|Important Battles of the Second World War|
|Battles and Offensives in the Second World War||Date|
|The German Army invades Poland.||1st September, 1939|
|The Red Army invades Finland.||30th November, 1939|
|The German Army invades Denmark.||8th April, 1940|
|The German Army invades Norway.||8th April, 1940|
|Adolf Hitler launches his Western Offensive.||10th May, 1940|
|Evacuation from Dunkirk begins.||27th May, 1940|
|Start of the Battle of Britain.||10th July, 1940|
|Climax of the Battle of Britain.||30th August, 1940|
|Start of the Blitz.||7th September, 1940|
|Rodolfo Graziani and Italian Army make a rapid advance into Egypt.||13th September, 1940|
|Adolf Hitler postpones Operation Sealion.||17th September, 1940|
|British Army captures Tobruk.||22nd January, 1941|
|Erwin Rommel mounts his first attack in the Desert War.||24th March 1941|
|Operation Punishment comes to an end.||22nd June, 1941|
|Adolf Hitler launches Operation Barbarossa.||22nd June, 1941|
|The German Army advances on Leningrad.||12th August, 1941|
|The German Army advances on Moscow.||6th October, 1941|
|Japanese forces attack the US Fleet at Pearl Harbor.||7th December, 1941|
|Japanese troops invaded Malaya, Thailand, Batann Island in the Philippines.||8th December, 1941|
|Japanese troops invade Burma.||11th December, 1941|
|Hong Kong surrendered with the loss of its 12,000 garrison.||25th December, 1941|
|Japanese troops land on the northwest corner of Singapore||8th February, 1941|
|General Arthur Percival surrenders Singapore to Japanese.||15th February, 1942|
|General Douglas MacArthur and the United States forces leave the Philippines||22nd February, 1942|
|Allied raid on St Nazaire.||27th March, 1942|
|Air Marshall Arthur Harris orders the bombing of Cologne.||30th May, 1942|
|Start of the battle of Midway.||4th June, 1942|
|Erwin Rommel defeats Neil Richie at Gazala.||14th June, 1942|
|Erwin Rommel and the German Army captures Tobruk.||21st June, 1942|
|Allied landings at Guadalcanal.||7th August, 1942|
|Allied raid on Dieppe.||14th August, 1942|
|The German Army enters Stalingrad.||24th August, 1942|
|Erwin Rommel attacks Eighth Army at Alam el Halfa.||30th August, 1942|
|Bernard Montgomery orders counter-attack at El Alamein.||23rd October, 1942|
|Wing Commander Guy Gibson leads the Dambusters Raid.||16th May, 1943|
|The German Army defeated at El Alamein.||4th November, 1942|
|The British Army recaptures Tobruk.||13th November, 1942|
|The Allies capture Tripoli.||23rd January, 1943|
|Air Marshall Arthur Harris orders the bombing of Hamburg.||24th July, 1943|
|Allied forces bomb monastery at Monte Cassino.||15th February, 1944|
|Allied bombing of Nuremberg Raid.||30th March, 1944|
|Axis forces surrender Tunisia.||11th May, 1943|
|Second Front opened with Allied landings in Normandy.||6th June, 1944|
|The German Army crushes Warsaw Uprising.||2nd October, 1944|
|General Walter Krueger and the US 6th Army landed on Leyte.||20th October, 1944|
|US forces return to the Philippines at Luzon||15th December, 1945|
|Start of Operation Ten-Go.||2nd February, 1945|
|Air Marshall Arthur Harris orders the bombing of Dresden.||13th February, 1945|
|United States Army land on Iwo Jima.||19th February, 1945|
|United States Army Air Force creates firestorm in Tokyo.||9th March, 1945|
|United States Army land on Okinawa.||1st April, 1945|
|A 700 plane kamikaze attack sink and damage 13 US destroyers..||6th April, 1945|
|The Japanese giant battleship Yamato sunk off Okinawa.||7th April, 1945|
|End of the Battle of the Atlantic.||7th May, 1945|
|United States Army Air Force drops atom bomb on Hiroshima.||6th August, 1945|
|United States Army Air Force drops atom bomb on Nagasaki.||9th August , 1945|
Second Battle of El Alamein
The Second Battle of El Alamein (23 October – 11 November 1942) was a battle of the Second World War that took place near the Egyptian railway halt of El Alamein. The First Battle of El Alamein and the Battle of Alam el Halfa had prevented the Axis from advancing further into Egypt.
In August 1942, General Claude Auchinleck had been relieved as Commander-in-Chief Middle East Command and his successor, Lieutenant-General William Gott was killed on his way to replace him as commander of the Eighth Army. Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery was appointed and led the Eighth Army offensive.
The Allied victory was the beginning of the end of the Western Desert Campaign, eliminating the Axis threat to Egypt, the Suez Canal and the Middle Eastern and Persian oil fields. The battle revived the morale of the Allies, being the first big success against the Axis since Operation Crusader in late 1941. The battle coincided with the Allied invasion of French North Africa in Operation Torch on 8 November, the Battle of Stalingrad and the Guadalcanal Campaign.
Battle of the Atlantic: September 3, 1939 to May 8, 1945
World War II&aposs longest continuous campaign takes place, with the Allies striking a naval blockade against Germany and igniting a struggle for control of Atlantic Ocean sea routes. The Axis, with its U-boats, responds with a counter-blockade that is at first successful, but the Allies&apos use of convoys, aircraft and technology eventually turns the tide. Over five years, thousands of ships engage in 100-plus battles in the Atlantic Ocean with approximately 100,000 lives lost.
Photos: The Pictures that Defined World War II
Battle of the Bulge (December 1944 – January 1945)
The Battle of the Bulge, or the Ardennes Counteroffensive, spanned from December 16th 1944 to January 25th, 1945. According to the National WWII Museum report, almost one million soldiers from enemy camps were killed. This remains the biggest and bloodiest battle the U.S had fought, as approximately 80,000 soldiers were either captured, mutilated, or killed. At this point, Hitler seemed defeated and was a fugitive. But he deemed it a perfect time to launch a counter attack on the Allied forces. This was spearheaded by Marshalls Walther Model and Gerd von Rundstedt on a 75-mile dense Ardennes Forest radius. The attack was launched on December 16th, with almost 1,000 tanks and 250,000 German soldiers.
The Germans faced off against wounded and tired American troops who were resting. Within the first day, the Germans broke through, circled the American infantry division, captured major roads, and headed for the Meuse River. They disguised in American uniform and massacred the Allied soldiers. By December 25th, they had moved 50 miles into enemy territory and had forced the commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight, to send reinforcements.
Around 500,000 young soldiers were sent to war, fighting in forests with extremely cold temperatures and poor visibility. Many suffered frostbite, while the majority of the wounded troops froze to death. Their victory was short-lived, as a reprisal attack by the U.S. Army unit controlled by General Patton attacked German flanks. Shortly after, the weather improved, and air strikes from the Allied were launched. Within days of incessant attacks, Patton’s Third Army captured Bastogne, while the second division blocked Germany’s tanks from approaching Meuse River. January 1st, 1945 marked the final effort of Germany to win the Ardennes Counteroffensive, as they launched Operation Bodenplatte. To execute the plan, they assembled 1,000 German aircraft to attack the enemy’s airfield. The Luftwaffe succeeded in destroying around 100 Allied war planes but suffered irreplaceable losses. With this, the Germans were back to square one.
7. Second Battle of Kharkov, May 1942
The Second Battle of Kharkov was fought from May 12 to 28, 1942. It was an Axis counter-offensive in the region around Kharkov against the Red Army on the Eastern Front. The objective of the offensive was to eliminate the Izium bridgehead over Seversky Donets or the “Barvenkovo bulge,” an area known for staging Soviet offensives. After the Battle of Moscow, which drove the German forces away from the Soviet capital, the Kharkov Offensive was a new attempt from the Soviet side to expand their strategic initiative.
On May 12, 1942, under the command of Marshal Semyon Timoshenko, the Soviet forces attacked the German 6th Army from a salient established during the winter counterattacks. This offensive further depleted the Red Army’s reserves and failed to gain a significant element of surprise. Initially there were promising signs for the Red Army but the offensives were stopped by German counterattacks. Joseph Stalin and several staff officers made critical errors in underestimating the 6th Army’s potential and overestimating their own forces. This cut off the advancing Soviet troops from the rest of the front. The battle led to almost 300,000 casualties on the Soviet side and 20,000 for the Germans and their allies.
20. The longest battle on German soil during the Second World War, as well as the longest single battle in the history of the U.S. Army, the Battle of HÃ¼rtgen Forest has been overshadowed by the Battle of the Bulge despite its longevity and strategic importance
Fought with the intent by Allied commanders to pin down German forces in the surrounding area and prevent them from reinforcing their beleaguered comrades engaged in the Battle of Aachen to the north, the Battle of HÃ¼rtgen Forest was fought between September 19 and December 16, 1944. Waged across a 140 square kilometer area of dense forest and marshy ground, situated approximately 5 kilometers east of the Belgian-German border, the battle, intended by the Allies to be merely a brief distraction, transformed into the longest battle to be fought on German soil throughout the entire conflict.
Possessing strategic importance to the Germans, the area would serve as a vital staging area for the 1944 winter offensive (later known as the Battle of the Bulge). Consequently, commanded by Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model, German forces contended aggressively to maintain a hold on the area. Culminating in a defensive victory for the Germans, the offensive American forces suffered 33,000 casualties at a rate of twenty-five percent. Meanwhile, the Germans, although enduring heavy casualties of their own, succeeded in stalling the Allied advance and, for a time, were even able to launch a counter-offensive involving nearly thirty divisions and almost recapture the important town of Bastogne.
Top 10 Bloodiest and Costliest Battles of World War II
World War II, the largest armed conflict in history, started in the year 1939 and ended in 1945 and spanned the entire world with its battles. With new technology and weaponry, the Second World War produced around 60 million deaths. What follows is an account of ten bloodiest battles of World War II.
World War II, the largest armed conflict in history, started in the year 1939 and ended in 1945 and spanned the entire world with its battles. With new technology and weaponry, the Second World War produced around 60 million deaths. What follows is an account of ten bloodiest battles of World War II.
Did You Know?
During the World War II, the Allies dropped around 3.4 million tons of bombs, which is an average of approximately 27,700 tons of bombs per month.
The origin of the Second World War can be traced back to the instability and conflicts created by the First World War. The World War II broke out two decades later and was fought between two groups of countries. On one side, it was the Axis Powers including Germany, Italy, and Japan and the other side had the Allies, including France, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, the Soviet Union, Canada, India, China, and the United States of America.
The Second World War started on September 1, 1939 with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany. The war continued for six years after that and finally ended on September 2, 1945 with the official surrender of Japan. The war was fought in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. The conflict took many lives and destroyed cities and countries around the globe compared to the previous wars.
10 Bloodiest Battles of World War II
World War II has seen the bloodiest battles in human history creating an ocean of blood. Practically, the whole world was in a state of war and produced around 60 million deaths and countless lives destroyed. Enlisted in this Historyplex article are the ten bloodiest battles fought during the World War II.
Battle of Stalingrad
Fought Between: Germany and Soviet Union
Battle Duration: August 23, 1942 – February 2, 1943
The Battle of Stalingrad was fought between the Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union to acquire Stalingrad. The battle was a major push on the Eastern front by Germany, which marked terrible losses, making it the bloodiest battle of all time. Stalingrad, being a transport hub, was a gateway to the Caucasus region, which had reserves of oil. The Germans attacked Luftwaffe through a series of bombings, which wrecked Stalingrad. This, however, made way for an unneeded landscape. Germany expected an easy win however, they were held up in a brutal house-to-house fighting with the Soviets. They had control of over 90% of the city, but they couldn’t untangle themselves from some stubborn Soviet soldiers.
In November 1942, the Red Army attacked the Germany forces, surrounding them from all sides. However, Hitler tried to hold back the German forces from making a retreat. At the same time, the intense cold weather and starvation were taking its toll on the Germans. By February 1943, when the German soldiers couldn’t break free, the Soviet Union won the battle with both sides suffering huge casualties. This battle ensued the death and capture of more than a quarter-million German soldiers, and the Caucasus region with rich oil reserves was denied to the Nazis.
Battle of Berlin
Fought Between: Germany and Soviet Union
Battle Duration: April 16, 1945 – May 2, 1945
The battle of Berlin brought along with it the end of the Second World War. The last major battle claimed a lot of lives and saw the fall of Germany along with Hitler and his followers committing suicide. The Soviet army reached River Oder by pushing their way across Poland, where they outnumbered the German soldiers in terms of men and ammunition. By the time, the Soviet soldiers made their way into Berlin, the Germans had no option but to send inexperienced youth members, people who were old, and followers of Hitler to take on the Russians. Even though the Germans had lost all the advantage, Hitler still planned the defense of the city himself by entrusting faith in the German 12th Army that had moved back from the western front.
The Germans who fought the battle were provided with anti-tank weaponry and employed hit-and-run tactics to overpower the Russian tanks. Over 2 million artillery shells were fired in Berlin, because of which Russia’s vast tanks were of little value in the debris-filled streets. The Soviets destroyed an entire building if they were attacked from within or outside the building. The devastation was too much to take, and finally, in May 1945, the city of Berlin surrendered to the Russians, bringing an end to the World War II in Europe. Germany conceded defeat without subject to any condition.
Battle of Moscow
Fought Between: Nazi Germany and Soviet Union
Battle Duration: October 2, 1941 – January 7, 1942
The capital city, Moscow was always considered an important center, both politically and militarily. Germany believed that capturing Moscow will crush the spirit of the Red Army, and Moscow will be at Germany’s mercy. The German forces code-named it as Operation Typhoon and planned two offensives. One was to the north of Moscow against Kalinin Front, while the other was to the south of Moscow Oblast. Over a million men were assigned for the operation. The 2nd, 4th, and the 9th army along with the three Panzer Groups – 2nd, 3rd and 4th – were committed for the battle. They were also supported by the Luftwaffe’s Luftflotte 2 (Air Fleet 2). The primal stages of Operation Barbarossa brought tremendous success to the Nazis and calamity to the Russians. Germany was on the brink of success – about 28 Russian divisions went out of action while another 70 odd divisions lost half of their men including equipment.
However, Hitler’s dreams were shattered as they had to face fierce and strategic resistance from Russia. The harsh winter temperatures made it impossible for Germany to take over Moscow. After weeks of harsh climatic conditions, the Red Army counterattacked and forced the German forces to retreat more than hundred miles away from Moscow. Even after Russia won the battle, both sides faced huge devastation and human loss. Before planning this battle, many of the German officials had warned Hitler about the harsh winters and reminded him of the Napoleon retreat, but all went in vain.
Battle of Narva
Fought Between: Germany and Soviet Union
Battle Duration: February 2, 1944 – August 10, 1944
The Estonian country of Narva Isthmus was a valuable territory to the Soviet Armed Forces, and both sides (Germans and Russians) were stuck in a fierce battle to take over it. The intense battle continued for some months and finally ended when Hitler evacuated all his troops from Estonia. The main reason behind this battle was that Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union wanted the Narva region to create an air base, so that he could plan the invasion of Prussia, which was not achieved.
The battle took place in the northern section of the Eastern Front, which was divided into two phases – Battle of Narva Bridgehead and the Battle of Tannenberg Line. The Estonians helped the German forces in their resistance movement with the hope of creating a national army and making their country independent. The Narva battle is known among the intense battles that World War II has seen. After fighting for several months and facing terrible losses, Hitler evacuated all his troops from Estonia. After the defensive victory of the Germans, Narva was declared as a free nation until the Soviet Union took over the territory after the war had ended.
Battle of France
Fought Between: France, United Kingdom, Belgium, Netherlands, Canada, Poland versus Germany and Italy
Battle Duration: May 10, 1940 – June 25, 1940
Also called the Fall of France, this battle showcased the successful invasion of the Germans into France and the Low countries. After the successful invasion of Poland, Hitler had his interests towards the West. His main goal was to invade the Soviet Union, so he began by taking small steps, defeating Low countries, like the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. The Battle of France took place at the start of the World War when neither sides were incredibly serious in terms of military actions. When the battle started, Germany was outnumbered by the Allies forces however, the German plans were so effective that the number created no changes.
Once Germany took over the Low countries, they had to face the French and British army head-on. The first operation was called Fall Gelb (Case Yellow). In this, the German units made their way through the Ardennes and surrounded the Allied units that had entered Belgium. With the British and French forces being forced to push back to the sea, the British Expeditory Force withdrew. This was followed by Germany’s second operation called Fall Rot (Case Red) wherein the Germans overpowered the depleted French forces. During the battle of France, the French and British forces were evacuated, and as a result, the western and northern regions of France were declared as German-occupied zones. After the battle, Germany was free to plan knocking-out strategies against Britain.
Battle of Kursk
Fought Between: Germany and Soviet Union
Battle Duration: German offensive: July 5-16, 1943 Soviet offensive: July 12, 1943 – August 23, 1943
The battle of Kursk took place right after the battle of Stalingrad, which recorded the largest series of tank clashes in the entire war. This battle also saw the costliest single day of aerial conflict in the warfare history. It consisted of more than 6,000 tanks and 4,000 aircraft with approximately two million fighting men. The war was actually an attempt made by the German forces to get on the offensive after their terrible loss in the battle of Stalingrad. The German forces named it as “Operation Citadel”, while the Soviet Union named it “Operation Polkovodets Rumjantsev” (for the offensive) and “Operation Kutuzov” (for the defensive).
The German forces had strategic plans to explode the Red Army, but were waiting for their new weaponry to arrive. Meanwhile, the Red Army got more time for preparing for the battle and counterattacked with their deep anti-tank defenses, wiping out the German forces. It was the first time for German forces where their strategic offensives had to be stopped and destroyed even before they could break through it.
Battle of Luzon
Fought Between: United States and Philippines versus Japan
Battle Duration: January 9, 1945 – August 15, 1945
The battle of Luzon was fought by the Allied forces of the US, Philippines, and Mexico against Japan as a part of the Pacific Theater of Operations, wherein the US and Filipinos gained victory. Capturing Philippines from Japan was of great importance, as it could have created a threat to the US. When the battle started, the US aircraft attacked the southern Luzon with the intention to deceive the Japanese forces that the attack will be from the southern side. However, the Japanese General Yamashita had already built defensive positions in northern Luzon as well.
The landing forces of the Allies had to face severe opposition from the Japanese Kamikaze aircraft. After a couple of months from when the battle started, the Allies had already taken over major parts of Luzon, but had to fight with small troops of Japan until the unconditional surrender of Japanese empire. In this battle, Japan had to face too many casualties than that of the Allied forces.
Second Battle of Kharkov
Fought Between: Germany, Romania, and Italy versus the Soviet Union
Battle Duration: May 12, 1942 – May 28, 1942
Kharkov was a pivotal location on the Eastern Front, and the city had seen a series of fights when it had been captured by the Germans. When the Red Army attacked Kharkov, unfortunately they had to face a fierce return attack from the German 6th Army. The battle started with the Soviet forces’ sudden attack from the Barvenkovo bulge (Soviet Union’s offensive staging area) in the region nearby Kharkov.
The Soviet forces underestimated the potential of the German 6th Army under the command of Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus. In the initial three days, the Red Army pushed the Germans away from Moscow, but later, were encircled and destroyed with huge number of casualties. The victory of Kharkov inflated the German’s confidence to quite an extent.
Battle of the Bulge
Fought Between: France, United Kingdom, Belgium, United States, and Canada versus Germany
Battle Duration: December 16, 1944 – January 25, 1945
With the deteriorating situation on the Western Front, Hitler decided to develop a plan that will include a Blitzkrieg-style attack, so as to acquire his ultimate goal of compelling the US and Britain to sign separate peace treaties. If this goal was achieved, then the German forces could focus on taking over the Soviet Union. This battle was the last massive attack launched by Nazi Germany against the Allies. The battle had been plotted with the intention of breaking the alliance of France, the US, and Britain. The name ‘Bulge’ was given by Britain, because of the bulge in the map where the allied line was broken by the German forces.
Towards the end of World War II, the German troops launched an offensive attack through the forests of Ardennes region in Belgium, France, and Luxembourg on the Western Front. The Allied troops were completely caught off guard by the German attack. A fierce battle ensued wherein the Allied forces put up resistance around the Elsenborn Ridge (in the north) and around Bastogne (in the south), blocking access to northwest and north roads for the German troops, which they had depended upon for their victory. This delayed the German troops from advancing further. Also, with the weather conditions improving, the Allied forces launched air attacks on the Germans, which led to the fall of the German offensive. This battle was amongst the largest battles fought in the American war history with a lot of bloodshed.
Battle of Monte Cassino
Fought Between: Free French Forces, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Poland, New Zealand, India, and Italian Royalist Army versus Germany and Italian Social Republic
Battle Duration: January 17, 1944 – May 18, 1944
The Battle of Monte Cassino is known as one of the toughest battles to be fought in the course of the Second World War. The main reason behind fighting this war was to break the German’s Gustav Line and capture Rome. The 1,400-year-old monastery of Monte Cassino, which stood in the center of the defensive line of Germans made four divisions of battles and took place in the month of January, February, March, and finally ended in May.
The Allied forces had to face many obstacles in order to take over Rome as there were only two roads leading towards the city – via Appia and Casilina, which had impregnable German forces. At the end of the battle, the Allies took over the city of Rome but had to pay quite a huge price in terms of casualties.
* The casualty numbers are an approximate figure.
The World War II proved to be the most devastating war, taking millions of lives. The political alignment was altered, and to prevent further conflicts, the United Nations (UN) was established.
Top 10 Battles of World War II
World War II was the bloodiest conflict in human history. The world was in a state of &ldquototal war.&rdquo Motivated by the threat of global tyranny, the Allies eventually prevailed, but this victory was marked by battles won and lost. This list looks at ten battles that decisively changed the course of the war. Battles are ranked based on what was at stake, and the effect they had on the war as a whole.
After the German conquest of Poland in September 1939, Hitler turned his attention to the west. His ultimate goal was to invade the Soviet Union, but he knew the defeat of the Western European nations was a necessity to avoid a two-front war. The first step was to invade the Low Countries (The Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium) and France. Hypothetically, Germany could then conquer Britain, re-deploy to the East, and fight a one-front war against the Russians.
The German Army was actually outnumbered by the Allies. However, the numbers game didn&rsquot matter because the German plan was so effective. Once the Germans invaded the Low Countries, the French Army, and British Expeditionary Force (BEF) moved north to face the Germans head-on. This allowed German Army Group A to cut through the Allied defenses in the Ardennes and advance towards the English Channel, effectively trapping them with their backs against the sea. A new offensive was launched against Paris, France fell, and the BEF was evacuated at Dunkirk. The country was divided into German occupation zones and Vichy France. Germany was then free to focus on knocking Britain out of the war.
By the summer of 1944, the Red Army was at Germany&rsquos doorstep. There is no doubt that the Russians could have singlehandedly defeated Nazi Germany (hence this ranking at number 9), but Stalin had been putting pressure on the West to open a second front in an attempt to divert German resources and bring a quicker end to the war. The American Air Forces and British Royal Air Force (RAF) had been waging a strategic bombing campaign since 1942. The Allies controlled the Mediterranean theater, and invaded Italy in 1943. However, it was strategically necessary to launch a full-scale invasion of France to destroy the main force of the German Army in Northern Europe.
Operation Overlord commenced with the Normandy landings in June of 1944. By August, there were more than 3 million Allied troops in France. Paris was liberated on 25 August, and the German Army had been pushed back completely, and retreated across the River Seine by 30 August. Germany was forced to reinforce the Western Front with resources from the Eastern and Italian Fronts. The result was a decisive Allied strategic victory. By September, Western Allied forces were approaching the German border. Nazi Germany would surrender less than a year later. More importantly, Western Europe was not to be controlled by communist Russia, which had immense postwar political implications.
Up until August 1942, the Allies had been on the defensive in the Pacific Theatre. The offensive capability of the Japanese had been reduced following the naval battles of Coral Sea and Midway. However, Japan was still on the offensive and was planning invasions of Fiji, New Caledonia, and Samoa. By August 1942, the Imperial Japanese Navy was in the process of constructing a series of bases in the Solomon Islands that would provide a staging area for these planned invasions and offer protection of their major base at Rabaul. The Allies saw this as a major threat to Australia. The Japanese were in the process of constructing an airfield on Guadalcanal that could increase Japanese air cover for their naval forces advancing in the South Pacific. The Allies planned to invade the Solomon Islands in an effort to deny the use of the islands by the Japanese. This would also be the starting point for an Island hopping campaign aimed at retaking the Philippines and eventually invading the Japanese mainland.
On 7 August, 11,000 Marines of the 1st Marine Division under the command of Major General Alexander Vandergrift landed on Guadalcanal. The only resistance the Marines faced was the jungle itself. On 8 August, they successfully secured the Japanese airfield, which the Marines named &ldquoHenderson Field.&rdquo The American Navy planned to withdraw from the area on 9 August after Japanese aircraft attacked the fleet during the initial landings. During the night of 8 August, the Japanese Navy surprised the Allied warships and sank one Australian and three American cruisers. The Navy could not afford to lose another carrier, so they left the Marines without unloading needed equipment and supplies. The Marines formed a perimeter around Henderson Field and small contingent of American aircraft, known as the &ldquoCactus Air Force,&rdquo stationed there. The Japanese landed thousands of troops throughout the month and continually attacked the Marines in an attempt to recapture the airfield. Finally, in February of 1943 the Japanese withdrew their forces from the Island. The victory at Guadalcanal was an important military and psychological victory for the Allies. After the campaign, Allied personnel regarded the Japanese military with less fear than previously. Japanese general Torashiro Kawabe even said, &ldquoAs for the turning point, when the positive action ceased or even became negative, it was, I feel, at Guadalcanal.&rdquo
In June 1944 the Americans had breached Japan&rsquos inner defensive ring and had bases that could be used by B-29 Superfortresses to bomb the Japanese home islands. The next step was to cut Japanese supply lines by invading the Philippines or Formosa (Taiwan). The Allies didn&rsquot have the manpower to take Formosa, and General Douglas Macarthur had championed an invasion of the Philippines ever since 1942 when he famously pronounced, &ldquoI shall return.&rdquo The Japanese response was to attack the American landing force that was attempting to take the Philippine island of Leyte. The Japanese Northern Force would try to lure the American forces away from Leyte. The Southern Force and the powerful Center Force would then attack the landing area.
The Northern Force successfully diverted the US 3rd fleet under the command of Admiral William Halsey. The Japanese Southern Force was intercepted and destroyed by the 7th Fleet Support Force a substantial fleet of six battleships, four heavy cruisers, and four light cruisers. Halsey&rsquos decision to take all of the available strength of the 3rd Fleet northwards left the northern landing area guarded by 7th Fleet&rsquos slow escort carriers and small destroyers. The Japanese Center Force of four battleships, six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and eleven destroyers caught the American ships by surprise. The American destroyers, &ldquosmall boys,&rdquo were ordered to attack. The destroyers&rsquo suicidal attacks on the Center Force convinced the Japanese that they were in fact being attacked by Halsey&rsquos 3rd fleet. The Japanese withdrew after losing four carriers, three battleships, eight cruisers, and twelve destroyers. The Battle of Leyte Gulf was the largest naval battle in history and basically resulted in the destruction of the Imperial Japanese Navy. For the remainder of the war, the Japanese could only rely on land forces and Kamikaze attacks. Their supply of oil and other important war materials from Southeast Asia had been cut.
Hitler&rsquos objective in invading the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) was always Moscow. This capital city was considered to be extremely important militarily and politically. The original Axis plan was to capture Moscow within four months after the start of the invasion of the USSR. The Axis wished to take the capital before the onset of winter. Autumn rains and stiffened resistance slowed the Germans, but by December they were less than 19 miles from Moscow. The exhausted Red Army was saved by a terrible Russian winter, and fresh troops from Siberia, trained for winter warfare. Temperatures dropped as low as 50 below zero. German troops had no winter clothing, and the Panzers were not designed to operate in such low temperatures. On 5 December 1941 the Russians counterattacked and pushed the German army back.
For the first time, the Germans retreated on a large scale. Operation Barbarossa had failed. Hitler now faced a war of attrition, something he was bound to lose. The Germans sustained around 400,000 casualties. More importantly, Hitler took personal charge of the military and set most experienced German officers against him. Hitler&rsquos distrust of his senior officers reduced the German advantage of superior military leadership. The Soviets did launch offensive the following spring, but this did little more than set the stage for the Battle of Stalingrad, a battle which they would win.
The Battle of Kursk took place after the Battle of Stalingrad, and was the final offensive the Germans were able to launch in the east. The Germans envisioned breaking through the northern and southern flanks to encircle the Soviet forces. However, the Soviets knew Hitler&rsquos intentions and constructed a series of defensives. The Germans delayed the attack to wait for new Tiger and Panther tanks, giving the Red Army even more time to dig in and gather forces for a counterattack. To give some perspective, the defensive networks around Kursk were 10 times deeper than the Maginot Line. The main German attack began on 5 July. Due to the depth of the Russian defenses, the German blitzkrieg was stopped. This was the first time a blitzkrieg offensive had been defeated before it could break through enemy defenses and into its strategic depths. After the failed attack, the Red Army counterattacked. The Germans would be on the defensive for the rest of the war in the east.
The war in Europe would last for two more years, but the time the Battle of Kursk was over, the Americans and British were on the verge of invading Italy, the Red Army was on the offensive, and the Allies were producing more war materials than the Germans. At Kursk alone, the Germans lost 720 tanks, 680 aircraft, and sustained 170,000 casualties. The battle was the largest tank battle in history, and the Germans paid dearly. By the end of 1943, they were being pushed back across a broad front in the East, and faced the possibility of a second front in the west. After three years of war, the Allies finally had the strategic advantage.
After Pearl Harbor and the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Japanese hoped to eliminate the United States as a strategic power in the Pacific Theatre. They chose to occupy Midway Atoll to extend their defensive perimeter, and to lure the American aircraft carriers into a fight. Luckily for the Americans, they had broken the Japanese code and knew roughly where, when, and in what strength the Japanese would appear. The Japanese, on the other hand, had no real knowledge of the American&rsquos strength or location. They thought they would be up against two American carriers, since the USS Yorktown was severely damaged at the Battle of the Coral Sea. The Yorktown was repaired in only 72 hours, and was able to join the carriers Enterprise and Hornet for the battle. They faced four Japanese carriers, but had an airfield on Midway, so the field was basically even. It was only a matter of which side discovered the other first.
American B-17s from Midway found the Japanese, under the command of Admiral Nagumo, on June 3, but failed to hit any targets. On 4 June the initial attack was launched on Midway. Most American planes operating from Midway were destroyed, but Nagumo chose to attack Midway again. They had detected a single American carrier, and decided to arm the planes with anti-ship weapons, which would take 45 minutes. This wouldn&rsquot matter because the American aircraft that would deliver the crushing blow were already on their way. A low flying American torpedo plane squadron was completely destroyed by the Japanese air patrol, but this opened the door for the SBD Dauntless dive bombers. Four Japanese carriers were sunk, and most of the veteran pilots aboard were killed. By the time the Japanese replaced their three carriers, the US had commissioned two dozen. Midway paved the way for the landings at Guadalcanal, and gave the Allies the strategic initiative to be on the offensive for the rest of the war in the Pacific.
The Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union began on 22 June 1941 and ended with the Battle of Moscow (this specific battle was listed at number five due to its importance). The total operation involved 8.9 million combatants, over 18,000 tanks, 45,000 aircraft, and some 50,000 artillery pieces on both sides combined. Like Operation Overlord, Operation Barbarossa actually consisted of several decisive battles, but the numbers involved, and the fact that the Soviet Union was plunged into war, places it a number three on this list. When Germany invaded, the Red Army was caught completely off guard. A non-aggression pact was signed before the German and Soviet invasion of Poland. Both countries invaded and occupied Poland, but Hitler had always seen Russia as a source of agriculture, slave labor, oil, and other raw materials. Even before the Nazis concluded their conquest of the Balkans, they began to mass over 4.5 million Axis troops near the Soviet border. Three Army groups were formed each assigned to capture specific regions and cities. Army Group North would attack through the Baltic States and take Leningrad. Army Group Center was tasked with taking Moscow, and Army Group South was to attack the agricultural heartland of the Ukraine and move eastward toward the oil-rich Caucasus. The Red Army, although numerically superior to the Germans, was dispersed, unprepared, and suffered from poor leadership.
The Germans swiftly advanced across the entire front. Key battles took place at Smolensk, Uman, and Kiev. Panzer armies were able to encircle and capture three million Soviet soldiers by the time they reached Moscow. By December, they had surrounded Leningrad in the north, reached the outskirts of Moscow in the center, and occupied the entire Ukraine in the south. They held 500,000 square miles of Soviet territory with over 75 million people. The Soviets held at Moscow, but not before 800,000 troops were killed, 3,000,000 wounded, and over 3,000,000 captured. 20,000 Soviet tanks and 21,000 aircraft were destroyed. The Germans casualties included 250,000 killed, 500,000 wounded, 2,000 aircraft destroyed, and 2,700 tanks lost. The Soviet Union would lose 14% of its population in the war: almost 24 million people.
The Battle of Stalingrad was the Midway of the Eastern Front. The battle was a disaster for Germany, and made victory in the East virtually impossible. After the Red Army had prevailed at Moscow, the Eastern Front had stabilized in line running from Leningrad to Rostov near the Black Sea. Hitler was confident he could defeat the Red Army when the weather was no longer an issue. The capture of Stalingrad was important because it was a vital transportation route between the Caspian Sea and northern Russia, and was the gateway to the oil-rich Caucasus region. Its capture would also be an ideological victory due to the fact that Stalingrad bore the name of Joseph Stalin. The battle began with the Luftwaffe reducing the city to rubble and rendering the River Volga, vitally important for bringing supplies into the city, unusable. By the end of August, the Germans had reached Stalingrad.
The Soviets tried to keep their front lines as close to the Germans as possible. This &ldquohugging&rdquo tactic in an urban environment negated the German doctrine which relied on close cooperation between infantry, tanks, engineers, artillery, and aircraft. German infantry units were forced to fight on their own, or risk taking casualties from their own supporting fire. The Soviets were able to hold onto the city until winter. At certain points in the battle, the Germans held 90% of the city, but the Red Army counterattacked in November and were able to encircle 300,000 Axis troops. The Germans sustained 841,000 casualties, and would only launch one more offensive at Kursk, which would end up being another disastrous defeat.
If the United Kingdom was knocked out in the war, Hitler could have focused all of Germany&rsquos military might on the Soviet Union. The Americans and Soviets would have to fight the Axis alone, and the British Isles could not have been used as a staging point for Operation Overlord. For these reasons, The Battle of Britain is without a doubt the most important battle of the Second World War. The British Expeditionary Force was, for the most part, successfully evacuated at Dunkirk following the Battle of France. However, most of their equipment was left in France. At the beginning of the Battle of Britain the only fully equipped division in England was Canadian. If Germany achieved air supremacy over the skies of Britain, they could have launched Operation Sea Lion (the invasion of the British Isles). The Royal Navy would have been ineffective in stopping the invasion without air cover.
The initial Luftwaffe strategy was to destroy Royal Air Force bases. This worked quite well until the strategy changed to bombing towns and cities. This gave the RAF a chance to replace its lost aircraft. Radar was essential. Without it, the RAF would have to keep planes in the air at all times. They lacked the resources to do this. Radar allowed fighters to wait on the ground and coordinate attacks on the German bomber formations. By October of 1940, the Luftwaffe was running low on aircrews and aircraft. German air supremacy was not achieved, and Hitler postponed Sea Lion indefinitely. The end of the Battle allowed Britain to rebuild its military and establish itself as an Allied stronghold. Winston Churchill summed the battle with the words, &ldquoNever in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.&rdquo
The Battle of Khalkhin Gol was the decisive engagement of the Soviet-Japanese Border War. Japan occupied Manchuria in 1931 (some consider this the start of World War II). Military interest was then turned to Soviet territories that bordered this area. The first clash between Japanese and Soviet forces was in 1938. There were frequent engagements along the border of Manchuria, but the Japanese were decisively defeated at Khalkhin Gol in May of 1939. The engagement was relatively small compared to later battles of the war. Only 95,000 troops were involved, but the implications of the battle were huge. The Japanese saw the resources in the Soviet Union as unattainable. They instead seized resource-rich territories in Southeast Asia.
The Empire of Japan and the Soviet Union signed the Japanese-Soviet Nonaggression Pact in April of 1941, and both countries remained at peace until Stalin declared war on Japan in 1945 (after the atomic bombs were dropped). With Japan&rsquos eyes turned eastward, Stalin was free to transfer his Siberian divisions west, where they played a crucial role in defeating the Germans at the Battle of Moscow.
The Most Important Battles of World War II
World War II was one of the greatest conflicts in history and was carried out on a scale almost impossible to grasp. In many ways it was the first modern war, in which airpower played a vital role both on land and at sea, but many actions were ultimately won by the determination and grit of the foot soldier. Here's the whole vast panoramic epic of the Second World War presented in several of its most significant battles.
This Battle of Narva is not to be confused with the other Battle of Narva that occurred between 1700-1721 during The Great Northern War (although both were fought in Narva, Estonia). The WWII Battle of Narva saw Germany and the Leningrad Front vying to control Narva Isthmus. The battle consisted of two phases: the Battle for Narva Bridgehead and the Battle of Tannenberg Line the USSR&mdashStalin in particular&mdashwanted to take control of Estonia and use strategic locations in the country to attack Finland and Prussia via sea and air. German forces held their own and hampered the USSR&rsquos attempts to build a stronghold in Narva. Both sides lost more than 500,000 soldiers combined.
The Siege of Leningrad, also known as &ldquothe 900 day siege&rdquo since it nearly lasted that long (in actuality, it lasted 872 days) occurred when German and Finnish forces surrounded Leningrad and took over the city. The Soviet government had its citizenry work on building fortifications throughout the city although the area was almost entirely encircled by invading forces by November. The siege claimed more than 650,000 Soviet lives in a single year alone due to starvation, disease, and shelling.
One of the most audacious operations in the German conquest of Europe was the air assault on the Greek island of Crete, the first action in which paratroopers were dropped in large numbers. Crete was defended by British and Greek forces who had some success against the lightly armed German soldiers jumping out of the sky. However, delays and communication failures between Allies allowed the Germans to capture the vital airfield at Maleme and fly in reinforcements. Once the Nazis gained air superiority, landings by sea followed. The Allies surrendered after two weeks of fighting.
The Battle of Iwo Jima is an iconic event, thanks largely due to Joe Rosenthal's photograph of the American flag being raised. But military analysts still argue whether the island's limited strategic value justified the costly action. Twenty thousand Japanese defenders were dug in to an elaborate system of bunkers, caves, and tunnels. The attack was preceded by a massive naval and air bombardment lasting several days covering the entire island. Although outnumbered five to one and with no prospect of victory, the Japanese put up strong resistance and virtually none surrendered. Many positions could be cleared only out by hand grenades and flamethrowers, including the fearsome M4A3R3 Sherman "Zippo" flamethrower tanks.
The Allies invaded Italy in 1943 but by 1944 had progressed only as far as the Gustav Line south of Rome. So the Allies staged a massive amphibious operation to force the defenders to split their forces or be surrounded, but quick success depended on a rapid break-out from the beachhead. Some 36,000 men landed to the enemy's considerable surprise, but while the Allies consolidated, the Germans surrounded the area with equivalent forces and dug defensive positions. After heavy fighting and failed advances, in February the Allies were pushed back almost to the beachhead. It took more than 100,000 more reinforcements and five months of fighting to finally break out of Anzio.
After Anzio, the Germans occupied defensive positions known as the Winter Line, consisting of bunkers, barbed wire, minefields and ditches. The four successive Allied assaults on these positions became known as the Battle of Monte Cassino. The fight resembled a WW1 battle, with artillery bombardments preceding bloody infantry assaults on fixed positions. Success was bought at the cost of more than 50,000 casualties on the Allied side. Today, the battle is mainly remembered for the destruction of the abbey of Monte Cassino (which was sheltering civilians) by more than a hundred B-17 Flying Fortresses, when the Allies mistakenly believed the abbey to be a German artillery observation position.
Following the D-Day invasion of June 1944, the Allies broke out of Normandy and advanced rapidly across France and Belgium. Hitler aimed to halt them by a surprise Blitzkrieg. Several armored divisions massed in the Ardennes with the goal of breaking through Allied lines. American forces held on stubbornly in spite of heavy casualties&mdash more than 19,000 died. The Germans had limited supplies and could only fight for few days to before fuel and ammunition ran out, so the offensive soon ran out of steam. Allied lines bulged but did not break, and hundreds of thousands of reinforcements poured into the area. Afterwards Germany lacked resources for another offensive and the end was inevitable.
When Britain and France declared war on Germany following the Nazi invasion of Poland, many expected that war to be a retread of the infantry tactics actions of WWI. That line of thinking clearly led to the French strategy of constructing the heavy concrete fortifications of the Maginot Line. Those expectations where shattered in May 1940 when the Germans launched a fast-paced "Blitzkreig" ("lightning war") spearheaded by Panzer tanks. Lacking heavy artillery, the Germans attacked French positions at Sedan with massed Stuka dive bombers. The intense air assault quickly demoralized the defenders and the German forces easily broke through. France fell soon afterwards.
By late 1940 Britain faced the threat of a German invasion, but the incursion would succeed only with air superiority. What followed was the first major campaign fought by opposing air forces. For four months the German Luftwaffe carried out attacks on British airfields, radar stations, and aircraft factories, and bombed British cities, too. But the Stukas proved too vulnerable to being intercepted and the Germans couldn't mass enough planes to defeat the fighter pilots of the Royal Air Force in their Hurricanes and Spitfires. Heavy casualties forced the Luftwaffe to scale down operations. Hitler's invasion plans were put on hold indefinitely.
Hitler's plan to attack Soviet Russia was called Operation Barbarossa, and it sure looked insane on paper given the Russian numerical superiority and the ignominious history of enemy forces invading Russia. Hitler, however, believed the Blitzkrieg was unstoppable, and the Battle of Brody in western Ukraine would prove him right&mdashfor a time. Seven hundred and fifty German panzers faced four times as many Russian tanks. But the Russian air force had been annihilated on the ground and the German Stukas were able to dominate the area. In addition to destroying tanks, they targeted Russian fuel and ammunition supplies and disrupted communications. The confused Russian forces were completely out manoeuvred and their numerical superiority made no difference.
The largest naval battle in history, the Battle of Leyte Gulf off the Philippines was another step in the U.S. advance toward the Japanese home islands. All available Japanese forces were thrown into the area but the separate units failed to unite, resulting in several actions scattered over a wide area. All four Japanese light carriers were sunk, as were three battleships. Leyte Gulf also marked the first use of a desperate new tactic: The escort carrier USS St. Lo was sunk after a Japanese kamikaze carrying a bomb deliberately crashed on its deck.
Submarine warfare had some impact in the First World War but became vastly more significant in WWII as the German U-boat packs aimed to blockade Europe. Merchant ships took to sailing in large convoys, protected by screens of destroyers and corvettes armed with depth charges and sonar. Daring U-Boat commanders carried out torpedo attacks within the defensive screen, and when several submarines attacked at once, the defenders had little chance of striking back. In the end, the Battle of the Atlantic was eventually won by technology. Radar to detect U-Boats from the surface, radio interception, and code-breaking all played a part. By the end of the war more than 3,000 merchant ships had been sunk, as well as almost 800 U-Boats.
After Pearl Harbor, the Japanese aimed to invade New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. U.S. forces, aided by some Australian ships, moved to intercept them. This produced the first naval battle fought at long range between aircraft carriers. Dive bombers and torpedo bombers attacked ships protected by screens of fighters. It was a novel and confusing form of warfare, with both sides struggling to find the enemy and unclear about what ships they had seen and engaged. The most serious loss was the American carrier USS Lexington, scuttled after catching fire. The fight forced Japan to call off its invasion plans.
Stalin aimed to drive back the invading German armies with an offensive that included more than a thousand tanks backed by 700 aircraft. But Germany blunted the attack by air power when it flew more than 900 planes into the area. The Germans then went on the attack and encircled the Russian forces with several Panzer divisions. Trapped, surrounded, and with German bombers raining explosives down on them, Russians soldiers surrendered in large numbers. More than a quarter of a million Russian soldiers were killed, injured, or captured, 10 times the number of German casualties.
Luzon, the largest of the Philippine islands, fell to Japan in 1942. General Douglas Macarthur had famously vowed to return to the Philippines, which he saw as strategically vital, and commanded the invasion force in 1945. The Allied landings were unopposed, but further inland there was heavy fighting against scattered enclaves of Japanese troops. Some of them withdrew to the mountains and continued fighting long after the end of the war. Japanese suffered extreme losses, with more than 200,000 killed compared to 10,000 Americans, making it the bloodiest action involving U.S. forces.
The last great carrier battle of WWII, the Battle of the Philippine Sea happened as U.S. forces advanced across the Pacific. A Japanese force including five large fleet carriers and four light carriers, plus some land-based aircraft, fought seven U.S. fleet carriers and eight light carriers. The U.S. enjoyed not only numerical superiority but also vastly better aircraft. The new Grumman F6F Hellcats outclassed the old Japanese Zeroes. This disparity led to the action being nicknamed "the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot," with about four times as many Japanese planes downed as American.
To those in the West, the Battle of Berlin may seem like an afterthought, the death throes of a war already decided. In fact it was a massive and extreme bloody action as three quarters of a million German troops, under the personal command of Hitler, fought a desperate final defense against the encroaching Red Army. The Russians had the advantage in tanks, but armored vehicles were vulnerable to new portable anti-tank rockets that destroyed 2,000 of them. Like Stalingrad, the Battle of Berlin was an infantry action fought at close quarters artillery demolished defensive strongpoints in a city already devastated by heavy bombing. Casualties were heavy, including thousands of civilians. On the 30th of April Hitler killed himself rather than surrender, effectively ending the war in Europe.
Operation Citadel was the final German offensive on the Eastern front, and Kursk is considered the greatest tank battle of the war. At Kursk, the Nazis aimed to repeat their earlier successes by surrounding and destroying Russian forces. Thanks to Allied codebreakers, though, the Russians got advance warning and built up defensive lines of ditches and minefields to absorb the German attack. In the air, Stukas armed with 37mm gun pods faced Russian armored Sturmoviks dropping dozens of anti-tank bombs. As the German offensive stalled, Marshal Zhukov launched his counterattack and drove the Germans back with heavy losses.
More than a million German troops were thrown into the attack on Moscow as Hitler ordered that the city should be razed to the ground rather than captured. At first the German progress was rapid by November 15 of 1941 they had fought to within 18 miles of the city. Then they were slowed by the Russian resistance, and an early winter set in, with temperatures dropping well zero Fahrenheit. The German supply chain failed and Russian marshal Zhukov threw his reserve of Siberian divisions into a counterattack. The Germans were pushed back by more than 100 miles by January. Russian casualties were heavy, but the German momentum was broken.
The largest amphibious operation in history involved more than 5,000 ships landing Allied troops on a heavily-defended 50-mile stretch of Normandy coastline, while thousands more took part in an airborne assault. A major deception operation fooled the Germans into thinking that the landings were a feint, and resistance was light at four out of five landing sites. On the fifth, Omaha Beach, U.S. forces came under heavy fire and 2,000 died as they fought to break out of the beachhead. The Germans failed to organize rapidly to meet the threat. Within a week the Allies had landed more than 300,000 troops in Normandy.
Midway was a catastrophic defeat from which the Imperial Japanese Navy never fully recovered. Much of the credit goes to the codebreakers who revealed the Japanese plan to ambush U.S. forces in time for the Allies to plan a counter-ambush. The Japanese plan to split American forces also failed. The U.S. then launched a major air assault on the Japanese carriers. The TBF Avenger torpedo bombers were intercepted by Japanese Zeroes and decimated, but the SBD Dauntless dive bombers attacking afterwards got through. They arrived just as the Japanese planes were refuelling and rearming on deck. Three of four Japanese carriers were destroyed, tilting the course of the war against Japan.
In contrast to the great sweeping tank battles elsewhere on the Eastern Front, Stalingrad was protracted and bloody urban warfare fought from street to street, house to house, and room to room as the Red Army resisted German attempts to take the city. Russia's defenses were based on thousands of strongpoints, each manned by an infantry squad, in apartments, office buildings, and factories, all with strict orders forbidding retreat. German artillery and airpower virtually demolished the city but failed to dislodge the defenders. Eventually the German force was itself surrounded. The total number of casualties may have been as many as two million including civilians.
Britain's GCHQ spy agency has installed a giant multicoloured artwork to celebrate codebreaker and mathematician Alan Turing.
The remains of Marine Elmer Drefahl of Milwaukee who died at Pearl Harbor have been identified.
The last surviving soldier who helped liberate the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz died in Germany over the weekend.
Veterans watched the opening of the British Normandy Memorial on the anniversary of D-Day.
The sun rose over Omaha Beach Sunday morning ahead of various celebrations to commemorate the Allied troops who landed.
On National Nurses Appreciation Day, 2nd Lieutenant Agnes Woods was recognized for her efforts in the Army Nurse Corp.
Second Battle of the Somme
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Second Battle of the Somme, also called Battle of Saint-Quentin, (March 21–April 5, 1918), partially successful German offensive against Allied forces on the Western Front during the later part of World War I.
The German commander, General Erich Ludendorff, believed that it was essential for Germany to use the troops freed from the Eastern Front by the collapse of Russia to achieve a victory on the Western Front in the spring of 1918, before American troops arrived in sufficient numbers to effectively reinforce the war-weary Allies. His first offensive was directed against the rather weak British armies north of the Somme River, between Arras and La Fère. The British trenches were shelled and gassed before a massive morning attack in dense fog, which took the British by surprise. Their first and second lines quickly fell, and by March 22 the shattered British 5th Army was in retreat and had lost contact with the French to the south. The Germans moved rapidly forward, hoping to drive a permanent wedge between the French and the British, but by March 28, the Allies had assembled new troops that checked the German advance east of Amiens. The German offensive had obtained the single largest territorial gain on the Western Front since the early months of the war in late 1914. The Germans had advanced almost 40 miles (64 km) and had taken about 70,000 prisoners, but in spite of these gains the Allied lines were only bent, not broken. The German tactical virtuosity, unconnected to any broader strategic concept, only exhausted Germany’s limited resources.
This article was most recently revised and updated by William L. Hosch, Associate Editor.