become a household name. 20th - The second Italian boat lost in the Mediterranean was “DIAMANTE” [2] torpedoed by submarine “Parthian” off Tobruk. 27th - The third Italian submarine lost was the “LIUZZI” [3] sunk by Med Fleet destroyers “Dainty”, “Ilex”, “Decoy” and the Australian “Voyager” south of Crete. 28th - As the Mediterranean Fleet 7th Cruiser Squadron covered convoy movements in the Eastern Mediterranean, three Italian destroyers carrying supplies between Taranto in southern Italy and Tobruk were intercepted. In a running gun battle, “ESPERO” was sunk by Australian cruiser “Sydney” to the southwest of Cape Matapan at the southern tip of Greece. 28th - The first of two Italian submarines sunk by RAF Sunderlands of No. 230 Sqdn was “ARGONAUTA” [4] in the central Med as she was believed to be returning from patrol off Tobruk. 29th - The same Med Fleet destroyers after sinking “Liuzzi” two days earlier, were now southwest of Crete. They repeated their success by sinking “UEBI SCEBELI” [5] . 29th - A day after their first success, the Sunderlands of No. 230 Sqdn sank “RUBINO” [6] in the Ionian Sea as she returned from the Alexandria area

15th - In the Red Sea and Indian Ocean area, four of the eight submarines based there were so on accounted for starting with “MACALLE” which ran aground, a total loss. 19th - At the southern end of the Red Sea, the Italian “GALILEO GALILEI” on patrol off Aden was captured by armed trawler “Moonstone” following a gun duel. 23rd - Also in the Gulf of Aden, but off French Somaliland, Italian boat “EVANGELISTA TORICELLI” was su nk by destroyers “Kandahar” and “Kingston” with sloop “Shoreham”. During the action, destroyer “KHARTOUM” suffered an internal explosion and sank in shallow water off Perim Island, a total loss. 23rd - Italian submarine “Galvani” sank Indian patrol sloop “PATHAN” in the Indian Ocean. 24th - The following day off the Gulf of Oman, “GALVANI” was ac counted for by sloop “Falmouth”.

British Force H - By the end of the month, Force H had been assembled at Gibraltar from units of the Home Fleet. Vice-Adm Sir James Somerville flew his flag in battlecruiser “Hood” and commanded battleships “Resolution” and “Valiant”, carrier “Ark Royal” and a few cruisers and destroyers.

Warship Loss Summary - In a confusing month, the the Italian Navy had lost one destroyer and ten submarines the Royal Navy one light cruiser, one destroyer, three submarines and one sloop to Italian forces .

Battle of the Atlantic - The Allied loss of Norway brought German warships and U-boats many hundreds of miles closer to the Atlantic convoy routes. Within a matter of days the first U-boats were sailing from the Norwegian port of Bergen, while others were sent to patrol as far south as the Canary and Cape Verde Islands off northwest Africa. Italian submarines joined them in this area, but without any early successes.

5th - Torpedo-carrying Swordfish from carrier "Eagle's" squadrons flew from land bases on successful attacks against Tobruk and area. On the 5th, aircraft of 813 Squadron sank Italian destroyer "ZEFFIRO" and a freighter at Tobruk. The success was repeated two weeks later.

9th - Action off Calabria or Battle of Punto Stila (map below) - On the 7th, Adm Cunningham sailed from Alexandria with battleships "Warspite", Malaya", Royal Sovereign", carrier "Eagle", cruisers and destroyers to cover convoys from Malta to Alexandria and to challenge the Italians to action. Next day - the 8th - two Italian battleships, 14 cruisers and 32 destroyers were reported in the Ionian Sea covering a convoy of their own to Benghazi in Libya. Italian aircraft now started five days of accurate high-level bombing (also against Force H out of Gibraltar) and cruiser "Gloucester" was hit and damaged. Mediterranean Fleet headed for a position to cut off the Italians from their base at Taranto. On the 9th, Eagles aircraft failed to find the Italians and first contact was made by a detached cruiser squadron which was soon under fire from the heavier Italian ships. "Warspite" came up and damaged "Giulio Cesare" with a 15in hit. As the Italian battleships turned away, the British cruisers and destroyers engaged, but with little effect. Mediterranean Fleet pursued to within 50 miles of the south west Italian coast off Calabria before withdrawing.

As Adm Cunningham covered the by-now delayed convoys to Alexandria, "Eagle's" Swordfish attacked Augusta harbour, Sicily on the 10th.Destroyer "Pancaldo" was t orpedoed, but later re-floated and re-commissioned.

11th - Force H, which had put to sea on receiving reports of the Italian fleet, was now returning to Gibraltar when screening destroyer "ESCORT" was s unk by the Italian submarine "Marconi".

16th - Submarine "PHOENIX" attacked an escorted tanker off Augusta and was lost to depth charges from Italian torpedo boat "Albatros".

19th - Action off Cape Spada - Au stralian cruiser "Sydney" and destroyers "Hasty", "Havock", "Hero", "Hyperion" and "llex" on a sweep into the Aegean Sea were sent to intercept two reported Italian cruisers. Off Cape Spada at the north west tip of Crete, "BARTOLOMEO COLLEONI" was sto pped by Sydney's gunfire and finished off with torpedoed from the destroyers. "Bande Nere" escaped.

20th - Carrier "Eagle's" Swordfish continued their strikes against Italian targets around Tobruk. In the nearby Gulf of Bomba, 824 Squadron was responsible for sinking destroyers "NEMBO" and "OSTRO" and another freighter.

1st - Submarine "OSWALD" on patrol south of the Strait of Messina reported Italian Navy movements. She was detected and later rammed and sunk by destroyer "Vivaldi".

Malta - The decision was taken to reinforce Malta, and in Operation 'Hurry', carrier "Argus" flew off 12 Hurricanes from a position southwest of Sardinia. This was the first of many reinforcement and supply operations, often bitterly fought to keep Malta alive and in the fight against Axis supply routes to their armies in North Africa.

22nd - Land-based Swordfish from "Eagle's" 824 Squadron repeated their July success with another torpedo strike in the Gulf of Bomba near Tobruk. Just as she prepared for a human torpedo attack on Alexandria, submarine "IRIDE" and a depot ship were sunk.

23rd - Heavy mining in the Strait of Sicily by Italian surface ships led to the loss of destroyer "HOSTILE" on passage from Malta to Gibraltar. Extensive Italian fields in the 'Sicilian Narrows' sank and damaged many Royal Navy ships over the next three years.

Royal Navy in the Mediterranean - Reinforcements were sent to the Mediterranean Fleet in Alexandria right through until the end of the year.The arrival of "Illustrious" allowed Adm Cunningham to go ahead with plans to attack the Italian battlefleet at Taranto.

17th - Units of the Mediterranean Fleet including battleship "Valiant" sailed with "Illustrious" for a raid on Benghazi. Swordfish biplanes torpedoed destroyer "BOREA" mines laid by them off the port sank "AQUILONE". On the return to Alexandria, heavy cruiser "Kent" was detached to bombard Bardia, but was torpedoed and badly damaged by Italian aircraft.

22nd - British submarine "Osiris" on patrol in the southern Adriatic attacked a convoy and sank Italian torpedo boat "PALESTRO".

30th - As Italian submarine "GONDAR" approached Alexandria carrying human torpedoes for an attack on the base, she was found by a RAF Sunderland of No 230 Squadron and sunk by Australian destroyer "Stuart".

2nd - Mediterranean Fleet destroyers "Havock" and "Hasty" sank Italian submarine "BERILLO" off Sollum the border town between Libya and Egypt.

12th/14th - Attack on Malta Convoy - F rom Alexandria a convoy safely reached Malta covered by the Mediterranean Fleet with four battleships and carriers "Illustrious" and "Eagle". As the Fleet returned on the 12th, attacks were made by Italian light forces southeast of Sicily. Cruiser "Ajax" sank Italian torpedo boats "AIRONE" and "ARIEL" and badly damaged destroyer "ARTIGLIERE" which was finished off by heavy cruiser "York". Later heading back east, the carriers launched air strikes against Leros island in the Dodecanese. On the 14th as the Mad Fleet headed for Alexandria, cruiser "Liverpool" was ba dly damaged by a torpedo hit from Italian aircraft.

15th - On patrol off Calabria, south west Italy in the Ionian Sea, submarine "RAINBOW" was lost in a gun action with the Italian submarine "Enrico Toti". At about this time "TRIAD" was pr obably mined off the Gulf of Taranto.

18th - Air and sea patrols accounted for two Italian submarines to the east of Gibraltar. On the 18th "DURBO" went dow n to attacks by destroyers "Firedrake" and "Wrestler" working with RAF London flying boats of No 202 Squadron.

20th - Two days after "Durbo's" sinking, Gibraltar-based destroyers "Gallant", "Griffin" and "Hotspur" accounted for the "LAFOLE".

21st - Red Sea convoy BN7 was attacked by Italian destroyers based at Massawa in Eritrea. The escorts, including New Zealand cruiser "Leander" and the destroyer Kimberley, drove "NULLO" ashore with their gunfire, where she was destroyed next day by RAF Blenheim light bombers.

Fleet Air Arm attack on Taranto (below) - Early in the month a complex series of British reinforcement and supply moves mounted from both ends of the Mediterranean led to the classic air attack on the Italian battlefleet at Taranto. On the 11th, carrier "Illustrious", escorted by cruisers and destroyers, headed for a position in the Ionian Sea 170 miles to the southeast of Taranto. All six battleships of the Italian Navy were at anchor there. That night, two waves of Swordfish biplanes were launched, some belonging to "Eagle". One hit each was made on "CONTE DI CAVOUR" and "CAIO DIULIO" and three on the brand new "LITTORIA". All three battleships sank at their moorings and "Cavour" was never recommissioned, for the loss of just two Swordfish.

27th - Action off Cape Spartivento, Southern Sardinia - A fast British convoy sailed eastward from Gibraltar with ships for Malta and Alexandria. Cover was provided by Force H with battlecruiser "Renown", carrier "Ark Royal", cruisers "Despatch" and "Sheffield". Meanwhile, units of the Mediterranean Fleet including "Ramillies" and cruisers "Newcastle", "Berwick" and "Coventry" headed west for a position south of Sardinia to meet them. Other ships accompanied the two Mediterranean Fleet carriers in separate attacks on Italian targets - "Eagle" on Tripoli, Libya and "Illustrious" on Rhodes off the southwest Turkish coast. These moves took place on the 26th. Next day, on the 27th, south of Sardinia, aircraft of Force H's "Ark Royal" sighted an Italian force with two battleships and seven heavy cruisers. Force H, now joined by the Med Fleet's "Ramillies", sailed to meet them. In an hour-long exchange of gunfire "Renown" and the cruisers were in action, during which time "Berwick" was da maged and an Italian destroyer badly hit. The slower "Ramillies" had not come up by the time the Italians turned back for home. Adm Somerville pursued, but as he approached Italian shores had to turn back himself.

Battle of the Atlantic - In North Atlantic operations, Italian submarine "FAA DI BRUNO" was los t in uncertain circumstances, possibly sunk by British destroyer "Havelock". By the end of the month 26 Italian submarines were operating out of Bordeaux, but were never as successful as their German ally.

Late November/early December - Submarines "REGULUS" and "TRITON" were lo st in late November or early December, possibly on Italian mines in the Strait of Otranto area at the southern end of the Adriatic Sea. Alternatively "Regulus" may had been sunk by Italian aircraft on 26th November.

3rd - At anchor in the poorly defended Suda Bay, cruiser "Glasgow" was hit by two torpedoes from Italian aircraft and badly damaged.

13th - Cruiser "Coventry" was torpedoed by Italian submarine "Neghelli", but remained operational

14th - Also operating in support of the land campaign, destroyers "Hereward" and "Hyperion" sank Italian submarine "NAIADE" off Bardia, Libya just over the Egyptian border .

Mediterranean Operations - Another series of British convoy and offensive operations were carried out by the Mediterranean Fleet with battleships "Warspite", "Valiant "and carrier "Illustrious". At the same time, battleship "Malaya" passed through to the west for Gibraltar. On the way, escorting destroyer "HYPERION" hit a mine near Cape Bon, northeast tip of Tunisia on the 22nd and had to be scuttled.

Mediterranean Theatre after Seven Months - A total of nine British submarines had been lost since June in the Mediterranean, a poor exchange for the sinking of 10 Italian merchantmen of 45,000 tons. In the same time the Italians had lost 18 submarines from all causes throughout the Mediterranean and Red Sea areas. Mussolini's claimed domination of the Mediterranean had not been apparent. In spite of the loss of French naval power, Force H and the Mediterranean Fleet had held the Italian Navy in check. Malta had been supplied and reinforced, and the British offens ive in North Africa was underway.

Battle of the Atlantic - Italian submarine "TARANTINI" returning from North Atlantic patrol was torpedoed and sunk by submarine "Thunderbolt" on the 15th in the Bay of Biscay.

Air War - RAF Wellingtons raided Naples and damaged Italian battleship "Giulio Cesare".

Malta Convoy "Excess" - On the 6th, British convoy 'Excess' left Gibraltar for Malta and Greece covered by Gibraltar-based Force H. By the 10th, 'Excess' had reached the Strait of Sicily and was attacked by Italian torpedo boats. "VEGA" was su nk by escorting cruiser "Bonaventure" and destroyer "Hereward". As the Mediterranean Fleet including "Illustrious" met the convoy off the Italian-held island of Pantelleria, screening destroyer "GALLANT" hit a mine. Towed back to Malta, she was not re-commissioned and finally wrecked by bombing over a year later in April 1942.

19th - Destroyer "Greyhound", escorting a convoy to Greece, sank Italian submarine "NEGHELLI" in the Aegean Sea

Battle of the Atlantic - Italian submarine "NANI" attacked a convoy west of North Channel on the 7th and was sunk by corvette "Anemone"

Force H attack in the Gulf of Genoa - "Ark Royal," "Renown" and "Malaya" sailed into the Gulf of Genoa, northwest Italy on the 9th. The big ships bombarded the city of Genoa while "Ark Royal's" aircraft bombed Leghorn and laid mines off Spezia. An Italian battlefleet sortied but failed to make contact.

25th - On patrol off the east coast of Tunisia, submarine "Upright" torpedoed and sank Italian cruiser "ARMANDO DIAZ" covering a convoy from Naples to Tripoli.

27th - After breaking out of Massawa, Eritrea's Red Sea port, Italian armed merchant cruiser "RAMB 1" was lo cated off the Indian Ocean Maldive Islands and sunk by New Zealand cruiser "Leander".

Battle of the Atlantic - Italian submarine "MARCELLO" was belie ved sunk to the west of the Hebrides islands, off NW Scotland by ex-US destroyer "Montgomery" and other escorts of Liverpool-out convoy OB287 on the 22nd.

6th - Italian submarine "ANFITRITE" attacked a Bri tish troop convoy bound for Greece, east of Crete and was sunk by escorting destroyer "Greyhound".

26th - At anchor in Suda Bay, northern Crete, heavy cruiser "YORK" was bad ly damaged by Italian explosive motor boats and beached. She was later wrecked by bombing and abandoned when Crete was evacuated in May.

28th - Mines laid by submarine "Rorqual" west of Sicily on the 25th, sank two Italian supply ships the next day and torpedo boat "CHINOTTO" on the 28th.

28th - Battle of Cape Matapan (map above) - As s hips of the Mediterranean Fleet covered troop movements to Greece, 'Ultra' intelligence was received reporting the sailing of an Italian battlefleet with one battleship, six heavy and two light cruisers plus destroyers to attack the convoy routes. On the 27th, Vice-Adm Pridham-Wippell with cruisers "Ajax", "Gloucester", "Orion" and the Australian "Perth" and destroyers sailed from Greek waters for a position south of Crete. Adm Cunningham with carrier "Formidable" and battleships "Warspite", "Barham" and "Valiant "left Alexandria on the same day to meet the cruisers. Around 08.30 on the 28th, south of Crete, Adm Pridham-Wippell was in action with an Italian cruiser squadron. Just before noon he found himself between them and the battleship "Vittorio Veneto" which had now come up. An attack by Swordfish from "Formidable" failed to hit the Italian battleship, but enabled the British cruisers to extricate themselves.

Mediterranean Fleet heavy units arrived, but their only chance of action was to slow down the Italians before they could reached Italy. A second Swordfish strike at around 15.00 hit and slowed down "Vittorio Veneto", but only for a short while. At 19.30 a third strike southwest of Cape Matapan stopped heavy cruiser "Pola". All this time, RAF aircraft were attacking but without success. Later that evening (still on the 28th), two more heavy cruisers - "Fiume" and "Zara with four destroyers were detached to help "Pola". Before reaching her, Adm Cunningham's ships detected them by radar and "FIUME", "ZARA" and destroyers "ALFIERI" and "CARDUCCI" were cr ippled by the close range gunfire of "Barham", "Valiant" and "Warspite". All four Italians were finished off by four destroyers led by the Australian "Stuart". Early next morning on the 29th, "POLA" was found, partly abandoned. After taking off the remaining crew, destroyers "Jervis" and "Nubian" sank her with torpedoes. The Royal Navy lost one aircraft.

31st - Continuing her successes, "Rorqual" torpedoed and sank submarine "CAPPONI" off northeast Sicily .

31st - Cruiser "BONAVENTURE" with a Mediterranean Fleet cruiser force escorting a convoy from Greece to Egypt, was torpedoed and sunk to the southeast of Crete by Italian submarine "Ambra"

East Africa - On the Red Sea coast of Italian East Africa, the capture of Eritrea was completed when Asmara was occupied on the 1st and the port of Massawa on the 8th. 3rd - Leading up to the capture of Massawa, the eight surviving Italian destroyers and torpedo boats were lost or scuttled. On the 3rd, five seaworthy destroyers sailed to attack Port Sudan, Sudan further north along the Red Sea shore. Shore-based Swordfish from carrier "Eagle" sank "MANIN" and "SAURO". 8th - Before the final scuttling at Massawa, Italian MTB MAS-213 torpedoed and damaged cruiser "Capetown" escorting a convoy off Massawa. Four Italian submarines did manage to escape and eventually reached Bordeaux, France after sailing around Africa.

16th - Action of Sfax, Tunisia - Capt P. J. Mack with destroyers "Janus", "Jervis", "Mohawk" and "Nubian" sailing from Malta intercepted a German Afrika Korps convoy of five transports escorted by three Italian destroyers off Kerkennah Islands, east of Tunisia. All Axis ships were sunk including the destroyers "BALENO" (foundered next day), "LAMPO" (later salvaged) and "TARIGO". In the fighting "MOHAWK" was to rpedoed by "Tarigo" and had to be scuttled.

Late April/early May - Two submarines operating out of Malta were lost, possibly in Italian minefields - "USK" in the Strait of Sicily area and "UNDAUNTED" off Tripoli. "Usk" may have been sunk by Italian destroyers west of Sicily while attacking a convoy.

2nd - Returning to Malta with cruiser "Gloucester" and other destroyers from a search for Axis convoys, "JERSEY" was m ined and sunk in the entrance to Valletta's Grand Harbour.

21st - In the opening stages of the attack on Crete, cruiser minelayer "Abdiel" laid mines off the west coast of Greece sinking Italian destroyer "MIRABELLO" and two transports.

21st May-1st June - Battle for Crete - Most of the Mediterranean Fleet with four battleships, one carrier, 10 cruisers and 30 destroyers fought the Battle for Crete. There were two phases, both of which take place under intense air attack, mainly German but also Italian, from which all British losses resulted.

North Africa - Another unsuccessful British offensive to relieve Tobruk started from Sollum on the 15th (Operation 'Battleaxe'). Within two days the operation was called off. A heavy price had to be paid for the supply of besieged Tobruk by the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy ships involved. All trips take place under continual threat of German and Italian aircraft attack: 24th - Sloop "AUCKLAND" was lo st off Tobruk. 30th - Australian destroyer "WATERHEN" was bo mbed and sunk off Bardia.

27th - Submarine "Triumph" on patrol off the Egyptian coast sank the Italian submarine "SALPA".

Battle of the Atlantic - Italian submarine "GLAUCO" was scuttle d west of Gibraltar on the 27th after being damaged by destroyer "Wishart".

5th - Submarine "Torbay" on patrol in the Aegean Sea sank Italian submarine "JANTINA".

11th - On the Tobruk Run, destroyer "DEFENDER" was b ombed by German or Italian aircraft and went down off Sidi Barrani.

20th - Two more British submarines fall victim to Italian anti-submarine forces during convoy attacks in July - the first was "UNION" to torpedo boat "Circe" off Pantelleria.

21st-24th - Malta Convoy, Operation 'Substance' - 'Substance' set out from Gibraltar with six transports covered by Force H with "Ark Royal", battlecruiser "Renown", cruisers and destroyers. Battleship "Nelson", three cruisers and more destroyers reinforced Force H from the Home Fleet. On the 23rd, south of Sardinia, sustained Italian air attacks started. Cruiser "Manchester" was h it and destroyer "FEARLESS" sunk by aircraft torpedoes. Next day the transports reached Malta safely. On the 26th the Italians launched an attack on Grand Harbour with explosive motor-boats, human torpedoes and aircraft, but failed to reached the recently arrived ships.

30th - The second Royal Navy submarine loss to Italian anti-submarine forces during convoy attacks was "CACHALOT" while on passage from Malta to Alexandria, rammed by torpedo boat "Papa".

Malta Convoy - Operation 'Style' - Early in the month, two cruisers, cruiser-minelayer "Manxman" and two destroyers successfully carried reinforcements and supplies from Gibraltar to Malta. On the way, cruiser "Hermione" rammed and sank Italian submarine "TEMBIEN" southwest of Sicily on the 2nd.

18th - Submarine "P-32" was lost on mines off Tripoli as she attempts to attack a convoy entering the port. "P.33" was als o lost around the same time in this area, possibly on mines.

26th - As an Italian battlefleet returned from a sortie against Force H, submarine “Triumph” torpedoed and damaged heavy cruiser "Bolzano" north of Sicily.

Battle of the Atlantic - Submarine "Severn" on patrol for U-boats attacking HG convoys west of Gibraltar, torpedoed and sank Italian submarine "BIANCHI" on the 7th.

24th-28th - Malta Convoy: Operation 'Halberd' - 'Hal berd' sailed from Gibraltar with nine transports. Force H, reinforced from the Home Fleet, included "Nelson", "Rodney" and "Prince of Wales" and air cover from "Ark Royal". On the 26th the Italians sailed to intercept but returned to base next day. South of Sardinia on the 27th, "Nelson" was d amaged by an Italian aircraft torpedo, and at the end of the day Force H turned back for Gibraltar. Convoy and escort went on to reach Malta on the 28th minus one transport lost to air attack. As Force H returned, screening destroyers "Gurkha" and "Legion" sank Italian submarine "ADUA" off the coast of Algeria on the 30th.

27th - Submarine "Upright" sank Italian torpedo boat "ALBATROS" off Messina, northeast Sicily.

28th - Corvette "Hyacinth" on patrol off Jaffa, Palestine, sank Italian submarine "FISALIA".

Battle of the Atlantic

8th - As Italian submarines patrolled to the west of Portugal for HG convoys, "BARACCA" was depth charged and rammed by destroyer "Croome". A second Italian submarine may have been sunk later in the month.

21st - Destroyer "Vimy" claimed to have sunk Italian submarine "MALASPINA" during attacks on Gibraltar/UK convoy HG73. She may have been lost earlier through unknown causes.

20th - Mines previously laid by submarine "Rorqual" in the Gulf of Athens sank Italian torpedo boats "ALDEBARAN" and "ALTAIR".

Late October - Submarine "TETRARCH" sailed f rom Malta for Gibraltar but fails to arrive, presumed lost in the Italian minefields in the Strait of Sicily.

Battle of the Atlantic - Two escorts and two U-boats were lost in attacks on the UK/Gibraltar convoy routes. One of the submarines was the Italian "FERRARIS" on the 25th, damaged by a RAF Catalina of No 202 Squadron and sent to the bottom by the gunfire of escort destroyer "Lamerton".

9th - Action off Cape Spartivento, Southwest Italy - RAF reports of an Italian convoy in the Ionian Sea making for North Africa led to British cruiser Force K sailing from Malta. The convoy consisted of seven transports escorted by six destroyers, with a distant cruiser covering force. Early in the morning every one of the transports and destroyer "FULMINE" were sent to the bottom. Later, while rescuing survivors, destroyer "LIBECCIO" was su nk by submarine "Upholder".

Declarations of War - In a series of diplomatic moves, numerous declarations of war were made, including 11th-13th - Germany, Italy, Rumania, Bulgaria and Hungary against the United States.

1st - Malta-based Force K searching for Axis shipping encountered Italian destroyer “DA MOSTA” north of Tripoli. She was sunk by cruisers “Aurora” and “Penelope” and destroyer “Lively”.

6th - Submarine “PERSEUS” on patrol off the west coast of Greece was mined and sunk off Zante Island.

11th - Submarine “Truant” sank Italian torpedo boat “ALCIONE” north of Crete. On the same day escort destroyer “Farndale” on passage sighted and sank Italian submarine “CARACCIOLA” on a supply trip from Bardia on the Libyan side of the border with Egypt.

13th - Action off Cape Bon, Tunisia - Des troyers “Legion”, “Maori”, “Sikh” and Dutch “lsaac Sweers” sailed from Gibraltar to join the Mediterranean Fleet at Alexandria. Off Cape Bon, Tunisia they sighted two Italian 6in cruisers, “DA BARBIANO” and “DI GIUSSANO” returning from an aborted mission to carry a deck cargo of petrol to Tripoli. In a short night action and without being seen, the destroyers quickly sank both cruisers with gunfire and torpedoes. Italian loss of life was heavy.

13th-20th - First Battle of Sirte and Related Actions - Italian convoy operations to Libya led to major Royal Navy losses over just a few days. A first Axis convoy bound for Benghazi set out on the 13th, covered by an Italian battlefleet. On receiving the news, Rear-Adm Vian left Alexandria with a cruiser force to join up with Force K from Malta. On the evening of the 14th, submarine “Urge” torpedoed and damaged battleship “Vittorio Veneto” off the Sicilian Strait of Messina and the Italians cancelled that operation. The cruiser forces returned to their bases but as they did Adm Vian's “GALATEA” was s unk by “U-557” and went down off Alexandria. Adm Vian went out again late on the 15th to escort fast supply ship “Breconshire” from Alexandria to Malta. On the 17th they met Force K off the Gulf of Sirte, and shortly encountered Italian battleships covering a second convoy, this time to Tripoli. The two cruiser forces attacked and the Italians withdrew in what became known as the First Battle of Sirte. “Breconshire” reached Malta on the 18th and Force K left harbour to search for the second convoy still making for Tripoli. Early on the 19th off Tripoli, the British force ran into an Italian minefield. Cruiser “NEPTUNE” hit three or four mines and sank with only one man surviving. “Aurora” was badly damaged and “Penelope” slightly. Trying to assist “Neptune”, destroyer “KANDAHAR” was m ined and had to be scuttled the following day. Out of a three cruiser and four destroyer force, only three destroyers escaped damage.

19th - That morning three Italian human torpedoes launched from submarine “Scire” (Cdr Borghese) penetrated Alexandria harbour. Their charges badly damaged battleships “Queen Elizabeth” with Adm Cunningham on board and “Valiant”. They both settled to the bottom and the Mediterranean Fleet battle squadron ceased to exist. News of the sinking was kept from the Italians.

Early January - Submarine "TRIUMPH" sailed from A lexandria on 26th December for a cloak-and-dagger landing near Athens before patrolling in the Aegean. She reported the landing on the 30th, but failed to rendezvous back there on the 9th and was presumed mined off the island of Milo, southeast of the Greek mainland.

5th - Italian submarine "SAINT-BON" was torpedeod and sunk north of Sicily by submarine "Upholder".

Malta - During the month, Malta was resupplied by three small convoys coming from the east. During this period the Italian Navy had escorted two substantial convoys to North Africa in time for Rommel's next offensive. Malta continued to be heavily bombed for many months by the German and Italian Air Forces.

30th - The second Italian submarine loss in the month was "MEDUSA", torpedoed by "Thorn" in the Gulf of Venice, in the far north of the Adriatic.

13th - Two Royal Navy submarines were lost. The first was "TEMPEST" which torpedoed a supply ship off the Gulf of Taranto but was depth-charged by the escorts including Italian torpedo boat "Circe", brought to the surface and soon sunk.

23rd - Ten days later "P-38" attacked a hea vily defended convoy off Tripoli and was also lost to the escorts' counter-attack which again included Italian torpedo boat "Circe".

14th - Italian submarine "MILLO" was sun k off Calabria in the Ionian Sea by submarine "Ultimatum". Two more were lost to British "U" class submarines

17th - The second was "GUGLIELMOTTI" also off Calabria, by "Unbeaten".

18th - Finally "TRICHECO" went dow n off Brindisi in the southern Adriatic torpedoed by "Upholder".

22nd - Second Battle of Sirte (map left) - Adm Vian sailed on the 20th from Alexandria with four fast supply ships for Malta escorted by cruisers "Cleopatra", "Dido", "Euryalus" and "Carlisle" plus destroyers. Early on the 22nd, Italian battleship "Littorio" with two heavy and one light cruiser plus destroyers headed for the British force. In the early afternoon the Italians were sighted to the north, just off the Gulf of Sirte. The four main phases of the battle lasted for a total of four hours. For much of this time the convoy was heavily attacked from the air. Starting around 15.00: (1) The three Italian cruisers were driven off in a long-range gunnery duel with the Royal Navy's 5.25in "Dido" class cruisers. (2) The Italian cruisers returned, this time with "Littorio". A series of attacks out of the smoke by cruisers and destroyers held them off. (3) Contrary to Adm Vian's expectations, the Italians worked around the smokescreen to the west, suddenly appearing only eight miles away. Torpedo attacks by four destroyers were unsuccessful, and "Havock" was d isabled by a 15in shell. (4) The Italian force continued trying to get round the smoke and, in another destroyer torpedo attack, it was "Kingston's" turn to receive a 15in hit. As the Italians turned north and away, the British cruisers went in one last time.

Just after the battle, severe storms damaged ships of both sides and on the 23rd two of the returning Italian destroyers foundered east of Sicily. As for the convoy, all four transports including the "Breconshire" were lost to air attack, two off Malta and two in harbour before much of their cargo could be off-loaded. As the Hunt class "SOUTHWOLD" stood by "Breconshire" on the 24th, she hit a mine and sank off the island. And on the 26th the returned destroyer "LEGION" and submarine "P-39" were l ost in air-raids.

1st - Submarine "Urge" sank Italian cruiser "BANDE NERE" north of Sicily. This was a welcome success in a month that saw heavy Royal Navy losses including "Urge" herself.

Malta - By now Malta had almost ceased to be of any value as a base for attacking Rommel's supply lines, and most of his transports were getting through. The German and Italian bombing led to the loss, directly and indirectly, of numerous ships including four destroyers and four submarines. 1st - Submarines "P-36" and "PANDORA" were su nk in Malta and others of the 10th Flotilla damaged. "Pandora" had only recently arrived from Gibraltar on a supply trip. 4th - Greek submarine "GLAVKOS" was also sunk in Malta. 5th - Destroyer "GALLANT" wrecked in Malta. She was badly damaged in January 1941 and had not been repaired. 6th - A number of ships managed to escape. "HAVOCK" tried to reach Gibraltar but ran aground and was wrecked near Cape Bon, Tunisia. She was later torpedoed by an Italian submarine. 9th - Destroyer "LANCE" in dry dock in Malta was badly damaged and never repaired. 11th - Destroyer "KINGSTON" was bo mbed and sunk in harbour.

14th - 10th Flotilla lost its most famous boat when "UPHOLDER" (Lt-Cdr Wanklyn VC) was lost. She attacked a convoy northeast of Tripoli and was presumed sunk in the counter-attack by destroyer escort "Pegaso".

27th - By this time the 10th Submarine Flotilla had been ordered to leave Malta. "URGE" sailed f or Alexandria on the 27th, but failed to arrive, probably lost in an Italian minefield.

29th - In a series of attacks on convoys bound for North Africa, submarine "Turbulent" sank three transports in May and on the 29th torpedoed and sank escorting Italian destroyer "PESSAGNO" northwest of Benghazi.

12th-16th - Malta Convoys 'Harpoon' from Gibraltar, 'Vigorous' from Alexandria - Six escorted merchantmen passed through the Strait of Gibraltar covered by battleship "Malaya", carriers "Argus" and "Eagle", cruisers "Kenya", "Charybdis", "Liverpool" and destroyers - this force comprised Operation 'Harpoon' . Attacks by It alian aircraft on the 14th led to the first merchant ship going down south of Sardinia. "Liverpool" was also damaged and had to return. Later that day at the entrance to the Strait of Sicily, the big ship cover force turned back. In the morning of the 15th, south of Pantelleria, an Italian two-cruiser squadron in conjunction with Italian and German aircraft attacked the by-now lightly defended convoy. The five escorting fleet destroyers headed for the Italians, but "Bedouin" and "Partridge" were dis abled by gunfire. Three more merchantmen were lost to bombing attacks and Italian torpedo aircraft finished off BEDOUIN. Later that evening, as the seriously depleted convoy approached Malta, it ran into an Italian minefield. Two destroyers and the fifth supply ship were damaged, but Polish escort destroyer KUJAWIAK was sunk. Just two of 'Harpoon's' six ships reached Malta for the loss of two destroyers and serious damage to three more and a cruiser.

Meanwhile, the Operation 'Vigorous' force of 11 ships and their escorts sailed from Haifa and Port Said, and were met on the 13th off Tobruk by Adm Vian with seven light cruisers and 17 destroyers. By the 14th, two ships had been lost to air attacks and two more damaged. That evening Vian learnt an Italian battlefleet with two battleships, two heavy and two light cruisers plus destroyers had sailed south from Taranto. The chances of driving them off were slim. Early on the 15th the first of five (1-5) course reversals were made as 'Vigorous' tried to break through to Malta. As the convoy now headed back (1) , German E-boats from Derna launched torpedo strikes. Cruiser "Newcastle" was dam aged by "S-56" and destroyer HASTY sunk by "S-55". Around 07.00, when the Italian fleet was 200 miles to the northwest, the convoy turned back for Malta (2) . Attacks by Malta-based aircraft were made on the main Italian fleet without serious effect, although they disabled heavy cruiser "TRENTO" which was finished off by submarine "Umbra". Between 09.40 and noon on the 15th, two more course reversals (3 & 4) were made so that once again the convoy was bound for Malta. All afternoon air attacks were mounted and south of Crete, cruiser "Birmingham" was d amaged and escort destroyer AIREDALE sunk by Ju87 Stukas. The convoy was now down to six ships when Australian destroyer "Nestor" was badly damaged. That evening 'Vigorous' finally turned back for Alexandria (course reversal 5 ). Now into the early hours of the 16th, cruiser HERMIONE was torpedoed and sunk by "U-205" and NESTOR had to be scuttled. At this time, as the Italian fleet headed back for Taranto, a RAF Wellington from Malta torpedoed and damaged battleship "Littorio". None of the 'Vigorous' ships reached Malta. One cruiser, three destroyers and two merchant ships had been lost in the attempt.


Air Pollution and Cognitive Development at Age 7 in a Prospective Italian Birth Cohort

Background: Early life exposure to air pollution has been linked with cognitive impairment in children, but the results have not been conclusive. We analyzed the association between traffic-related air pollution and cognitive function in a prospective birth cohort in Rome.

Methods: A cohort of 719 newborns was enrolled in 2003-2004 as part of the GASPII project. At age 7 years, 474 children took the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-III to assess their cognitive development in terms of IQ composite scores. Exposure to air pollutants (NO2, PMcoarse, PM2.5, PM2.5 absorbance) at birth was assessed using land use regression models. We also considered variables indicating traffic intensity. The effect of environmental pollution on IQ was evaluated performing a linear regression model for each outcome, adjusting for gender, child age at cognitive test, maternal age at delivery, parental educational level, siblings, socio-economic status, maternal smoking during pregnancy, and tester. To account for selection bias at enrollment and during follow-up, the regression models were weighted for the inverse probabilities of participation and follow-up.

Results: A 10 μg/m³ higher NO2 exposure during pregnancy was associated with 1.4 fewer points (95% confidence interval = -2.6, -0.20) of verbal IQ, and 1.4 fewer points (95% confidence interval = -2.7, -0.20) of verbal comprehension IQ. Similar associations were found for traffic intensity in a 100 m buffer around home. Other pollutants showed negative associations with larger confidence intervals.


Path to War

By the late 1930s, Mussolini’s obsession with demography led him to conclude that Britain and France were finished as powers, and that Germany and Italy were destined to rule Europe if for no other reason than their demographic strength. Mussolini stated his belief that declining birth rates in France were “absolutely horrifying” and that the British Empire was doomed because a quarter of the British population was older than 50. As such, Mussolini believed that an alliance with Germany was preferable to an alignment with Britain and France as it was better to be allied with the strong instead of the weak. Mussolini saw international relations as a Social Darwinian struggle between “virile” nations with high birth rates that were destined to destroy “effete” nations with low birth rates. Such was the extent of Mussolini’s belief that it was Italy’s destiny to rule the Mediterranean because of the country’s high birth rate that he neglected much of the serious planning and preparations necessary for a war with the Western powers.

On October 25, 1936, Mussolini agreed to form a Rome-Berlin Axis, sanctioned by a cooperation agreement with Nazi Germany and signed in Berlin. At the Munich Conference in September 1938, Mussolini continued to pose as a moderate working for European peace while helping Nazi Germany annex the Sudetenland. The 1936 Axis agreement with Germany was strengthened by the Pact of Steel signed on May 22, 1939, which bound Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in a full military alliance.

Hitler and Mussolini: On 25 October 1936, an Axis was declared between Italy and Germany.


Watch the video: War Thunder: Italian Air Force Trailer (November 2022).

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