Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Taranto

In 1941, Britain stood alone. There were no allies, only a little island in the north Atlantic. Then came Greece. Greece had been attacked by the Italians, who had been driven off. Then, desperate for a toehold in the continent, the Brits pulled many vital troops and tanks out of Africa. But this could not have been done without the HMS Illustrious. She was the starting point of operation "Judgment". This operation meant to knock out the Italian fleet, so that Mediterranean convoys could be all the safer. So it was that the Illustrious was sent out to attack Taranto. Soon the swordfish torpedo planes had spotted the Italians and went into the attack. In the battle that followed, three battleships, including the modern Littorio, were sunk and the Italian fleet was thrown into confusion. This attack was closely watched by several nations, but one nation in particular found the aftermath very favorable for an attack of their own. Indeed, when the target's fleet was visited by the British battleship Warspite, a Fleet Air Arm veteran of Taranto noted "Blimey, you can't miss!". This target was, of course, the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, and the aggressors were the Empire of Japan. The Battleship was about to meet its nemesis. But that's another story.

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