From 1939 to 1945, the largest conflict the world has ever known raged on relentlessly. Beginning in Europe, before taking in Asia, Africa, America and the Pacific, World War Two saw over 60 million deaths and countless lives blighted. Bloodshed had never been seen on such a scale before. Even World War I — whose fatalities numbered 35 million — did not witness the same level of sheer destruction, meted out on all sides, throughout the early 1940s. What follows are the bloodiest battles of World War Two — a startling reminder, if one were needed, that war can indeed be hell.
10. The Battle of Monte Cassino
The Battle of Monte Cassino (also known as the Battle for Rome and the Battle for Cassino) was a costly series of four assaults by the Allies against the Winter Line in Italy held by Axis forces during the Italian Campaign of World War II. The intention was a breakthrough to Rome.
9. The Battle of the Bulge
The Battle of the Bulge (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945) was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II. It was launched through the densely forested Ardennes region of Wallonia in eastern Belgium, northeast France, and Luxembourg, towards the end of World War II. The surprise attack caught the Allied forces completely off guard. American forces bore the brunt of the attack and incurred their highest casualties of any operation during the war. The battle also severely depleted Germany’s armoured forces, and they were largely unable to replace them. German personnel and, later, Luftwaffe aircraft (in the concluding stages of the engagement) also sustained heavy losses.
8. The Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk was a Second World War engagement between German and Soviet forces on the Eastern Front near Kursk (450 kilometres or 280 miles south-west of Moscow) in the Soviet Union during July and August 1943. The battle began with the launch of the German offensive, Operation Citadel (German: Unternehmen Zitadelle), on 5 July, which had the objective of pinching off the Kursk salient with attacks on the base of the salient from north and south simultaneously. After the German offensive stalled on the northern side of the salient, on 12 July the Soviets commenced their Kursk Strategic Offensive Operation with the launch of Operation Kutuzov (Russian: Кутузов) against the rear of the German forces in the northern side. On the southern side, the Soviets also launched powerful counterattacks the same day, one of which led to a large armoured clash, the Battle of Prokhorovka. On 3 August, the Soviets began the second phase of the Kursk Strategic Offensive Operation with the launch of Operation Polkovodets Rumyantsev (Russian: Полководец Румянцев) against the German forces in the southern side of the Kursk salient.
7. The 2nd Battle of Kharkov
The Second Battle of Kharkov was an Axis counter-offensive in the region around Kharkov (now Kharkiv) against the Red Army Izium bridgehead offensive conducted 12–28 May 1942, on the Eastern Front during World War II. Its objective was to eliminate the Izium bridgehead over Seversky Donets or the “Barvenkovo bulge” (Russian: Барвенковский выступ) which was one of the Soviet offensive’s staging areas. After a winter counter-offensive that drove German troops away from Moscow and also depleted the Red Army’s reserves, the Kharkov offensive was a new Soviet attempt to expand upon their strategic initiative, although it failed to secure a significant element of surprise.
6. The Battle of Luzon
The Battle of Luzon, fought 9 January – 15 August 1945, was a land battle of the Pacific Theater of Operations of World War II by the Allied forces of the U.S., its colony the Philippines, and allies against forces of the Empire of Japan. The battle resulted in a U.S. and Filipino victory. The Allies had taken control of all strategically and economically important locations of Luzon by March 1945, although pockets of Japanese resistance held out in the mountains until the unconditional surrender of Japan. While not the highest in U.S. casualties, it is the highest net casualty battle U.S. forces fought in World War II, with 192,000 to 205,000 Japanese combatants dead (mostly from starvation and disease), 10,000 American combatants killed, and between 120,000 to 140,000 Filipino civilians and combatants killed.
5. The Battle of France
The Battle of France, also known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries during the Second World War. In six weeks from 10 May 1940, German forces defeated Allied forces by mobile operations and conquered France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, bringing land operations on the Western Front to an end until 6 June 1944. Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940 and attempted an invasion of France.
4. The Battle of Narva
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.
3. The Battle of Moscow
The Battle of Moscow is the name given by Soviet historians to two periods of strategically significant fighting on a 600 km (370 mi) sector of the Eastern Front during World War II. It took place between October 1941 and January 1942. The Soviet defensive effort frustrated Hitler’s attack on Moscow, capital of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the largest Soviet city. Moscow was one of the primary military and political objectives for Axis forces in their invasion of the Soviet Union.
2. The Battle of Berlin
The Battle of Berlin, designated the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the Soviet Union, was the final major offensive of the European theatre of World War II.
Following the Vistula–Oder Offensive of January–February 1945, the Red Army had temporarily halted on a line 60 km (37 mi) east of Berlin. On 9 March, Germany established its defence plan for the city with Operation Clausewitz. The first defensive preparations at the outskirts of Berlin were made on 20 March, under the newly appointed commander of Army Group Vistula, General Gotthard Heinrici.
1. The Battle of Stalingrad
Marked by fierce close quarters combat and direct assaults on civilians by air raids, it is often regarded as one of the single largest (nearly 2.2 million personnel) and bloodiest (1.7–2 million wounded, killed or captured) battles in the history of warfare. It was an extremely costly defeat for German forces, and the Army High Command had to withdraw vast military forces from the West to replace their losses.