The year 1918 marked the end of the first World War, with the Allies, mainly Great Britain, France, and Russia, emerging victorious. After signing several peace treaties, the world became a haven of peace, but the quest for power didn’t end just then.
From the horizon, another international conflict was looming, as the Central Powers, led by Germany, were determined to dominate the world. Two decades after the first World War, the second global conflict broke out, and this time, more devastating than the former.
The warring nations brought new tactics on the battlefield, and the aftermath was gruesome with more refined weapons. Six years from the onset of the war, at least 60 million people died, and many properties were destroyed.
The second World War broke out as a result of issues unresolved by the former conflict. The Germans particularly suffered political and economic instability due to the harsh conditions imposed by the Versailles Treaty. In a bid to get ready for World War II, Adolf Hitler rose to power and secretly began laying war strategies.
1939 marked the beginning of the Second World War. Significant battles took place during the six-year war period, with some lasting for minutes, while others were taking as long as a year. In record, Russians fought more battles than any other nation, destroying most of the Germany army.
Here are significant World War II battles that you should know.
Battle of the Bulge
The Battle of the Bulge, also known as the greatest American battle of the war, lasted for six weeks, from December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945. It marked the last German invasion on the Western Front during the Second World War and took place in eastern Belgium in the region of Ardennes.
The invasion was meant to stop the Allies from using Port Antwerp in Belgium and destroy the Allied lines. Consequently, the Germans would be able to surround and attack four Allied armies and force the Western Allies into signing a peace treaty in favor of Axis Power.
Through intensive plans, the Germans managed a surprise attack against the Allies on the morning of December 16, 1944. Also, due to inadequate surveillance resulting from lousy weather, they were able to overwhelm their superior forces. The German army targeted the weak lines of the defenders, rendering them helpless.
A definite resistance broke out on the Allies’ side around Elsenborn Ridge and Bastogne, blocking the Germans from accessing key roads that they relied on for success. The infantry troops advancing on parallel routes found themselves on the same paths. The poor terrain also disadvantaged the Germans, and the invaders were behind schedule, giving the Allies ample time to reinforce weak troops, and fight back.
The Germans were defeated, and most of their armored forces got depleted. The United States also sustained heavy losses, recording the highest number of casualties of any battle during the war.
Battle of Crete
The Battle of Crete started on the morning of May 20, 1941, on Crete Island in Greece, when the Germans wedged an airborne attack against the Cretans. By capturing Crete, the Germans would have a good base in the eastern Mediterranean and block the British from using it to launch their activities in Balkans.
There was a high possibility of seaborne attack from the British naval forces, but through highly trained airborne troops, the Germans could still overwhelm the defensive side. So the German forces started the airborne invasion on the Greek island.
In response, the Greeks, together with other Allied troops and civilians from Crete, fought back to defend the island against the invaders. Within a day of fighting, the German forces suffered heavy casualties, and the defenders were confident that they would win the battle.
However, a day after, due to communication failures and delayed attacks from the Allies, the offensive side gained strength and shattered the defensive forces on the northern part of the island. Consequently, the Allies retreated to the south. Those who remained had to join the Crete resistance.
While the airborne troops suffered appalling casualties, they managed to capture the island, evacuating the majority of the Allied forces to Egypt. The Battle of Crete became the first airborne invasion in history.
Battle of Anzio
The Battle of Anzio is a World War II event that took place on the Italian Coast between January 22 to June 5 in the year 1944. It aimed at outflanking German forces to pave the way to the seizure of Rome.
It began with the Allies staging an enormous amphibious operation to compel the Germans to break their forces or besiege them. In response, the defenders opposed the operation in the area of Anzio, with the invaders unable to surge forward, and the Germans lacked the means to force them back into the sea.
The success of the amphibious landing depended on the swiftness with which the Allies would stage an invasion and move inland, relative to the time of reaction and the strength of the German forces. A delay from the Allies’ side could pave the way for the defenders to occupy the mountains and consequently besiege the invaders.
The invaders managed a complete surprise attack without any opposition during the first landing, making it into the outskirts of Rome. However, the Allies led by Lucas didn’t capitalize on the surprise tactic, thereby delaying their advance. It worked in favor of the defenders who besieged the area and built strong defensive positions.
After months of heavy fighting, the invaders were pushed close to the beachhead. However, through endless pressure applied both on land air across Italy, the Germans retreated, and the Allies made their way into Rome unopposed.
Battle of Monte Cassino
The Battle of Monte Cassino, also known as the Battle for Rome, took place between January and May 1944. It led to a series of four allied invasions against German’s defensive positions, then known as the Winter Line, which consisted of barbed wire, minefields, bunkers, and ditches. The battle was intended to pave the way for the capture of Rome.
During the Second World War, Cassino was a central point on German’s Winter Line, which prevented the Allies from advancing to Rome. In a bid to get a breakthrough to Rome, Cassino was marked for destruction. The Allies bombed the spot on February 15, 1944, turning it into ruins. Even so, they didn’t accomplish their mission, as the German troops fortified the ruins, establishing stronger defensive positions.
The invaders didn’t leave it at that. A month later, the Allies dropped tons of bombs on the Cassino, leaving the town in ruins. The town was so damaged that even tanks couldn’t operate until bulldozers cleared the paths. The German’s defensive positions were destroyed, and on May 18, a Polish flag was mounted on the ruins.
Finally, the invaders were able to drive the German troops from their positions and captured Rome unopposed. However, the victory came at a cost. The Allies suffered appalling casualties, with the Germans recording only a few. There were at least 50,000 Allied casualties against 20,000 from the German’s side.
Battle of Britain
After conquering France, the German forces believed that the war was over and didn’t plan for any invasion by the British. Adolf Hitler, the German leader, was convinced that the British government would agree to sign a peace treaty based on the favorable terms he was ready to offer. So he never intended to press a conflict to achieve this.
After France was rapidly overwhelmed by the Germans, the British were at high risk of sea invasion. However, the English Channel and the North Sea were constantly manned by the Royal Navy, so it was difficult for the Germans to stage a seaborne attack. To be on the safe side, they focused on gaining air superiority over the United Kingdom.
For at least four months, the Germans waged attacks on British airfields, radar stations, and air factories. They also bombed British cities. To defend the United Kingdom from the invasion, the Royal Air Force fought back.
Since the Germans hadn’t prepared sufficiently for the invasion, they couldn’t afford enough planes to fight against the Royal Air Force. It resulted in appalling casualties on the German side, forcing Hitler to withdraw his troops. It marked the first major German defeat during the Second World War.
After a series of battles, the second World War ended in 1945. The Germans surrendered unconditionally, and the Allies became victorious. However, it was only until Adolf Hitler committed suicide that the Allies accepted German’s submission.
World War II marked the end of major international conflicts, leaving more than 60 million people dead. It was one of the most devastating wars in history. Even then, there were notable changes in the armed forces after the war. A few women, having participated actively in the war, were allowed in the military. Instead of working in the background as cooks and nurses, they could now take part in combats like male soldiers.