Friday, October 26, 2007

Malta, from April 1942

Just as the air war in the Mediterranean intensified, Admiral Cunningham was relieved and sent to Washington to represent the First Sea Lord on a "Combined Chiefs of Staff Comittee". Admiral Cunningham had the reputation that would enable to effectively advise the committee on naval affairs. He had been the naval commander in the Mediterranean Sea for three years. His last operation had been the convoy to Malta that led to the Second Battle of Sirte. He would return to the Mediterranean later in 1943, with a changed strategic situation. Starting in April 1942, the battle for Malta intensified. The Italians now had four active battleships, nine cruisers, and 55 destoyes and torpedo boats (really small destroyers). The British Mediterranean Fleet had been reduced to only four cruisers and 15 destroyers. Gibraltar was reduced to a token force of the old aircraft carrier Argus and two or three destroyers. The Germans had 20 submarines and the Italians had 50 submarines. There were only 25 Allied submarines in the theater. The Axis air force consisted of about 290 German and 250 Italian bombers. The British had more than 400, but they were unable to provide fighter cover in the central and eastern Mediterranean. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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