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 in the end, they came out the victors.
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.” Unfortunately, this was a lesson the Japanese had to learn the hard way.
The Battle of Stalingrad was a Soviet defense of the city of Stalingrad (now called Volgograd). Running about thirty miles along the banks of the Volga River, Stalingrad was a large industrial city that specialized in producing armaments and tractors. The city was also an important prize in itself for the invading German Army. If the city was to be captured the Soviet transport links to Southern Russia would be cut and would also serve as a Great personal and propaganda 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 residents of the city. However, the most critical moment of this battle was on October 14, 1942, when the Soviet protectors had their backs so close to the river that the last few remaining supply crossings came under machine-gun 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 wanted to severe supply lines to southern Russia in order to cut them off. After that, the city would then serve as a foothold for the northern troops of the enormous German drive 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.1(4)
Eleven days later, Hitler deviated from his starting plan 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 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 was strained before by 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.
The Russian Dictator Stalin and the higher authorities retaliated to the German’s offensive by using the Sixty-second, Sixty-third, and Sixty-fourth Armies, commanded by Marshal Semyon Timoshenko to form the front at Stalingrad. The Eighth Air Army and Twenty-first Army were also placed under his command. While the Soviet first reaction to the German operation was in order make their withdrawal as orderly as possible in order to avoid being surrounded by the enemy and prevent a major loss of troops which had painted the earlier months of the axis invasion, Stalin announced Order No. 227 in late July, ordering that his troops at Stalingrad not allow the axis powers to drive them even a step back. 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 continually disrupted the operations of his army. For example, that august he directed General Hoth to make a U-turn and move in toward Stalingrad from the southern side. Toward the end of August, 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 yielding ground when needed, the gained ground came at heavy lose for the Sixth Army as it came upon Stalingrad.
On the 23rd of August the northern suburbs of the city were penetrated by a German spearhead, most of the city’s wooden housing was destroyed by incendiary bombs. Under the command of Gen. Vasily I. Chuikov, the Soviet Sixty-second Army made a courageous stand on the Stalingrad proper. Meanwhile, the Germans’ flank cover were 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.2(4) The remaining structures of the city were soon reduced to rubble due to all the frequent fighting. On the 14th of October, the Stalin’s forces had their backs so close to the Volga River that the last remaining supply lines had fallen under fire by the Germans. The Axis troops, however, started to grow discouraged by the high number of casualties, fatigue, and the start of winter.
The battle’s turning point came with a massive counter-offensive launched by the Soviets, it was code-named Operation Uranus, and had been planned by Soviet Generals Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov, Aleksandr Mikhailovich Vasilevsky, and Nikolay Nikolayevich Voronov. It was launched in two spearheads, north and south of Stalingrad. The counteroffensive took the Germans by surprise, they had thought the Soviets were not capable of mounting an attack of such measure. The operation was comprised of a “deep penetration” maneuver, they did not attack the main German force that was at the front of the battle for the city—the Sixth Army and Fourth Panzer Army, both formidable foes, had 250,000 remaining soldiers —instead they hit the weaker flanks surrounding them. These flanks were painfully exposed on the barren steppes which surrounded the city. They were also defended very poorly by Romanian, Hungarian, and Italian troops which were vastly undermanned, undersupplied, overstretched, and undermotivated. The flanks were quickly penetrated by the counter offense, and by the 23rd November the two units of the attack met at Kalach, which was west of Stalingrad by about 60 miles; the attempt to surround the two German armies in Stalingrad was a success. The high ranking officials begged Hitler to let Paulus and his troops break out of the encirclement created by the Soviets and regroup his forces with the main German forces that were west of the city, but Hitler would not even hear of a retreat from the Volga River and demanded that Paulus stand his ground. Food and medical supplies were quickly being depleted with winter fast approaching, Paulus’s forces were growing weaker. Hitler proclaimed that the Sixth Army would be supplied by the Luftwaffe, but only a portion of the necessary supplies were able to be distributed by plane.
In mid-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 battling in an eastward direction, but he was adamant in not to letting Paulus advance his troops at the same time in order to meet up with Manstein. It was this fatal decision 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. Hitler encouraged the German forces that were trapped by the Soviet Army to fight to the death, he went as far as promoting General Paulus to Field Marshal he then reminded Paulus that no officer in the German Army held in that high of a regard had ever surrendered. On the 10th 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 31st of January, Paulus agreed to give himself up, disobeying Hitler’s order to fight to the death. There were Twenty-two Generals who also surrendered, on February 2 the rest of the Fifth and Sixth armies gave themselves up.
The Soviets collected 250,000 German and Romanian bodies in and around Stalingrad, and total Axis casualties (Germans, Romanians, Italians, and Hungarians) are believed to have been more than 800,000 dead, wounded, missing, or captured. Of the 91,000 men who surrendered, only some 5,000–6,000 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.3(4) Soviet casualties, were estimated 1,100,000 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.