Operation Pedestal The fleet that battled to Malta, 1942

Max Hastings

Book - 2021

Renowned historian Max Hastings recreates one of the most thrilling events of World War II: Operation Pedestal, the British action to save its troops from starvation on Malta--an action-packed tale of courage, fortitude, loss, and triumph against all odds.

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 940.5421/Hastings Checked In
New York, NY : Harper [2021]
Main Author
Max Hastings (author)
Other Authors
Martin (Cartographer) Brown (cartographer)
First U.S. edition
Physical Description
xxxiii, 428 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 26 cm
Includes bibliographical references (page 371-402) and index.
  • List of Illustrations
  • Introduction
  • The Pedestal Fleet
  • Glossary
  • 1. 'It Would Be a Disaster of the First Magnitude'
  • 1. Malta
  • 2. Churchill's Commitment
  • 2. Men and Ships
  • 1. The Fleet
  • 2. The Convoy
  • 3. Sailing
  • 4. First Blood
  • 1. Hunters
  • 2. The Nemesis of Eagle
  • 5. 'Stand By to Ram'
  • 6. The Twelfth
  • 1. 'Shall I Be Killed Today?'
  • 2. Dogfighting
  • 3. Mines, Bombas, Torpedoes and a Canary
  • 7. Cruel Sea
  • 1. 'I Believe They've Buggered Us!'
  • 2. The Parting of Courses
  • 8. Force X
  • 9. Scuttling Charges
  • 10. Retribution
  • 11. Blenheim Day
  • 12. Ohio
  • 13. Grand Harbour
  • 1. Berthing
  • 2. Honours and Obsequies
  • Appendix: Losses during Operation Pedestal
  • Acknowledgements
  • References and Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Military historian Hastings (Operation Chastise) delivers a sterling account of the August 1942 mission to bring food, oil, and other supplies to the besieged island of Malta. By December 1941, when the Luftwaffe launched a months-long bombing campaign against the island, Malta was the sole "haven" for British naval and air forces in the Mediterranean between Gibraltar and Alexandria, Egypt. After numerous failed attempts to bring relief to the islanders, 14 merchant vessels set sail from Scotland and met up with 50 warships to make the journey across the Mediterranean. The convoy was bombed, torpedoed, and even rammed by German and Italian planes, submarines, and motorboats. Some heavily damaged vessels returned to Gibraltar, overloaded with survivors from sunken ships, while the rest of the fleet surged ahead in "two vague and straggled columns." Hasting details heated disagreements between commanders on both sides of the conflict, and pays close attention to chaotic events, including a near-mutiny and the looting of food and rum, aboard the USS Ohio, an oil tanker that eventually limped into port at Malta "with the wrecks of two enemy aircraft protruding from her deck piping and derricks." Buoyed by prodigious research and vivid prose, this is a brilliant illumination of one of WWII's most dramatic episodes. Agent: Andrew Wylie, the Wylie Agency. (June)

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Review by Library Journal Review

During April-May 1942, the Luftwaffe dropped more bombs on Malta, where the British had a bastion, than landed on London during the entire Blitz. Launched in August to deliver supplies to the stranded troops, Operation Pedestal managed to get through only a few ships, but Malta remained in Allied hands. With a 75,000-copy first printing.

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Veteran military historian Hastings' first full-length narrative of war at sea measures up to his usual high standards. The author reminds readers that summer 1942 marked the low point of the war for Britain. "The British people were weary," writes Hastings, "especially of the defeats that seemed to be all that their bellicose prime minister could contrive." Particularly humiliating were the surrenders of Singapore and Tobruk to inferior forces. Britain's 8th Army remained on the defensive in Egypt, menaced by Rommel's Afrika Korps, whose major difficulty was obtaining enough supplies from Europe. As Britain's sole military possession between Gibraltar and Alexandria, Malta was vital, and its planes and submarines wreaked havoc on Axis merchant ships. Efforts to neutralize the island accelerated in 1942 when the Luftwaffe arrived to join Italy's air force, dropping more bombs than it had on London during the Blitz. By summer, the island was devastated. British leaders debated whether or not Malta was worth defending, but Churchill had no doubts. As a result, on Aug. 10, 1942, 20,000 men and "the largest fleet the Royal Navy had committed to action since Jutland in 1916 entered the Mediterranean to fight an epic four-day battle." Named Operation Pedestal, the mission aimed to protect 14 merchant vessels carrying desperately needed food and fuel. Vividly chronicling the sinking of the aircraft carrier Eagle, Hastings initiates 250 pages of gripping fireworks and insights that continue well past Aug. 15, when five battered merchantmen limped into Malta's harbor. Real-world war is sloppier than the Hollywood version, even more so under the author's gimlet eye. Heroism was in abundant supply but not universal. Through Hastings' keen analysis we see how commanders on both sides showed as much bad judgment as intelligence. Belying Italy's reputation for incompetence, its naval fleet inflicted more damage than Germany's. Two months later, El Alamein and America's North Africa landing took the pressure off Malta, again calling Pedestal's sacrifices into question. Another enthralling Hastings must-read. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.