THREE MAJOR BATTLES OF WORLD WAR II Naomi Sisley
THREE MAJOR BATTLES OF WORLD WAR II
There were many battles in World War II, but a few stand out in history as major battles for turning the war in the Allies favor. These battles went down in history for all to remember as tributes of our fallen heroes, and as a hope that people will learn from them and not make the same mistakes. These battles are also a reminder that what has happened can happen again. The Battle of Midway, the Battle of Stalingrad, and the Battle of the Bulge are a few examples of major battles that turned the tide of the war in the Allies favor. They and the heroes who fought in them will be remembered.
The Battle of Midway was a Japanese offensive launched as an attempt to break the Iron Circle that surrounded their territory. This battle introduced a new type of warfare to the navy. In this new type of warfare fighter planes were launched from the flight decks of their carriers. While there was and still are advantages to this method of naval warfare, there are also disadvantages. Most of the planes lost in this battle had sunken with their carriers while refueling to return to the fighting. On the other hand, it was to their advantage because the planes did not have to fly as far and therefore did not use as much fuel in battle.
The victory at the Coral Sea was one of the factors which helped encourage Admiral Yamamoto to instigate the attack on Midway Island. His plans did not succeed because he failed to integrate his four carriers with the rest of the major surface units. His plan was to disperse his forces to bait the U.S. forces into a trap and take them by surprise. The problem with this plan, however, is he was ignorant to the American dispositions. The first part of the Pacific War was going well for the Japanese and they had trouble deciding what to do next. Since it had been very easy for the Japanese until that point, they got overconfident and expected to easily win all the battles they fought. Another reason for the Japanese defeat at Midway is that the Japanese secret intelligence based in Hawaii was no longer working properly so they had no valid information on the positions of the U.S. carriers. Meanwhile, information of the Japanese plan to attack made its way to the naval base on Midway Island and they had time to plan a counterattack after finding Japanese ships in their waters to back this intelligence. The Japanese sailed to Midway not really concerned about who caught sight of them due to their overconfident demeanor.
The American Navy was not perfect and they also made their own mistakes. The American torpedo squadrons had numerous problems that were unresolved. One of the problems was that the pilots were not anywhere near ready mentally or physically. They were very immature and daring not caring about what happened next. The other problem was the American version of torpedoes. While the torpedoes were held in high regard for their battle performance in other countries, the American variant was not up to those standards. The torpedoes would not always work and test them was suicide in itself. The American torpedoes were also significantly slower than the other variations. The American torpedoes had to be dropped with delicate care in order for them to work. The European variants, however, did not need the delicate care like their off-shoots. The day the torpedoes would vastly fail due to their many problems was fast approaching and nothing could stop it. The day they failed just so happened to be at the Battle of Midway. During the battle even though torpedoes were dropped there was not a single explosion went off. Of 14 Torpedo 6 planes, the number of the planes that survived was 5. One of the planes which were flown by Albert W. Winchell had crashed in the water on the way back and was listed as a casualty. Luckily, he was picked up with his radioman 17 days later. Both were unharmed but had lost several pounds due to the lack of food. For Decades, it had been assumed that the massacre of the torpedo squadrons has been redeemed because it brought down the Japanese cover to the Allies level, but it turns out while it is true that was not the full measure of their brave sacrifice for their country.
During the Battle of Midway, there were many casualties. The Japanese casualties included one carrier and two cruisers sunk, three battleships and one light cruisers damaged, and three cargo and transport ships hit. Along with these casualties many planes which were refueling on their cruisers sunk with the ships. With the ships and planes sinking Japan lost many well-trained pilots. American casualties were numerous with the loss of the torpedo squadrons but at the conclusion of the battle, they came out triumphant.
The Battle of Midway was a decisive victory for the Allies that turned the Pacific War in their favor. After the battle, the Iron Circle which surrounded the Japanese remained unbroken leaving the Japanese corner. Due to their losses Japan was forced to go on the defense for the rest of the Pacific War. Japan lost a vast majority of their air support and surface troops leaving them a lot more vulnerable than when they started. The Battle of Midway was a humiliating defeat for the Japanese which dealt a devastating blow to their confidence. As the famous Proverb goes, “pride cometh before a fall.” Regrettably, this was a moral the Japanese had to learn the hard way.
The Battle of Stalingrad was a Soviet defense in order to protect the city of Stalingrad (now called Volgograd). Running about thirty miles long, resting the banks of the Volga River, Stalingrad was a large industrial city that focused in producing weaponry and tractors. The city was also a significant prize in itself for the assaulting German Army. If the city was to be acquired the Soviet transportation networks to Southern Russia would be severed and it would also serve as a great private and publicity victory for Hitler. During the Battle Stalin ordered the men take “Not one step back.” In addition, he refused to let the citizens be evacuated, claiming the army would fight harder knowing they were defending the inhabitants of the city. However, the most perilous moment of this battle was on October 14, 1942, when the Soviet guardians had their backs so close to the river that the last few remaining supply crossings came under rapid fire by the Germans. Through all these trials the courageous defenders of Stalingrad stood firm and drove back the Germans securing a victory for the Allies.
The Nazis had many plans for Stalingrad when they attacked. They sought to severe supply lines to southern Russia in order to cut them off. After that, the city would then serve as a base for the northern troops of the giant German crusade into Caucasus’s oil fields. Additionally, if they could succeed the city that bore the name of the famous Soviet leader Joseph Stalin would fall which would be a great victory for their campaign. Hitler’s war advisors planned to accomplish that part with Operation Blue, a proposal assessed and summarized by Hitler himself. He hoped to exterminate Soviet forces that were stationed in the south, to secure the economic resources the region had to offer, and then move his armies out either north to Moscow or south to conquer the rest of the Caucasus. The offensive was to be Carried out by the Southern Army Group under the command of Field Marshal Fedor von Bock. On June 28, 1942, significant German victories marked the beginning of their campaign.
Eleven days later, Hitler deviated from the original plan that he had from the start and order the troops to split up in order to capture Stalingrad and Caucasus at the same time. The southern Army Group was split into two units, one unit was put under the command of Field Marshal Wilhelm List while the other group was commanded by Field Marshal Fedor von Bock who was soon replaced by Maximilian von Weichs. Enormous pressure was place on the logistical support system which had already been strained before dividing the forces. The Soviet forces were able to escape to the east due to a hole in the German encirclement caused by the division of their forces. As the first Army unit seized Rostov-on-Don, Caucasus was also deeply penetrated by the operation. The second unit made its way slowly to Stalingrad. Hitler interrupted the operation again in order to reassign Gen. Hermann Hoth’s Fourth Panzer Army from the second Army unit to the first in order to help in the seize of the Caucasus.
Stalin, who was the Russian dictator at that time, and the higher military personnel retaliated to the German’s attack on Stalingrad by deploying the three different regiments of their army who were commanded by Marshal Semyon Timoshenko to form the front battle lines at Stalingrad. A squadron of their air support and another regiment of their forces were also placed under his command. While the Soviet first reaction to the attack on Stalingrad was in order make their withdrawal as organized as possible in order to avoid the enemy surrounding them and prevent a major loss of troops which had tinted the months at the beginning of the invasion made by the Axis Powers, Stalin announced Order No. 227 in late July of 1942, this order stated that the troops at Stalingrad would not allow themselves to be driven even one step back by the Axis Powers. He also declared that there would not be an evacuation for any of the civilians residing in the city. He reasoned that the troops would put up more of a fight if they know they had to protect the city’s residents.
Hitler interfered his army’s plans continually changing them and then changing them again leaving most troops on the move or with a new commander. For example, in August of 1942 he directed General Hoth to make a U-turn and move in toward Stalingrad from the southern side. Near the end of the same month, the Fourth Army’s northeastern advance against the city and the eastern advance of the Sixth Army, under Gen. Friedrich Paulus, converged with 330,000 of the Germany’s finest troops. The Soviet’s Army, however, resisted fiercely, only giving up ground when needed, as the Sixth Army draw closer to Stalingrad the more ground they gained, the heavier the costs were to them.
On the 23rd of August the northern suburbs of the city were penetrated by a German military drive, most of the housing made out wood in the city was burned and destroyed by bombs made to start the fires. Under the command of General Vasily I. Chuikov, the Soviet Sixty-second Army made a courageous stand on the Stalingrad proper. Meanwhile, the Germans’ flank cover was steadily draining due to their focus on Stalingrad. Stalingrad had become the setting for a lot of bloodshed of the war; streets, blocks, and even individual buildings were fought over by many small units of troops and changed hand pretty often. Due to the constant fighting of both side the city’s remaining buildings were also reduced to rubble in a short period of time. On the 14th of October, the forces of Stalin had their backs so close to the Volga River that the last remaining supply lines for their forces had become a prime target for the German forces. However, the high death toll, fatigue, and the start of winter caused the Axis powers to soon become discouraged.
The turning point of the battle was when a massive counter-offensive launched by the Soviets, it was codenamed Operation Uranus, and had been carefully devised by Soviet Generals Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov, Aleksandr Mikhailovich Vasilevsky, and Nikolay Nikolayevich Voronov. It was staged in two different fronts which were set north and south of Stalingrad. The counter attack launched by the Soviets had taken the Germans by surprise, they had thought the Soviets were not capable of mounting an attack of such an immense measure. The attack was cmade up of a “deep penetration” maneuver, they did not attack the main German force that was at the front of the battle for the city head on—the Sixth Army and Fourth Panzer Army, both formidable foes, had two hundred fifty thousand remaining soldiers —instead they decided to hit the weaker troops which were surrounding them. These units were painstakingly visible on the barren plains which surrounded the city of Stalingrad. They were also defended very poorly by Romanian, Hungarian, and Italian troops which were massively shorthanded, underprovided, overstrained, and undermotivated. These flanks were quickly penetrated by the counter offense, and by the 23rd of November the two units of the Soviet army met at Kalach, which was nearly sixty miles west of Stalingrad; the effort to surround the two German armies in Stalingrad was a victory. The high-ranking representatives requested of Hitler to let Paulus and his troops break out of the iron hold that the Soviets had created and merge his forces with the main German forces that were to the west of the city, but Hitler would not even hear of a departure from the Volga River and demanded that Paulus stand his ground. Food and medical provisions were rapidly being exhausted with winter fast impending, Paulus’s forces were growing frailer. Hitler asserted that the Sixth Army would be provided by the Luftwaffe, but only a percentage of the essential provisions were able to be dispersed by plane.
Sometime in the middle of December Hitler decreed that one of Germany’s most-talented commanders, Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, form an army corps in order to recover Paulus’s forces by attacking in an eastward course, but he was adamant in not to allowing Paulus advance his troops at the same time in order to encounter with Manstein. It was this terminal verdict which spelled the demise of Paulus’s forces, since Manstein’s troops were simply lacking the means which were required to get through the Soviet encirclement. The Soviets kept up the offensive in order to stitch the pocket of the trapped Germans closed, they also prevented any further relief efforts from getting through and set the scene for the Germans’ final stand in Stalingrad. The Volga River was solidly frozen over, the ice allowed Soviet reinforcements and supplies to cross at various points throughout the city which they had not been able to access to before. Hitler kept encouraging the forces which had been trapped by the Red Army to stand and fight to the death, he even went as far as promoting General Paulus up to a Field Marshal. After that he then reminded Paulus that no officer in the German Army held in that high of a regard had ever given in and surrendered. On the tenth of January, 1943, the Soviet armies started to close in as a step in Operation Ring, there seemed to be no hope in this situation, seven Soviet armies encircled the Sixth Army. On the thirty-first of January, Paulus gave himself up to the Soviet Union’s mercy. In doing so he was disobeying Hitler’s order to fight to the death. There were Twenty-two Generals who also surrendered, on second of February the remaining soldiers of the Fifth and Sixth armies also gave themselves up and surrendered.
The Soviets collected two hundred fifty thousand German and Romanian bodies in and round about Stalingrad, and total Axis casualties (Germans, Romanians, Italians, and Hungarians) are thought to have been more than eight hundred thousand deceased, injured, absent, or taken. Of the ninety-one thousand men who submitted, only roughly five to six thousand men ever returned to their homelands (the last of them a full decade after the end of the war in 1945); the rest died in Soviet prison and labor camps. Soviet casualties, were predicted one million one hundred thousand of the Red Army’s soldiers deceased, wounded, missing in action, or a prisoner of war in the battle for the city. 40,000 civilians were estimated to be dead as well.
The Battle of the Bulge is a great example of one of the major battles of World War II. The Battle of the Bulge has also been called the Ardennes Offensive. It was recorded to be the Largest offense ever to have been fought in the western part of Europe in the duration of World War II. It is also recorded as the biggest struggle that the United States Army had ever been a part of then and now. The battle was an Axis attack that Germany launched in order to split the American and British armies which were stationed in France and its neighboring countries in two. They also wanted recapture the port of Antwerp in order to prevent the Allies from using it. The Germans used the code name the Watch on Rhine for the build-up leading to their attack. They used the codename Operation Autumn Mist for their actual attack. These plans however did not achieve all their desired goals as hoped and had in turn produced a tear in the American front that was about fifty miles in length and seventy miles in depth. This this tear later went to give the battle its alternative name by which we know it, “Battle of the Bulge.”
The initial German attack force consisted of more than two hundred thousand men, around one thousand tanks and assault guns (including the new seventy-ton Tiger II tanks) and one thousand nine hundred artillery pieces, supported by two thousand aircrafts, the latter including some Messerschmitt Me 262 jets. In the beginning of the battle, they only had to fight roughly eighty thousand soldiers, with not even two hundred fifty pieces of armor and approximately four hundred artillery guns. A fair number of the men in the American Army did not have a lot of battle experience; The Axis campaign comprised of war-hardened soldiers with vast amounts of experience that over powered them easily. This did not go well for the favor of the Allied troops and many were lost in the first days of the battle.
The battle lasted for a month with nearly five hundred thousand German, six hundred fifty-five thousand Allied troops becoming engaged in the fighting. The Nazis lost several hundred thousand men who were killed, injured and lost, seven hundred tanks and one thousand six hundred fighter planes, fatalities they could not replenish and this would lead the way to their downfall. Most of the Allied fatality happened within the first several days of the battle and was comprised of ninety thousand soldiers, three hundred tanks and three hundred war planes, but they could easily compensate for these losses and call in reinforcements. It is also approximated that roughly three thousand innocents were killed, several throughout the battle were caught in the cross-fire and the others were murdered by German war and defense forces for what seems to be no reason except they were there.
From the beginning the battle was an immense chance that Hitler had taken which failed to compensate for the effort which was put into it. The attack had left the Germans with less resources then before. The death toll of the battle was steadily rising and the situation seemed to get continually worse for the Germans. Many wondered if they would make it.
By midwinter of 1944, the German forces were facing bleak circumstances on their end. The Soviet Union was making its way toward them from the east, and the Allied forces had somehow navigated their way over the western German border what seemed to be effortlessly. German Premier Adolf Hitler had proposed launching an assault in the west in which he hoped to take the Allies by surprise and hopefully find a way to effectively divide them for good and end the battle. During this operation the Germans had hoped sway them into willing joining Germany in its combat against the Soviet communists which were closing in fast on the other side of them. In the past, Hitler had put his confidence in a surprise ambush of similar measure within the compressed Ardennes Forest. He had then went on to march on Belgium and France and in the end, he had emerged victorious. Now he sat back and prepared himself to see history reoccur: once again the German reinforcements would make their way through the Ardennes woods using it as cover in order to assault his enemies through the element of surprise. However, history did not repeat itself that day and Hitler was left sorely disappointed.
The Western German Army leader, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, believed the assault to be too ambitious. There were also other German officers who opposed a plan that would take resources away from the battle front in Eastern Europe, but Hitler exercised authority over them all. There were security measures put in place to prevent the Allies from intercepting their radio messages among other things. Even with these security measures put in place the Allies caught wind of their plans. Unfortunately, the Allied troops ignored intel because they had been in the mindset that Germany was not strong enough to launch an attack of any use.
Before the battle even began the Allied Forces were given a fair warning about the impending offense. The accurate intelligence was quickly dismissed however by the head officials. The reason for the quick dismissal was that they Allies had started to believe that Germany was too weak to launch an offense of that size. However, they were proven wrong when in the early morning on the sixteenth of December the Germans attacked their defenses taken them by surprise with the morning fog aiding them. There was a decent number of troops taken prisoner by the Germans in the confusion.
The German troops were soon met with tough oppositions. They not only had to combat their enemies but they also had to put up with the harsh winter and narrow roads which were defended by the Allies before they could even reach their desired destination. Due to their strict schedule, they did not have any room for delays or mistakes.
On the twenty-sixth of December, the Allied troops on the front line received a late Christmas present from General Eisenhower reinforcements had broken their way through the German encirclement. This was only one part of the turning point in the war. The next part came on early January when the Allies’ fighter planes were finally able to make their way through the weather and attack the Germans on the ground. Hitler also tried to launch an aerial attack but was unable to and lost most of his fighter planes. After the loss of the German aircrafts the battle ended swiftly with the Allies on the winning side.
The Battle of the Bulge is formally considered to have concluded January 16, precisely one month after it began, even though fighting continued for some time beyond that date. By early February, the front lines had returned to their positions of December 16.
The war eventually ended but the history of is still there for us to learn from. The losses of brave men are still remembered through history. We honor their memories by remembering the battles fought so hard by them and doing our best to make sure that another world war does not break out. Monuments have been erected in memory of the fallen heroes also. The best thing done is putting these and many other battles down as major battles and so that they will be remembered as such for years to come.