10. Siege of Leningrad, 1941-1944 (1.12 million casualties)
The Siege of Leningrad marks one of the darkest periods of World War II, as German and Finnish armed forces sieged the city of Leningrad in the Soviet Union, leading to 1.12 million casualties over a period of around 872 days. The siege began on September 8, 1941 and continued until January 27, 1944. Though Leningrad put up its own defenses in retaliation to the approaching German and Finnish forces, by November of 194 the city had been almost completely encircled by the enemy troops. Vital supplies to the city were cut off, and the inhabitants suffered terribly, with 650,000 Leningraders dying in 1942 alone. Starvation, disease, and shelling activities by the enemy forces were all partially responsible for the massive death tolls seen during the Siege of Leningrad. Only sparse supplies that were obtained across Lake Ladoga kept the city’s surviving population alive (even if barely) during this period. In 1943, Soviet troops managed to rupture the German encirclement, allowing more supplies to reach the city. Finally, in January of 1944, the Soviet Army drove out the Germans and pushed them westward, ending the siege of the city.
9. The Somme, 1916 (1.12 million casualties)
The Somme Offensive, or the Battle of the Somme, was an epic World War I battle fought in Somme, France, by the British and French forces against those of the Germans. It occurred between July 1st, 1916 and November 18th, 1916. The battle claimed the lives of nearly 1.12 million civilians and military men. The first day of the Somme battle was one of the worst days in the history of the British Army, as around 57,470 British soldiers lost their lives. This day also marked the defeat for the German Second Army, who were driven out of their positions by the French Sixth Army. The battle was known for its focus on air power and, towards the end, the Allied forces managed to penetrate 6 miles into German-occupied territories.
8. Stalingrad, 1942-1943 (1.25 million casualties)
The Battle of Stalingrad marked a significant turning point in World War II, as the German forces suffered a massive attack and defeat in Russia. The battle ensued when Hitler ordered his troops, who were advancing towards the Caucasus, to move back and attack the Russian city of Stalingrad. Probably his extreme hatred for the Russian dictator Joseph Stalin triggered his decision to attack the city. The Russian forces were also not ready to give up and, as the city was named after Stalin, the battle turned into an egotistic one between the two nations' respective leaders. The consequences were deadly, as the rival forces fought fiercely, often engaging in hand to hand combat as they tried to capture and recapture individual streets. The battle ended with a severe defeat suffered by the German troops, who were then forced into a full retreat from the area. 1.25 million precious lives were lost in the Battle of Stalingrad.
7. Ichi-Go, 1944 (1.3 million casualties)
The Operation Ichi-Go, which resulted in almost 1.3 million casualties, was launched by the Japanese forces on April 19, 1944. The objectives of this operation were to take control of the railroad between Beiping and Hong Kong, as well as of the Allied airfields in southern China, from where US forces were launching the planes that were bombing the Japanese homeland and its shipping ports. The other objective was the destruction of food supplies and crops in order to worsen the already bad food crisis in China. The success of the Japanese forces at the end of the operation was, however, marginal, as the US forces still remained able to bomb Japan from Saipan and other Pacific bases.
6. Taking of Berlin, 1945 (1.3 million casualties)
This was the culmination in the final series of events leading to the downfall of Hitler and the Nazi Germans. It began on April 16, 1945, when 20 army troop regiments, 8,500 aircrafts, and 6,300 tanks were unleashed by the Russian dictator Josef Stalin. They were sent with the ultimate goal of crushing the defending German forces and capturing Berlin. Though the already depleted German forces put up stiff resistance, they were no match for the determined Russian forces who had surrounded the city of Berlin by April 24th. Street-to-street and house-by-house battles brewed up, resulting in a massive bloodbath that claimed almost 1.3 million lives by the time all was said and done. Finally, the Russian troops emerged victorious, and the 'Fuhrer', knowing his last days were near, married his long time ,mistress in his underground bunker after which time both ended their lives by committing suicide. The Russians' arrival and taking of Berlin before the Americans could arrive would have a huge geopolitical impact in the US-USSR Cold War in the decades to follow.
5. Operation Barbarossa, 1941 (1.4 million casualties)
One of the largest military operations in the history of mankind, the Operation Barbarossa was launched by Hitler on June 22, 1941 against the Soviet Union. Over 3 million Axis troops and 3,500 tanks were directed into the Soviet Union, with the aim to capture the Baltic states and Leningrad in the North and Moscow in the center, as well as the economic resources of the Soviet Union that lay to the southern extents of the campaign. Germany’s major victory over France had encouraged the Axis Forces to plan the Barbarossa operation. Though the strong German forces were able to subdue the unprepared Soviet troops at the beginning, leading to heavy losses in terms of Russian life, territory, and fighting supplies, the Soviets were not ready to give up. Thus, towards the end of Operation Barbarossa, the German forces were met with heavy retaliation from the Soviet troops, this time leading to heavy losses on the German side of the front lines. Nearly 1.4 million fatal casualties occurred during this death-dealing operation.
4. German Spring offensive, 1918 (1.55 milion casualties)
During the final parts of World War I, the Germans launched a series of attacks, referred to as the Spring Offensive, on the Western Front, starting on March 21st, 1918. There were four German offensive spearheads participating in this operation. 'Michael' was the most significant offensive of the four, and was intended to outflank the British troops that defended the Somme, while the other offensives were meant to divert the Allied forces away from the primary target of the Somme. However, retaliation by a powerful Allied army, the inability to move German supplies and reinforcements, and heavy casualties on the German side, led to the retreat of the German troops by late April of 1918. Around 1.55 million lives were lost in this battle.
3. Dnieper, 1943 (1.58 million casualties)
In 1943, the Battle of the Dnieper, one of the largest of all World War II operations, was launched, involving as many as 4,000,000 troops on both sides, and stretching across 1,400 kilometers of the Eastern Front. During this war, the Red Army managed to recover the eastern bank of the Dnieper River from the German forces (pictured crossing the Dnieper above). The fatal casualties of the battle were as high as 1.58 million, proving this to be one of the costliest battles during World War II
2. Brusilov, 1916 (1.6 million casualties)
The Brusilov Offensive, which took place between June and August of 1916, was a major success for the Russians, who had until then mostly suffered large defeats at the hands of the German forces and their Central Power allies. When, in February of 1916, the French city of Verdun was sieged by the German forces, other Allied forces joined hands to divert the Germans towards other areas, allowing Verdun to recover. While the British set up their own offensive along the Somme River, the Russians proved extremely quick in action, and attacked the German forces at Lake Narocz. However, the Russians were highly unsuccessful in this attempt, which resulted in mass slaughtering of the Russian troops by the German forces. A subsequent offensive was planned near Vilna and, while this was put into action, General Alexei Brusilov, an experienced cavalryman and an efficient commander of the Southwestern Army, attempted to convince his superiors to let his forces launch an attack on the Germans. His wish was granted, and thusly Brusilov led his offensive attacks on the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army, defeating them completely. The attack was so severe with about 1.6 million casualties, that the German forces were forced to withdraw their own plans for future attacks, and instead had to rush to help their newly made Central Powers ally, the Austro-Hungarians. Finally, with Russian resources beginning to run out, the Brusilov Offensive came to a close on September 20th, 1916. When it was all said and done, it became the costliest battle in terms of human lives in modern history.
1. Mongol Sacking of Baghdad, 1258 (~2 million casualties)
Though the previous nine deadly battles all belonged to the World War I and World War II eras, the most treacherous recorded battle in the history of the world in terms of death tolls was waged a much longer time back. It occurred in 1258, when the Mongol forces sacked the city of Baghdad. The event took place during a short period between January 29 and February 10, 1258, but was violent enough to result in around 2 million casualties, military and civilian alike. The Siege of Baghdad was carried out by Hulagu Khan, the brother of Khagan (emperor) Möngke Khan. The initial orders dispatched from Möngke Khan were not directed at overthrowing the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad, but rather to convince the then-Caliph Al-Musta’sim to quietly surrender to the Mongol forces. However, the Caliph refused to do so, leading to the siege of the city, and the subsequent complete ransacking of Baghdad by the conquering Mongols. The blood-bathed city was forced to surrender to the destructive Mongols within only 12 days of the initial Mongol attacks. This battle also brought an inglorious end to the Islamic Golden Age and its many impressive cultural, scientific, and architectural achievements.
What Was the Deadliest Battle in Human History?
The deadliest battle in the history of the recorded world occur in 1258 when Mongol forces attacked the city of Baghdad. It is estimated to have resulted in around 2 million casualties between January 29 and February 10, 1258.
About the Author
Oishimaya is an Indian native, currently residing in Kolkata. She has earned her Ph.D. degree and is presently engaged in full-time freelance writing and editing. She is an avid reader and travel enthusiast and is sensitively aware of her surroundings, both locally and globally. She loves mingling with people of eclectic cultures and also participates in activities concerning wildlife conservation.
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