The Turning Points in World War 2
The Battle of Britain
Summer 1940—In his attempt to “close” the western front and return his grand plan to its original course, Hitler rapidly occupied France in a Blitzkrieg invasion. He then followed with an unprepared attempt to beat Britain in an air campaign that would enable invading the British island.
The German Luftwaffe, which was built primarily for massive tactical air support of German ground forces, suffered greatly from lack of heavy bombers and from short flight range of its fighters in the battle of Britain. Fighting the entire battle over Britain meant also that while for the Luftwaffe each lost aircraft meant losing a trained crew, many downed British pilots were able to return to duty and keep fighting, so for an equal number of downed planes, the Luftwaffe had much greater losses in trained pilots. The smaller Royal Air Force was initially losing the battle to the stronger Luftwaffe. This changed when in the middle of the battle Hitler ordered to change the objective of the Luftwaffe’s effort from destroying the Royal Air Force to terror bombing London. This big mistake, and the other problems of the Luftwaffe mentioned above, allowed the Royal Air Force to recover, increase the Luftwaffe’s loss rate while maintaining its own force, and win the battle of Britain. The western front remained “open” and active.
The Battle of Moscow
In mid 1941, despite still having a western front, Hitler turned back East, to achieve his long desired prime objective of invading and occupying Russia, which was then also preparing its huge military to a preemptive attack against him.
Despite years of preparing for this declared objective, the German military was simply not prepared to perform in the extreme conditions of the Russian winter. Because of that, and with total confidence in their success, Hitler and his Generals gambled EVERYTHING on the German military’s ability to defeat Russia before the winter.
What did happen, was that the Germans managed to catch the Russians in a complete surprise, but even that was not enough.
Following Stalin’s direct order, the Russian intelligence made a huge effort to constantly monitor for any preparation by the German military to equip itself for the severe conditions of the Russian winter, the single most clear warning sign of a coming German attack. There were no such preparations, and since he could not believe that Hitler will make such a wild gamble of invading Russia unprepared for winter, Stalin dismissed all the warnings he received from his intelligence that Germany was going to attack.
Thanks to this complete surprise, the invading German military caught the Russian army in a very bad position. The Russian losses in men and equipment were tremendous, they lost not just the entire vast territory between Poland and Moscow, but also almost the entire military force that was there.
The advancing German army, aided by efficient tactical air support of the Luftwaffe which dominated the sky above, advanced all the way to Moscow, but there and then, in the extreme winter of late 1941, the German military ran out of both time and thrust.
It was exhausted and stretched to the limit, and was already suffering badly from the winter, when it was massively counter¬attacked near Moscow by fresh Russian reinforcements which were brought from the far other side of Russia, from Siberia and the far East. These fresh forces which were perfectly equipped for extreme winter conditions stopped the German advance and even pushed the Germans back. Moscow was saved, the Germans were stopped, and that marked the limit of what the German military could achieve in the eastern front. They had great victories in Russia, but Russia, with its endless resources and territory and its tough winter and people, was too much for them. When the winter passed the Germans advanced again, far and deep, but not in the direction of Moscow, and they could no longer defeat Russia.
December 7, 1941—The Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor forced the US into the war at the same time when Hitler was stopped near Moscow. Since then, the final outcome of the war was inevitable. It was just a matter of time.
As for Japan, in Pearl Harbor it just started a war it could not win. Admiral Yamamoto, their greatest military leader, warned them of that, but the extreme militarist Japanese leadership refused to consider other options.
June 6, 1944—After months and years of fighting and preparations, the western allies were finally ready for their decisive move of invadingWestern Europe in order to occupy Germany from West to match the Russian advance from the East.
D-Day, the invasion of France, did not change the outcome of the war, as Germany was already losing it, but it marked the long awaited beginning of the last chapter of the war. The war ended a year afterD-Day. ■