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Battle of Taranto

The Battle of Taranto occurred on the night of November 11 - November 12, 1940 during World War II. In the battle, the Royal Navy launched the first aircraft carrier strike in history, on the Italian fleet at Taranto. The battle was won by the United Kingdom

The Italians, who wanted to cut the British naval lifeline to Africa, were reluctant to risk their fleet in a battle with the British. They preferred to keep them safely moored in port, with the threat of them coming out enough to force the British to be conservative. This is the theory of Fleet in Being

The British, upset with the potential for an attack on their lifelines, launched Operation Judgement, the surprise attack on Taranto. They assembled a naval task force and sailed until they were just off the Greek island of Cephalonia. The British carrier Illustrious then launched 21 Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers in two waves.

The Italian fleet was caught off-guard by the raid, and decimated. All the ships in the harbor, including the Conte Di Cavour, Caio Duilio, and Littorio, were damaged or sunk. The Italian fleet was mortally wounded, and would never again threaten the British supply to Africa.

It had been previously thought that torpedo attacks against ships required deep water (at least 100ft). Taranto had a water depth of only 40ft. However the British Navy used adapated torpedoes, and also dropped them from a very low height. This aspect of the raid, and others, served as the major inspiration for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and it was heavily studied during their planning.

Artists Anthony Saunders and Robert Taylor have both done paintings of the raid and prints can be purchased online.

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