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More than a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor, aircraft of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm executed a surprise attack on ships of the Italian Fleet anchored in the harbor of Taranto. The raid on Taranto anticipated the attack on Pearl Harbor, and historians have seen it as a precursor to the larger and more devastating strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy. The Taranto raid takes on added significance with the little-known fact that an officer in the US Navy was aboard the British aircraft carrier, and reported extensively on the attack to the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington. For the first time, this book tells the entire story of Taranto and its relevance to Pearl Harbor.

The book describes the attack in detail, and clears up mistakes and misconceptions that appeared in previous publications. The damage was done by 21 planes flown off the deck of HMS Illustrious, without any participation of the Royal Air Force. Illustrious took to sea the radar and aircraft control procedures that helped win the Battle of Britain. From British sources, the book describes the techniques used to allow successful use of aerial torpedoes in the shallow waters of Taranto harbor.

The story of Lt. Commander John N. Opie, III, USN is told for the first time. Opie was sent to England in May of 1940, to gain intelligence on the wartime experience of the British Navy. Despite his official designation as an Assistant Naval Attache to the US Embassy in London, Opie embarks in HMS Illustrious in August and sails with her into the Mediterranean. Over the next seven months, he sends back dozens of reports to the Office of Naval Intelligence, including a lengthy report on the Taranto attack, enclosing the Action Report of the Commanding Officer of the British carrier.

The book then turns to an examination of what the major navies of the world did with their knowledge of the Taranto raid. British, German, Italian, Japanese, and American naval staffs would be expected to study the action at Taranto, and distribute the lessons learned to the operating units of their fleets. Particular attention is paid to why the US Navy did not learn these lessons, and why the Japanese Navy did.

A final section considers Taranto and what it teaches about surprise attack generally, a most important question in light of the events of September 11, 2001.

About Christopher O’Connor

Christopher O’Connor earned a BA from Union College and an MBA from Northwestern University. For fifteen years he worked as a Hospital Administrator. In 1993 he began a new career as a full-time father to five children. His wife, Susan, is a Dentist in private practice since 1987. The development of this book began with a footnote in Prange’s At Dawn We Slept. This is his first book, but he has previously published articles in hospital management journals and Op-Ed pieces in newspapers. The book is based on original research in the National Archives in Washington, DC. Born in Springfield, MA, Mr. O’Connor now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia.

Paperback
$12.95 / Perfectbound
ISBN: 9781608447213
116 pages

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