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Taranto's Night

by Cristiano D'Adamo

The success of the attack relied mostly on the accuracy and timeliness of the air reconnaissance over the Italian base. The effectiveness of the mission had been greatly improved with the arrival in the Mediterranean theatre of the new aircraft Maryland. Two days before the attack, a Maryland from Malta confirmed that the Italian fleet was still in Taranto and that another battleship had reached port, bringing the total to six.

Maryland was the British denomination for the American-built Glenn Martin which was produced by the Glenn Martin Aircraft Company of Baltimore, Maryland. These planes had been produced for the French Air Force, but the German occupation of France cause the final shipment to be diverted to Great Britain where the original crates were opened and the content assembled.

Three of these aircraft were sent to the Mediterranean after a long flight over occupied France and Sardinia. The flight took place on the 6th of September, 13 days ahead of schedule, and took all night. Squadron Leader Ernest Alfred Whitley had just transferred from a previous assignment with the N.22 Beaufort Torpedo Squadron of the RAF Coastal Command. The new unit was designated No.431 General Reconnaissance Flight and was based in Malta.The other pilots were Officer Foxton and Flight Sergeant Bibby.

This twin-engine bomber was never used by the US Air Force, it was ordered only by France and Britain. The designation A-22 was used for aircraft built under lend-lease contracts. The Maryland was a sleek bomber with a good performance, but a very cramped fuselage; hence the development of the A-30 Baltimore with a deeper fuselage. About 450 were built.

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