When Hitler conquered France in June of 1940, he acquired a forward base to launch his attack against England. Had England fallen in the Battle of Britain, the Nazis would have, at the very least, conquered the entire continent of Europe. The fall of Britain would have allowed Hitler to concentrate his forces on one front in Operation Barbarosa, the invasion of Russia, which he launched in 1941. Most
historians believe that, more than any other single fact, Hitler's decision to fight a war on two fronts, simultaneously, accounted for the eventual defeat of Germany at the hands of the Allies.
The Battle of Britain was won by the heroes of the British Royal Air Force,
flying Spitfire fighters who handed the German Luftwaffe its first defeat of the war in a savage, month-long battle over the skies of Britain in the summer of 1940. It also marked the first militarily significant use of Radar, a very new technology at the time.
In addition to its strategic importance, the Battle of Britain also saved thousands of civilian lives, because Germany had shifted from targeting British airfields and military installations and used their bombers to attack civilian targets in an attempt to terrorize the country and bomb them into submission. In one of the most famous speeches of the era, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, "Never have so many owed so much to so few," speaking of the civilian lives saved by the flyers of the RAF.
Battle of Midway Island:
The Pacific war against Japan included many famous and savage battles, first in the open ocean between the U.S. Navy and the Imperial Navy of Japan. In 1942,
the Japanese attacked Midway Island, which was being used as an American air base in the Pacific. The reason historians consider the Battle of Midway Island to be even more important than the Battle of The Coral Sea and even the much more costly
(subsequent) landings on Guadalcanal, Okinawa, Iwo Jima, and Tarawa, is that the U.S. victory at Midway Island was the turning point that allowed the U.S. To shift from a defensive naval war on the open ocean to an offensive war for island territory.
Destroying Japan's four aircraft carriers in the U.S. victory at Midway was the first necessary step that made possible the "island-hopping" campaign that ultimately resulted in the recapture of the Philippines and the Solomon Islands from the Japanese. Ironically, at Midway, the U.S. Navy managed to accomplish the one thing that the Japanese Imperial Navy had failed to do at Pearl Harbor in 1941. When the Japanese launched their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, they failed to destroy a single
U.S. aircraft carrier, because they were all at sea at the time. Had they managed to sink the U.S. carriers in 1941, the entire outcome of the war in the Pacific might have been much different.
Battle for Stalingrad:
The Russian campaign had been marked by incredibly intense and bitter fighting, including a siege of Leningrad that lasted nearly three years, during which thousands of civilians starved to death. The Germans had also engaged in a brutal
"scorched earth" policy across Russia, in which they destroyed and burned everything of value throughout the conquered territories, not to mention the deportation and murder of two million Russian Jews in the process.
By the summer of 1942, the Nazis had nearly reached the Russian city of Stalingrad, severely over-extending their supply lines in the process. The Russian
armies were absolutely determined to stop the Germans at the Volga River to prevent the Nazis from reaching oil rich territories and the Middle East, which would have won the war over Russia and (at the very least) dramatically prolonged the war with the remaining Allied powers.
The Nazis were completely unprepared for the harsh Russian winter and were unable to re-supply their forces (even from the air) with desperately needed materials, and most of all, with fuel for their vehicles and tanks. Consequently, they were virtually (if not literally) frozen in place almost within reach of Stalingrad, where they could have conquered precious resources.
By contrast, the Russians were very well equipped and trained to fight in winter weather, including their white uniforms, (and even white-painted weapons)
which enabled them to sneak up on German troops under the cover of "whiteout"
snow conditions. Just as importantly, they managed to mobilize hundreds of thousands of troops while maintaining a war industry that produced thousands of T-34
tanks and countless artillery pieces that allowed them to surround and decimate the depleted German divisions. By the beginning of 1943, the Red Army had killed more than 300,000 Germans just east of Stalingrad and captured almost half that many troops in the largest single battle defeat of World War II.
Slightly more a year later, the Russian Red Army had liberated all of the Russian territory previously captured by the Germans and pushed the Nazis all the way back to the streets of Berlin, where they retaliated for some of the Nazi atrocities committed against Russian civilians. Consequently, in the final weeks of the war in Europe, German soldiers scrambled desperately to surrender to American forces
rather than suffer the fate of capture by the sons of the civilians they brutalized and murdered during their occupation of Russia. The entire Russian advance that ended with the complete, street-by-street destruction of the German capitol city of Berlin
began with the defeat of the German war machine just outside Stalingrad in 1942.
Invasion of Normandy:
The final phase of World War II in Europe began with the largest maritime operation in the history of human warfare, with the Allied invasion of the German-occupied French coast of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The operation included thousands of ships and aircraft and more than a quarter of a million amphibious troops.
Operation Overlord was carefully planned for more than two years, under intense secrecy that included entire fake divisions of inflatable tanks and vehicles in Britain to confuse German reconnaissance as to where Allied forces were concentrated. British and American military intelligence actually floated the corpse of a dead Allied soldier over to the French coast, completely outfitted in high ranking military insignia and stuffed with fake maps and invasion plans to convince the Germans that the invasion would take place at the Pas de Calais, the most obvious target for invasion, at the coast geographically closest to the shores of England.
Hitler had fortified the entire coast of Normandy with cement "pillboxes"
housing powerful artillery and the beaches were filled with deadly mines and obstacles designed to puncture the hulls of ships and prevent amphibious landings.
Machine gun emplacements covered the entire area with murderous crossfire aimed from all directions and firing down onto unprotected, open fields of fire from hundred-foot "bluffs" or cliffs facing the possible landing areas. Allied units included specially trained, combat engineer demolition units whose job was to attach explosives to the shoreline obstacles in the first hours so that hundreds of small landing craft called "Higgins Boats" could unload troops onshore.
Overlord called for intense battle ship and aerial bombardment of the coast to destroy some of the defenses and to create craters on the beach for the landing troops to use as foxholes, but unfortunately, much of the naval fire that was supposed to "prepare" the beaches for landing overshot their targets. Similarly, many of the airborne paratroops also missed their target, landing too far behind German
emplacements to attack German beach fortifications.
At 6:30AM, thousands of American, British and Canadian troops attacked five beaches, code named Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha, and Utah. Resistance at Omaha
was the fiercest, with thousands of Allied troops killed, many without ever…