Key Battles of World War II

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Key Battles of World War II

  • Dunkirk evacuation

  • Battle of Britain

  • Operation Barbarossa

  • Battle of El Alamein

  • Battle of Stalingrad

  • Battle of the Atlantic

  • Battles of Midway and Coral Sea

  • Normandy Invasion (D-Day)

Impact of the Dunkirk Evacuation
(May 26, 1940)

  • The B.E.F (British Expeditionary Force) along with French troops (338,000 soldiers in total) were evacuated by the British as a result of Hitler’s indecision. These soldiers lived to rejoin the fight and eventually helped defeat Hitler.

Impact of the Battle of Britain
(August and September 1940)

  • The German invasion of Britain (Operation Sea Lion) was stalled and abandoned.

  • After this failure, Germany launched “Operation Barbarossa.”

  • The Battle of Britain gave British people hope for future success against Germany.

  • "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Winston Churchill

Impact of Operation Barbarossa
(June 22,1941)

  • It is thought that as many as 20 million Russians died.

  • Initially very successful, but turned to a disaster with the onset of a brutally cold Russian winter.

  • The defeat of the Germans by the Russians was vital to the Allies overall victory in Europe. Over two-thirds of the German army was in the Russian war and its defeat meant that the Allies in the west (GB, France and USA) had more chance of success against a smaller force. Winston Churchill stated that it was the Russians who "tore the heart out of the German army."

Impact of the Battle of El Alamein

  • The Allied victory at El Alamein led to the retreat of the Afrika Korps and the German surrender in North Africa in May 1943.

  • The Afrika Korps led by General Rommel (the “desert fox”) contained some of Hitler's finest soldiers and a vast amount of first class equipment was lost by the Germans including the newly designed battle tanks.

  • Also this victory did expose the south of Italy to invasion and the Allies.

  • 25,000 Germans and Italians had been killed or wounded in the battle and 13,000 Allied troops in the Eighth Army.

  • Germany’s Afrika Korps was defeated by Britain’s General Montgomery. This was Britain’s first decisive victory against Germany in WWII. It allowed Britain to maintain control over the vitally important Suez Canal region of North Africa.

Impact of the Battle of Stalingrad
(Sept.1942 to Feb. 1943)

  • The defeat of an entire German army at Stalingrad was a disaster for the Germans and some historians consider this battle the turning point of World War II.

  • After this defeat, the Germany Army was in full retreat.

  • With such a massive loss of manpower and equipment, the Germans simply did not have enough manpower to cope with the Russian advance to Germany when it came.

  • When the German Army in Stalingrad surrendered, Hitler commented "The God of War has gone over to the other side."

Impact of the Battle of the Atlantic

  • The Battle of the Atlantic was a fight for Britain's very survival and lasted as long as World War II itself.

  • By the summer of 1942 one Allied ship was going down every four hours, yet German U-boat losses remained frustratingly low.

  • The Battle of the Atlantic was one of the longest campaigns of World War II, and it was proportionally among the most costly. Between 75,000 and 85,000 Allied seamen were killed.

  • About 28,000 - out of 41,000 - U-boat crew were killed during World War II

  • If the U-boats had prevailed, the western Allies could not have been successful in the war against Germany.

Impact of the Battle of Coral Sea

  • The Battle of Coral Sea took place in May 1942. The Japanese attempted to capture New Guinea and leave Australia isolated from Allied help and more open to a Japanese attack.

  • The Battle of Coral Sea was fought entirely by planes – no ship on either side made any visual contact with any enemy ship.

  • In numerical terms, the Japanese came out best in the Battle of Coral Sea.

  • The loss of the 'Lexington' (aircraft carrier) was great and far outweighed the loss of the 'Shoho‘ (aircraft carrier). The Japanese lost 43 planes to the Americans 33.

  • However, the battle is seen as an American victory simply because it stopped Japan doing what it had set out to do. In this sense, it was a strategic victory for America.

Impact of the Battle of Midway

  • The Battle of Midway, fought in June 1942, must be considered one of the most decisive battles of World War II.

  • The Battle of Midway effectively destroyed Japan’s naval strength when the Americans destroyed four of its aircraft carriers.

  • Japan’s navy never recovered from their losses at Midway and it was on the defensive after this battle.

Impact of the Normandy Invasion (D-Day)

  • D-Day was one of the major events of World War II. D-Day saw a vast Allied armada deliver 100,000’s of soldiers to the shores of Normandy at the start of the drive to Berlin. D-Day itself was on June 6th 1944.

  • The plan was to land about 135,000 men on D-Day and about 20,000 vehicles.

  • The planning for D-Day began in 1943 at the Quebec Conference in Canada. The planned invasion was given the code-word "Overlord".

  • Despite the enormous complexity of D-Day, it was a huge success.

  • The invasion had taken the Germans by surprise

  • It was the first step towards the liberation of Western Europe and the defeat of Nazi Germany.

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