Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Slightly off-topic topic for discussion

Something I had a discussion about recently, and since I appear to have some visitors who follow military history, I thought I'd pose the question that came up here and see what people think about it. We were talking about Edwin Creasy's book (Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World: From Marathon to Waterloo), and the idea of decisive battle as it applied to World War II came up.

What we were arguing, and what my question for the group is, is what was the decisive battle (or campaign) in the European Theater in World War II? At what point, in retrospect, could you say that the Allies were nearly certain to win; or could at least be thought of as past the "tipping point" of the war? Was it the Battle of Britain, The Battle of the Atlantic, Stalingrad, D-Day, or something else? Was there, in fact, a single inflection point in the Atlantic as there was in the Pacific?

(Actually, you could argue that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Germany's suicidal declaration of war a few days later was the politically decisive moment for both theaters, but that's cheating: what was the strategically decisive moment or campaign?)

14 Comments:

Anonymous Sim said...

I think a good case could be made for Hitlers invasion of Russia, a turning point if not a tipping point.

BTW - Was reading the 213 things not to do in the Army, 'infamous Ft Bragg Sniper incident'?

4:20 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

I'd say that the decisive battle in Europe was the Breakout from the Hedgerows in France. Allies were struggling in Italy, and Germany could have mounted an offensive in the west while the allies were slowed up by the hedgerows. Once the breakout happened, though, Germany was pretty much hopeless. Between the Americans in the west and the Russians in the east, their forces were spread too thin to stop either.

In the Pacific theater, I'd say the battle for Midway was what kept the US from losing the war, but the Japanese would never have surrendered without the Atomic Bombing. If anybody doubts the necessity of the atomic bombs, look up "Operation Downfall". Normandy would have been a Sunday picnic in comparison.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous D. Jones said...

I would say the Battle of Kursk. With the defeat of the Ostheer attack on the Red Army defensive positions around Kursk, the Wehrmach never captured the strategic initiative again.

4:39 PM  
Blogger ink said...

I'd agree wth D.Jones, the battle Kursk. D-Day certainly shortened the war and kept Europe from being wholely dominated by the Soviets and thus led to a better outcome but the Germans were continually on the defensive after Kursk and would eventually have been ground down.

In the Pacific, Midway, for essentially the same reason. Once you are limited to defense the best hope is a draw and that was not seriously suggested in either theater.

5:52 PM  
Anonymous MKL said...

So many choices really....

Midway is a pretty easy one but I'd say Guadacanal/Solomons was a pretty big turning point also in that it really finished off the surviving IJN air power, reducing IJN carriers to basically bait for the last 2 years of the war, the IJA air force was crippled too, losing many elite pilots with years of experience over China and killed thousands of Japan's best ground troops, not to mention the killing of Yammamato too.

The Battle of Britain loss convinced Hitler that the only way to make peace with Britain was to knock what he percieved to be Churchill's last hope, the Soviet Union out of the war.

While not really a battle, the ULTRA/PURPLE intercepts should be considered...

Kursk and the Bulge are examples of Hitler wasting carefully built up large armored reserves that if used more properly would have prolonged the war for awhile, leading to the question, would the Allies drop an A-bomb on Germany?

Okinawa, with it's 400,000 Japanese civilians could be considered a turning point in that it was example of the resistance that the Allies could expect during landings on Japan proper, making the decision to drop the Bomb "easier".

8:58 PM  
Blogger Major Mike said...

On a grand scale, I think the USSR holding out in Stalingrad, getting past the beaches in Normandy, Britian holding out against the Luftwaffe, and Midway are key...BUT, one of the more instructive battles for future successes was the Marines taking of Tarawa. We essentially proved, that even against superior defenses, with numerous factors working against the landing forces, that we could, indeed, generate enough combat power ashore through amphibious operations to establish a large enough beachead, in a short enought time, to sustain operations ashore. Our techniques were refined after this point, so that, in the end, Normandy did not become Dunkirk.

Great question...all in all, I think there is no one tipping point, as with Pickett's Charge in The Civil War, but a series of independent events, that slowly lowered the Japanese and German end of the teeter-toter, to the point were they could not recover.

Thanks for making me think today! MM

11:49 PM  
Anonymous Big D said...

One problem in Europe is that while there were instances of fighting that could be called battles, a lot of the fighting was simply continuous and unnamed. That makes it difficult to determine which battle was most important.

Given that, I'd have to argue Kursk and the breakout from Normandy.

On a related note, I'd like to point out Black May (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0060178191/qid=1113956488/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/002-7684278-4084862?v=glance&s=books)

This covers May 1943, where the U-Boat fleet was effectively beaten. Like on the ground, there were important battles, but it was a large series of small fights that really made the difference.

12:41 AM  
Anonymous Big D said...

One problem in Europe is that while there were instances of fighting that could be called battles, a lot of the fighting was simply continuous and unnamed. That makes it difficult to determine which battle was most important.

Given that, I'd have to argue Kursk and the breakout from Normandy.

On a related note, I'd like to point out Black May (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0060178191/qid=1113956488/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/002-7684278-4084862?v=glance&s=books)

This covers May 1943, where the U-Boat fleet was effectively beaten. Like on the ground, there were important battles, but it was a large series of small fights that really made the difference.

12:41 AM  
Blogger Lee said...

I would have to go with breaking the Enigma code. A battle of code breaking. Once that was done it was over. For the first time in history one side was literally reading the orders of its opponets as they were getting them.

What kind of response did you expect from a computer scientist?

2:03 AM  
Blogger bblatt said...

I'd say Kursk. A multitude of key moments tied up in that battle. First, German army learns that stalling for time is no longer t their advantage. Second, better tanks (Panther and Tiger, Heavy SPs) with serious mechanical issues are not more effective then Mark IVs. Goes back to the stalling for time issue. Also, heavy tanks need machine guns!!!. And T-34s are still fast enough to negate the german range advantage. Kursk was the writing on the wall for the European theater. Ditto for Midway and the 'Canal in the Pacific.
213 List- -Ft. bragg sniper incident - no one likes to talk about this. A dark day for the Ft. Bragg MPs.

2:16 AM  
Anonymous Jakob Lang said...

My recommendations:

-for the german psychology it was stalingrad. until then it was all glory for hitler. no coincidence the few resistance movements started after that

- maybe the remagen bridge? or the hold out against the ardennen offensive?

greetings

Jakob

2:39 PM  
Blogger British National Party member said...

The most ripping battle of the war, simply has to be the battle of Britain.

Hard to believe now, but at the turn of the century, 1900, we ruled the world. And yet, by 1940..

We would, most likely, have lost, had it not been for you guys. And you guys wouldnt have joined had it not been for pearl habour (shame on you... or do you think differently?) so, yeah pearl harbour.

Except you said we aint allowed that. so battle of Britain it is.

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Educational Cards said...

Special Forces Alpha Geek, I was just passing by on my search for things about WW2 History on
the Net, and dropped in on your blog. I was looking for stuff for my WW2 History site. Not
sure that your blog was exactly what I needed, but I enjoyed my visit all the same.

5:13 PM  
Blogger Andrey Fedorov said...

Fort Bragg sniper incident:

http://edition.cnn.com/US/9510/sniper/am/index.html

7:10 PM  

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