In late September 1944 it did not take an optimist to surmise that the war in Europe was entering its final stages. The Western Allies had conquered southern France and much of Italy and were driving toward the Rhine. The Soviets’ main summer offensive, Operation Bagration, had crushed Army Group Center and resulted in one of Germany’s worst defeats of the war. With the great port of Marseille under Allied control and the last U-boats in the Med sunk, Vice Admiral H. Kent Hewitt, commander of the U.S. 8th Fleet later wrote: “The Mediterranean Campaign, as far as the Navy was concerned, seemed about over.”1 However, like every other optimist surveying the situation in the fall of 1944, Admiral Hewitt was wrong.
Risk vs. Reward Off the Italian Riviera
During the last eight months of World War II, Flank Force, a multinational Allied naval unit, waged a frustrating campaign that often pitted its warships against small, unconventional Axis craft.
By Vincent P. O'Hara