The Mediterranean Air War
Airpower and Allied Victory in World War II
Robert S. Ehlers, Jr.
Master Corporal Jan Stanislaw Jakobzcak Memorial Book Award
Without what the Allies learned in the Mediterranean air war in 1942–1944, the Normandy landings—and so, perhaps, the Second World War II—would have ended differently. This is one of many lessons of The Mediterranean Air War, the first one-volume history of the vital role of airpower during the three-year struggle for control of the Mediterranean Basin in World War II—and of its significance for the Allied successes in the war's last two years.
“A major contribution to the historiography of the Second World War. The book showcases how ‘the devil is in the details.’ Highly recommended.”
—Global War Studies
“[Ehlers] gives the reader a good mix of the strategic, operational, and at times even tactical aspects of the campaign, taking pains to include the often complex logistical side and fitting the vents within the framework of a global coalition war.”
—New York Military Affairs SymposiumSee all reviews...
“An innovative and important book that adds considerably to our understanding of the role of the Mediterranean theater to Allied victory in Europe and World War II.”
—U.S. Military History Review
“The analysis is not limited to the strategic level; it also examines the operational and tactical levels and how the successes and failures of Allied airpower in the Mediterranean theater were critical in establishing the foundation for combined-arms tactics.”
“Ehlers wields a sharp pen, sparing neither side from criticism. . . . A well-documented, detailed study of a heretofore neglected topic in a neglected theater.”
—Journal of Military History
“This book is a very valuable addition to the history of the war in the Mediterranean and, more generally, to the overall history of World War II. One of Ehlers’s great strengths is his ability to write not just about the Mediterranean, but also about the innumerable connections between the Mediterranean and other theaters of the war.”
“Robert S. Ehlers Jr., is a rising star in the field of airpower history. . . . Most of the Axis’ difficulties resulted from poor strategic choices, a primary focus for Ehlers and a fine analytical structure around which to organize each chapter.”
—Military History Quarterly
“Robert S. Ehlers has given us another important study of an underappreciated topic. His examination of air power in the Mediterranean theater in the Second World War is far more than a study of aviation in war: it is an analysis of the development and implementation of combined arms warfare, and the leverage it affords when done properly. The book is brimming with insights about command, control, leadership—indeed all the challenges posed by inter-operating military instruments in a theater of war. These insights are just as useful for contemporary practitioners and defense analysts as they are for students of history.”
—Tami Davis Biddle, author of Rhetoric and Reality in the Air Warfare: The Evolution of British and American Ideas about Strategic Bombing, 1914–1945 and Chair of Aerospace Studies, U.S. Army War College
“Robert Ehlers has assembled a perceptive, skillful, and comprehensive account of the air dimension of World War II’s pivotal Mediterranean campaign.”
—Douglas Porch, author of The Path to Victory: The Mediterranean Theater in World War IISee fewer reviews...
Airpower historian Robert S. Ehlers opens his account with an assessment of the pre-war Mediterranean theater, highlighting the ways in which the players' strategic choices, strengths, and shortcomings set the stage for and ultimately shaped the air campaigns over the Middle Sea. Beginning with the Italian invasion of Abyssinia, Ehlers reprises the developing international crisis—initially between Britain and Italy, and finally encompassing France, Germany, the US, other members of the British Commonwealth, and the Balkan countries. He then explores the Mediterranean air war in detail, with close attention to turning points, joint and combined operations, and the campaign's contribution to the larger Allied effort. In particular, his analysis shows how and why the success of Allied airpower in the Mediterranean laid the groundwork for combined-arms victories in the Middle East, the Indian Ocean area, North Africa, and the Atlantic, northwest Europe.
Of grand-strategic importance from the days of Ancient Rome to the Great-Power rivalries of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Middle Sea was no less crucial to the Allied forces and their foes. Here, in the successful offensives in North Africa in 1942 and 1943, the US and the British learned to conduct a coalition air and combined-arms war. Here, in Sicily and Italy in 1943 and 1944, the Allies mastered the logistics of providing air support for huge naval landings and opened a vital second aerial front against the Third Reich, bombing critical oil and transportation targets with great effectiveness. The first full examination of the Mediterranean theater in these critical roles—as a strategic and tactical testing ground for the Allies and as a vital theater of operations in its own right—The Mediterranean Air War fills in a long-missing but vital dimension of the history of World War II.