History Presentation Siege of Malta Saturday, February 17, 2024
Doors Open at 9am Presentation at 10am
The island of Malta in the Mediterranean lays south of Sicily and is astride the air and sea lanes between Europe and North Africa. In June 1940, Italian forces, joined by German forces in 1941, initiated a campaign to occupy North Africa and control the Suez Canal to gain access to the oil reach regions of the Middle East. Malta, which was a strategic base for British air and sea forces that could attack Axis ships transporting supplies and reinforcements for the campaign, had to be neutralized. Winston Churchill called the island an “unsinkable aircraft carrier“. General Erwin Rommel, in command of Axis forces in the region, warned that “Without Malta the Axis will end by losing control of North Africa”.
Axis military commanders resolved to bomb and starve Malta into submission. The relentless attacks were designed to soften up the island’s defenses by destroying its ports, towns and cities, and blockading Allied shipping. Malta was one of the most intensively bombed areas during the war. Yet the Royal Air Force launched a valiant defense of the island fortress and by 1943 were able to go on the offensive, sinking over two hundred Axis supply ships and downing untold numbers of Axis aircraft.
On February 17th, retired U.S. Air Force and airline pilot Don Johnson will tell the story of the great siege of Malta. One of the museum’s Lead Docents, he will cover how the outnumbered fighter pilots of the RAF, including a few American volunteers, defended the island against the bombing campaign of the German and Italian air forces. He will also tell the little-known story of how the British “borrowed” the U.S aircraft carrier Wasp to deliver RAF fighter planes to Malta under the noses of the Axis.
There is no additional charge to attend this presentation. Doors to the museum will open at 9am. The presentation begins at 10am.