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In Passage PerilousIn Passage Perilous

Malta and the Convoy Battles of June 1942

Vincent P. O'Hara

Narrated by James McSorley

Available from Audible

Book published by Indiana University Press

By mid-1942 the Allies were losing the Mediterranean war: Malta was isolated and its civilian population faced starvation. In June 1942 the British Royal Navy made a stupendous effort to break the Axis stranglehold. The British dispatched armed convoys from Gibraltar and Egypt toward Malta. In a complex battle lasting more than a week, Italian and German forces defeated Operation Vigorous, the larger eastern effort, and ravaged the western convoy, Operation Harpoon, in a series of air, submarine, and surface attacks culminating in the Battle of Pantelleria. Just two of seventeen merchant ships that set out for Malta reached their destination. In Passage Perilous presents a detailed description of the operations and assesses the actual impact Malta had on the fight to deny supplies to Rommel’s army in North Africa. The book’s discussion of the battle’s operational aspects highlights the complex relationships between air and naval power and the influence of geography on littoral operations.

Vincent P. O'Hara is a naval historian and the author of five books including Struggle for the Middle Sea: The Great Navies at War in the Mediterranean Theater 1940-1945. He serves on the editorial review board of Global War Studies and is a Collaboratori for Storia MILITARE magazine.


“A very readable account of the convoy battles fought inside the Mediterranean in 1942. Drawing heavily on Italian sources, In Passage Perilous is carefully researched, objective, balanced and well written. It is likely to become the standard account of the critical phase of the Mediterranean conflict.”

—H. P. Willmott, author of The Last Century of Sea Power

“Vincent O’Hara has written both a definitive account and an entertaining read of the critical Malta resupply convoy battles of June 1942. Operations Harpoon and Vigorous, often merely mentioned in passing, have finally received the in-depth English language study they deserve. O'Hara has worked in all the relevant languages and has offered much new material not seen before. His account is the most comprehensive and balanced study yet of the Battle of Pantelleria—his discussion of ordnance and mine issues is new and illuminating. I really enjoy that the author has analyzed in depth the Allied and Axis battle tactics as well as the overall strategies—you don’t just get what happened, but what might have occurred and why. Bravo and well done!”

—Jack Greene, co-author of The Naval War in the Mediterranean

“Early in World War II, the Mediterranean Sea saw more naval and air action than the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans, much of it focused on the isolated British-held island of Malta. Neutralized but never taken, Malta faced its greatest peril in June 1942, when the Royal Navy tried and failed to relieve it from the east and west in two concurrent convoy operations, Vigorous and Harpoon. No American naval historian has written about the Mediterranean more extensively than Vincent P. O’Hara, who here combines his command of British and Italian sources with his customary penetrating analyses to bring these two little-known operations to life.”

—David W. McComb, Executive Director, American Naval Records Society

In Passage Perilous is an important and highly recommended addition to the literature on World War II in the Mediterranean.”

IPP Naval Maritime History

“To someone well versed in naval history and the Second World War, In Passage Perilous is a valuable account of a relatively neglected portion of the war at sea.... Readers unfamiliar with the equipment or tactics of the Second World War will have a very difficult time following O’Hara’s narrative. Readers with the requisite knowledge, though, will find In Passage Perilous a very rewarding read.”

H-Net Reviews

“O'Hara is to be congratulated for bringing new insights into this critical phase of the Mediterranean conflict, and his work is to be recommended.”


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