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Battle of the Atlantic (Sept 1939-May 1945)
The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest continuous military campaign in World War II, running from 1939 to the defeat of Germany in 1945. At its core was the Allied naval blockade of Germany, announced the day after the declaration of war, and Germany's subsequent counter-blockade. It was at its height from mid-1940 through to the end of 1943. The Battle of the Atlantic pitted U-boats and other warships of the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) and aircraft of the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) against Allied merchant shipping. The convoys, coming mainly from North America and mainly going to the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union, were protected for the most part by the British and Canadian navies and air forces. These forces were aided by ships and aircraft of the United States from September 13, 1941. The Germans were joined by submarines of the Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) after their Axis ally Italy entered the war on June 10, 1940.
As an island nation, the United Kingdom was highly dependent on imported goods. Britain required more than a million tons of imported material per week in order to be able to survive and fight. In essence, the Battle of the Atlantic was a tonnage war: the Allied struggle to supply Britain and the Axis attempt to stem the flow of merchant shipping which enabled Britain to keep fighting. From 1942 onwards, the Germans also sought to prevent the build-up of Allied supplies and equipment in the British Isles in preparation for the invasion of occupied Europe. The defeat of the U-boat threat was a pre-requisite for pushing back the Germans. Winston Churchill was later to state:
The Battle of the Atlantic was the dominating factor all through the war. Never for one moment could we forget that everything happening elsewhere, on land, at sea or in the air depended ultimately on its outcome.
The outcome of the battle was a strategic victory for the Allies—the German blockade failed—but at great cost: 3,500 merchant ships and 175 warships were sunk for the loss of 783 U-boats.
The name "Battle of the Atlantic" was coined by Winston Churchill in February 1941. It has been called the "longest, largest, and most complex" naval battle in history. The campaign began immediately after the European war began and lasted six years. It involved thousands of ships in more than 100 convoy battles and perhaps 1,000 single-ship encounters, in a theatre covering thousands of square miles of ocean. The situation changed constantly, with one side or the other gaining advantage, as new weapons, tactics, counter-measures, and equipment were developed by both sides. The Allies gradually gained the upper hand, overcoming German surface raiders by the end of 1942 (withdrawn on Hitler's orders) and defeating the U-boats by mid-1943, though losses to U-boats continued to war's end.
Battle of Britain (July 10-Oct 31, 1940)
The Battle of Britain (German: Luftschlacht um England or Luftschlacht um Großbritannien, literally "Air battle for England" or "Air battle for Great Britain") is the name given to the World War II air campaign waged by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940. The objective of the campaign was to gain air superiority over the Royal Air Force (RAF), especially Fighter Command. The name derives from a famous speech delivered by Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the House of Commons: "...the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin."
The Battle of Britain was the first major campaign to be fought entirely by air forces, and was also the largest and most sustained aerial bombing campaign to that date. From July 1940 coastal shipping convoys and shipping centres, such as Portsmouth, were the main targets; one month later the Luftwaffe shifted its attacks to RAF airfields and infrastructure. As the battle progressed the Luftwaffe also targeted aircraft factories and ground infrastructure. Eventually the Luftwaffe resorted to attacking areas of political significance and using terror bombing tactics.
The failure of Germany to achieve its objectives of destroying Britain's air defences, or forcing Britain to negotiate an armistice or an outright surrender, is considered its first major defeat and a crucial turning point in World War II. If Germany had gained air superiority over England, Adolf Hitler might have launched Operation Sea Lion, an amphibious and airborne invasion of Britain.
Operation Barbarossa (June 22, 1941-Dec 1941)
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during the Second World War that began on 22 June 1941. Over 3.9 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a 2,900 km (1,800 mi) front, the largest invasion in the history of warfare. In addition to the large number of troops, Barbarossa involved 600,000 motor vehicles and 750,000 horses. The ambitious operation marked both a manifestation of Adolf Hitler's persistent desire to conquer the Russian territories and the start of the battle which proved most pivotal in deciding the victors of the war. A study of Barbarossa allows an appreciation of the role of grave eminence which the Soviet Union played in the defeat of Nazi Germany; the operation resulted in 95% of the German Army casualties from 1941 to 1944 and 65% of all the allied military casualties accumulated throughout the war. Planning for Operation Barbarossa (named after Frederick Barbarossa, the medieval German ruler who, as myth had it, would rescue Germany in her time of need) started on 18 December 1940; the secret preparations and the military operation itself lasted almost a year, from spring to winter 1941. The Red Army repelled the Wehrmacht's strongest blow, and Adolf Hitler did not achieve the expected victory, but the Soviet Union's situation remained dire. Tactically, the Germans won resounding victories and occupied some of the most important economic areas of the country, mainly in Ukraine. Despite these successes, the Germans were pushed back from Moscow and could never mount an offensive simultaneously along the entire strategic Soviet-German front again.
Operation Barbarossa's failure led to Hitler's demands for further operations inside the USSR, all of which eventually failed, such as continuing the Siege of Leningrad, Operation Nordlicht, and Battle of Stalingrad, among other battles on occupied Soviet territory.
Operation Barbarossa was the largest military operation in human history in both manpower and casualties. Its failure was a turning point in the Third Reich's fortunes. Most importantly, Operation Barbarossa opened up the Eastern Front, to which more forces were committed than in any other theater of war in world history. Regions covered by the operation became the site of some of the largest battles, deadliest atrocities, highest casualties, and most horrific conditions for Soviets and Germans alike — all of which influenced the course of both World War II and 20th century history. The German forces captured 3 million Soviet POWs, who did not enjoy the protection stipulated in the Geneva Conventions. Most of them never returned alive. They were deliberately starved to death in German camps as part of a Hunger Plan, i.e., the program to reduce the Eastern European population.
Siege of Leningrad (Sept 8, 1941-Jan 27, 1944)
The Siege of Leningrad, also known as the Leningrad Blockade was a prolonged military operation resulting from the failure of the German Army Group North to capture Leningrad—now known as Saint Petersburg—in the Eastern Front theatre of World War II. The siege started on 8 September 1941, when the last land connection to the city was severed. Although the Soviets managed to open a narrow land corridor to the city on 18 January 1943, lifting of the siege took place on 27 January 1944, 872 days after it began. It was one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history and overwhelmingly the most costly in terms of casualties.
Pearl Harbor (Dec 7, 1941)
Aircraft and midget submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy began an attack on the U.S naval base. Through earlier code breaking activity, the Americans had determined that an attack was likely to occur. However, while the Americans failed to discover Japan's target location, it was believed that the Phillipines was the most likely target. Under the command of Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, the attack was devastating in loss of life and damage to the U.S. fleet. At 06:05 on December 7, the six Japanese carriers launched a first wave of 183 aircraft composed mainly of dive bombers, horizontal bombers and fighters. The Japanese hit American ships and military installations at 07:51. The first wave attacked military airfields of Ford Island. At 08:30, a second wave of 170 Japanese aircraft, mostly torpedo bombers, attacked the fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor. The battleship Arizona was hit with an armor-piercing bomb which penetrated the forward ammunition compartment, blowing the ship apart and sinking it within seconds. Overall, nine ships of the U.S. fleet were sunk and 21 ships were severely damaged. Three of the 21 would be irreparable. The overall death toll reached 2,402 and 1,282 wounded, including 68 civilians. Of the military personnel lost at Pearl Harbor, 1,177 were from the Arizona. The first shots fired were from the destroyer Ward on a midget submarine that surfaced outside of Pearl Harbor; Ward sank the midget sub at approximately 06:55, about an hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Japan would lose 29 out of the 350 aircraft they attacked with.
Battle of Midway (June 3-6, 1942)
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, only six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, and one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea, the United States Navy decisively defeated an Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) attack against Midway Atoll, inflicting irreparable damage on the Japanese fleet. Military historian John Keegan has called it "the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare."
The Japanese operation, like the earlier attack on Pearl Harbor, sought to eliminate the United States as a strategic power in the Pacific, thereby giving Japan a free hand in establishing its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The Japanese hoped that another demoralizing defeat would force the U.S. to capitulate in the Pacific War.
The Japanese plan was to lure the United States' aircraft carriers into a trap. The Japanese also intended to occupy Midway Atoll as part of an overall plan to extend their defensive perimeter in response to the Doolittle Raid. This operation was also considered preparatory for further attacks against Fiji and Samoa.
The plan was handicapped by faulty Japanese assumptions of the American reaction and poor initial dispositions. Most significantly, American codebreakers were able to determine the date and location of the attack, enabling the forewarned U.S. Navy to set up an ambush of its own. Four Japanese aircraft carriers and a heavy cruiser were sunk for a cost of one American aircraft carrier and a destroyer. After Midway, and the exhausting attrition of the Solomon Islands campaign, Japan's shipbuilding and pilot training programs were unable to keep pace in replacing their losses while the U.S. steadily increased its output in both areas.
First Battle of El Alamein (July 1-27, 1942)
The First Battle of El Alamein (1-27 July 1942) was a battle of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War, fought between Axis forces (Germany and Italy) of the Panzer Army Africa (Panzerarmee Afrika) commanded by Field Marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) Erwin Rommel, and Allied (specifically, British Imperial) forces (Britain, British India, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand) of the British Eighth Army commanded by General Claude Auchinleck. The battle halted the second (and final) advance by the Axis forces into Egypt, El Alamein being only 66 mi (106 km) from Alexandria.
Guadalcanal Campaign (Aug 7, 1942-Feb 9, 1942)
The Guadalcanal Campaign, also known as the Battle of Guadalcanal and codenamed Operation Watchtower by Allied forces, was a military campaign fought between August 7, 1942 and February 9, 1943 on and around the island of Guadalcanal in the Pacific theatre of World War II. It was the first major offensive by Allied forces against the Empire of Japan.
On August 7, 1942, Allied forces, predominantly American, landed on the islands of Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Florida in the southern Solomon Islands with the objective of denying their use by the Japanese to threaten the supply and communication routes between the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. The Allies also intended to use Guadalcanal and Tulagi as bases to support a campaign to eventually capture or neutralize the major Japanese base at Rabaul on New Britain. The Allies overwhelmed the outnumbered Japanese defenders, who had occupied the islands since May 1942, and captured Tulagi and Florida, as well as an airfield (later named Henderson Field) that was under construction on Guadalcanal. Powerful U.S. naval forces supported the landings.
Surprised by the Allied offensive, the Japanese made several attempts between August and November 1942 to retake Henderson Field. Three major land battles, seven large naval battles (five nighttime surface actions and two carrier battles), and continual, almost daily aerial battles culminated in the decisive Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in early November 1942, in which the last Japanese attempt to bombard Henderson Field from the sea and land with enough troops to retake it was defeated. In December 1942, the Japanese abandoned further efforts to retake Guadalcanal and evacuated their remaining forces by February 7, 1943 in the face of an offensive by the U.S. Army's XIV Corps, conceding the island to the Allies.
The Guadalcanal campaign was a significant strategic combined arms victory by Allied forces over the Japanese in the Pacific theatre. The Japanese had reached the high-water mark of their conquests in the Pacific, and Guadalcanal marked the transition by the Allies from defensive operations to the strategic offensive in that theatre and the beginning of offensive operations, including the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, and Central Pacific campaigns, that resulted in Japan's eventual surrender and the end of World War II.
Battle of Stalingrad (Aug 21, 1942-Feb 2, 1943)
The Battle of Stalingrad was the largest battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943. It was the largest battle on the Eastern Front and was marked by brutality and disregard for military and civilian casualties. It is among the bloodiest battles in the history of warfare, with the higher estimates of combined casualties amounting to nearly two million. The heavy losses inflicted on the German army made it a turning point in the war. After the Battle of Stalingrad, German forces never recovered their earlier strength, and attained no further strategic victories in the East.
The German offensive to capture Stalingrad commenced in late summer 1942, and was supported by intensive Luftwaffe bombing which reduced much of the city to rubble. The German offensive eventually became mired in building-to-building fighting; and despite controlling over 90% of the city at times, the Wehrmacht was unable to dislodge the last Soviet defenders clinging tenaciously to the west bank of the Volga River.
On 19 November 1942, the Red Army launched Operation Uranus: a two-pronged attack targeting the weak Romanian and Hungarian troops which were protecting the 6th Army's flanks. The success of these attacks, after heavy fighting, caused the weakly held flanks to collapse and the 6th Army to be cut off and surrounded inside Stalingrad. As the Russian winter set in, the 6th Army weakened rapidly from cold, starvation and ongoing Soviet attacks. Command ambiguity coupled with Adolf Hitler's resolute belief in the "power of the will" and the value of "standing fast" further compounded the German predicament. Eventually, the failure of outside German forces to break the encirclement, coupled with the failure of re-supply by air, caused the final collapse. By the beginning of February 1943, Axis resistance in Stalingrad had ceased and the remaining elements of the 6th Army had either surrendered or been destroyed.
Battle of Milne Bay
The Battle of Milne Bay (25 August - 7 September 1942), also known as Operation RE by the Japanese, was a battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II. Japanese naval troops, known as Kaigun Rikusentai (Special Naval Landing Forces), attacked the Allied airfields at Milne Bay that had been established on the eastern tip of New Guinea. Due to poor intelligence work, the Japanese miscalculated the size of the predominately Australian garrison and, believing that the airfields were only defended by two or three companies, initially landed a force roughly equivalent in size to one battalion on 25 August. Meanwhile the Allies, with intelligence from Ultra, had heavily reinforced the garrison.
Despite suffering a significant setback at the outset, when part of the invasion force had its landing craft destroyed by Allied aircraft as they attempted to land on the coast behind the Australian defenders, the Japanese quickly pushed inland and began their advance towards the airfields. Heavy fighting followed as they came up against the Australian Militia troops that formed the first line of defence. These troops were steadily pushed back, but the Australians brought forward veteran Second Australian Imperial Force units that the Japanese had not expected. Allied air superiority helped tip the balance, providing close support to troops in combat and targeting Japanese logistics. Finding themselves outnumbered, lacking supplies and suffering heavy casualties, the Japanese were compelled to withdraw their forces, with fighting coming to an end on 7 September 1942.
The battle is considered to be the first in the Pacific campaign in which Allied troops decisively defeated Japanese land forces, forcing them to withdraw and completely abandon their strategic objective. Japanese forces had experienced local setbacks before: their first attack on Wake Island was thrown back, and American Marines defeated the Japanese on Guadalcanal in the Battle of the Tenaru, four days before the Battle of Milne Bay began; however unlike Milne Bay, these actions did not result in complete Japanese withdrawal and the abandonment of the military campaign. After the battle, Milne Bay became a major Allied base.
Second Battle of Alamein(Oct 23-Nov 4, 1942)
The Second Battle of El Alamein marked a major turning point in the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. The battle took place over 13 days from 23 October - 4 November 1942. The First Battle of El Alamein had stalled the Axis advance. Thereafter, Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery took command of the British Eighth Army from General Claude Auchinleck in August 1942. The Allied victory turned the tide in the North African Campaign. It ended Axis hopes of occupying Egypt, taking control of the Suez Canal, and gaining access to the Middle Eastern oil fields.
Operation Torch (November 8-10, 1942)
Operation Torch (initially called Operation Gymnast) was the British-American invasion of French North Africa in World War II during the North African Campaign, started on 8 November 1942.
The Soviet Union had pressed the U.S. and Britain to start operations in Europe and open a second front to reduce the pressure of German forces on the Soviet troops. While the American commanders favored Operation Sledgehammer, landing in Occupied Europe as soon as possible, the British commanders believed that such a course would end in disaster. An attack on French North Africa was proposed instead, which would clear the Axis Powers from North Africa, improve naval control of the Mediterranean Sea and prepare for an invasion of Southern Europe in 1943. American President Franklin D. Roosevelt suspected the African operation would rule out an invasion of Europe in 1943 but agreed to support British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk took place when German and Soviet forces confronted each other on the Eastern Front during World War II in the vicinity of the city of Kursk, (450 kilometers / 280 miles south of Moscow) in the Soviet Union in July and August 1943. It remains both the largest series of armored clashes, including the Battle of Prokhorovka, and the costliest single day of aerial warfare in history. It was the final strategic offensive the Germans were able to mount in the east. The resulting decisive Soviet victory gave the Red Army the strategic initiative for the rest of the war.
The Germans hoped to shorten their lines by eliminating the Kursk salient (also known as the Kursk bulge), created in the aftermath of their defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad. They envisioned pincers breaking through its northern and southern flanks to achieve a great encirclement of Red Army forces. The Soviets, however, had intelligence of the German Army's intentions. This and German delays to wait for new weapons, mainly Tiger and Panther tanks, gave the Red Army time to construct a series of defense lines and gather large reserve forces for a strategic counterattack.
Advised months in advance that the attack would fall on the neck of the Kursk salient, the Soviets designed a plan to slow, redirect, exhaust, and progressively wear down the powerful German panzer spearheads by forcing them to attack through a vast interconnected web of minefields, pre-sighted artillery fire zones, and concealed anti-tank strong points comprising eight progressively spaced defense lines 250 km deep—more than 10 times as deep as the Maginot Line—and featuring a greater than 1:1 ratio of anti-tank guns to attacking vehicles. By far the most extensive defensive works ever constructed, it proved to be more than three times the depth necessary to contain the furthest extent of the German attack.
When the German forces had exhausted themselves against the defences, the Soviets responded with counter-offensives, which allowed the Red Army to retake Orel and Belgorod on 5 August and Kharkov on 23 August, and push the Germans back across a broad front.
Although the Red Army had had success in winter, this was the first successful strategic Soviet summer offensive of the war. The model strategic operation earned a place in war college curricula. The Battle of Kursk was the first battle in which a Blitzkrieg offensive had been defeated before it could break through enemy defenses and into its strategic depths.
Battle of Normandy (June 6-Aug 25, 1944)
The Battle of Normandy, codenamed Operation Overlord was the Allied invasion of Normandy, part of the Normandy Campaign. It began on June 6, 1944 (commonly known as D-Day), and is held to end on June 30, 1944, with Operation Cobra. As of 2007, Operation Overlord remains the largest seaborne invasion in history, involving over 156,000 troops crossing the English Channel from England to Normandy. Operation Neptune was the codename given to the initial naval assault phase of Operation Overlord; its mission, to gain a foothold on the continent.
Allied land forces that saw combat in Normandy on D-Day itself came from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Substantial Free French and Polish forces also participated in the battle after the assault phase, and there were also contingents from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands, and Norway. Other Allied nations participated in the naval and air forces.
The Normandy invasion began with overnight parachute and glider landings, massive air attacks, naval bombardments, and an early morning amphibious phase began on June 6. The "D-Day" forces deployed from bases along the south coast of England, the most important of these being Portsmouth.
The Battle of Normandy was one of the most important events in modern history as the Allied Forces broke the back of the Nazi army, hastening the destruction of Nazi Germany, securing the victory of democracy over totalitarianism.
Battle of the Philippine Sea
The Battle of the Philippine Sea (June 19-20, 1944) was a decisive naval battle of World War II which effectively eliminated the Imperial Japanese Navy's ability to conduct large-scale carrier actions. It took place during the United States' amphibious invasion of the Mariana Islands during the Pacific War. The battle was the fifth of five major "carrier-versus-carrier" engagements between American and Japanese naval forces, and involved elements of the United States Navy's Fifth Fleet as well as ships and land-based aircraft from the Imperial Japanese Navy's Combined Fleet and nearby island garrisons.
The battle was nicknamed the 'Great Marianas Turkey Shoot' in American accounts, for the severely disproportional loss ratio inflicted upon Japanese aircraft by American pilots and anti-aircraft gunners. American forces suffered much lighter losses, and a pilot from the U.S.S. Lexington supposedly remarked that "This is like an old-time turkey shoot!" during the battle. The lopsided outcome is generally attributed to American improvements in pilot and crew training and tactics, war technology, and ship and aircraft design, which the Japanese war machine could not match over the course of the war. Ultimately, the Imperial Japanese Navy lost three aircraft carriers, between 550 and 645 aircraft, and hundreds of pilots.
Battle of the Bulge (Dec 16, 1944-Jan 25, 1945)
The Battle of the Bulge (also known as the Ardennes Offensive and the Von Rundstedt Offensive to the Germans) (16 December 1944 - 25 January 1945) was a major German offensive (die Ardennenoffensive), launched toward the end of World War II through the densely forested Ardennes mountain region of Wallonia in Belgium, hence its French name (Bataille des Ardennes), and France and Luxembourg on the Western Front. The Wehrmacht's code name for the offensive was Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein ("Operation Watch on the Rhine"), after the German patriotic hymn Die Wacht am Rhein.
There are several American names for this battle. The first was the description given to the way the Allied front-line bulged inward on wartime news maps, which was reported in the contemporary press as the Battle of the Bulge. The battle was militarily defined as the Ardennes Counteroffensive, which included the German drive and the American effort to contain and later defeat it. Following the war, the U.S. Army issued a campaign citation for its units fighting in northwest Europe at the time. This was called the Ardennes-Alsace campaign and included the Ardennes sector (of the Ardennes Counteroffensive fighting) and units further south in the Alsace sector. The latter units were not involved except for elements sent northward as reinforcements. While Ardennes Counteroffensive is correct military parlance because the official Ardennes-Alsace campaign covers much more than the Ardennes battle region, the most popular description remains simply the Battle of the Bulge.
The German offensive was supported by several subordinate operations known as Unternehmen Bodenplatte, Greif, and Währung. Germany's goal for these operations was to split the British and American Allied line in half, capturing Antwerp and then proceed to encircle and destroy four Allied armies, forcing the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis Powers' favour. Once accomplished, Hitler could fully concentrate on the eastern theatre of war.
The offensive was planned with the utmost secrecy, minimizing radio traffic and moving troops and equipment under cover of darkness. Although Ultra suggested a possible attack and the Third U.S. Army's intelligence staff predicted a major German offensive, the Allies were still caught by surprise. This was achieved by a combination of Allied overconfidence, preoccupation with their own offensive plans, and poor aerial reconnaissance.
Near-complete surprise against a weakly defended section of the Allied line was achieved during heavy overcast weather, which grounded the Allies' overwhelmingly superior air forces. Fierce resistance, particularly around the key town of Bastogne, and terrain favouring the defenders threw the German timetable behind schedule. Allied reinforcements, including General George S. Patton's Third Army, and improving weather conditions, which permitted air attacks on German forces and supply lines, sealed the failure of the offensive.
In the wake of the defeat, many experienced German units were left severely depleted of men and equipment as survivors retreated to the defenses of the Siegfried Line. For the Americans, with about 610,000 men committed and some 89,000 casualties, including 19,000 killed, the Battle of the Bulge was the largest and bloodiest battle that they fought in World War II.
Battle of Leyte Gulf (Oct 23-26, 1944)
The Battle of Leyte Gulf, also called the "Battles for Leyte Gulf", and formerly known as the "Second Battle of the Philippine Sea", is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history.
It was fought in waters near the Philippine islands of Leyte, Samar from 23-26 October 1944, between combined US and Australian forces and the Imperial Japanese Navy. On 20 October, United States troops invaded the island of Leyte as part of a strategy aimed at isolating Japan from the countries it had occupied in South East Asia, and in particular depriving its forces and industry of vital oil supplies. The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) mobilized nearly all of its remaining major naval vessels in an attempt to defeat the Allied invasion, but was repulsed by the U.S. Navy's 3rd and 7th Fleets. The IJN failed to achieve its objective, suffered very heavy losses, and never afterwards sailed to battle in comparable force. The majority of its surviving heavy ships, deprived of fuel, remained in their bases for the rest of the Pacific War.
The Battle of Leyte Gulf included four major naval battles: the Battle of the Sibuyan Sea, the Battle of Surigao Strait, the Battle off Cape Engaño and the Battle off Samar, as well as other actions.
The Battle of Leyte Gulf is also notable as the first battle in which Japanese aircraft carried out organized kamikaze attacks. Also worth noting is the fact that Japan at this battle had fewer aircraft than the Allied Forces had sea vessels, a clear demonstration of the difference in power of the two sides at this point of the war.
Battle of Iwo Jima (Feb 19-March 16, 1945)
The Battle of Iwo Jima (19 February-26 March 1945), or Operation Detachment, was a major battle in which the United States fought for and captured the island of Iwo Jima from the Empire of Japan. The U.S. invasion, charged with the mission of capturing the three airfields on Iwo Jima, resulted in some of the fiercest fighting in the Pacific Campaign of World War II.
The Imperial Japanese Army positions on the island were heavily fortified, with a vast network of bunkers, hidden artillery, and 18 km (11 mi) of underground tunnels. The Americans were covered by extensive naval and air support, capable of delivering an enormous amount of firepower onto the Japanese positions. The battle was the first American attack on the Japanese Home Islands, and the Imperial soldiers defended their positions tenaciously. Iwo Jima was also the only U.S. Marine battle where the American overall casualties exceeded the Japanese, although Japanese combat deaths numbered 3 times that of Americans. Of the more than 18,000 Japanese soldiers present at the beginning of the battle, only 216 were taken prisoner. The rest were killed or missing and assumed dead. Despite heavy fighting and casualties on both sides, Japanese defeat was assured from the start. The Americans possessed an overwhelming superiority in arms and numbers; this, coupled with the impossibility of Japanese retreat or reinforcement, ensured that there was no plausible scenario in which the U.S. could have lost the battle.
The battle was immortalized by Joe Rosenthal's photograph of the raising of the U.S. flag on top of the 166 m (545 ft) Mount Suribachi by five Marines and one Navy Corpsman. The photograph records the second flag-raising on the mountain, which took place on the fifth day of the 35-day battle. The picture became the iconic image of the battle and has been heavily reproduced.
Battle of Okinawa (April x1-June 21, 1945)
The Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg, was fought on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War of World War II. The 82-day-long battle lasted from early April until mid-June 1945. After a long campaign of island hopping, the Allies were approaching Japan, and planned to use Okinawa, a large island only 340 mi (550 km) away from mainland Japan, as a base for air operations on the planned invasion of Japanese mainland (coded Operation Downfall). Four divisions of the U.S. 10th Army (the 7th, 27th, 77th, and 96th) and two Marine Divisions (the 1st and 6th) fought on the island while the 2nd Marine Division remained as an amphibious reserve and was never brought ashore. The invasion was supported by naval, amphibious, and tactical air forces.
The battle has been referred to as the "Typhoon of Steel". The nicknames refer to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of kamikaze attacks from the Japanese defenders, and to the sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles that assaulted the island. The battle resulted in the highest number of casualties in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Japan lost over 100,000 troops killed, captured or committed suicide, and the Allies suffered more than 65,000 casualties of all kinds. Simultaneously, tens of thousands of local civilians were killed, wounded, or committed suicide. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused Japan to surrender just weeks after the end of the fighting at Okinawa
Battle of Berlin (April 16- May 2, 1945)
The Battle of Berlin, designated the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the Soviet Union, was the final major offensive of the European Theatre of World War II.
Starting on 16 April 1945, the Red Army breached the German front as a result of the Vistula-Oder Offensive and advanced westward as much as 40 kilometres a day through East Prussia, Lower Silesia, East Pomerania, and Upper Silesia, temporarily halting on a line 60 kilometres east of Berlin along the Oder River. When the offensive resumed, two Soviet fronts (army groups) attacked Berlin from the east and south, while a third overran German forces positioned north of Berlin. The Battle in Berlin lasted from 20 April 1945 until the morning of 2 May.
The first defensive preparations at the outskirts of Berlin were made on 20 March, when the newly appointed commander of Army Group Vistula, General Gotthard Heinrici, correctly anticipated that the main Soviet thrust would be made over the Oder River. Before the main battle in Berlin commenced, the Soviets managed to encircle the city as a result of their success in the battles of the Seelow Heights and Halbe. During 20 April 1945, the 1st Belorussian Front led by Marshal Georgy Zhukov started shelling Berlin's city centre, while Marshal Ivan Konev's 1st Ukrainian Front had pushed in the north through the last formations of Army Group Centre. The German defences were mainly led by Helmuth Weidling and consisted of several depleted, badly equipped, and disorganised Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS divisions, as well as many Volkssturm and Hitler Youth members. Within the next few days, the Soviets rapidly advanced through the city and reached the city centre where close combat raged.
Before the battle was over, German Führer Adolf Hitler and a number of his followers committed suicide. The city's defenders finally surrendered on 2 May. However, fighting continued to the north-west, west and south-west of the city until the end of the war in Europe on 8 May (9 May in the Soviet Union) as German units fought westward so that they could surrender to the Western Allies rather than to the Soviets.
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