- Alexander Fitzgerald-Black
- ARRSE Rating
- 5 Mushroom Heads
Although this book is primarily concerned with the higher direction of the Allied War effort at a critical phase of the war it is not a dry academic study. The writing is clear and evocative, combining both analysis of the direction of the campaign and personal stories from within the ranks of those actually engaged in the operations. This ensures that interest is retained as the pace and descriptive powers of the writing are excellent, especially for a debut publication.
The scene is set describing the defeat of the Axis forces in North Africa in early 1943, as it came so soon after the crushing defeat at Stalingrad it became known as Tunisiagrad. Here it describes how Air Chief Marshall Teder's staff planned Operation Flax to defeat the Luftwaffe's Air bridge over the Sicilian Straits, the main architect of this was the American Brigadier General Kuter. The author has included Kuter's recollection of listening to the Allied Fighter Pilots during the “Palm Sunday Massacre” and General Adolf Galland's praise for the German and Italian transport crews efforts to maintain the Air Bridge. It clearly shows the strategic aim utilising Aircraft based in both North Africa and Malta to both interdict the actual flights but to also target the Airfields from which they operated.
The main meat of the book describes the shaping operations and the sustained campaign to firstly degrade the Axis Air power available to defend Sicily through both attrition and denying them Airfields from which to operate from, both in Sicily and then into mainland Italy itself. The strategic goals and aims are well explained and comparisons are clearly explained through tables showing the losses on each side. It is clear that the author had carried out exhaustive research for his thesis from all available sources. He lays out clear and easily understandable style which supports his main theme for the whole book. The successive stages of the Air campaign are clearly laid out and described, again with personal vignettes to
The traditional wisdom taken from the Allied campaign in the Sicily campaign has been that there was a strategic failure to prevent the Axis forces being able to evacuate from Sicily. The author contends that instead of failure the Allied Air campaign was pivotal in securing the strategic goal of removing Italy from the War, as he points out the Luftwaffe aircraft which were subsequently lost could have been used either to support the German Offensive at Kursk or in defending Germany itself against the increasing Strategic bombing campaign. His conclusion is compelling and he offers sound evidence and gives new insights into the campaign, the use of sources from both Allied and Axis sources only adds to his compelling narrative.
A well deserved 5 out of 5 Mushroom heads.
Additional note: I have visited the Lascaris War Rooms museum in Valletta where not only the Air Defence of Malta was controlled but where Operation Husky was planned and the air operations controlled from and can highly recommend it if anyone is going to Malta in the future.