A sad top 10 of the most costly battlefields in the Second World War and it will not surprise anybody that this top 10 is mostly filled with the battles on the Eastern Front.
Number 10 on our list will be a surprise to some, as we start off this with the Battle for France.
10. The Battle for France – 1940
Hitler tours Paris with architect Albert Speer (left) and sculptor Arno Breker (right), 23 June 1940 [Via]
The Battle of France, was the successful German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, defeating primarily French forces. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes to cut off and surround the Allied units that had advanced into Belgium. When British and adjacent French forces were pushed back to the sea, the British government decided to evacuate the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) as well as several French divisions at Dunkirk.
After the withdrawal of the BEF, Germany launched a second operation, which was commenced on 5 June 1940. While the depleted French forces put up stiff initial resistance, German air superiority and armoured mobility overwhelmed the remaining French forces. German armour outflanked the Maginot Line and pushed deep into France with German forces arriving in an undefended Paris on 14 June. This caused a chaotic period of flight for the French government and effectively ended organized French military resistance.
On 22 June, an armistice was signed between France and Germany.
Casualties are estimated at 517,000, 70% of which were French.
The Battle of Narva was a military campaign between the German Army Detachment “Narwa” and the Soviet Leningrad Front fought for possession of the strategically important Narva Isthmus on 2 February – 10 August 1944 during World War II.
As a continuation of the Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive of January 1944, the Soviet Estonian operation pushed the front westward to the Narva River, aiming to destroy “Narwa” and to thrust deep into Estonia. The Soviet units established a number of bridgeheads on the western bank of the river in February while the Germans maintained a bridgehead on the eastern bank. Subsequent attempts failed to expand their toehold. German counterattacks annihilated the bridgeheads to the north of Narva and reduced the bridgehead south of the town, stabilizing the front until July 1944. The Soviet Narva Offensive (July 1944) led to the capture of the city forcing the German troops to retreat to their prepared Tannenberg Defence Line in the Sinimäed hills 16 kilometres from Narva. In the ensuing fierce Battle of Tannenberg Line, the German army group held its ground.
Estimated casualties: 550,000, 87% of them Russian.
8. Battle for Berlin
Soviet soldiers on the Pariser Platz in Berlin, near the Brandenburger Gate [Via]
The battle within the city lasted from 20 April until the morning of 2 May. Before the main battle in Berlin commenced, the Soviets managed to encircle the city as a result of their success in the battles of the Seelow Heights and Halbe. On 20 April 1945, the 1st Belorussian Front started shelling Berlin’s city centre, while Marshal Ivan Konev’s 1st Ukrainian Front had pushed from the south through the last formations of Army Group Centre.
The German defences were mainly led by Helmuth Weidling and consisted of several depleted, badly equipped, and disorganised Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS divisions, the latter of which included many SS foreign volunteers, as well as poorly trained Volkssturm and Hitler Youth members. Within the next few days, the Soviets rapidly advanced through the city and reached the city centre where close-quarters combat raged.
The city’s defenders finally surrendered on 2 May.
Casualties are estimated at 680,000, this excludes captured German soldiers (another 480.000)
7. Operation Bagration 1944
Abandoned vehicles of the German 9th Army at a road near Bobruisk [Via]
Operation Bagration was the codename for the Soviet 1944 offensive, which cleared German forces from the Belorussian SSR and eastern Poland between 22 June and 19 August 1944.
The operation resulted in the almost complete destruction of an entire German army group, with the loss of Army Group Centre’s Fourth Army, Third Panzer Army and Ninth Army. It is considered the most calamitous defeat experienced by the German armed forces during the Second World War. By the end of the operation most of the western Soviet Union had been liberated and the Red Army had achieved footholds in Romania and Poland.
Total number of soldiers engaged in this battle: 2,556,793, casualty estimates range from 528,000 – 1,430,000, or 20% to 55%
6. Battle for Moscow, 1941
Adapted to the climate: Red Army ski soldiers in Moscow. Still from documentary Moscow Strikes Back, 1942 [Via]
The Battle of Moscow is the name given by Soviet historians to two periods of strategically significant fighting on a 600 km sector of the Eastern Front during World War II. It took place between October 2nd 1941 and January 7th 1942. Moscow was one of the primary military and political objectives for Axis forces in their invasion of the Soviet Union.
The German strategic offensive named Operation Typhoon was planned to conduct two pincer offensives, one to the north of Moscow against the Kalinin Front and another to the south of Moscow Oblast against the Western Front south of Tula, while the 4th Army advanced directly towards Moscow from the west.
Initially, the Soviet forces conducted a strategic defence of the Moscow Oblast by constructing three defensive belts, deploying newly raised reserve armies, and bringing troops from the Siberian and Far Eastern Military Districts. Subsequently, as the German offensives were halted, a Soviet strategic counter-offensive was executed to force the German armies back, nearly surrounding three German armies in the process.
Casualty estimates range from 824,000 to 1.6800.000, with 3 times more casualties on the Russian side.
5. The battles for Kursk, 1943
2nd SS Panzer Division soldiers, Tiger I tank, during the battle [Via]
The Battles of Kursk were fought on the Eastern front near the town of Kursk in the Soviet Union. It started on July 5th 1943 and ended on August 23rd 1943.
The Germans launched the first offensive which was countered by two Soviet counter-offensives. For the Germans, the battle represented the final strategic offensive they were able to mount in the east. For the Soviets, the victory gave the Red Army the strategic initiative for the rest of the war.
The Germans hoped to weaken the Soviet offensive potential for the summer of 1943 by cutting off a large number of forces, that they anticipated would be in the Kursk salient assembling for an offensive.
The Soviets had intelligence of the German intentions, aware months in advance, that the attack would fall on the neck of the Kursk salient, the Soviets built a defence in depth designed to wear down the German Forces.
Over 6,132,000 soldiers were engaged in this battle, total casualties are estimated around 1,038,862 (16,9%)
4. Siege of Leningrad
“In besieged Leningrad”. Leningradians on Nevsky avenue during the siege. [Via]
The Siege of Leningrad was a prolonged military operation undertaken by the German Army Group North against Leningrad—historically and currently known as Saint Petersburg—in the Eastern Front theatre of World War II.
The siege started on 8 September 1941, when the last road to the city was severed. Although the Soviets managed to open a narrow land corridor to the city on 18 January 1943, the siege was finally lifted on 27 January 1944, 872 days after it began. It was one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history and overwhelmingly the most costly in terms of casualties.
Casualties are estimated between 1,117,000 and 4,500,000
3. Battle for Stalingrad 1942 – 1943:
Soviet soldiers attack a house, February 1943 [Via]
The Battle of Stalingrad began on 23 August 1942 when the German offensive to capture Stalingrad with the 6th Army began. The attack was supported by intensive Luftwaffe bombing that reduced much of the city to rubble. The fighting degenerated into building-to-building fighting, and both sides poured reinforcements into the city. By mid-November 1942, the Germans had pushed the Soviet defenders back at great cost into narrow zones generally along the west bank of the Volga River.
On 19 November 1942, the Red Army launched Operation Uranus, a two-pronged attack targeting the weaker forces protecting the German 6th Army’s flanks. The Axis forces on the flanks were overrun and the 6th Army was cut off and surrounded in the Stalingrad area. Heavy fighting continued for another two months. By the beginning of February 1943, the Axis forces in Stalingrad had exhausted their ammunition and food. The remaining elements of the 6th Army surrendered.
Casualties are estimated from 1,250,000 to 1,798,000.
2. Dniepr Campaign, 1944
Soviet soldiers preparing rafts to cross the Dnieper (the sign reads “Onwards to Kiev!”) [Via]
The Battle of the Dnieper took place in 1943 on the Eastern Front of the World War II. It was one of the largest operations in the World War II, involving almost 4,000,000 troops on both sides and stretching on a 1,400 kilometres long front.
During its four-month duration, the eastern bank of the Dnieper was recovered from German forces by five of the Red Army’s fronts, which conducted several assault river crossings to establish several bridgeheads on the western bank. Subsequently, Kiev was liberated in the Second battle of Battle of Kiev.
Casualties range from a low estimate of 1,582,000 to up to 2,480,000.
1. Operation Barbarossa
Self propelled guns enter Russia in June 1941 [Via]
Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the USSR by Nazi Germany lasted from June 22nd until December 5th 1941. Over the course of the operation, about four million soldiers of the Axis powers invaded Soviet Russia along a 2,900 km front, making it the largest invasion in the history of warfare. In addition to troops, the Germans employed some 600,000 motor vehicles and between 600–700,000 horses.
Operationally, the Germans won resounding victories and occupied some of the most important economic areas of the Soviet Union, mainly in Ukraine, while sustaining heavy casualties. Despite these successes, the German offensive stalled on the outskirts of Moscow and was then pushed back by a Soviet counter offensive without taking the city. The Germans would never again mount a simultaneous offensive along the entire strategic Soviet-German front. The Red Army repelled the Wehrmacht’s strongest blow and forced Germany into a war of attrition, which it was unprepared for.
Around 6,480,000 soldiers were engaged in this battle, casualties range from a low estimate of 1,400,000 (21,6%) to up to 5,000,000 (77,1%).
The casualty figures this Wikipedia page were used and refined where possible using the relevant Wikipedia pages. Prisoners taken are not part of the number of casualties, only killed, wounded and or missing.
B)45 Surprising & Weird Facts About WWII That Will Leave You Baffled!
We’ve all seen the HBO series “Band of Brothers,” and Saving Private Ryan but there is more to WWII than what Hollywood shows us! Here’s a list of 45 facts from World War II that you probably didn’t know.
At the time of Pearl Harbor, the top US Navy command was called CINCUS (pronounced “sink us”), the shoulder patch of the US Army’s 45th Infantry division was the Swastika, and Hitler’s private train was named “Amerika”. All three were soon changed for PR purposes.
Polish Catholic midwife Stanisława Leszczyńska delivered 3,000 babies at the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust in occupied Poland, 2,500 did not survive the camp.
More US servicemen died in the Air Corps that the Marine Corps. While completing the required 30 missions, your chance of being killed was 71%. Not that bombers were helpless. A B-17 carried 4 tons of bombs and 1.5 tons of machine gun ammo. The US 8th Air Force shot down 6,098 fighter planes, 1 for every 12,700 shots fired.
There was no such thing as an average fighter pilot in the World War 2. Japanese ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa shot down over 80 planes.
German Me-264 bombers would have been capable of bombing New York City but it wasn’t worth the effort.
A number of air crewmen died of farts. (ascending to 20,000 ft. in an un-pressurized aircraft causes intestinal gas to expand 300%!)
The Russians destroyed at least 270 German aircraft by ramming them in midair .
When the US Army landed in North Africa, among the equipment brought ashore were 3 complete Coca Cola bottling plants.
Among the first “Germans” captured at Normandy were several Koreans. They had been forced to fight for the Japanese Army until they were captured by the Russians and forced to fight for the Russian Army until they were captured by the Germans and forced to fight for the German Army until they were capture by the US Army.
The first American serviceman killed in the European Theater was killed by the Germans (Norway 1940).
The Graf Spee never sank, The scuttling attempt failed and the ship was bought by the British. On board was Germany’s newest radar system.
That Nazi salute was modeled on the salute of Italian Fascists, the ancient Romans, as well as ancient Germans.
Following a massive naval bombardment, 35,000 US and Canadian troops stormed ashore at Kiska. 21 troops were killed in the fire-fight. It would have been worse if there had been Japanese on the island.
Nuclear physicist Niels Bohr was rescued in the nick of time from German-occupied Denmark. While Danish resistance fighters provided covering fire he ran out the back door of his home stopping momentarily to grab a beer bottle full of precious “heavy water”
Germany lost 136 Generals, which averages out to be 1 dead General every 2 weeks.
The youngest US serviceman was 12-year-old Calvin Graham, USN. He was wounded in combat and given a Dishonorable Discharge for lying about his age. (His benefits were later restored by act of Congress).
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