S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the tag “Italy”

Book Review: The Decisive Campaigns of the Desert Air Force 1942 – 1945

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Rating  – Four Stars

Evans relates the large-scale accomplishments of the Royal Air Force in the Cyrenaica, Sicilian, and Italian campaigns in World War II. His matter-of-fact style, presents the Desert Air Force’s (DAF) campaigns in a chronological, military style order. I would suggest that this book is for the military aficionado—clearly not for the casual reader.  It’s a dry recitation, laced with a few personal tidbits. 

He offers several maps, however, not enough of them and not annotated in pertinent detail enough—making it nettlesome to follow his narrative. Such especially is the case in his narrative of the Eight Army’s campaign in southeastern Tunisia. For example, on page 73 he discusses the Army’s capture of the strategic Tebaga Gap in March 1943. Unfortunately, Tebaga Gap is not spotted on the relevant map.

The RAF’s command of the sky over Cyrenaica and its perfected close air support technique were the deciding factors in the Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s British Eight Army’s successful breakout at El’ Alamein in December in 1942. The key to victory was the DAF’s total quashing of supplies for Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps’ Panzeramee. In particular, it was the sinking of the two Italian supply ships in the harbor at Tobruk, Proserpina and the Tergestea that was the death knell for the retreating Afrika Korps. Allied air power had won the air war over El’ Alamein.

Following, it was the DAF’s supremacy of the air that enabled allied armies to crack the Nazi’s Gustav strategic defensive line at Monte Cassino in May 1943; and the Gothic Line in the Po Valley in April 1945.

Overall, I rate this book four stars and a fine addition to a military historian’s library.

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BOOK REVIEW: A Box of Sand: The Italo-Ottoman War 1911-1912 by Charles Stephenson

a box of sandI’m conflicted reviewing this book. Stephenson reports the chronologic events of this war in exceptional detail. Unfortunately, it’s dull, and tedious—lacks an empathetic milieu. It’s hard reading for the ordinary citizen. Perhaps it is best as a reference book for the military historian.

This war between the Kingdom of Italy and the Ottoman Empire early in the twentieth-century (1911-1912) for control of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania (now Libya) mostly is lost to history nor is its raison d’être much understood. Stephenson has superbly researched the war’s particulars and has penned about as historically accurate a scenario as one could reckon. He relates in excruciating detail the chronology of the war—laced with interminable quotes from journalists, diary entries, diplomatic and military messages, after-action reports, etc. He spends considerable text discussing the reactions of the Triple Entente to Italy’s (a member) participation in the war, Ottoman politics, and details and implications of the Balkan Wars. Such background is related to the conflict but is tangential and diverts our attention from the main theme.

I’m overwhelmed with ancillary information. The war’s key points are buried in this comprehensive blather. On completion of his text, I do not have a clear picture of the events of this war nor of its origins.

I have three more complaints: the text of this 296-page book is in a small font (size and type not given on the copyright page)—far too small for comfortable reading. And, the Appendices are in an even smaller font. Often times, he mentions locations in the text that are not plotted on his maps. The Index contains only the names of people mentioned in the text. A more comprehensive Index would contain geographic locations, ship’s names, and etc.

Lastly, though the war ended officially in 1912 it morphed into a protracted war with the indigenous Senussi that lasted until 1934. The Senussi are a Muslim political-religious Sufi order and tribe of (now) Libya and Sudan.

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