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Top 10 Battles of World War II

John Allen . . . Comments

World War II was the bloodiest conflict in human history. The world was in a state of “total war.” Motivated by the threat of global tyranny, the Allies eventually prevailed, but this victory was marked by battles won and lost. This list looks at ten battles that decisively changed the course of the war. Battles are ranked based on what was at stake, and the effect they had on the war as a whole.


The Battle of France

Adolf Hitler In Paris 1940

After the German conquest of Poland in September 1939, Hitler turned his attention to the west. His ultimate goal was to invade the Soviet Union, but he knew the defeat of the Western European nations was a necessity to avoid a two-front war. The first step was to invade the Low Countries (The Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium) and France. Hypothetically, Germany could then conquer Britain, re-deploy to the East, and fight a one-front war against the Russians.

The German Army was actually outnumbered by the Allies. However, the numbers game didn’t matter because the German plan was so effective. Once the Germans invaded the Low Countries, the French Army, and British Expeditionary Force (BEF) moved north to face the Germans head-on. This allowed German Army Group A to cut through the Allied defenses in the Ardennes and advance towards the English Channel, effectively trapping them with their backs against the sea. A new offensive was launched against Paris, France fell, and the BEF was evacuated at Dunkirk. The country was divided into German occupation zones and Vichy France. Germany was then free to focus on knocking Britain out of the war.


Operation Overlord

Approaching Omaha

By the summer of 1944, the Red Army was at Germany’s doorstep. There is no doubt that the Russians could have singlehandedly defeated Nazi Germany (hence this ranking at number 9), but Stalin had been putting pressure on the West to open a second front in an attempt to divert German resources and bring a quicker end to the war. The American Air Forces and British Royal Air Force (RAF) had been waging a strategic bombing campaign since 1942. The Allies controlled the Mediterranean theater, and invaded Italy in 1943. However, it was strategically necessary to launch a full-scale invasion of France to destroy the main force of the German Army in Northern Europe.

Operation Overlord commenced with the Normandy landings in June of 1944. By August, there were more than 3 million Allied troops in France. Paris was liberated on 25 August, and the German Army had been pushed back completely, and retreated across the River Seine by 30 August. Germany was forced to reinforce the Western Front with resources from the Eastern and Italian Fronts. The result was a decisive Allied strategic victory. By September, Western Allied forces were approaching the German border. Nazi Germany would surrender less than a year later. More importantly, Western Europe was not to be controlled by communist Russia, which had immense postwar political implications.


Battle of Guadalcanal


Up until August 1942, the Allies had been on the defensive in the Pacific Theatre. The offensive capability of the Japanese had been reduced following the naval battles of Coral Sea and Midway. However, Japan was still on the offensive and was planning invasions of Fiji, New Caledonia, and Samoa. By August 1942, the Imperial Japanese Navy was in the process of constructing a series of bases in the Solomon Islands that would provide a staging area for these planned invasions and offer protection of their major base at Rabaul. The Allies saw this as a major threat to Australia. The Japanese were in the process of constructing an airfield on Guadalcanal that could increase Japanese air cover for their naval forces advancing in the South Pacific. The Allies planned to invade the Solomon Islands in an effort to deny the use of the islands by the Japanese. This would also be the starting point for an Island hopping campaign aimed at retaking the Philippines and eventually invading the Japanese mainland.

On 7 August, 11,000 Marines of the 1st Marine Division under the command of Major General Alexander Vandergrift landed on Guadalcanal. The only resistance the Marines faced was the jungle itself. On 8 August, they successfully secured the Japanese airfield, which the Marines named “Henderson Field.” The American Navy planned to withdraw from the area on 9 August after Japanese aircraft attacked the fleet during the initial landings. During the night of 8 August, the Japanese Navy surprised the Allied warships and sank one Australian and three American cruisers. The Navy could not afford to lose another carrier, so they left the Marines without unloading needed equipment and supplies. The Marines formed a perimeter around Henderson Field and small contingent of American aircraft, known as the “Cactus Air Force,” stationed there. The Japanese landed thousands of troops throughout the month and continually attacked the Marines in an attempt to recapture the airfield. Finally, in February of 1943 the Japanese withdrew their forces from the Island. The victory at Guadalcanal was an important military and psychological victory for the Allies. After the campaign, Allied personnel regarded the Japanese military with less fear than previously. Japanese general Torashiro Kawabe even said, “As for the turning point, when the positive action ceased or even became negative, it was, I feel, at Guadalcanal.”


Battle of Leyte Gulf

Uss St Lo %28Cve-63%29 2

In June 1944 the Americans had breached Japan’s inner defensive ring and had bases that could be used by B-29 Superfortresses to bomb the Japanese home islands. The next step was to cut Japanese supply lines by invading the Philippines or Formosa (Taiwan). The Allies didn’t have the manpower to take Formosa, and General Douglas Macarthur had championed an invasion of the Philippines ever since 1942 when he famously pronounced, “I shall return.” The Japanese response was to attack the American landing force that was attempting to take the Philippine island of Leyte. The Japanese Northern Force would try to lure the American forces away from Leyte. The Southern Force and the powerful Center Force would then attack the landing area.

The Northern Force successfully diverted the US 3rd fleet under the command of Admiral William Halsey. The Japanese Southern Force was intercepted and destroyed by the 7th Fleet Support Force; a substantial fleet of six battleships, four heavy cruisers, and four light cruisers. Halsey’s decision to take all of the available strength of the 3rd Fleet northwards left the northern landing area guarded by 7th Fleet’s slow escort carriers and small destroyers. The Japanese Center Force of four battleships, six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and eleven destroyers caught the American ships by surprise. The American destroyers, “small boys,” were ordered to attack. The destroyers’ suicidal attacks on the Center Force convinced the Japanese that they were in fact being attacked by Halsey’s 3rd fleet. The Japanese withdrew after losing four carriers, three battleships, eight cruisers, and twelve destroyers. The Battle of Leyte Gulf was the largest naval battle in history and basically resulted in the destruction of the Imperial Japanese Navy. For the remainder of the war, the Japanese could only rely on land forces and Kamikaze attacks. Their supply of oil and other important war materials from Southeast Asia had been cut.


Battle of Moscow

Soviet Offensive Moscow December 1941

Hitler’s objective in invading the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) was always Moscow. This capital city was considered to be extremely important militarily and politically. The original Axis plan was to capture Moscow within four months after the start of the invasion of the USSR. The Axis wished to take the capital before the onset of winter. Autumn rains and stiffened resistance slowed the Germans, but by December they were less than 19 miles from Moscow. The exhausted Red Army was saved by a terrible Russian winter, and fresh troops from Siberia, trained for winter warfare. Temperatures dropped as low as 50 below zero. German troops had no winter clothing, and the Panzers were not designed to operate in such low temperatures. On 5 December 1941 the Russians counterattacked and pushed the German army back.

For the first time, the Germans retreated on a large scale. Operation Barbarossa had failed. Hitler now faced a war of attrition, something he was bound to lose. The Germans sustained around 400,000 casualties. More importantly, Hitler took personal charge of the military and set most experienced German officers against him. Hitler’s distrust of his senior officers reduced the German advantage of superior military leadership. The Soviets did launch offensive the following spring, but this did little more than set the stage for the Battle of Stalingrad, a battle which they would win.


Battle of Kursk

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-J14813%2C Bei Orel%2C Panzer Vi %28Tiger I%29

The Battle of Kursk took place after the Battle of Stalingrad, and was the final offensive the Germans were able to launch in the east. The Germans envisioned breaking through the northern and southern flanks to encircle the Soviet forces. However, the Soviets knew Hitler’s intentions and constructed a series of defensives. The Germans delayed the attack to wait for new Tiger and Panther tanks, giving the Red Army even more time to dig in and gather forces for a counterattack. To give some perspective, the defensive networks around Kursk were 10 times deeper than the Maginot Line. The main German attack began on 5 July. Due to the depth of the Russian defenses, the German blitzkrieg was stopped. This was the first time a blitzkrieg offensive had been defeated before it could break through enemy defenses and into its strategic depths. After the failed attack, the Red Army counterattacked. The Germans would be on the defensive for the rest of the war in the east.

The war in Europe would last for two more years, but the time the Battle of Kursk was over, the Americans and British were on the verge of invading Italy, the Red Army was on the offensive, and the Allies were producing more war materials than the Germans. At Kursk alone, the Germans lost 720 tanks, 680 aircraft, and sustained 170,000 casualties. The battle was the largest tank battle in history, and the Germans paid dearly. By the end of 1943, they were being pushed back across a broad front in the East, and faced the possibility of a second front in the west. After three years of war, the Allies finally had the strategic advantage.


Battle of Midway

Sbds And Mikuma

After Pearl Harbor and the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Japanese hoped to eliminate the United States as a strategic power in the Pacific Theatre. They chose to occupy Midway Atoll to extend their defensive perimeter, and to lure the American aircraft carriers into a fight. Luckily for the Americans, they had broken the Japanese code and knew roughly where, when, and in what strength the Japanese would appear. The Japanese, on the other hand, had no real knowledge of the American’s strength or location. They thought they would be up against two American carriers, since the USS Yorktown was severely damaged at the Battle of the Coral Sea. The Yorktown was repaired in only 72 hours, and was able to join the carriers Enterprise and Hornet for the battle. They faced four Japanese carriers, but had an airfield on Midway, so the field was basically even. It was only a matter of which side discovered the other first.

American B-17s from Midway found the Japanese, under the command of Admiral Nagumo, on June 3, but failed to hit any targets. On 4 June the initial attack was launched on Midway. Most American planes operating from Midway were destroyed, but Nagumo chose to attack Midway again. They had detected a single American carrier, and decided to arm the planes with anti-ship weapons, which would take 45 minutes. This wouldn’t matter because the American aircraft that would deliver the crushing blow were already on their way. A low flying American torpedo plane squadron was completely destroyed by the Japanese air patrol, but this opened the door for the SBD Dauntless dive bombers. Four Japanese carriers were sunk, and most of the veteran pilots aboard were killed. By the time the Japanese replaced their three carriers, the US had commissioned two dozen. Midway paved the way for the landings at Guadalcanal, and gave the Allies the strategic initiative to be on the offensive for the rest of the war in the Pacific.


Operation Barbarossa

Bundesarchiv Bild 101Iii-Zschaeckel-207-12%2C Schlacht Um Kursk%2C Panzer Vi %28Tiger I%29

The Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union began on 22 June 1941 and ended with the Battle of Moscow (this specific battle was listed at number five due to its importance). The total operation involved 8.9 million combatants, over 18,000 tanks, 45,000 aircraft, and some 50,000 artillery pieces on both sides combined. Like Operation Overlord, Operation Barbarossa actually consisted of several decisive battles, but the numbers involved, and the fact that the Soviet Union was plunged into war, places it a number three on this list. When Germany invaded, the Red Army was caught completely off guard. A non-aggression pact was signed before the German and Soviet invasion of Poland. Both countries invaded and occupied Poland, but Hitler had always seen Russia as a source of agriculture, slave labor, oil, and other raw materials. Even before the Nazis concluded their conquest of the Balkans, they began to mass over 4.5 million Axis troops near the Soviet border. Three Army groups were formed; each assigned to capture specific regions and cities. Army Group North would attack through the Baltic States and take Leningrad. Army Group Center was tasked with taking Moscow, and Army Group South was to attack the agricultural heartland of the Ukraine and move eastward toward the oil-rich Caucasus. The Red Army, although numerically superior to the Germans, was dispersed, unprepared, and suffered from poor leadership.

The Germans swiftly advanced across the entire front. Key battles took place at Smolensk, Uman, and Kiev. Panzer armies were able to encircle and capture three million Soviet soldiers by the time they reached Moscow. By December, they had surrounded Leningrad in the north, reached the outskirts of Moscow in the center, and occupied the entire Ukraine in the south. They held 500,000 square miles of Soviet territory with over 75 million people. The Soviets held at Moscow, but not before 800,000 troops were killed, 3,000,000 wounded, and over 3,000,000 captured. 20,000 Soviet tanks and 21,000 aircraft were destroyed. The Germans casualties included 250,000 killed, 500,000 wounded, 2,000 aircraft destroyed, and 2,700 tanks lost. The Soviet Union would lose 14% of its population in the war: almost 24 million people.


Battle of Stalingrad

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-W0506-316%2C Russland%2C Kampf Um Stalingrad%2C Siegesflagge

The Battle of Stalingrad was the Midway of the Eastern Front. The battle was a disaster for Germany, and made victory in the East virtually impossible. After the Red Army had prevailed at Moscow, the Eastern Front had stabilized in line running from Leningrad to Rostov near the Black Sea. Hitler was confident he could defeat the Red Army when the weather was no longer an issue. The capture of Stalingrad was important because it was a vital transportation route between the Caspian Sea and northern Russia, and was the gateway to the oil-rich Caucasus region. Its capture would also be an ideological victory due to the fact that Stalingrad bore the name of Joseph Stalin. The battle began with the Luftwaffe reducing the city to rubble and rendering the River Volga, vitally important for bringing supplies into the city, unusable. By the end of August, the Germans had reached Stalingrad.

The Soviets tried to keep their front lines as close to the Germans as possible. This “hugging” tactic in an urban environment negated the German doctrine which relied on close cooperation between infantry, tanks, engineers, artillery, and aircraft. German infantry units were forced to fight on their own, or risk taking casualties from their own supporting fire. The Soviets were able to hold onto the city until winter. At certain points in the battle, the Germans held 90% of the city, but the Red Army counterattacked in November and were able to encircle 300,000 Axis troops. The Germans sustained 841,000 casualties, and would only launch one more offensive at Kursk, which would end up being another disastrous defeat.


Battle of Britain

Bundesarchiv Bild 141-0678%2C Flugzeuge Heinkel He 111

If the United Kingdom was knocked out in the war, Hitler could have focused all of Germany’s military might on the Soviet Union. The Americans and Soviets would have to fight the Axis alone, and the British Isles could not have been used as a staging point for Operation Overlord. For these reasons, The Battle of Britain is without a doubt the most important battle of the Second World War. The British Expeditionary Force was, for the most part, successfully evacuated at Dunkirk following the Battle of France. However, most of their equipment was left in France. At the beginning of the Battle of Britain the only fully equipped division in England was Canadian. If Germany achieved air supremacy over the skies of Britain, they could have launched Operation Sea Lion (the invasion of the British Isles). The Royal Navy would have been ineffective in stopping the invasion without air cover.

The initial Luftwaffe strategy was to destroy Royal Air Force bases. This worked quite well until the strategy changed to bombing towns and cities. This gave the RAF a chance to replace its lost aircraft. Radar was essential. Without it, the RAF would have to keep planes in the air at all times. They lacked the resources to do this. Radar allowed fighters to wait on the ground and coordinate attacks on the German bomber formations. By October of 1940, the Luftwaffe was running low on aircrews and aircraft. German air supremacy was not achieved, and Hitler postponed Sea Lion indefinitely. The end of the Battle allowed Britain to rebuild its military and establish itself as an Allied stronghold. Winston Churchill summed the battle with the words, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”


Battle of Khalkhin Gol

Soviet Tanks Cross Khalkhin Gol River 1939

The Battle of Khalkhin Gol was the decisive engagement of the Soviet-Japanese Border War. Japan occupied Manchuria in 1931 (some consider this the start of World War II). Military interest was then turned to Soviet territories that bordered this area. The first clash between Japanese and Soviet forces was in 1938. There were frequent engagements along the border of Manchuria, but the Japanese were decisively defeated at Khalkhin Gol in May of 1939. The engagement was relatively small compared to later battles of the war. Only 95,000 troops were involved, but the implications of the battle were huge. The Japanese saw the resources in the Soviet Union as unattainable. They instead seized resource-rich territories in Southeast Asia.

The Empire of Japan and the Soviet Union signed the Japanese-Soviet Nonaggression Pact in April of 1941, and both countries remained at peace until Stalin declared war on Japan in 1945 (after the atomic bombs were dropped). With Japan’s eyes turned eastward, Stalin was free to transfer his Siberian divisions west, where they played a crucial role in defeating the Germans at the Battle of Moscow.

  • Timmy

    I am the first because I am considerably better than you…

    • Missy

      Did you actually read the list, Timmy, or did you just want to be 1st?
      Great list, John Allen. Love the WWII battles.

      • Timmy

        I most certainly did, ye cretin. ‘Twas mince, but that appears to be the standard of Listverse these days…

    • Notimpressed

      Pretty crap list. The author just picked battles that he heard of and are semi-famous. These are the most important battles based on overall victory:

      Midway. Ended Japanese naval supremacy. All other battles could have been avoided somehow.

      Battle for Stalingrad, Leningrad, Moscow. Any other major Soviet-Nazi battle. All Western front battle paled in significance. These were battles involving millions of men. Sorry but the USSR won the European theatre.

      • Gonzo

        Inclined to agree, Soviets really payed the price in blood in this war. There were single battles between Soviet and Germany that had as many casualties as the allied suffered in the entire war.

  • Bobby Sue

    The comments below are pointless. They are written by self-serving dunces who believe that a cut-and-paste job from Wikipedia is the same as actually knowing what you are talking about.

  • Ramon

    Great list, i do enjoy :)

  • Arsnl

    The battle for Britain ranks higher than Stalingrad? Why? Just like you said, the battle for Britain only counts as a battle that extendes the war, it couldn’t have won the war at all.
    But the same goes for Stalingrad, if the USSR had fallen, then Britain would have been next. Plus the USSR had valuable resources Britain didn’t. Bad ranking and a lot of what ifs in some items.

    All in all im bored of “regular” WW2 lists. Top ten battles, top ten generals etc. Aren’t there any interesting things left to say? I think the answer is yes.

    I think today should have been a list about space, space exploration, an homage.

    • Djole

      Agree with you completely.

    • Matt C

      “The Russians supplied the blood, the British supplied the time and the Americans supplied the money”

      If Germany could have taken Britain out of the war before launching Barbarossa, they’d have flattened the Russians.

      Britain trained and equippped the various resistance movements, fought Fritz in the deserts of North Africa and launched commando raids in various occupied countries.

      All of which tied up hundreds of thousands of German soldiers and their equipment, fuel, ammunition etc etc.

      For example, Norway was occupied by 440,000 German soldiers for a large proportion of the war, as it was thought that Britain would invade that way.

      • Arsnl

        “If Germany could have taken Britain out of the war before launching Barbarossa, they’d have flattened the Russians.”
        Says who?

        “hundreds of thousands of German soldiers”
        Not exactly the millions that were fighting on the eastern front.

        • Exactly. You cannot beat Russian Winter and such a huge country. It is impossible to hold such a huge country for a long time by military supremacy. Leave USSR alone. Invade and overrun UK. So, no operation Overlord launched from mainland UK. Respite for a few months. Years maybe. Develop your A-bomb. At least try to talk for peace with USA.

          I am glad Hitler was fool enough to attack USSR and Japan was fool enough to bomb Pearl Harbor. (Ah, hindsight. I love thee.)

          But even if that wouldn’t have happened, I doubt if Nazis would have succeeded to dominate Europe for more than a decade.

          • Matt C

            Lemme see: at least 750,0000 troops tied up in occupation.
            Rommel and the Africa Korps being in Africa.

            Fritz got within sight of Moscow with 3 1/2 milion troops.
            MASSIVE amounts of fuel (in particular) were lost crossing the Med due to Britain breaking the Enigma code, which allowed them to intercept supplies
            Russia stayed in the fight because America supplied arms, tanks etc through Britain.
            Once they’d turned the corner on production, Russia weren’t going to lose, but when they were against the wall, it was the USA and UK that kept them going.

            The Second World War, By Anthony Beevor
            Vhere Ve Screwed Up Ze Var, By A Hitler

          • @ Matt C

            Aw, you read a book and want sources for my comment? You realize what opinion means? Let me just give you a brief list of the world war II non-fiction books I have.

            Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway by Jonathan Parshall & Anthony Tully

            The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War by Andrew Roberts

            Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege, 1942-1943 by Antony Beevor

            The 900 Days: The Siege Of Leningrad by Harrison E. Salisbury

            The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer

            Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy by Max Hastings

            A Writer at War by Vasily Grossman

            Hitler’s U-boat War: The Hunted 1942-1945 by Clay Blair

            Hiroshima by John Hersey

            Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath

            by Michael Norman & Elizabeth M. Norman

            Zu try noz to ze an azzhol on ze inzernet azain.

          • I have read much more than these, but you are a colossal idiot so I am not bothering to discuss my views with you anymore.

          • JJ

            Also, if the UK had been invaded, there would have been much more communist influence in Western Europe as the United States would have been late to join into the war due to being intimidated by Germany’s takeover of Great Britain. USSR would have had a nasty fight in its hands but eventually would have taken over much more of Western Europe, perhaps up to France and Italy before the United States would have inevitably joined in to prevent the spread of Communism and have their own share.

          • Arsnl

            Gasp. This guy is clueless. The americans provided supplies through britain? How did the do that?
            The supplies mostly came through the arctic, some through the pacific and persian. But most through the arctic aka where britain didnt have anything to due.
            Britain was small fries dude. No wonder you think Dunkirk was amazing.

        • M.Atti

          I don’t know about flattening, but invading the British isles would have made a huge difference, not only freeing up men and equipment from many fronts but also quite possibly cutting the massive amount of materials help the Soviets got from the US to a trickle. With almost no material help the Soviets would have been in deep thouble.

      • Twonky McGubbins

        I don’t believe you because you have quoted no sources. That means you are wrong and lose at the internet.

  • Uncle Sam

    Great List!

  • Rob

    Seems a very bias American list this one.. In the writers opinion did Britain do ANYTHING right or was it all just luck and chance?

  • bigd1ckman

    Really not very good. Writer should probably stop posting on this site, re-think his life and then end it.

    • SirSteven

      Try rethinking you name.

  • Huntr

    Hope there’s no global war upcoming, it might be ten times worse than that.

    • Ni99a

      It would be China versus Japan and its ally. The place would be Diaoyu/Senkaku island.

      North Korea vs South Korea.

      South Korea vs Japan in Dokdo/Takeshima island.

      China vs everyone in SEA over South China Sea.

      Japan vs Russia for Sakhalin Island.

      Everywhere in Middle East and Africa because USA will bring democracy for them.

  • Kevin

    What? No Iwo Jima?!!

  • EP

    Great list but you are wrong about the battle of khalhiin gol. It’s border between Mongolia and Manchuria, not Russia:

  • Barnes

    Stalingrad should be Nm. 1. It turned the tide of the war, the two greatest evils went head to head (Hitler and Stalin, Nazi vs. Soviet), it was the bloodiest and most brutal, and has an epic ring to it.

    Also, as an Australia, I believe Kokoda should be acknowledged.

    • Ni99a

      You bandits contributed nuthin to the world.

      No, sending a few hundred man in human’s greatest conflict does not count.

      • Barnes

        ^This right here, is why people always complain about Listverse commenters.

        I hope you’re joking, my friend.

      • trollthumper

        Population of 7 million at the time and 1 million served during the conflict. Your ignorance is almost as bad as your grammar.

  • Takis

    An other lesser known battle with an important effect was the Battle of Crete in 1941. Germans attacked the island with combined airborne and naval forces. But the locals killed many parachuters so Hitler decided to abandon this method of attack. The parachuters were very successful during Blitzkrieg in Europe but Hitler and the older Generals were very old fashioned about war tactics. While the German Leaders refused to develop commando forces, the Allies started using them and the following years they had a very important role for the Victory.

  • frecza

    A distorted American view.

    • Dean, James

      Agree, way too American.

      • Coyle

        Why don’t you clowns get over yourselve’s. Most of the battles mentioned were Europe or Asia. Drop your I-hate-the-USA crap for at least one post.

  • Chino448

    Nice list great change of pace

  • Pat

    It is up for debate whether Sea Lion would have worked at all even if Germany had complete air supremacy over the British Isles. According to war games that were done, Germany wouldn’t have been able to keep an invasion force in England for very long even with air supremacy.

    Also, Stalingrad should be #1 imo, but great list.

  • Joshua

    LOL DID YOU REALLY say the soviet union could have defeated germany alone? Oh my… Any enjoyment of reading this is out the window, obviously the russians had the manpower, and towards the latter years they began to break out of the stalemate full steam ahead. But to say they could have liberated all the way to the french coastline…uhm? Sorry, but as someone whos been a wwii fanatic since i was a boy, that type of crap bugs me.

    • Ralph

      You may need to revisit some of your reading. The Soviets would have won the war eventually, even if they had lost Moscow. They moved their industry east of the Ural Mountains. Think about that. They MOVED their war industry. Since they had no economic problem (they said do it and people did it) and had all the raw materials they would need, they would have won eventually. As to whether they needed to push the Germans into the channel is irrelevant, no homeland, no German problem. The problem is the “eventually” there would have been at least 3 times the casualties that happened and there is a good chance that there would not have been a Germany after the war.

  • Joshua

    Sorry to nitpick, but no battle of buldge? My lord author, you have stunned me. Quite biased are we? No british credits for battles eiter, or other nationalities. Largely russian based.

    • alex

      “largely Russian Biased”

      Are you completely stupid Kursk, Stalingrad, Leningrad, Berlin and Moscow were more important than ANY of the American or British battles on the western front.

      • alex

        You empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries. Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time.

  • M.Atti

    #10 (France) and #3 (Barbarossa) aren’t even battles. They are campaigns.

    I’d also like to add one more battle to the list (as there are two open spots now): the battle of Tali-Ihantala ( This little known battle was among heaviest fighting during the whole WW II and was initiated when the Soviet forces of Leningrad front tried to smash Finnish lines in order to remove FFinland from the war. After two weeks in june/july 1944 of almost continous attacks and counter attacks the Soviets were stopped but ultimately the Soviet goal was reached as Finland, it’s army hammered badly and munitions running low, signed an armistice in september.

  • yasiralani

    I am amazed there is no mention for the Battle of Berlin. I know it was late in war and the German army was overwhelmed, but it was the battle that did end the war.

  • Ken

    Shame about No. 1. A brilliant list up till then – 100% accurate. The RAF could not have stopped the invasion: only the Royal Navy could (and would) have done this. The Luftwaffe had not been able to stop the Royal Navy carrying out any of its major operations up to July 1940 and I do not see how it could have prevented the RN blowing the German invasion fleet out of the water. The Kriegsmarine were dead against the invasion for this reason.

  • Mike

    Great list. I particularly liked the inclusion of Khalkin Gol, which has never got the recognition it deserves in light of its enormous significance for the outcome of the war in Russia. One can only ponder the outcome of the war had Stalin not felt confident enough to transfer his elite Siberian divisions from the border with Manchuria to fight the Germans. The outcome of 3 other battles in this list likley directly depended upon thi victorys. That’s crucial significance by anyone’s standards.

  • LadyCorpsman

    Just a tiny nitpick from a Navy couple: It’s General Alexander Vandegrift* not Vandergrift. My husband’s ship is named for him. Otherwise we liked the list!

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  • honkster7

    @ Arsnl , the American’s did supply aid via Britain , how do you think the
    supplies got there ? it wasn’t the US Navy sailing into Arkhangelsk with the
    tanks , aircraft (just where were those Hurricane’s made ?) and vehicles .
    It was the Royal Navy , how do i know this ? first hand account from my
    Grandfather who participated on the HMS Suffolk , the Russians even
    awarded all the British sailors a retrospective medal in 1985 , again how
    do I know this ? because I have the medals framed on my living room wall .
    The English were “small fry” ? if it wasn’t for Britain holding out half of todays
    would would be speaking German

    • Arsnl

      Uhm. My bad the artic route involved iceland and scotland. But the pacific and persian route didnt go through territory controlled by the british (even though the pacific involved british ships)
      But honestly do you really believe that the americans and soviets wouldnt have found a way to deliver those materials without the arctic route? I think yes.

      “The English were “small fry” ? if it wasn’t for Britain holding out half of todays would would be speaking German”
      Here we go with THAT argument. “We were pivotal”. Well if you were THAT important, what did you guys get out of WW2? The USSR got control over eastern europe. The US well it got control of the western hemisphere. What did you guys get besides a lost empire?
      That’s enough proof Britain didn’t count. Sure you can shout out how important you guys are but, well, everybody knows who counted after WW2.

      • dylany95

        What did we get out of WW2? Well after being in WW1 from the start and getting stuck in whilst America watched on until the last portion, we had a tits up economy, as most of Europe did. America, however, not having to endure anything, got the so called spoils of war and propsered (Roaring 20’s.) So whenever Adolf did decide to funk ships up, Britain again at the West of Europe had to hold out again and provide support for the various resistances etc. Russia were piledriving onwards and whenever America entered the war (again, very late) and the Western Allies pushed on, an exhausted Britain wasn’t too worried about controlling Europe or the Red Scare, more about attempting to rebuild a crumbling economy.

      • SamsterHamster

        Arsnl always has to argue about something, and is wrong 95% of the time. This is just another one of those times. How anyone can say that Britain wasn’t important is mind boggling.

      • Anthony

        Arsnls comments are always argumentitive, aggressive and usually targeted / accusing / putting someone down. Try n find a single Arsnl comment on any list that doesn’t make you feel like crap after reading it lol. What a right misery guts

  • honkster7

    Also , if Germany took Britain in Operation Sealion , the war would of been
    as good as over , Britain was the future launching pad , America’s island aircraft carrier so to speak , it is a well known fact if Britain fell America would have remained isolated , the Germans would of been able to concentrate on a war on 1 front , enabling the movement of millions of troops to the Eastern Front . They got to the outer suburbs of Moscow
    while fighting a war on 2 fronts so hindsight tells us that with the extra
    manpower and equipment they would of taken Russia before the winter
    set in . One battle that should of been included is El Alamein , which was
    Germanys first large scale land defeat in WW2 , this stopped Rommel
    driving through Egypt , seizing the Suez Canal and driving into the oil
    fields of the Middle East and possibly linking up with the armies in Southern
    Russia , this was Hitler’s ultimate plan .

  • Sardondi

    A fantastic list, if for nothing else than the erudition and excellence of the effort, in a category which goes almost unaddressed in this vile swamp of vapidity and celebrity worship. This list will be lucky to get 100 comments, but a semi-literate discussion of (I love the self-aggrandizement of this euphemism) “graphic novels” will get 4 times as much.

    The list is also remarkable for the inclusion of some unusual candidates, such as Guadalcanal, and the absence of some perennial favorites, such as the Bulge. And Khalkhin Gol was a surprise. That campaign might be doubly significant, for as the Russian commander, Zhukov would have been not only responsible for how the entire Pacific war was begun and pursued by the Japanese; but of course by his success in the European Theater he would have been responsible for how Germany’s war ended.

    And choosing the BoB as the most important campaign was gutsy. I too think an argument can be made to support this, since had, say, Goering stuck to just a couple or three more days of attacking British airfields, the Western European war might have been over in August 1940. And Grosser Deutschland might today stretch from County Kerry to the Bering Strait, with the entirety of the African continent, as well as the Middle East, its fabulously wealthy colony. So it might ultimately matter little that we might have been looking at photos of Prince Heinrich cavorting in the nude.

    Great job.

  • Sardondi

    I detest the nanny app which Listverse uses to male sure no naughty words might be expressed. In my answer the software censored the last two syllables of the major island in the Solomon Islands campaign, also known as “Guadal-waterway” because we might otherwise be forced to contemplate a word which might remind us unpleasantly of the nether end of the digestive tract. This silliness is like something out of the Victorian age.

  • bigorman

    And the Atlantic battle ?

    Why do you forget it ?

  • honkster7

    @Arsnl , what the British got was crippling debt (that was only paid off in the late 90s) they gave up alot of bases in the Carribean for the lend lease of
    1000’s of WW1 era destroyers and frigates to assemble the convoys to aid
    Russia , also worldwide RESPECT for holding out and providing HOPE to
    the world , while America dithered and profiteered (once again) from war.

    also for some reason i can’t directly reply to comments here , so i apologize for that.

    and by the way , I am Australian , Sandgroper born and bred

  • honkster7

    also how could of the Americans find a way to Russia ? they were not involved

    in a fighting sense until after Pearl Harbor , when Russia was on it’s knees and

    close to collapse (pre-1942) it was the Royal Navy who brought them the

    valuable supplies to continue on , the US Navy only provided protection

    mid Atlantic and then the Royal Navy took the convoys onto Russia via Bear

    Island .

  • CameronW

    I don’t know if I agree with these… Notably absent was Al Alhemin and Io Jima… also Midway?

    Al Alhmein was the turning point in africa and the decisive defeat of the Africa Corps…. If the USA had lost Midway it would have been beyond disasterous and may have taken years long to retake the south pacific… Also including Moscow which was really won by the snow and not the russians, but exclude lets say the 3rd battle of kursk is a little strange…

    Just saying.

  • Ralph

    Regarding number 6. The issue with the failure was not the “terrible Russian winter”. The winter actually came late that year and the temperature didn’t go below zero until almost a month later than normal. That was the problem. To get supplies into the area was difficult and that is why when winter finally hit, the German troops didn’t have winter clothing and the other assets needed were not in place.
    The other issue with is more the root cause of failure of Barbarosa. Hitler was impatient and nobody would disagree with him except Rommel and even he didn’t get away with it. This sort of stupidity is what happens with politicians and corporals are in charge of armies.

    • Coyle


  • kehoebell

    How is it you can say “there is no doubt the Russians could have defeated Nazi Germany singlehandedly”
    This statement is absolutely absurd, no accounting for N.Africa, Italy at all. Your reading of history is single minded and simplistic at best.

  • Millimansmith

    These are so very Impressive and Mind Blowing List for the 10 battles of world war -2.

  • Sardondi

    I too must dispute the assertion that “no doubt that Russia could have defeated Nazi Germany singlehandedly.” Assuming that Goering had spent 3 more days attacking British airfields, Britain could easily have been out of the fight by September 1, 1940. although by negotiation, not invasion, which Germany was simply not prepared to undertake for many months.

    But if the RAF had been destroyed, Churchill easily could conceivably have been thrown out in favor of the “more reasonable” (i.e. “ready to concede”) wing of the ruling class, of which there were many. These weak sisters would presumably have negotiated for Britain’s survival, albeit with colonies and overseas bases severely curtailed. But Britain would have been out of the war and Hitler would have been unbound.

    Hitler then could have avoided the Greek and Cretan campaign, and wrapped up the African theater. He could have easily doubled his Barbarossa invasion force, and would have had an endless fuel supply from the Middle East. Barbarossa could have gone off in early June, or even May. The blitzkrieg would have been given at least 6 weeks’ earlier life, perhaps more, and Hitler could have been at the Urals by the frost. Stalin simply could not have stopped the Germans.

    While it seems inconceivable that the Nazis could have pushed the Soviets all the way across Russia even with the extra time, because of German mobility it is possible for the majority of Stalin’s forces in 1941 to have been captured like in the huge kessels in Army Group Centre and South. If that had happened, so what? Stalin would have been hundreds of miles to the East, and he was the only indispensable man. Who knows whether Stalin might have signed some treaty? I don’t know if it would have gained him anything, because I don’t know how serious Hitler would have been about pushing past the Urals. Even if Stalin agreed to something, it seems pretty clear he would have done all in his power to rebuild his forces just as he did in fact.

    Stalin would never have given up trying to regain his territory, so it seems that ultimately Hitler was going to have to face a reconstituted Soviet Army somewhere. And I just don’t see how, even if Hitler could have fielded huge Ukrainian and Belorussian anti-Stalin client armies, Germany would have been able to withstand, ultimately, the huge forces which Stalin could have built from even east-of-the-Urals Russia. Presumably Hitler would have had 2x or 3x the troops available to him for defense of Russo-Germany. But ultimately, and it might have taken 2-3 years, how could Germany come up with enough troops to staunch the flood of Stalin’s new armies? The only thing which might have saved Hitler would have been if the Germans could buy enough time to win the race for the atomic bomb. A game winner, but unlikely.

    So with Germany relieved of its Western and Mediterranean fighting, it would have seen a huge benefit. Nothing would have improved for the USSR. By January 1942 Stalin would have had no land west of the Urals. He may or may not have signed some treaty, but at that point the passing of time would seem to help Stalin more than Hitler.

    So maybe Russia could have singlehandedly defeated Germany after all…but after even greater losses, and the passage of more time. Still, if the US could have been kept out of a war against Germany, which seems a good bet if Britain was out of the war, presumably Germany would not have had the horrendous losses, and wouldn’t have been always terribly undermanned on the Eastern Front. Maybe, with no bombing destruction of Germany, with consolidation of the vast new living area, with infinitely more supplies, equipment and tanks, and no Western Front distraction, Germany could have held the Soviets east of the Urals for an indefinite period. Maybe not. But it wouldn’t have been easy for Russia by any means.

    • tim

      I agree more or less with all this except for two things. If the germans had managed to conquer all territory west of the urals i think the soviets would have been forced to sign an armistice. They are now missing the baku oil fields, the iron ore deposits in northern russia, the fertile farmlandof the ukraine, and the majority of their population (since most lived west of the urals.) That is a metric sh*t ton of vital resouces to not have at your disposal. Add this to the fact that the soviets would have been forced to move masssive numbers of troops and equipment over a major mountain range (which is a logistical nightmare and easy to defend against)…they would have had to seek peace. Because it would have been nearly impossible to uproot the germans once they had access to these resources and had time to dig in and defend.

      Having said that, Germany still EVENTUALLY would have lost WW2 because of the American Atomic bomb. that single fact makes the war a no-win scenario for germany. Same with japan. In fact, it is possible that the US would have completely dominated the world by the time it was all over. The US isn’t the kind of country to annex land outright (at least since the 1800s) but knowing my home country we probably would have installed puppet states all over the world.

      • alex

        Speaking of the atomic bomb how would Germany research and production have developed if the major facilities had not been destroyed? I am of course talking about the heavy water plant in Norway which was destroyed. Also the US still needs a way to deliver the bomb to a target in Germany (probably Berlin or another Major city. This would require flying through hundreds of miles of heavily defended hostile territory. The US would have no airfields anywhere close to Germany. Also Japan could now be aided by Germany through captured British territory and the Suez Canal would also have been open to German ships. The way I see it if Germany had reached the Urals the Soviets would have no readily accessible resources and they would have little to no fertile land. The only way I can see any Glimmer of victory would be for the US to defeat Japan which would have taken longer as Japanese soldiers fighting against Britain (Burma/India) and ready to defend against Russia could be withdrawn to either china or to defend the islands around Japan. An amphibious invasion of Europe is out of the question (Fortress Europe and no “Unsinkable Aircraft carrier”. German production would now be unhindered with the manpower of hundreds of thousands of soviet POW’s and civilians and the Factories within Russia and the oil in the caucus fields plus iron in the north. The only other possibility would be to march across Eurasia (would require defeat of Japan) however this would be a logistical nightmare and would cost the US dearly as the German Navy would now be bolstered by British ships and Production of German ships would have increased dramatically (they may also have aircraft carriers). If Russia falls I cannot see any conceivable way for any army to assail Germany and a war which would last until Germany developed the A bomb and figured out they could put it on a V2 (or a later model) which would lead to a surrender. That is unless the US develops rocket technology and nuclear weapons (unlikely) before Germany develops them.
        However you appear to know a dam sight more than me so if you see anything wrong with my comment feel free to correct me. (Unless of course you are going to be a c*** about it)

        • tim

          After the war was over everyone realized that the germans really wern’t close at all to getting the bomb. they were still years away, and the US definitely would have gotten it first. You’re right about it’s delivery but necessity is the mother of invention and I’m sure the US would have come up with SOMETHING to get the bomb to its target. If you went to all the trouble of developing it you’re not going to let something like moving it to its target stand in your way. I don’t know what they would have done but i’m sure (one way or another) they would have given Adolf a little taste of nuclear fire.

  • mike

    ” There is no doubt that the Russians could have singlehandedly defeated Nazi Germany”

    Are you joking LOL

  • Pigeonsmith

    These are very Impressive and Mind Blowing List for the 10 Battles of world war 2.

  • seastape

    It saddens me/frustrates me/appalls me to no end, this continuous argument that the USA, or the UK, or the USSR, could have defeated Nazi Germany and/or Imperial Japan all by its respective self. It is beyond me to understand why people do not have the ability to understand that, most likely, all three were needed to win the war, and certainly in the amount of time in wwhich it was won. The unwillingness to give crredit to all three of the Allies is ridiculous.

    • moman

      hear, hear. that was well said.

  • moman

    a little known but supremely important battle was Bir Hakeim, where the Free French Forces held off the much larger German forces for 16 days, allowing the Brits to supply and reinforce their position at El-Alamein (which ultimately leads to the German defeat in Africa)

  • Operation Bagration, the Red Army attacks westward in spring, 1944 – “In four weeks, it inflicted greater losses on the German army than the Wehrmacht had suffered in five months at Stalingrad. With more than 2.3 million men, six times the artillery and twice the number of tanks that launched the Battle of the Bulge, it was the largest Allied operation of World War II. It demolished three Axis armies and tore open the Eastern Front.”

    It’s criminal that this enormous campaign (much more that a battle) is not better known in the West.

  • Happyguy

    All the Countries had an important role in the war . Especially Briton USA and Russia . Not France tho, the rid nothing

  • Tim

    Missing the Battle of Milne bay which turned the war in the pacific