- The Allied victory at Midway altered the course of the war in the Pacific theater, forcing the Japanese to remain on the defensive until their surrender in 1945.
- Many historians consider the Battle of Stalingrad the event that set the Allies on the path to ultimate victory over the Nazis.
- In June 1944, the Allies broke through Hitler’s Atlantic Wall at Normandy and within the week, more than 326,000 troops gathered on the beaches.
With Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939, the world was consumed by war once again. The following years were defined by horror and bloodshed, both sides losing innumerable troops and resources. By 1945, however, the Allies emerged victorious, bringing a long-desired end to the conflict.
The following are ten Allied victories of World War II. They were chosen for their grand scale, for being unprecedented in military history, and for how they helped shape the war in the Allies’ favour.
10. Battle of Britain (July to October 1940)
By the spring of 1940, the Nazis had control of France. Satisfied with his gains in the west of mainland Europe, Hitler turned his sights on Britain. For four months, the Luftwaffe—the German air forces—bombed cities, factories, airfields, and radar stations, but they were eventually outmatched by the Royal Air Force. Heavy loses forced Hitler to call off the attack, preventing the Germans from conquering British airspace. The Battle of Britain was the first military campaign in history to be fought purely in the skies and Hitler’s first major defeat of the war.
9. Battle of Moscow (October 1941 to January 1942)
Shortly before the Nazis invaded Poland, Germany and Russia signed a nonaggression pact; this allowed Hitler to focus his attention on western Europe. By 1941, he betrayed this agreement and turned his armies on the Soviet Union, with the razing of Moscow being one of his main objectives. Germany experienced early successes, coming as close as eighteen miles from the city, but Russian defensive efforts, the sheer number of Soviet soldiers, and the oncoming winter soon halted their advance. Pushed back by more than 100 miles, the German army was left defeated and demoralized.
8. Battle of Midway (June 1942)
Six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese wanted to establish complete naval and air superiority in the Pacific, which meant obliterating the US navy. American codebreakers, however, were successfully able to pinpoint the location of the attack: Midway Island. Alerted to the assault, they were able to prepare their own ambush, an offensive maneuver that destroyed three out of four Japanese aircraft carriers. The Allied victory at Midway altered the course of the war in the Pacific theater, forcing the Japanese to remain on the defensive until their ultimate surrender in September 1945.
7. Battle of Stalingrad (August 1942 to February 1943)
After having suffered a defeat at Moscow earlier in the year, Hitler turned his forces on Stalingrad for two reasons: it was an industrial hub with access to the Volga River—an important Soviet supply route—and for propagandistic purposes, due to the fact the city was named after Russia’s leader. The Wehrmacht and the Red Army engaged in the streets, but once again, Russian perseverance, numbers, and weather won the day. Prolonged and bloody, the Battle of Stalingrad was the first defeat publicly acknowledged by Hitler. Furthermore, many historians consider it the battle that set the Allies on the path to ultimate victory over the Nazis.
6. Second Battle of El Alamein (October to November 1942)
The Second Battle of El Alamein was the pinnacle of the North African campaign. In October 1942, German and Italian forces met the British infantry on the battlefield, but they were quickly overwhelmed and forced to retreat to Tunisia. This defeat effectively cut them off from the Suez Canal which offered access to the oil fields in the Middle-East, a necessity to maintain their industrial war machine. Coinciding with the Battle of Stalingrad, the Second Battle of El Alamein was yet another nail in the coffin of Hitler’s expansionist plans.
5. Battle of Kursk (July to August 1943)
In response to the humiliating defeat at Stalingrad, Hitler launched Operation Citadel, a campaign intended to annihilate the Russian forces around the city of Kursk and to reclaim German dominance in the east. Similar to Midway, however, Allied codebreakers got a whiff of this plan and had time to fortify the area with ditches and minefields. Both sides suffered hundreds of thousands of losses, but the Russians were eventually able to drive the Nazis back. The Battle of Kursk was Germany’s final offensive attack on the Eastern Front. It is also considered the greatest tank battle of World War II.
4. D-Day (June 1944)
In June 1944, the Allies launched Operation Overlord, which began with the Normandy landings. Otherwise known as D-Day, it is considered one of the largest amphibious military conflicts in history. More than 5,000 ships landed along the fortified coastline, with 11,000 aircraft to provide air support. Because of an elaborately planned ruse, the bulk of the German forces where elsewhere, leaving four out of five landing points light on resistance. On the fifth, Omaha Beach, the US forces defeated the opposition but suffered extreme losses. In what would become one of the most iconic moments of the war, the Allies broke through Hitler’s Atlantic Wall and within the week, more than 326,000 troops gathered on the beaches, ready to bring the war to the Führer.
3. Battle of the Bulge (December 1944 to January 1945)
Following D-Day, Hitler sent armored divisions to confront the US troops in the Ardennes, a heavily forested area in eastern Belgium. His goal was to break up the Allied advance and to prevent them from using the port city of Antwerp. Over several weeks of bloodshed and bad weather, the Americans lost 19,000 soldiers, but on Christmas day, conditions improved, allowing for reinforcements to arrive. Suffering from limited fuel and ammunition, the German’s had no choice but to admit defeat. The Battle of the Bulge was Hitler’s last major offensive on the Western Front. Victorious, the Allies set their sights on Berlin.
2. Battle of Iwo Jima (February to March 1945)
One of the bloodiest confrontations of the war occurred at Iwo Jima, an island located 750 miles off the coast of Japan. Bruised and beaten from previous defeats, the Japanese were in no position to defend it. After bombings and naval gunfire, 70,000 US marines stormed the island, infiltrating the bunkers, caves, and tunnels the opposition was holed up in. Except for a small handful, it is estimated that all 21,000 Japanese soldiers were killed. Thanks the famous photograph of US troops raising the American flag, the Battle of Iwo Jima is the defining Allied victory in the Pacific theater.
1. Battle of Berlin (April to May 1945)
By April 1945, the Soviets were on Berlin’s doorstep. They managed to surround the capital, effectively cutting it off from the outside world, and began advancing through its outer suburbs. What resulted was a bloody close-quarters encounter, deadly to soldiers and civilians alike. With the end in sight, Hitler married his long-time companion Eva Braun on April 29 in his personal bunker; they committed suicide together the following day. The fighting continued until May 2 when a Nazi general finally surrendered to the advancing Soviet forces. The Battle of Berlin was the last major Allied offensive in the European theater.