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With Utmost Spirit

Allied Naval Operations in the Mediterranean, 1942-1945

Barbara Tomblin

Publication Year: 2004

" 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. Barbara Brooks Tomblin taught military history at Rutgers University and is the author of several articles and G.I. Nightingales: The Army Nurse Corps in World War II. She lives in California.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Front cover

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

This study would not have been possible without the assistance and encouragement of many persons, especially the veterans of World War II who shared with me their memories, experiences, diaries, news articles,...

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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...

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1. A New Chapter in the Struggle for the Mediterranean

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pp. 1-22

With the exception of two aircraft ferry operations by the carrier Wasp in 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...

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2. Operation Torch: The Landings in French Morocco

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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...

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3. Operation Torch: The Mediterranean Landings

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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...

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4. The Race to Tunis

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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...

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5. The Tunisian Campaign

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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...

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6. Gearing Up for Operation Husky

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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...

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7. Operation Husky

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pp. 147-194

From the bridge of his flagship, the old Belgian cross-Channel steamer Antwerp, 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...

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8. The Sicilian Campaign

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pp. 195-216

As night fell on D-day, Adm. Alan Kirk's bridge announcer, John Mason Brown, told his flagship Ancon audience, "€œHerewith . . . some of the news you helped to make. Admiral Hewitt, in a dispatch to Admiral Cunningham, reported that the...

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9. The Race to Messina

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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...

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10. Operation Avalanche

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pp. 241-268

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...

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11. The Battle for Salerno

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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-542 was patrolling off the beachhead. By afternoon, Radioman Second Class Joseph J. Smith wrote...

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12. Supporting the Italian Campaign

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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...

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13. Operation Shingle

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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...

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14. The Anzio Campaign

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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...

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15. Breakout

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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...

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16. Preliminaries to Operation Dragoon

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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...

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17. Operation Dragoon

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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,...

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18. Operation Dragoon: Final Phase

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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...

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19. Mopping Up in the Med

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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...

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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...


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pp. 491-544


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pp. 545-556


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pp. 557-578

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813171982
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813123387

Page Count: 608
Publication Year: 2004