June 11, 1940. Italian aircraft pummel the idyllic Mediterranean island of Malta. It is the first of more than three thousand raids that the island will suffer as it becomes the most bombed place on earth.The day before, Mussolini had declared war on Britain, and in that moment, the tiny island of Malta'slightly larger than Cape Codbecame one of the most important strategic pieces of land in the world.Today, this valiant story is largely forgotten, but James Holland offers a riveting portrait of the siege that helped determine victory or defeat in World War II. For nearly three years, Malta held the key to dominance in the Mediterranean and North Africa. Lying between Italy and Libya, Malta was the ideal place from which to attack shipping lines supplying Italian and German forces in North Africa. To save Egypt, the Suez Canal, and the Middle East oil fields from Nazi control, it was essential that the island be held at all costs.The Axis powers were equally determined to annihilate Malta. In two months aloneMarch and April 1942more bombs fell on Malta than on London during the entire Blitz. A small band of fighter pilots facing the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica; a garrison of British and American troops; and a stubborn local population refused to surrender to vastly superior forces. Despite starvation and disease, the Maltese bravely held out. Not only did they hang on, their torpedo bombers and submariners continued to sink critical amounts of Rommel's supplies. In honor of this tenacity and bravery, George VI bestowed the George Cross, the highest civilian award for valor, upon the entire island.Fortress Malta follows the story through the eyes of individuals who were there: the pilots, submariners, soldiers, and civilians who provide the tales of heroism, resilience, love, and loss. Using interviews with survivors, letters, and diaries never-before-published, James Holland brings to life this extraordinary real-life David-and-Goliath battle in a moving, astonishing narrative.