Book Review: The Mediterranean Air War: Airpower and Allied Victory in World War II

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by Robert S. Ehlers, Jr.

Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2015. Pp. xvi, 520. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 0700620753

The Air War in a Neglected Theatre

In recent years several books have begun to reassess the importance of the Mediterranean in the Second World War. And while there have been a number of previous works on the air war in this theatre, in this volume a Prof. Ehlers (Angelo State) gives us very good overview of air operations from the Atlantic across the Mediterranean and into the Red Sea and Indian Ocean over the entire war, down to the collapse of Germany, and offers some excellent strategic analysis. 

Although, as have most authors, Ehlers gives the British more attention than the Germans or Italians, he does a generally better job of looking at the Axis air effort, particularly that of the Luftwaffe, while somewhat slighting that of the Regia Aerea. 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 events within the framework of a global coalition war, noting the criticality of the theatre to the Allied war effort against Japan, as well as Germany. 

Ehlers argues, rather effectively, that Axis, more specifically German, efforts in the theatre were ultimately frustrated by several strategic blunders. The most critical of these were the failure to take Malta, especially when it was virtually undefended, the failure fully exploit the capture of Crete, to use it as an advanced air base for operations against North Africa and the Middle East, and even more importantly, the postponement of any serious Mediterranean effort in anticipation of the never realized victory in Russia. 

While it may not settle the argument over the criticality of the Mediterranean to the outcome of the war, The Mediterranean Air War, a volume in the UPK’s “Modern War Series,”  certainly makes an excellent case for the raising our understanding of the importance of the Middle Sea’s in importance within the framework of the global conflict.

Note: The Mediterranean Air War is also available as an e-book, e- $34.95 ISBN 978-0-7006-2076-0

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