Tuesday, April 7, 2015

America and Malta in WWII

Malta in the Med.
Malta was definitely a British show in World War II.  The British had controlled Malta since 1800 and created a key naval base in the center of the Mediterranean.

The Axis siege of Malta lasted from Mussolini's declaration of war on June 10, 1940 until Italy surrendered and joined the allies in the summer of 1943.  During this time Malta was subjected to the most intense and prolonged bombing of any part of the world during the Second World War.  RAF pilots provided critical air defence of the island during countless bombing raids.  Royal navy submarines sank and harassed Axis convoys which were supplying Rommel's Africa Corps from Italian ports.  Malta was desperately short of essential supplies including food, ammunition and, most importantly aviation fuel.
USS Wasp, Malta Maritime Museum
America provided vital assistance to the defence of Malta during the war.  Even prior to Pearl Harbor, Churchill communicated to FDR Malta's desperate need for additional fighter aircraft and the recently commissioned aircraft carrier, USS Wasp, was dispatched by FDR to Glasgow to assist the beleaguered island.  In April and, again in May, of 1942 the USS Wasp ferried Spitfires and their pilots, including Denis Barnham, the author of Malta Spitfire Pilot, to Malta.  Winston Churchill himself rang up the captain of the USS Wasp* and said, "Many thanks to you all for your timely help.  Who said a Wasp couldn't sting twice?"

Art Roscoe, a 21-year old Californian, longed to fly, but had a slight astigmatism in one eye and was turned down by the US military.  Instead he joined one of the American Eagle squadron's of the RAF ands was trained as a Spitfire pilot in Essex.  Transferred to Malta, he became a decorated RAF ace.  He was shot down by cannon fire from an ME-109 in October 1942 but managed to survive the crash and the war.

Maltese kids waving US Flag
Arrival of Operation Pedestal Convoy
The USS Ohio was an American built (though English crewed) Liberty ship that was past of the critical convoy called Operation Pedestal.  Hit by numerous bombs and torpedoes, she barely managed to reach Valletta harbor delivering her precious cargo of airplane fuel.  Other American ships resupplying Malta, such as the Santa Elisa, did keep their American crew.

After the siege of Malta lifted in 1943 there was a flood of American troops and officers into Malta.  In June of 1943 General Eisenhower, Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces North Africa, planned Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, from his headquarters in Lascaris (on the island of Malta).  Many British felt that the arrival of the better paid American troops drove up prices on the island.

FDR himself paid two visits to the plucky island once in December of 1943 and again for the Malta Conference with Churchill in February 1945.  On December 7, 1943, the second anniversary of Pearl Harbor, while in Malta, FDR declared as follows...

FDR quote, Valletta, Malta
"In the name of the people of the United States of America, I salute the Island of Malta, its people and defenders, who, in the cause of freedom and justice and decency throughout the world, have rendered valorous service far above and beyond the call of duty.

Under repeated fire from the skies, Malta stood alone, but unafraid in the center of the sea, one tiny bright flame in the darkness—a beacon of hope for the clearer days which have come.

Malta's bright story of human fortitude and courage will be read by posterity with wonder and with gratitude through all the ages.

What was done in this Island maintains the highest traditions of gallant men and women who from the beginning of time have lived and died to preserve civilization for all mankind."

FDR Statue
Grosvenor Square, London
Malta became independent on 21 September 1964 and the Royal Navy base was withdrawn in 1979.

* The USS Wasp was later sent to the Pacific theatre where she was sunk by a Japanese submarine at the battle of Guadalcanal.

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades here...www.americainvades.com or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427

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