Fort Saint Elmo has defended Malta twice since it was built in the mid-16th century. The first was during the Great Siege of 1565 when the Ottoman Empire launched about 200 ships with over 40,000 armed men. After the Turks captured the citadel, there were subsequent skirmishes at other Malta forts before the Ottomans eventually retreated. In World War II, the island was attacked by an estimated 3,000 air raids for over two years during the Siege of Malta. In 1943, the German and Italian offensive was repelled and the Allied forces were victorious.