As history buffs know prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the British attacked the Italian fleet at their forward base in Taranto in 1940, sinking one battleship and severely damaging two others. While the other two battleships were later repaired, the real impact was that the major Italian warships were withdrawn from the forward base at Taranto where they severely threatened Allied convoys to Malta to bases further up the peninsula where they were less of an immediate threat.
The book “The Attack on Taranto” (Blueprint for Pearl Harbor) is by Thomas Lowry and John Wellham and is highly recommended for anyone wanting to learn more about this gallant attack by British naval pilots in their slow and elderly (yet still effective) Swordfish aircraft. While there are significant differences between the attack on Pearl Harbor and the British attack at Taranto (notably that Britain and Italy were already at war when the attack occurred), this type of attack should have put the Americans on higher alert and was studied by the Japanese in their plans for the Pearl Harbor attack. In any case I highly recommend the book, especially for history buffs.
Cross posted at LITGM
5 thoughts on “The Attack on Taranto”
Cool. I had just read Ashley Jackson’s account of this in his history of Britain and the Empire in WW2 a few days ago. Too bad the US Navy didn’t pay as much attention as Yamamoto.
Winston Churchill had a decent chapter on the attack in his five volume history of WWII – if you’re looking for the short version embedded in the bigger picture. The naval war in the Med was very vigorous and hard-faught.
I had a review on Amazon of the Jackson book that Jim mentioned.
If I’m recalling my reading correctly, I think the lesson that the US missed was that torpedoes can be designed to run shallow. US torpedoes of the time, in addition to being generally crappy, ran deep. The USN couldn’t imagine that shallow running torpedoes could actually exist and thus took no precautions at Pearl Harbor.
The attack on Taranto definitely dis-proved that the torpedoes could run shallow, the Japanese learned that lesson. Too bad we weren’t watching.
Agreed that US fish at the time were god-awful… as a kid I read “Silent Victory” which is awesome about the US sub war vs. Japan but the first half is so depressing as attack after attack fails due to duds and mis-fires.
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