World War II, the largest armed conflict in history, started in the year 1939 and ended in 1945 and spanned the entire world with its battles. With new technology and weaponry, the Second World War produced around 60 million deaths. What follows is an account of ten bloodiest battles of World War II.
Did You Know?
During the World War II, the Allies dropped around 3.4 million tons of bombs, which is an average of approximately 27,700 tons of bombs per month.
The origin of the Second World War can be traced back to the instability and conflicts created by the First World War. The World War II broke out two decades later and was fought between two groups of countries. On one side, it was the Axis Powers including Germany, Italy, and Japan and the other side had the Allies, including France, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, the Soviet Union, Canada, India, China, and the United States of America.
The Second World War started on September 1, 1939 with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany. The war continued for six years after that and finally ended on September 2, 1945 with the official surrender of Japan. The war was fought in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. The conflict took many lives and destroyed cities and countries around the globe compared to the previous wars.
10 Bloodiest Battles of World War II
World War II has seen the bloodiest battles in human history creating an ocean of blood. Practically, the whole world was in a state of war and produced around 60 million deaths and countless lives destroyed. Enlisted in this Historyplex article are the ten bloodiest battles fought during the World War II.
Battle of Stalingrad
Fought Between: Germany and Soviet Union
Battle Duration: August 23, 1942 – February 2, 1943
The Battle of Stalingrad was fought between the Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union to acquire Stalingrad. The battle was a major push on the Eastern front by Germany, which marked terrible losses, making it the bloodiest battle of all time. Stalingrad, being a transport hub, was a gateway to the Caucasus region, which had reserves of oil. The Germans attacked Luftwaffe through a series of bombings, which wrecked Stalingrad. This, however, made way for an unneeded landscape. Germany expected an easy win; however, they were held up in a brutal house-to-house fighting with the Soviets. They had control of over 90% of the city, but they couldn’t untangle themselves from some stubborn Soviet soldiers.
In November 1942, the Red Army attacked the Germany forces, surrounding them from all sides. However, Hitler tried to hold back the German forces from making a retreat. At the same time, the intense cold weather and starvation were taking its toll on the Germans. By February 1943, when the German soldiers couldn’t break free, the Soviet Union won the battle with both sides suffering huge casualties. This battle ensued the death and capture of more than a quarter-million German soldiers, and the Caucasus region with rich oil reserves was denied to the Nazis.
Battle of Berlin
Fought Between: Germany and Soviet Union
Battle Duration: April 16, 1945 – May 2, 1945
The battle of Berlin brought along with it the end of the Second World War. The last major battle claimed a lot of lives and saw the fall of Germany along with Hitler and his followers committing suicide. The Soviet army reached River Oder by pushing their way across Poland, where they outnumbered the German soldiers in terms of men and ammunition. By the time, the Soviet soldiers made their way into Berlin, the Germans had no option but to send inexperienced youth members, people who were old, and followers of Hitler to take on the Russians. Even though the Germans had lost all the advantage, Hitler still planned the defense of the city himself by entrusting faith in the German 12th Army that had moved back from the western front.
The Germans who fought the battle were provided with anti-tank weaponry and employed hit-and-run tactics to overpower the Russian tanks. Over 2 million artillery shells were fired in Berlin, because of which Russia’s vast tanks were of little value in the debris-filled streets. The Soviets destroyed an entire building if they were attacked from within or outside the building. The devastation was too much to take, and finally, in May 1945, the city of Berlin surrendered to the Russians, bringing an end to the World War II in Europe. Germany conceded defeat without subject to any condition.
Battle of Moscow
Fought Between: Nazi Germany and Soviet Union
Battle Duration: October 2, 1941 – January 7, 1942
The capital city, Moscow was always considered an important center, both politically and militarily. Germany believed that capturing Moscow will crush the spirit of the Red Army, and Moscow will be at Germany’s mercy. The German forces code-named it as Operation Typhoon and planned two offensives. One was to the north of Moscow against Kalinin Front, while the other was to the south of Moscow Oblast. Over a million men were assigned for the operation. The 2nd, 4th, and the 9th army along with the three Panzer Groups – 2nd, 3rd and 4th – were committed for the battle. They were also supported by the Luftwaffe’s Luftflotte 2 (Air Fleet 2). The primal stages of Operation Barbarossa brought tremendous success to the Nazis and calamity to the Russians. Germany was on the brink of success – about 28 Russian divisions went out of action while another 70 odd divisions lost half of their men including equipment.
However, Hitler’s dreams were shattered as they had to face fierce and strategic resistance from Russia. The harsh winter temperatures made it impossible for Germany to take over Moscow. After weeks of harsh climatic conditions, the Red Army counterattacked and forced the German forces to retreat more than hundred miles away from Moscow. Even after Russia won the battle, both sides faced huge devastation and human loss. Before planning this battle, many of the German officials had warned Hitler about the harsh winters and reminded him of the Napoleon retreat, but all went in vain.
Battle of Narva
Fought Between: Germany and Soviet Union
Battle Duration: February 2, 1944 – August 10, 1944
The Estonian country of Narva Isthmus was a valuable territory to the Soviet Armed Forces, and both sides (Germans and Russians) were stuck in a fierce battle to take over it. The intense battle continued for some months and finally ended when Hitler evacuated all his troops from Estonia. The main reason behind this battle was that Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union wanted the Narva region to create an air base, so that he could plan the invasion of Prussia, which was not achieved.
The battle took place in the northern section of the Eastern Front, which was divided into two phases – Battle of Narva Bridgehead and the Battle of Tannenberg Line. The Estonians helped the German forces in their resistance movement with the hope of creating a national army and making their country independent. The Narva battle is known among the intense battles that World War II has seen. After fighting for several months and facing terrible losses, Hitler evacuated all his troops from Estonia. After the defensive victory of the Germans, Narva was declared as a free nation until the Soviet Union took over the territory after the war had ended.
Battle of France
Fought Between: France, United Kingdom, Belgium, Netherlands, Canada, Poland versus Germany and Italy
Battle Duration: May 10, 1940 – June 25, 1940
Also called the Fall of France, this battle showcased the successful invasion of the Germans into France and the Low countries. After the successful invasion of Poland, Hitler had his interests towards the West. His main goal was to invade the Soviet Union, so he began by taking small steps, defeating Low countries, like the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. The Battle of France took place at the start of the World War when neither sides were incredibly serious in terms of military actions. When the battle started, Germany was outnumbered by the Allies forces; however, the German plans were so effective that the number created no changes.
Once Germany took over the Low countries, they had to face the French and British army head-on. The first operation was called Fall Gelb (Case Yellow). In this, the German units made their way through the Ardennes and surrounded the Allied units that had entered Belgium. With the British and French forces being forced to push back to the sea, the British Expeditory Force withdrew. This was followed by Germany’s second operation called Fall Rot (Case Red) wherein the Germans overpowered the depleted French forces. During the battle of France, the French and British forces were evacuated, and as a result, the western and northern regions of France were declared as German-occupied zones. After the battle, Germany was free to plan knocking-out strategies against Britain.
Battle of Kursk
Fought Between: Germany and Soviet Union
Battle Duration: German offensive: July 5-16, 1943; Soviet offensive: July 12, 1943 – August 23, 1943
The battle of Kursk took place right after the battle of Stalingrad, which recorded the largest series of tank clashes in the entire war. This battle also saw the costliest single day of aerial conflict in the warfare history. It consisted of more than 6,000 tanks and 4,000 aircraft with approximately two million fighting men. The war was actually an attempt made by the German forces to get on the offensive after their terrible loss in the battle of Stalingrad. The German forces named it as “Operation Citadel”, while the Soviet Union named it “Operation Polkovodets Rumjantsev” (for the offensive) and “Operation Kutuzov” (for the defensive).
The German forces had strategic plans to explode the Red Army, but were waiting for their new weaponry to arrive. Meanwhile, the Red Army got more time for preparing for the battle and counterattacked with their deep anti-tank defenses, wiping out the German forces. It was the first time for German forces where their strategic offensives had to be stopped and destroyed even before they could break through it.
Battle of Luzon
Fought Between: United States and Philippines versus Japan
Battle Duration: January 9, 1945 – August 15, 1945
The battle of Luzon was fought by the Allied forces of the US, Philippines, and Mexico against Japan as a part of the Pacific Theater of Operations, wherein the US and Filipinos gained victory. Capturing Philippines from Japan was of great importance, as it could have created a threat to the US. When the battle started, the US aircraft attacked the southern Luzon with the intention to deceive the Japanese forces that the attack will be from the southern side. However, the Japanese General Yamashita had already built defensive positions in northern Luzon as well.
The landing forces of the Allies had to face severe opposition from the Japanese Kamikaze aircraft. After a couple of months from when the battle started, the Allies had already taken over major parts of Luzon, but had to fight with small troops of Japan until the unconditional surrender of Japanese empire. In this battle, Japan had to face too many casualties than that of the Allied forces.
Second Battle of Kharkov
Fought Between: Germany, Romania, and Italy versus the Soviet Union
Battle Duration: May 12, 1942 – May 28, 1942
Kharkov was a pivotal location on the Eastern Front, and the city had seen a series of fights when it had been captured by the Germans. When the Red Army attacked Kharkov, unfortunately they had to face a fierce return attack from the German 6th Army. The battle started with the Soviet forces’ sudden attack from the Barvenkovo bulge (Soviet Union’s offensive staging area) in the region nearby Kharkov.
The Soviet forces underestimated the potential of the German 6th Army under the command of Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus. In the initial three days, the Red Army pushed the Germans away from Moscow, but later, were encircled and destroyed with huge number of casualties. The victory of Kharkov inflated the German’s confidence to quite an extent.
Battle of the Bulge
Fought Between: France, United Kingdom, Belgium, United States, and Canada versus Germany
Battle Duration: December 16, 1944 – January 25, 1945
With the deteriorating situation on the Western Front, Hitler decided to develop a plan that will include a Blitzkrieg-style attack, so as to acquire his ultimate goal of compelling the US and Britain to sign separate peace treaties. If this goal was achieved, then the German forces could focus on taking over the Soviet Union. This battle was the last massive attack launched by Nazi Germany against the Allies. The battle had been plotted with the intention of breaking the alliance of France, the US, and Britain. The name ‘Bulge’ was given by Britain, because of the bulge in the map where the allied line was broken by the German forces.
Towards the end of World War II, the German troops launched an offensive attack through the forests of Ardennes region in Belgium, France, and Luxembourg on the Western Front. The Allied troops were completely caught off guard by the German attack. A fierce battle ensued wherein the Allied forces put up resistance around the Elsenborn Ridge (in the north) and around Bastogne (in the south), blocking access to northwest and north roads for the German troops, which they had depended upon for their victory. This delayed the German troops from advancing further. Also, with the weather conditions improving, the Allied forces launched air attacks on the Germans, which led to the fall of the German offensive. This battle was amongst the largest battles fought in the American war history with a lot of bloodshed.
Battle of Monte Cassino
Fought Between: Free French Forces, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Poland, New Zealand, India, and Italian Royalist Army versus Germany and Italian Social Republic
Battle Duration: January 17, 1944 – May 18, 1944
The Battle of Monte Cassino is known as one of the toughest battles to be fought in the course of the Second World War. The main reason behind fighting this war was to break the German’s Gustav Line and capture Rome. The 1,400-year-old monastery of Monte Cassino, which stood in the center of the defensive line of Germans made four divisions of battles and took place in the month of January, February, March, and finally ended in May.
The Allied forces had to face many obstacles in order to take over Rome as there were only two roads leading towards the city – via Appia and Casilina, which had impregnable German forces. At the end of the battle, the Allies took over the city of Rome but had to pay quite a huge price in terms of casualties.
* The casualty numbers are an approximate figure.
The World War II proved to be the most devastating war, taking millions of lives. The political alignment was altered, and to prevent further conflicts, the United Nations (UN) was established.