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Attack on Taranto Paperback – August 1, 2000

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Stackpole Books (August 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811726614
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811726610
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,472,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

On November 11, 1940, 21 slow, canvas-covered British warplanes, launched from the carrier Illustrious, attacked the harbor at the Italian port of Taranto and put most of the Italian navy out of commission. This all-but-forgotten operation, the authors argue, deserves historical recognition as an inspirational precedent for the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor 13 months later. Taranto demonstrated that battleships in a shallow, heavily defended harbor could be sunk by a handful of torpedo-bombers. That lesson Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, commander-in-chief of the Japanese fleet, learned well-while the American military virtually ignored it. The book includes an instructive comparison of the ways Japanese and Americans reacted to Taranto and a fine summary of the origin and development of carrier doctrine. The account of the 1940 raid itself is detailed and suspenseful. Lowry is the author of The Story Soldiers Wouldn't Tell: Sex in the Civil War; Wellham, who flew in the Taranto raid, is the author of With Naval Wings: The Autobiography of a Fleet Air Pilot in World War II. Illustrations.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"...immenesly readable, compelling and convincing account." From FLY NAVY, the publication of the Fleet Air Arm Officers Association.

"This is a very well written book by two well-qualified authors in possesion of the facts." THE GLOBE & LAUREL.

More About the Author

I am a product of northern California -- beaches, high Sierras, high school in the East Bay, plane spotting in World War II, seven years at Stanford. Starting in 1957, I was a physician and psychiatrist -- an always interesting life -- in California and New Mexico, publishing several very dull medical books. Around 1995, with my wife Beverly, we began reading the Civil War records of misbehavior at the National Archives. Just like today's tabloids, only wilder. We found that high school history left out all the interesting stuff.

As you can see from my titles, I don't do battles or famous generals or comment on grand strategy. We do "human interest" stories (all true) of men terrified in combat, of women who miss having their men in bed, of abused horses, of loyal friends, of political conniptions, and of the surpringly ubiquity of prostitution. And little byways: Was Lincoln gay? Why were so many of his bodyguards drunks? Was Robert E. Lee's favorite ranger just a horse thief?

Leaping ahead fifty years, I've tackled a new aspect of history -- the Titanic. In my new book, TITANIC MADNESS, I show the very strong evidence that the captain had Alzheimer's Disease. All those people died because his brain was dying. Seems impossible? Check my book, now on Amazon in print and Kindle, or my website http://TitanicMadness.com

So, I retired from scuba diving (damaged ears), and from medicine (forty years is enough), and I'm having a great time. About my books -- I don't think you'll find a boring one.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David Caney on September 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
This short history of the birth of one of the truly significant innovations in modern military tactics and technology is nicely written, very well researched (the co-author was a leading participant), and offers up just the kind of occassional riveting statements that military history buffs love, such as:
-the names of two African American pilots who flew biplane fighters for Haile Salasse against Mussolini (now there's college paper topic for you).
-that Adm. Yamamoto was once banned from casinos in Monaco because he won too much.
-that a German named Schwartzkoff (sp?) stole the plans of the first practical torpedo from a British engineer in the 19th century.
The story itself is short and economically written, but the book is beefed up with divergent historical lines of inquiry, from the overall strategic position of the British Mediteranean
fleet to the British use of of American Martin B-20's, a plane type apparently unknown to other WW-II history writers.
Although the narrative goes a little far afield once or twice, and makes some brisk statements begging for better source notes, it is an overall good read, about the right length, and should be in every 20th century naval historian's collection.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kevin M Quigg VINE VOICE on June 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As the authors quite rightly put, this was the prelude to Pearl Harbor. The Italian Navy was stationed at this harbor and posed a threat to British sea routes to Egypt, India, Singapore, and Australia. A daring attack by 21 aircraft from a British aircraft carrier damaged three Italian battleships and put them out of action for six to nine months. Since they were in a heavily protected shallow harbor, it was indeed a daring attack, which the Japanese copied to place the American Pacific fleet out of action. The Japanese attack was on a much larger scale.
One of the authors was a member of the attack group, and he gives his own account in the battle.
This is a nice little read. The book is short and has plenty of photos. A determined reader could finish this book in two to three hours. Taranto was indeed the prelude the Pearl Harbor, but now few people realize this. With Lowry's perspective, this is good book about the Second World War.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D.S.Thurlow TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
"The Attack on Taranto" describes in tactical and exciting detail the British Royal Navy's dramatic raid on the Italian Naval Base at Taranto in November 1940, using carrier-based Swordfish biplane torpedo bombers. The raid at least temporarily crippled the Italian surface fleet at a crucial moment in the Second World War in the Mediterranean theater.

Authors Lowry and Wellham spend considerable time explaining both the planning and the execution of the mission, including its multi-faceted deception plan. As the authors repeatedly remark, the British fliers courageously made the attack at night in obsolete open-cockpit biplanes into the teeth of a heavily defended target. In fact, the Swordfish biplanes, nicknamed "stringbags", would provide good service at sea throughout the war.

Lowry and Wellham emphasize the parallels to the December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, including the intense Japanese interest in Italian and German after-action reports and an inspection of the base at Taranto. Their further speculation on Pearl Harbor is perhaps less well-founded. "The Attack on Taranto" is well-recommended to student of naval aviation, as a solid account of a lesser-known but important event in the development of carrier aviation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kurt A. Johnson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 10, 2013
Format: Paperback
On November 11, 1940, a British aircraft carrier launched its torpedo bombers on a sneak attack on the Italian fleet anchored in the heavily defended port of Taranto. The Italian fleet was heavily damaged, and its morale was shaken. Among those examining the attack was Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who had similar plans of his own...

This short book examines the attack on Taranto, all the while showing how that attack influenced the later attack on Pearl Harbor. Along the way, the author treats the reader to a history of aircraft carriers, torpedoes, the Italian and Japanese navies, and just about everything pertinent to a full understanding of the two attacks. After the Taranto chapters, there is another examining the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway. The eight(!) appendices cover such topics as British naval aviation, the raid on Bomba, Libya, the names of the British flight crews at Taranto, and much more.

This book is very well done indeed! The author takes a World War 2 episode that is largely overlooked in many history books, examines it in depth, and makes the whole thing fascinating to read. My one complaint against the book is that it contains only one map, a map of the port of Taranto. However, the book does include a number of great black-and-white pictures that really add to the text. Overall, I would call this a great book, one worth your time to read!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Neal A. Wellons on October 14, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The other reviews give a good overview but I will add a little. The 143 page book (including appendix, notes, bibliography and index but not including 16 pages of pictures) includes about nine pages on planning, 15 on the attack, and three pages on the post-attack. The rest of the book is more general with a good bit of coverage on Pearl Harbor and some minor actions. Appendix includes British Naval Aviation, Flight Crews at Taranto, Italian Naval Ships at Taranto and more. Because of the lack of maps and aerial photos, it is interesting to use a web aerial photo program like Google Earth to aid in following the action.

Another book with a major section on Taranto is "To War in a Stringbag," a Bantam War Book that covers many actions involving Swordfish airplanes. To me it was a better read.
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