Major Battles of World War 2

By the late 1930s, Europe was bracing itself for the second World War. One of the earliest actions taken between Germany and the Soviet Union was the signing of the Nonaggression Pact in 1939. Hitler wanted unfettered access to Poland and desired to invade it without opposition. Joseph Stalin wanted nothing more than to keep peace with Germany while he built up the Soviet military. The two sides decided that they would commit no military acts against the other for 10 years. 

 

Shortly after signing the pact, Hitler got his way and invaded Poland. This act is seen as the definitive start to World War II, and the very moment that England and France recognized that their policy of appeasement was not working. In order to maximize the damage they inflicted on the Polish army, German forces engaged in a military strategy known as a blitzkrieg. This kind of formation follows three steps: attack, penetrate, and then encircle. 

The Fall of France, also known as the Battle of France, was a much easier feat that anyone had originally imagined. Although the country had spent so much time constructing the Maginot Line - a French line of defense - the Nazis went clear around it, which contributed to their victory in 1940.

A few months later, the Royal Air Force (RAF) defended Britain against the Nazi Luftwaffe, or the German Air Force. The RAF had the upper hand with the technology that they used, specifically with the use of radar, which altered them to the fact that the Nazis were coming. 

In December of 1941, the United States was pulled into the war with the attack on Pearl Harbor, the naval base in Hawaii. Japan attacked the base because the U.S. had previously set up a blockade, preventing them from taking over more territory. The result was that the United States declared war on Japan, and thus became part of the Allied Powers. 

The Battle of Stalingrad, fought for nearly six months between August 1942 and February 1943, was significant in that it was the deadliest battle of all time. Over one million casualties were counted (the actual count is closer to two million), including tens of thousands of civilians. The battle also marks Hitler’s violation of the Nonaggression Pact that he and Joseph Stalin had signed years prior, as it was a German invasion of Russia for control of the city of Stalingrad. 

On D-Day, which occurred on June 6, 1944, Allied forces launched a targeted attack against Germany by land, air, and sea. At this point, Germany had already taken control of France, so it was decided that the French Normandy Beach would be the location of the attack. It was also close to England, not defended as well as some of the other locations, and was large enough so accommodate land supplies. 

In an attempt to end the war, the United States made the decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japanese cities. The first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945; the second on Nagasaki on August 9, three days later. They did this in order to bring about a speedy end to the war and also to prevent more American casualties. However, in the process, hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians were killed, both at the time of the bombing and in the months following due to radiation. 

Back

World History Book Home

US History Book Home

Next