For just over six years, there were over 5,000 battles that made up World War II, perhaps the most well known conflict in human history. It has been nearly 80 years since the war’s conclusion, but there are certain battles that still stand out and are talked about to this day. Here are some of those key battles that had razor thin margins for victory on either side.
5. Battle of Stalingrad
Starting in August of 1942 and lasting for just over five months, the Battle of Stalingrad was fought by the Soviets alone against the Axis in one of the bloodiest battles in human history. The Soviets were outnumbered initially, but more people joined the cause and eventually there were over 1 million Soviets in total. More than 1.1 million Soviets lost their while over 800,000 Axis, but the Soviet resolve resulted in a narrow victory that decimated the German and Italian armies.
4. Battle of Normandy
Perhaps the most famous battle of World War II, Operation Overlord saw over a dozen Allied countries storm the beaches of France and it was a rough start for the Allies. The Allies would recover, though, establishing a stronghold that would then expand into France to help recapture the country. All in all, the casualties were over 225,000 for the Allies and 288,000 for the Axis over the course of nearly three months. The narrow battle has been well documented, especially in film.
3. Battle of Iwo Jima
Another one of those well documented battles that we still see recreated on the big screen today, the Battle of Iwo Jima took place between only the United States and Japan in the latter country’s Volcano Islands. In terms of logistics, this should have been an easy battle for the Americans. There was no land for Japan to retreat and the air/water support made it so that the U.S. wouldn’t lose in the long run, but Japan still put up a fight for more than a month. Iwo Jima turned into a U.S. base at the cost of 27,000 casualties.
2. Battle of Crete
While the Greek army wasn’t a big player in World War II, the country’s land still played a big part with their ~11,000 soldiers that fought to defend Crete from Germany and Italy. Along with the U.K., New Zealand and Australia, the Allies fought off the Axis invasion at first, but things started to go south. When reinforcements from Germany arrived, the Allies fought hard for nearly two weeks but came up short as the Axis claimed victory on June 1, 1941. However, German forces lost a lot of aircraft in the battle that would play a big part in the final years of war.
1. Battle of the Bulge
In the most pivotal battle of World War II, the Germans had a plan to completely surround the Allied forces and could’ve won them the war. What resulted, though, was the Battle of the Bulge being fought in several countries including Belgium and Germany. It took the final weeks of 1944 and first few weeks of 1945 to complete, but the Battle of the Bulge was an even fight that was ultimately won by the Allies, setting up the completion of the war.