There’s always a discussion or argument as to what the most important turning point in the war was. This is a very difficult question to answer because every important part of the war happened because of another important part of the war. But is there just one main turning point in the war or could there be multiple?
The Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain took place between August and September 1940. After the success of Blitzkrieg, the evacuation of Dunkirk and the surrender of France, Britain, on the Western front, was by herself. The Battle of Britain was the closest British Civilians actually got to see any of the fighting in WW2. In July 1940 through to October 1940 a few thousand young men, ably backed by the British Public and the men and women of the RAF ground staff held off the mightiest Air Force assembled up to that point in time. The German Luftwaffe. On September 15th came the last major engagement of the battle. On that day, the Luftwaffe lost 60 planes while the RAF lost 28. The overall casualties amounted to Germany losing 1,100 planes whereas Britain had lost just over half that amount (650). On September 17th, Hitler cancelled the invasion of Britain. The invasion would not have been possible if the Royal Navy had been able to attack the barges; and, with the RAF in existence the Germans could not hope to attack the Royal Navy.
So, no invasion took place. If Britain had lost the Battle of Britain then Britain would have almost certainly been invaded and probably conquered like the other European countries. But Britain did not lose the Battle of Britain and, so, Britain was not conquered. The continued existence of Great Britain as a fighting nation meant that… Germany needed many men to garrison Western Europe rather than attack Russia because the resistance movements in the occupied countries had support from Britain. When Japan and Germany declared war on America, America, being the biggest industrial power at the time, was able to use Britain as a massive base to store all the aircraft they needed to bomb Germany. The majority of Germany`s artillery was kept back in Europe and Germany on anti-aircraft duties because of these huge bombing raids.
These drains on Germany’s resources meant they were not able to conquer Russia in the quick manner needed. This led to the eventual meat grinder of the Eastern front which swallowed so much of their army and air force. How much difference would those guns, men and ammunition have made at Stalingrad? The Battle of Britain boosted British morale through the roof. This was shown in the famous “never was so much owned by so many to so few.” Speech by Winston Churchill. The British also kicked the Axis out of Africa, forcing Hitler to send much needed supplies and men to assist the failing Afrika Korps. All of this would not have happened if the British had lost the Battle of Britain.
The Enigma Code
The German military used the Enigma cipher machine during WW2 to keep their communications secret. The machine was available commercially during the 1920s, but the military potential of the device was quickly realised and the German army, navy and air force all used a more developed model of the machine to encipher their messages believing that it would make these communications unsolvable to the enemy. The Enigma machine is an electro-mechanical device that relies on a series of rotating ‘wheels’ or ‘rotors’ to scramble plaintext messages into jumbled cipher text. The machine’s variable elements can be set in many billions of combinations, and each one will make a completely different cipher text message. If you know how the machine has been set up, you can type the cipher text back in and it will unscramble the message.
If you don’t know the Enigma setting, the message remains indecipherable. The German authorities believed in the absolute security of the Enigma. However, with the help of Polish mathematicians who had managed to secure a machine before the outbreak of WW2, British code breakers stationed at Bletchley Park managed to exploit weaknesses in the machine and how it was used and were able to crack the Enigma code. Breaking the Enigma ciphers gave the Allies a key advantage, which, according to historians, shortened the war by two years thus saving many lives. In one specific case the team behind the Enigma code were able to inform the British 8th Army at El Alamein of an incoming attack from the Afrika corps.
The Battle of Stalingrad was one of the most major and decisive battles of World War 2 where the Axis fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad. The battle took place between August 23, 1942 and February 2, 1943 and was fought with close-quarters combat and lack of regard for civilian casualties. It is among the bloodiest battles in the history of warfare with almost two million casualties. The German attack, led by General Paulus, to capture Stalingrad began in late summer 1942, and was supported by severe Luftwaffe bombing that reduced much of the city to rubble. The German offensive eventually became reduced to building-to-building fighting. Despite controlling nearly the entire city at times, the Germans were unable to shake off the last soviets clinging to their City. Both sides fought vigorously over the city and Stalin ordered his troops, “Not a step back.” The Battle for Stalingrad was rife with sniping on both sides; however the Russians used a tactic no other country did during the war. This tactic was the employing of female snipers on the field, which they did to great effect.
By doing this, the Russian Army was able to fill their ranks further as well as raise morale of troops and civilians by reporting on the lethal effectiveness of the Soviet fighting woman. Morale was one of the most vital things a soldier could have. Without morale a soldier became ineffective and the worst thing for morale was an enemy Sniper. The presence of a sniper was usually revealed to enemy troops by a single shot, followed by the death of one of their comrades. This presented a problem to the remaining troops. Not only were they under fire from an enemy, but they could not see where this enemy was nor could they predict who would be the next victim. Additionally, if the sniper left, there was no way for the opposing men to know unless one of them left cover, and therefore risking his life. The strain of being constantly in danger was increased by the inability of the troops to strike back at the sniper, as well as their anger at the death of their fellow soldiers.
During the Battle of Stalingrad, the Russian snipers, particularly Vassili Zaitsev, proved to cause so much damage to German morale and such a boost to the Russians that German High Command sent in their best sniper, a Major Koning, to hunt down and kill Zaitsev. Unfortunately for the Germans, this plan backfired, and Zaitsev killed Koning, further lifting Russian morale and dropping German fighting spirit to a new low. On 19 November 1942, the Red Army launched Operation Uranus, a two-pronged attack at the weaker Romanian and Hungarian forces protecting the German flanks. After heavy fighting, the Axis army was cut off and surrounded inside Stalingrad. Adolf Hitler’s resolute belief in no surrender led to more loss of life. Eventually, the failure to save the German Forces and lack of supplies led to the surrender. By February 1943, Axis resistance in Stalingrad had stopped and nearly 125,000 remaining troops of the 6th Army had surrendered, the others were killed.
Only 6,000 soldiers made it back home. The battle lasted 5 months, 1 week, and 3 days. It was Germany’s first major defeat. However by the end of the battle 99% of the buildings in Stalingrad were reduced to piles of rubble. “The siege of September 13, 1942 to January 31, 1943 will inspire forever the hearts of all free people. Their glorious victory stemmed the tide of invasion and marked the turning point in the war of the Allied nations against the forces of aggression.” Franklin D Roosevelt, congratulating Joseph Stalin on the soviet Victory at Stalingrad. This shows that not only did Stalingrad spread morale throughout the U.S.S.R but throughout Allied troops around the world. For the U.S.S.R Stalingrad was it. A desperate last stand against the Axis and total inhalation. Not only were there vital oil sources to the South-East but it was a battle between Stalin and Hitler themselves (considering it was Stalin’s city). After the Battle of Stalingrad German forces never recovered to their earlier strength and so gave up their campaign on the USSR. It was the beginning of the end and retreat for the Axis powers in Russia.
Between 1940 and 1942, the desert war went back and forth over the north coast of Africa. After initial British success, the Afrika Korps (the German army) made a determined advance, gradually beating the British 8th Army back as far as a small town called El Alamein near the Egyptian border. At the end of the First Battle of El Alamein, the Allies suffered about 13,250 wounded, captured, missing, and killed, while the Axis suffered 17,000. The Second Battle of El Alamein marked a major turning point in the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. The battle lasted from 23 October to 5 November 1942. Germany had: 30,542 casualties, 500 tanks, 254 guns, 84 aircraft. And British and other Commonwealth forces had: 13,560 casualties, 332- 500 tanks, 111 guns, 97 aircraft. After the two battles the world was convinced that the Axis powers, particularly Germany, were not invincible as this was their second major military defeat. A quarter of a million Italian and German soldiers surrendered at El Alamein which was nearly twice the amount that surrendered at Stalingrad four months earlier.
This destroyed Italian moral completely because not only were they crushed at El Alamein, their country became the new frontline, and for Germany It was another momentous disaster. The Battle of El Alamein not only allowed total free access to the Suez Canal for Allied shipping, which was of special importance now that the war had taken on a global nature, but it also stopped the Germans from threatening the Middle-Eastern oil fields, a major supplier of Allied oil reserves. The victory, coupled with joint Allied landings in French Algiers, also finally spelled the elimination of an Axis presence in North Africa and ended the Italian dreams of a ‘new Roman Empire’. There were also strategic implications: the defeat in North Africa began the series of events that led the invasion of mainland Italy and the toppling of the Italian dictator Mussolini. This brought the Italians onto the Allies’ side and left Germany at a strategic disadvantage across the whole of the Mediterranean.
The North African campaign also drew German troops away from the massive battles that were taking place in the U.S.S.R. I have not included D-Day as one of the most important turning points in the war because I believe that the fact that D-Day happened means that the tide had already turned. For the Western Front the tide turned at the Battle of Britain because if Britain had been taken then: America wouldn’t have an Allied country close to Germany, the Allies wouldn’t have been able to win in North Africa and D-Day wouldn’t of been able to happen in the first place. I have also not included Pearl Harbour as a Turning point because I feel Japan only attacked the Americans at Pearl Harbour so they could destroy some of their vital ships and resources.
I think they did this because they knew that war was going to break out between Japan and America at some point and so decided to jump the gun and get the upper hand. This would mean that Pearl Harbour was significant point in the war rather than a turning point. In conclusion I would say that there wasn’t a turning point as such but four main turning points that led do the downfall of Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan. These being: The Battle of Britain, The breaking of the Enigma Code, Stalingrad and El Alamein. This is because the three battles were last chance stands against the mighty German Army, and defeat would have meant loss of highly important resources, land, men and morale. Additionally if the Enigma code had not been broken the war might have raged on for another two or three years and many more millions could have died.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/russianow/features/9942741/stalingrad-dates-legacy.html http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/ww2_summary_01.shtml http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/defeat/catastrophe-stalingrad.htm http://bbrown.umwblogs.org/