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Most decisive battle of ww2?


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There is a school of thought that goes that the closest thing the western Allies came to a war-losing mistake was, in mid-42 to early 43 the only way to close the central Atlantic Air gap was with Liberator patrols, and for several months the strategic air bombardment boys were unwilling to give up a couple of squadrons.

This in turn, the argument goes, gave the Germans a fighting chance of cutting off supplies from the US. The amount of shipping was limited, Ultra or no Ultra there was no practical way for the convoy stream to avoid the central Atlantic air gap, and by mid-42 Doenitz had so many boats that unhindered by long-range air patrols they could have broken the Atlantic convoy system.

As it was, again the argument goes, the powers-that-were forced the air bombardment boys to cough up something like 24 or 48 Liberators, and that was enough to keep the freight moving until jeep carriers could be tied to convoys. But there's a whole historical school of thought that says it was a very close run thing.

But, while giving the Atlantic campaign its full due of importance, I personally would put it behind the East Front as the scene of the war's decisive battle, whatever campaign it is you decide to pick. The reasoning is that the Soviets would have defeated the Germans without Lend Lease, just more slowly. Glantz makes a pretty solid argument along those lines. Since it was the Soviets that knocked the Germans out of the war, therefore, the war's decisive battle should be somewhere in that conflict.

Like always it ends in semantics: Is "decisive" to mean "set the train of events on an unalterable course" or is it "almost inevitable harbinger of the result" or is it "the moment the Axis started losing"?

Assuming of course one single battle could be decisive in a global war.

You could argue that the invasion of Pomerania and Brandenburg and the leveling of Berlin was the true decisive battle of the war, because after that Hitler was dead and Germany was a divided political entity, no more Lebensraum for you, game over.

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Also I think the biggest mistake was the encirclement around I beleive Kiev in 1941. Germany should have pressed on to Moscow without delay.

That wasn't going to happen any time soon. The spearheads had already reached the limits of logistical support and needed to pause to extend the railhead, establish advanced supply dumps, and perform necessary maintenance and absorb replacements for losses incurred in the Byelorussian fighting. The only real problem with turning south was the additional wear and tear on equipment and personnel.

Michael

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I dont think anyone could really say anyone of the 3 major allies contributed more than the others overall.

Oh, I wouldn't say that. I think there were definite differences in how much any of the three major Allies contributed. What I would say is that if you take any of the three out of the equation, victory over Germany becomes much less certain and certainly far, far more difficult.

Michael

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I think I'm detecting a Eurocentric tilt here. I'll go out on a limb and submit the battles of Khalkhyn Gol in 1939 for your consideration. They changed the entire Japanese expansion strategy from a war with the USSR for the resources of Siberia to a war with colonial Europe and the US for the resources of the Pacific islands. Germany signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with the USSR, delaying their coming confrontation and sealing the fates of both eastern AND western Europe. This crushing victory over an almost impromptu Japanese offensive saved the USSR from fighting an earlier coordinated two-front war versus both Germany and Japan. It made a hero of Zhukov and made both him and the Siberian troops available to face the German invasion.

How decisive? A Japanese victory could have led to a much earlier German invasion of the Soviet Union while leaving western Europe remaining in sitzkreig. A successful Japanese Army strategy would have probably eliminated the later war between Japan and the colonial nations including the US. There wouldn't have been much public sentiment for war with either Germany or Japan for attacking Stalin. Imagine a strategic situation facing western Europe and the US at the end of 1941 with the Urals as the eastern boundary of greater Germany and Siberia's resources securely in the hands of greater Japan.

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The first answer remains the best answer. The question was also posed "what if the battle had gone the other way" excellent point. But what if the battle had NEVER happened?

So it’s Pearl Harbor. No Attack there means:

1. The US enters the war later and by choice.

2. does not angrily pass laws to change the manufacturing industry to full war footing nearly over night.

3. Does not have the full weight of public opinion behind the war effort.

If War is politics by other means, then Pearl Harbor is the Decisive battle of WW2. When Churchill heard the news he said (may not be exact quote), "thank God... now we'll win the war"

Pearl Harbor for the reasons stated by above, along with production 80 million tons of annual steel production in America trumps 9 million tons for Japan any day.

Battle of Moscow (failure to knock USSR out early) then pitted Germany against the combined UK, USA, and USSR production. Both world wars have been decided by attrition/production.

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A Japanese victory could have led to a much earlier German invasion of the Soviet Union while leaving western Europe remaining in sitzkreig.

I don't think so. During the inter-war period, the French army was considered to be the most powerful in Europe if not the world. Even after the war began, it was greatly overrated and the German generals viewed it with some trepidation. Hitler could not afford to leave it whole and at his back while engaged in major operations in the east. Even in '39 he was pulling divisions out of Poland early to send them to the West Wall.

Michael

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I'll go out on a limb and submit the battles of Khalkhyn Gol in 1939 for your consideration. They changed the entire Japanese expansion strategy from a war with the USSR for the resources of Siberia to a war with colonial Europe and the US for the resources of the Pacific islands.

I don't see Khalkhin Gol so much as a well-considered plan to seize Siberian resources (What resources, BTW? Aside from some coal and a lot of timber, what was there in important quantities that was known at the time?) as what you elsewhere in this post call "almost impromptu". It sprang as much if not more from the militaristic hubris of the Kwantung Army as from any policy issued by the national government in Tokyo.

Michael

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I'm with Pearl Harbour too. The Japanese had a SE Asia empire; I don't think the US would have gone to war with Japan no matter how pissed off they were without some such outrageous attack to move sentiment. So the Japs blew it by doing Pearl Harbour.

Then four days or so later on December 11 1941 Hitler, who had a european empire, blows it by declaring war on the US. Bad move. We all know how that turned out.

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Yes, mentioned only once here is the Battle of Midway Island which was HUGELY decisive for the US Navy in the Pacific. I think the Japanese navy lost 4 carriers in the one. I am not sure of the actual stats but a large chunk of the Japanese Navy was pretty much dropped to the bottom of the Pacific in that one. (once again, due exclusively to code breaking by the Allies !)

I would vote Midway as one of the most decisive naval battles of WWII IMHO

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I would vote Midway as one of the most decisive naval battles of WWII IMHO

Again, it would depend on how you define 'decisive'. Undeniably, it marked a turning point in the war. The Japanese made no more major offensive moves in the Pacific after that point (although they continued to do so on the Asian mainland). The question is whether they would have done so without the Midway catastrophic defeat. They had talked about taking Hawaii, but it can be pretty well demonstrated that that operation would have failed even if the fleet had been intact. The high water mark had been reached in the Pacific and any further gains would likely have been trivial.

Michael

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The other issue is that the Japs had limited objectives - to create a SE Asia Prosperity Zone - kinda what the Chinese are trying to do now - not so much world domination which was the Nazi's wet dream. The Japs knew they could never win a protracted war in the first place. So, Midway sped up their troubles, and marked a turning point. But, that's not the same as "decisive" - defined as "before the battle you are winning the war, and afterwards, you are losing it".

So, Moscow 41 would get my #1 vote. BOB, Stalingrad and Midway were very important, but largely huge morale and materiale disasters for the Axis on their way to defeat. Atlantic battle (as was BOB) was more of a victory for the Brits in terms of surviving and thus helping end the war in the west as Britain became the US "aircraft carrier".

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How about the invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece? These operations forced the Germans to commit precious spring and summer weather helping Mussolini. This time surely could have been put to better use facing the soviets.

Otherwise i would say the soviet counterattack in december 1941 or Stalingrad.

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Any battle that takes Britain out of the war.

Can you imagine what resources the Germans would have been able to free up if their cities and centres of production were not gettiing flattened by night and day?

Just think of all those 88's!

And on a side note - by what factor would the formation of a German stategic bomber force have made the Soviets life uncomfortable during 42-45?

Please understand that I'm not a fly-boy and have no particular axe to grind, but I reckon the RAF/USAF were putting the equivalent of a couple of divisions each over the Riech every day and night.

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The third battle of Kharkov.

Failure of Soviet Operation mars verses Army group centre, although that occurred almost simultaneously with the destruction of the 6th army around Stalingrad. The failure of operation Mars indicated the Germans were still able to halt and shatter Soviet offensives much like the Third battle for Kharkov.

I'd argue that Stalingrad was the massive turning point, losing an entire army composed of veteran troops coupled with an increasingly strained replacement system set up the Germans for all their post Stalingrad failures. For instance the uneven quality of troops against the Normandy landings, running out of infantry in Zitadelle, Ardennes.

Stalingrad also pretty much broke the German allies: Romania, Hungery, Italy leaving even larger gaps for the Germans in the east.

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Side note: Does it seem to anyone else that Amazon's price on historical books took a huge upward jump in the last few days? I was looking something up this afternoon and it looked like the price had at least doubled. Looking at several others, their prices seemed to have skyrocketed as well. I want to look into this further as my first run through was pretty casual, but it was enough to set off some alarms.

Michael

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Side note: Does it seem to anyone else that Amazon's price on historical books took a huge upward jump in the last few days? I was looking something up this afternoon and it looked like the price had at least doubled. Looking at several others, their prices seemed to have skyrocketed as well. I want to look into this further as my first run through was pretty casual, but it was enough to set off some alarms.

Someone's probably trying to game the market with an inept bot.

Stick to The Book Depository. The prices are competitive, and they deliver for free.

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Just to take a different twist to this discussion. I think the turning point was the battle of Smolensk as early as 1941. Though the Germans won the battle, it greatly slowed them down on their drive to Moscow and it was the first time the Germans suffered some heavy casualties. It was near the end of this battle that Hitler started diverting forces from driving for Moscow and sending them to Kiev.

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Someone's probably trying to game the market with an inept bot.

Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that those articles are about retailers offering through the Amazon Marketplace. Interesting, but I was talking about Amazon itself. In any event, checking a few more titles seems to indicate that price rises, if any, are not being applied across the whole field.

Michael

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I strongly feel that the inability of the Germans to capture Moscow was the turning point. And in order to have a chance, Moscow would have needed to fall before December. Micheal brings up an excellent point that the German's had outrun their legs by that point, but had the German's not elected to envelop Kiev and instead used that time to rest and refit, they certainly could have taken Moscow with a decent chance of being able to hold it through the winter. The Soviet Union would have been effectively cut in half.

I doubt the Soviet government would have fallen with the capture of Moscow, but the blow to morale would have been huge. Soviet forces were already having issues with low morale, and losing the capital might have been a mortal blow to the Russian army's (or large chunks of it) will to fight... or might not have been. The German's would still have been overextended, winter would still have arrived, and (without the Kiev envelopment) they would have enormous Soviet forces in the south to contend with. Personally, I don't think the German's could have pulled it off anyway, but I do think it was their only shot. To paraphrase Glantz, the Germans would no longer be able to defeat Russia after their failure to take and hold Moscow.

Reed

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Wasn't Kursk an example of one of the few situations where Hitler made a better call than his generals?

Not from what I've read. Hitler insisted on delaying the operation until the new Panther tanks were ready to participate, against the advice of his generals. The pincer attack on the base of the salient was doctrinally sound if somewhat unimaginative. As it happened, the Russians had excellent intelligence on the German's intentions and prepared accordingly. The unreliable early Panthers made no significant contribution. Eventually, the offensive was called off when the allies launched the invasion of Sicilly. All in all, Hitler's imposed delays proved disastrous.

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I know this has been done to death, but I was checking it out on other sites and the one I would pick often does not even feature in the top 10.

The most common answer is Stalingrad (of course the war in the west was just a sideshow and had no real effect on the outcome)

What do you guys think?

In my opinion, most decisive battle of WW2 was battle of Moscow. The first large defeat of Germans. If war on the east had been lost, Britain would have few chances. Unites States even hadn't started producing Shermans. :) Also, imagine 100% of Werhmacht in the western front...

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Not from what I've read. Hitler insisted on delaying the operation until the new Panther tanks were ready to participate, against the advice of his generals. The pincer attack on the base of the salient was doctrinally sound if somewhat unimaginative. As it happened, the Russians had excellent intelligence on the German's intentions and prepared accordingly. The unreliable early Panthers made no significant contribution. Eventually, the offensive was called off when the allies launched the invasion of Sicilly. All in all, Hitler's imposed delays proved disastrous.

That's true, but it's not exactly as if the Hitler-imposed delay prevented a huge German victory. No matter what Rauss, v. Manstein, v. Gudarian, and all those other rah rah Blitzkrieg guys might have us believe.

Kursk came on the heels of the 3rd Battle of Kharkov, which though a clear German victory had written down German mobile units in the Ukrainian/south Russian sectors probably by close to half. That battle came on the heels of Stalingrad, or more exactly the destruction of 6th Army and if not the collapse of the German front then its extreme flimsiness from about the Black Sea to the Russian border.

It is also worth remembering that the 3rd Battle of Kharkov took place not because the Soviets were at their last gasp and desperate for an offensive success, but because they were exploiting the victory at Stalingrad with Uranus and Rumyantsev. The Germans contained it, but it wore them down.

In other words, three months prior to Kursk, the Wehrmacht was in no condition to attack anything in at least the southern half of the Eastern Front, and given terrain it's probably safe to say the entire Eastern Front.

V. Manstein especially is disingenuous when he says Kursk's failure was all Hitler's fault, because Hitler was an amateur commanding true military professionals. V. Manstein said that his success at Kharkov "proved" the correct German strategy was to riposte against Soviet offensives, rather than conduct German offensives like at Kursk.

This however assumed the Germans could collect force for a counterattack more efficiently than the Soviets could for an offensive, and further react to a Soviet offensive effectively, which certainly was not necessarily the case even in Spring 1943, see Stalingrad.

It also assumes that the weather would support German mechanized advance; Feb-April is the flood season (melting snow) in central Russia and April - early June is the rainy season. By settling on July maybe Hitler gave the Soviets too much time to dig in, but he also made sure the panzers and the trucks carrying the infantry and supply could operate off-road.

Had the Germans attacked at Kursk in, say, May or June 1942, that's somewhere between 30 - 60 per cent less Soviet fortifications, traded for German formations not at 100 per cent strength but say at 60 - 80 per cent strength, and with a proportionally lower amount of available fuel and ammunition available. An earlier attack at Kursk could also, depending on how much earlier, have reduced or even eliminated presence of Tigers and Ferdinands, which in the actual event turned out to be critical in getting the German armored spearheads forward.

Since historically at Kursk the Soviets built I believe nine defensive belts and the Germans managed to overcome three, in July, I think it's reasonable to assume that in May Germans armed and equipped as the would have then, probably wouldn't have done substantially better.

To me Kursk is one of those battles where the result was a foregone conclusion. The decisive thing about Kursk IMO was the Soviets' superior intelligence, not what happened on the battlefield.

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