Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
With Utmost Spirit

With Utmost Spirit: Allied Naval Operations in the Mediterranean, 1942-1945

Barbara Brooks Tomblin
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 608
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    With Utmost Spirit
    Book Description:

    Nineteen months before the D-day invasion of Normandy, Allied assault forces landed in North Africa in Operation TORCH, the first major amphibious operation of the war in Europe. Under the direction of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, AUS, Adm. Andrew B. Cunningham, RN, Admiral H. Kent Hewitt, USN, and others, the Allies kept pressure on the Axis by attacking what Winston Churchill dubbed "the soft underbelly of Europe." The Allies seized the island of Sicily, landed at Salerno and Anzio, and established a presence along the coast of southern France.

    With Utmost Spirit takes a fresh look at this crucial naval theater of the Second World War. Barbara Brooks Tomblin tells of the U.S. Navy's and the Royal Navy's struggles to wrest control of the Mediterranean Sea from Axis submarines and aircraft, to lift the siege of Malta, and to open a through convoy route to Suez while providing ships, carrier air support, and landing craft for five successful amphibious operations. Examining official action reports, diaries, interviews, and oral histories, Tomblin describes each of these operations in terms of ship to shore movements, air and naval gunfire support, logistics, countermine measures, antisubmarine warfare, and the establishment of ports and training bases in the Mediterranean. Firsthand accounts from the young officers and men who manned the ships provide essential details about Mediterranean operations and draw a vivid picture of the war at sea and off the beaches.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7198-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-XIV)

    As in ancient times, during World War II the Mediterranean Sea was the setting for an epic struggle. From June 1940 to November 1942 Great Britain’s Royal Navy fought Italian naval and air forces, then German submarines and the German air force, to wrest command of what Italian dictator Benito Mussolini called “Mare Nostrum.” For over two years before America’s entry into the war, Royal Navy and Dominion naval vessels struggled to supply their beleaguered garrison on the island of Malta and to secure the through convoy route from Gibraltar to Suez. In numerous surface engagements and hard-fought convoy battles,...

    (pp. 1-22)

    With the exception of two aircraft ferry operations by the carrierWaspin the spring of 1942, American naval and military forces did not join their British allies in the struggle against the Axis in the Mediterranean until November 1942. By then British forces, including ships and aircraft of the Royal Navy, had been engaged with the Axis in the Mediterranean for two and a half years. In fact, the British had committed a large share of their wartime assets to the Mediterranean, where the Royal Navy kept a force of battleships, cruisers, and destroyers at Gibraltar and based its...

  6. CHAPTER 2 OPERATION TORCH: The Landings in French Morocco
    (pp. 23-54)

    By the morning of D-day Minus One, November 7, 1942, the Western Naval Task Force was nearing the Moroccan coast. The storm had abated, and early that morning Admiral Davidson’s Southern Attack Group veered off for its transport area at Safi. Admiral Hewitt’s other two assault forces continued on, the Northern Attack Group toward its landings at Mehedia and the Center Attack Group toward Fedala (now Mohammedia). So far, there were no signs indicating that these large amphibious task groups had been sighted.

    The Western Naval Task Force’s northernmost landings were made by Rear Adm. Monroe Kelly’s Northern Attack Group...

  7. CHAPTER 3 OPERATION TORCH: The Mediterranean Landings
    (pp. 55-80)

    While the Americans were landing along the coast of French Morocco, Allied troops were coming ashore inside the Mediterranean at Oran and Algiers. The capture of Oran and its naval base at Mers el-Kébir was the mission of the Center Naval Task Force, led by Commodore Thomas Troubridge RN, which transported Maj. Gen. Lloyd Fredendall’s Center Task Force to beaches on either side of Oran. The Center Task Force was composed of the First U.S. Infantry Division, units of the First Armored Division, and a company of the First U.S. Ranger Battalion. The Americans planned to seize Oran’s port facilities...

    (pp. 81-100)

    With the capture of Oran, Algiers, and Casablanca, the Allies had established a strong foothold in North Africa and secured three major ports to support their offensive eastward into Tunisia. Although the Allies were intent upon securing Bizerte and Tunis, their main objective was the destruction of all Axis armies in North Africa, including Rommel’s Afrika Korps, which was retreating westward after its stinging defeat at El Alamein. With the British Eighth Army pursuing them from the east and Allied forces advancing from the west, Rommel’s famous desert army was doomed unless German and Italian forces could occupy Tunisia in...

    (pp. 101-124)

    Allied prospects as of New Year’s Day 1943 were mixed. Although they had lost the race to Tunis, the British had won a major victory in North Africa at El Alamein and were pursuing Rommel’s forces westward toward Tripoli. On January 15 Gen. Bernard L. Montgomery’s Eighth Army forces launched an attack, and four days later the Fifty-first Division entered Homs (now Al Khums) and the Seventh Armored advanced to Tarhuna. Sensing defeat, Rommel ordered his forces out of Tripoli, leaving the veteran Ninetieth Light Brigade as a rear guard to lay mines and arrange demolitions.¹

    As the Eighth Army...

    (pp. 125-146)

    Although the Tunisian campaign had officially ended, British Coastal Forces and Allied air forces remained active in the Sicilian Channel for several weeks, and convoys continued to come and go escorted by destroyers and other escort craft. With Axis aircraft and submarines a constant threat, convoy duty and antisubmarine patrols remained vital missions in the Mediterranean. American tankers and cargo vessels arriving in North African ports in May and June 1943 quickly discovered that Axis air forces based in Sicily and Sardinia had not surrendered and were still active. The tankerEsso Charleston, for example, entered Oran harbor in May....

    (pp. 147-194)

    From the bridge of his flagship, the old Belgian cross-Channel steamerAntwerp, Adm. Sir Bertram Ramsay RN could see the first landing craft of the slow convoy struggling toward him in the choppy seas. This was the wartime debut of the landing craft (infantry), or LCIs, and Mother Nature had brewed up a northwest gale for their christening. By the afternoon of D-day Minus One, July 9, 1943, a fresh breeze had become a fifty-mile-per-hour gale producing short, steep seas that made even Ramsay’s flagship roll and caused the little LCIs, LCTs, and their escorts to pitch and roll uncomfortably....

    (pp. 195-216)

    As night fell on D-day, Adm. Alan Kirk’s bridge announcer, John Mason Brown, told his flagshipAnconaudience, “Herewith … some of the news you helped to make. Admiral Hewitt, in a dispatch to Admiral Cunningham, reported that the Sicilian beaches assaulted by three American Task Forces were firmly held, that one of these beaches was found to be heavily mined, and that at Gela the pier was wrecked, its center section missing.” Brown summed up the events of D-day by telling the men that, according to Hewitt, the paratroop operation had been successful, gunfire support ships were engaging enemy...

    (pp. 217-240)

    Palermo’s capture eased the burden of supplying Seventh Army from North African ports and also gave the Allies a base from which to support army operations along Sicily’s north coast. To that end, on July 27 the U.S. Navy organized a new task force based at Palermo. Commanded by Rear Adm. Lyal Davidson, Task Force 88 was composed of the cruisersPhiladelphia,Savannah, andBoisescreened byCowie,Butler,Shubrick,Hendron, andGlennon. Recalling their mission,Shubrick’s executive officer, and later skipper, J. Victor Smith wrote, “By that time the American Army had captured Palermo by land and was moving...

  14. CHAPTER 10 OPERATION AVALANCHE: D-day at Salerno
    (pp. 241-268)

    As the Italians were preparing to surrender, Allied convoys making up Vice Adm. H. Kent Hewitt’s Western Naval Task Force (Task Force 80) were getting under way from half a dozen ports for an invasion of the Italian mainland at Salerno. Hewitt and Fifth Army commander Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark sailed in the flagshipAnconwith the fighter director shipsUlster QueenandPalomares. Rear Adm. John L. Hall’s Southern Attack Force (Task Force 81), which was to land Maj. Gen. Ernest J. Dawley’s U.S. VI Corps on four beaches at Paestum at the southern end of the Gulf...

    (pp. 269-294)

    Except for sneak air raids on the transport area, D-day Plus One, September 10, 1943, was a quiet one on Salerno beachhead. In VI Corps sector, the Americans spent the day unloading and regrouping.PC-542was patrolling off the beachhead. By afternoon, Radioman Second Class Joseph J. Smith wrote in his diary, “most (of the transports) were unloaded; LSTs and LCIs also. The transports hadn’t moved away from the beach, and at 2315 another raid. This time they meant business. Every type of flare was dropped, some directly above us. We heard a dive-bomber, then the whistling bombs—then we...

    (pp. 295-314)

    Although the Salerno campaign officially came to a close with the Allied breakout from the Salerno plain on September 20, naval support for troops in Italy continued on a reduced scale throughout the autumn of 1943 as tankers, repair ships, and ammunition and provisions ships crossed and recrossed the Mediterranean to keep up the momentum of the Allies’ drive north toward Rome. With its depots and port facilities, prior to the capture of the port of Naples on October 1 Palermo was the nearest operating base to the Italian front lines and played a prominent role in supporting the Italian...

  17. CHAPTER 13 OPERATION SHINGLE: The Anzio Landings
    (pp. 315-338)

    With the fall of Naples and the German withdrawal to the Volturno Line, the battle for Italy entered its third phase—the drive to Rome. Unaware that on October 4 Hitler had ordered Field Marshal Albert Kesselring to delay the Allied advance as long as possible at the Volturno Line, Allied commanders Gen. Harold Alexander and Gen. Mark Clark were optimistic about crossing the Trigno and the Volturno rivers and advancing to the Italian capital. However, they had underestimated the difficulty of fighting in the rugged mountains of central Italy in the rain and mud of an Italian autumn.¹


  18. CHAPTER 14 THE ANZIO CAMPAIGN: “A Second Tobruk”?
    (pp. 339-358)

    January 29, 1944, marked the end of the first week of Allied operations at Anzio-Nettuno. The Luftwaffe observed the occasion with several air attacks including a determined glide-bomb attack on the roadstead. “Nine German FW 190’s came down out of the sun early on the 29th,”Niblackcrewman Joseph Donahue wrote in his diary. “Our five-inch guns broke up the formation with some very close shell bursts—they scattered in all directions as our Army P-40’s got after them.” Donahue thought the German air attacks off Anzio were more relentless than during the Salerno campaign. “German bombers came over again...

  19. CHAPTER 15 BREAKOUT: Operations Diadem and Buffalo
    (pp. 359-378)

    By early spring of 1944 the struggle at Anzio beachhead had become a stalemate destined to last until May when Allied forces were finally able to break out from the beachhead and link up with Fifth Army forces advancing northward. Allied warships and smaller escorts spent most of that period protecting the beachhead against air, submarine, and E-boat attack or escorting small convoys ferrying supplies and troops to Anzio and bringing casualties and prisoners of war back to Naples. Most of the naval action off the coast of Italy involved Coastal Forces boats based on Corsica and Sardinia that supported...

    (pp. 379-400)

    The Allies began their fourth summer of World War II in the Mediterranean in dramatically different circumstances from those of the first three summers. Unlike the dark days of 1940–41, the United States was now firmly in the Allied camp. As a result of the British victory at El Alamein, the Torch landings and subsequent Tunisian campaign, and the invasions of Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio, the Allies now controlled all of the North African coast, the islands of Malta and Sicily, and most of the Italian mainland. Rome, the original but elusive goal of the Italian campaign, had fallen...

  21. Photo inserts
    (pp. None)
  22. CHAPTER 17 OPERATION DRAGOON: The Landings in Southern France
    (pp. 401-428)

    The Western Naval Task Force, or main assault force for Operation Dragoon, was mounted in the Naples area and left in convoys at intervals beginning on August 9, 1944. Rear Adm. Frank J. Lowry’s flagshipDuaneled out Task Force 84 (Alpha Force), the first assault force, followed three days later by the LCT convoys. Three hours after Task Force 84’s departure, Rear Adm. Bertram J. Rodgers sortied inBiscaynewith the sixty-three-ship Task Force 85 (Delta Force) and an LST convoy. Task Force 87 (Camel Force), the third group, with twenty-five combat loaders, a battleship, and sixteen warships under...

    (pp. 429-446)

    Although by the morning of D-day Plus One VI Corps was poised to secure the Blue Line, Gen. John Dahlquist’s decision to land on Green Beach instead of Camel Red, or Beach 264A, had affected Gen. Lucian Truscott’s plan. The landing on Green Beach disrupted the landing of Combat Command Sudre and the ground echelons of the tactical air force, which in turn affected the seizure of airfields near Fréjus and in the Agres valley. These changes, Truscott recalled, “were to prevent our having close air support east of the Rhone when we began our drive to the north a...

    (pp. 447-468)

    With Operation Dragoon successfully completed and Gen. Alexander Patch’s Seventh Army moving north, the war in the Mediterranean began winding down and the Allies started closing bases and transferring ships and resources to the Pacific theater. Substantial numbers of warships and landing craft remained in the Mediterranean, however, for a variety of missions. High on the priority list of missions in the fall of 1944 was providing naval gunfire support to Gen. Robert Frederick’s First Airborne Task Force as it pursued German forces withdrawing eastward. While the First Special Service Force’s First Regiment advanced near the coast, Third Regiment pursued...

    (pp. 469-490)

    Allied victory in the Mediterranean theater in World War II was achieved not only by the courage, determination, and skill of Allied soldiers, sailors, and airmen but also by the cooperative efforts of British and American military forces. By working together to plan, develop, and implement amphibious warfare techniques, the Allies were able to carry out five successful, large-scale amphibious operations in the Mediterranean theater from the fall of 1942 to the summer of 1944. Beginning with the Torch landings in Morocco, Algiers, and Oran, the Allies gradually gained control of the North African shore; invaded and conquered the islands...

  26. NOTES
    (pp. 491-544)
    (pp. 545-556)
  28. INDEX
    (pp. 557-578)