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Struggle for the Middle Sea: The Great Navies at War in the Mediterranean Theater, 1940-1945 [Englisch] [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Vincent P. O'Hara

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20. Juni 2009
The Mediterranean Sea is the maritime crossroads where Europe, Asia and Africa meet. It was the most intensely contested body of water in World War II. More major naval actions were fought in the Mediterranean than in the Atlantic or Pacific. Its waters witnessed carrier strikes, battle-line shootouts, cruiser-destroyer engagements, convoy attacks, coastal actions, amphibious assaults, and bitter submarine campaigns. Despite the importance of the Mediterranean war, however, its recent literature is remarkably sparse and largely one-sided. The Struggle in the Middle Sea is a fresh study of the Mediterranean naval war. It analyses the actions and performances of each of the five major navies, the British, Italian, French, German, and American within a chronological, operational narrative of the entire five year campaign, and examines, without partisanship, the national imperatives that drove much of the action. The Struggle in the Middle Sea sidesteps the myths that haunt this campaign, like Great Britain enjoyed a moral advantage over Italy, or the French were Germans puppets, or the North African campaign contributed to the eventual Allied victory. The book documents how the British Royal Navy, despite brilliant victories, was bled white in a campaign with questionable strategic goals; how Italy followed its own coherent naval strategy, much to the frustration of its German ally; how the Marine Nationale was the strength of the independent French state and how it fought the Allies--and rejected the Axis--to maintain that independence. Finally, while the book concentrates on the 1940 to 1943 period, it also covers Germany's improvised and remarkably successful fighting withdrawal at sea from 1943-1945.


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55 von 57 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Handy Reference on WW2 Naval War in the Med 6. Juli 2009
Von Brandon Musler - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
STRUGGLE FOR THE MIDDLE SEA is primarily a reference work focusing on surface naval actions in the Med during WW2. It covers the entire war and all the major powers including Britain, France, Germany and the US but best documents those actions which impacted Italy's maritime war (and so the period from 6/40 to 9/43 is of most interest.)

To some extent this work is meant as an antidote for Anglo-centric (and German) accounts of the naval war in the Med which focus on Italy's failure to win, or even participate in, a decisive surface action in the Nelsonian tradition. O'Hara's thesis is that Italy ground out the naval war of attrition that was best suited to its war aims and limited capabilities. In the Central Med the Regia Marina generally succeeded in achieving it's goal of sea control. The author's view is that while the Royal Navy was certainly successful in winning "sea control victories," strategically speaking it simply had its feet set wrong. His key point is summarized on page 259: "With regard to Italy's mercantile war ... 98 percent of the men and 90 percent of the material that set forth from Italian ports for Libya, Tunisia, of the Balkans arrived safely."

Those who enjoy naval games and simulations will find a lot to like here regardless of whether they agree with O'Hara's overall thesis. By his definition Italian warships (from minesweepers on up to battleships,) participated in 34 of the 55 major surface actions fought in the Mediterranean (including the Red Sea,) during the 5 years of WW2. The accounts of all 55 battles includes an order of battle table listing the ships (by type,) formations, and commanders involved. And, as befits a work with a tactical focus, there are lots of maps and tactical illustrations (27 to be exact,) to help place the operations in perspective. Of course the fights sparked off by Allied attempts to run convoys through to Malta are included but, again, O'Hara's framework ALSO shows the many battles that were fought over Italian convoys etc...

This book strikes me as a perfect complement for Greene and Massignani's THE NAVAL WAR IN THE MEDITERRANEAN 1940-1943 or (so I'm told,) De Belot's THE STRUGGLE FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN 1939-1945. The reason I say this is that things like grand strategy, economics, diplomacy, Taranto, special forces and the submarine war are mentioned in perspective but given very little direct focus or analysis in this work. Therefore it shouldn't be your first book on the Med. Overall, however, I think this will be a worthwhile addition to almost anybody's WW2 naval library; most particularly if you are looking for a detailed accounting of tactical surface actions fought by escorts, destroyers and cruisers of the Italian Navy.
33 von 37 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Excellent detailed analysis 3. August 2009
Von Haydn - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Vincent O'Hara's new and excellent essay on the naval war in the Mediterranean Sea - a painstaking analysis of all major surface actions in the theater - is a reading much to be commended for a number of reasons. Some WWII Med war myths (Britain's so-called "moral ascendancy" over the Italians, the Italian admirals as a bunch of incompetent bunglers, etc.) had already been exploded by other authors. Taking a step further, O'Hara sheds light on the strategic dimension and respective achievements in that titanic struggle. Ultimate balance and fairness to all sides involved in the war - contrary to what some prejudiced reviewers may have written, the author doesn't try turning Italian defeats into victories, he just successfully tries to be fair, a seemingly daunting task considering the sheer amount of British chest-beating and Italy-bashing slant in large portions of the literature. In this reviewer's opinion, O'Hara is even overcautious here and there - for instance, in all likelihood the British destroyer Khartoum in the Red Sea sank due to an Italian 100 mm round splinter hitting a torpedo and detonating it. But since unequivocal evidence of that is lacking, O'Hara prudently confines the likely cause of Khartoum's loss to a note. The book's scope and research width and depth: obscure, usually neglected or ignored, yet dramatic French and German surface actions are dealt with. In the light of O'Hara's detailed survey of surface naval combats in the Med, his conclusions deserve credit and attention. All navies in the Mediterranean basin fought well, or very well, on many occasions. But while the Italian, French and German navies more or less achieved their strategic goals, the Royal Navy fought a brilliant war she could not win by her own means - a useless, even noxious (to the British Empire) war at the end of a hugely long supply line, at a staggering cost, in a secondary theater, where victory was out of Britain's reach until the arrival of the American war machine. All in all a very fine, thought-provoking book by a widely acclaimed naval historian.
27 von 30 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Very good book about WW 2 naval surface combat 30. Juli 2009
Von Mumblin' Mark - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
This book is Vincent P. O'Hara' third in a series, the first two being "The German Fleet at War" and "The U.S. Navy Against the Axis". Each offers MUCH greater detail about naval surface combat than the general histories I have read. O'Hara delves deeply into the strategy and tactics of the combatants, though not so much into equipment. (N.J.M. Campbells' "Naval Weapons of World War 2" fills this void.) I was particularly fascinated by accounts of successful German use of captured Italian torpedo boats ( roughly equivalent to U.S. DE's) after Italy's surrender. I was unaware of engagements in the Red, Adriatic and Ionian seas until I read this work. O'Hara's analysis of Italian intentions and successes at achieving them are interesting.
12 von 14 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Finally, an objective view... 5. November 2009
Von Amazon Customer - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
This is an important book which, contrary to many previous accounts, shows the Italian Navy as a fighting force that successfully executed its predetermined mission, whose crews fought with exemplary tenacity and courage, whose ships were more than adequate for the assigned tasks, and the navy whose inventiveness was remarkable and set a completely new trend in naval warfare. (special operations, e.g., the exploits of X MAS - for a more detailed account it is worth reading The Black Prince And The Sea Devils: The Story Of Valerio Borghese And The Elite Units Of The Decima Mas).

The author offers insightful analyses of surface actions fought in the Mediterranean not only by the familiar protagonists - the Royal and Italian navies - but also by the French and German navies as well. This is a wonderfully objective portrayal of the longest conflict at sea characterized by the highest number of surface actions fought briskly, and often with a very considerable tactical skill of all involved. The significance of the book rests, however, not with the account of gunnery exchanges, but with a fresh look at the Italian Navy. A navy operating without adequate air support, under constraints of rapidly dwindling fuel reserves and insufficient new construction capacity that dictated the seeimngly timid strategy of the Supermarina, and yet the navy that for the most part fought without hesitation, often against overwhelming odds, and one that served the assigned mission extraordinarily well.

The actions of the French Navy are also shown in the proper and objective perspective, from its joint operations with the Royal Navy, through the debacle of Mers-el-Kebir, and the subsequent conflict of loyalties between the Free French of General de Gaulle and the Vichy Government, followed by the uneasy truce between the French and the British Navies. Few know about surface actions fought against the Royal Navy during the African landings, and most US readers are unaware of the fact that the French Navy acquitted itself exceedingly well during these trying times. It fought with skill and courage and paid a heavy price for fighting for France rather than the Allies. Yet, the desperate suicide of the French fleet in Toulon also showed clearly that the French Navy preferred to sink its ships rather than have them be taken over by Germans and used against the erstwhile comrades at arms. The magnificent sense of honor permeating the French Navy in all its proceedings dictated nothing less.

As O'Hara shows, contrary to the popular view, both the Italian and German Navies gave the British a good run for their money, and offered many serious concerns to Admiral Cunningham and Admiral Somerset of the Royal Navy. Maybe not surprisingly, the Middle Sea turned out to be the place where battles took place to the very day of German surrender, a place where every type of warship was involved, and every type of naval action was fought. A sea where all actions took place in the curious atmosphere of highly complex political realities of the region, where nothing was as straightforward as it is commonly thought today. It was the unique place and the unique time where two of the main protagonists (Vichy France and Italy) changed sides, one fought a losing war to the very end (Kriegsmarine), while another - the Royal Navy - lived again up to its magnificent tradition to see the Italian fleet surrender and drop its anchora "...under the guns of the Fortress of Malta," and the last arrival on thge scene - the US Navy - contributing by its very presence to the overall success of the Allies.

It is a worthwhile book; a very good read unfortunately marred by at times awkward and confusing diagrams of surface actions. I blame for this the editorial staff of USNI rather than the author: it is the editor's task to assure the quality of every aspect of the book. Increasingly more often USNI is rather deficient in this: typographic errors, sloppy editing, and poor selection, and captioning of photographs become a habit rather than exception. O'Hara's book would also gain a lot through a better and more diverse selection of the photographic material, and better quality of paper on which it was printed. Again, faults that should be addressed by the book's publisher.
11 von 13 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Von Robert A. Lynn - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Vincent P. O'Hara
Naval Institute Press, 2009
Hardcover, Tables, Illustrations, Charts, Abbreviations, Maps, Photographs, 352 Pages, $34.95

The four-year naval battle for the Mediterranean began with Italy's entry into the war as a German ally on 10 June 1940. The resulting campaign was one wholly concerned with the application of sea power to support operations ashore. The naval operations in the Mediterranean ran the gamut from sea denial to sea control to power projection. It was very much a war of swinging fortunes and fluctuating momentum, but throughout it all, control of the sea determined success, while loss of control led to failure. The Axis failure in this campaign ultimately drove Field Marshal Erwin Rommel out of Africa and Italy out of the war. Allied success brought the first Allied troops back into Western Europe. Theoretically, Italy gained naval superiority in the Mediterranean when the French surrendered to the Germans in June, 1940. Italy had the second largest submarine fleet in the world (more than 100 boats), as well as four modernized battleships, two new ones, and a third in construction. More importantly, the Italian Navy had the potential support of one of the world's reputedly strongest air forces. Italy's ships were fast and powerfully armed. Perhaps more importantly, Italy's strategic location dominating the sea lanes of the central Mediterranean gave it a potential choke hold on Allied maritime commerce. Only the British base on Malta, located mid-way between Sicily and Italy's African possession of Libya, occupied a similar position vis-a-vis Italy's sea lanes. The first three years of the campaign, in fact, revolved around Britain's effort to retain that island. It was from Malta that the bulk of Britain's sea denial operations were launched against Italy's sea lanes. Given the small size and aged units of the British Mediterranean Fleet, Malta's defense and Britain's hold on the Mediterranean initially appeared tenuous indeed. Fortunately for the British, events proved otherwise. Controlling the Mediterranean was critical to the British Empire, for it was through the Mediterranean that oil and other vital materials flowed from its eastern possessions to Britain. It also was the most efficient route for shipping supplies and material for the defense of those possessions. Traveling around Africa tripled the transit time, effectively quintupling the amount of shipping required to achieve the same tonnage. Britain didn't have any merchant shipping to waste. The Mediterranean had to be held at all costs. Although outnumbered and encumbered with much slower units, the British Royal Navy enjoyed several advantages over its Italian opponents. It had a more aggressive and professional leadership. Italy's admirals adhered to the "fleet-in-being" strategy, where preservation of units took precedence over all other considerations. The British Royal Navy's sailors also were superior in technical ability to those of the Italian Navy, which relied on conscripts to man its ships. The Italians also suffered from flawed tactics, equipment, and doctrine. Doctrinally, they had no procedures for joint air-navy operations, no specific antisubmarine doctrine, and no air defense tactics. Each ship's captain was supposed to use his own initiative. Sonar wasn't introduced until late 1942. More significantly, the Italians didn't train or prepare for night combat. Their surface ships had no radar or nightfighting equipment. Italian surface and antiaircraft gunnery was poor throughout the war. They had no aircraft carriers and commissioned none during the war. Their submarines lacked night periscopes and weren't trained in conducting either day or night surface attacks. Italian conning towers and silhouettes were too large. Submarine fire control equipment was nonexistent, and the captains computed their own firing solutions. Italian submarines were large, unwieldy, and slow to dive. Finally, the Italian Navy suffered from fuel shortages throughout the war. Available fuel dictated the size and duration of every naval operation. The Mediterranean Campaign cost the Axis 2.1 million tons of shipping and the Allies 1.7 million tons. The campaign was one of rapidly shifting momentum. Like the cavalry battles of ald, the introduction of fresh forces often altered the balance and tide of battle. With that shift went the fortunes of war on both land and sea. For the Axis, it was their lack of initiative and daring that caused them to squander their opportunities. The victory in Crete wasn't exploited by further landings. More importantly, Malta was never taken. It was that failure that ultimately cost them the campaign and possibly the war. For the Allies, primarily the British, it was a brilliantly fought campaign in which few opportunities were missed and many were created by sheer initiative and determination. The risks were great and the potential payoff unknown. For Great Britain, success in the Mediterranean offered the opportunity for eventual victory, while defeat there meant the possible loss of the war. Only the Atlantic Campaign had a greater importance. That they won is a testament to the fighting spirit and skills of the Allies' navies. This superbly researched book gives a complete account of the war in the Mediterranean on, above, and beneath the sea. It not only provides a detailed and fascinating narrative of the entire naval war, but also sets the individual actions fully in their strategic context for both the Axis and the Allies. With its detailed background information and fascinating narrative, this book is essential reading for all those interested in one of the major naval theaters of the Second World War.

Lt. Colonel Robert A. Lynn, Florida Guard
Orlando, Florida
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