Operation Pedestal was a British operation that took place during the Second World War to get desperately needed supplies to Malta. Under siege by Axis air and naval forces, Malta was running low on food, ammunition and fuel. Without these supplies, the battle for the Mediterranean would be near impossible to fight.
Operation Pedestal involved 14 merchant ships protected by a fleet of British Royal and United States Navy vessels. Of the supplies on these ships, the most essential was fuel, the majority of which was stored on the tanker SS Ohio. On 9 August 1942, the convoy moved through the Straits of Gibraltar. Axis commanders were fully aware of the convoy, and its importance, and ordered the attack.
Over six days the Allies fought off aircraft, sailed around minefields and defended against ships and submarines. When they finally made it to Malta, it was at the cost of 400 lives and nine of the original 14 merchant ships. The SS Ohio, the last merchant ship to reach Malta, had taken heavy fire that left her without power. She was towed into the harbour at Malta, supported on either side by destroyers. Already sinking, she discharged the last of her fuel into two tankers only moments before she sank to the bottom.
Though the arrival of supplies did not end the siege, the food, fuel, ammunition and morale boost kept Malta in the fight. While Operation Pedestal was a tactical defeat with major losses, it has since proven to be a strategic victory.
Reviewed 14 November 2022