Taranto by AliceFromLake ()
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The Battle of Taranto took place on the night of 11–12 November 1940 during the Second World War between British naval forces, under Admiral Andrew Cunningham, and Italian naval forces, under Admiral Inigo Campioni. The Royal Navy launched the first all-aircraft ship-to-ship naval attack in history, employing 21 obsolete Fairey Swordfish biplane torpedo bombers from the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious in the Mediterranean Sea. The attack struck the battle fleet of the Regia Marina at anchor in the harbour of Taranto, using aerial torpedoes despite the shallowness of the water. The success of this attack augured the ascendancy of naval aviation over the big guns of battleships. According to Admiral Cunningham, "Taranto, and the night of 11–12 November 1940, should be remembered for ever as having shown once and for all that in the Fleet Air Arm the Navy has its most devastating weapon."
A sub-flight of three aircraft, led by Lieutenant Commander K Williamson RN of 815 Squadron, attacked over San Pietro Island, and struck the battleship Conte di Cavour with a torpedo that blasted a 27 ft (8.2 m) hole in her side below her waterline. Williamson's plane was immediately shot down by the Italian battleship's anti-aircraft guns. The two remaining aircraft in this sub-flight continued, dodging barrage balloons and receiving heavy anti-aircraft fire from the Italian warships and shore batteries, to press home an unsuccessful attack on the battleship Andrea Doria. The next sub-flight of three attacked from a more northerly direction, attacking the battleship Littorio, hitting it with two torpedoes and launching one torpedo at the flagship, the battleship Vittorio Veneto, which missed. The bomber force, led by Captain O. Patch RM, attacked next. They found the targets difficult to identify, but attacked and hit two cruisers moored at Mar Piccolo hitting both with a single bomb each from 1,500 ft (460 m), followed by another aircraft which straddled four destroyers.
The second wave of eight aircraft - nine were lined up on deck, but number 8 and 9 collided while preparing to launch, one took off but had to abort when an auxiliary fuel tank fell off in flight; meanwhile, the other was repaired and launched late - led by Lieutenant Commander J. W. Hale of 819 Squadron, was now approaching from a northerly direction towards the Mar Grande harbour, with two of the four bombers also carrying flares, the remaining five carrying torpedoes. Flares were dropped shortly before midnight. Two aircraft aimed their torpedoes at Littorio, one of which hit. One aircraft, despite having been hit twice by anti-aircraft fire, aimed a torpedo at Vittorio Veneto but the torpedo missed. Another aircraft hit the battleship Caio Duilio with a torpedo, blowing a large hole in her hull and flooding both of her forward magazines. The aircraft flown by Lieutenant G. W. L. A. Bayly RN was shot down by antiaircraft fire from the heavy cruiser Gorizia following the successful attack on Littorio, the only aircraft lost from the second wave. The final aircraft to arrive on the scene 15 minutes behind the others made an unsuccessful dive bombing attack on one of the Italian cruisers despite heavy anti-aircraft fire, then safely returned to Illustrious, landing at 02:39.
It is likely the Imperial Japanese Navy's staff carefully studied the Taranto raid during planning for the attack on Pearl Harbor because of the issues with a shallow harbour. Japanese Lieutenant Commander Takeshi Naito, the assistant naval attaché to Berlin, flew to Taranto to investigate the attack firsthand. Naito subsequently had a lengthy conversation with Commander Mitsuo Fuchida about his observations in October 1941. Fuchida led the Japanese attack on 7 December 1941. More significant, perhaps, was a Japanese military mission to Italy in May 1941. A group of IJN officers visited Taranto and had lengthy discussions with their Italian Navy opposite numbers. However, the Japanese had been working on shallow-water solutions since early 1939, with various shallow ports as the notional targets, including Manila, Singapore, Vladivostok, and Pearl Harbor. (from Wikipedia)