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Battle of the Atlantic
The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest continuous military campaign in World War II, running from 1939 to the defeat of Germany in 1945. At its core was the Allied naval blockade of Germany, announced the day after the declaration of war, and Germany’s subsequent counter-blockade. It was at its height from mid-1940 through to the end of 1943. The Battle of the Atlantic pitted U-boats and other warships of the Kriegsmarine (German navy) and aircraft of the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) against the Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Navy, the United States Navy, and Allied merchant shipping. The convoys, coming mainly from North America and predominantly going to the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union, were protected for the most part by the British and Canadian navies and air forces. These forces were aided by ships and aircraft of the United States from September 13, 1941. The Germans were joined by submarines of the Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) after their Axis ally Italy entered the war on June 10, 1940.
As an island nation, the United Kingdom was highly dependent on imported goods. Britain required more than a million tons of imported material per week in order to be able to survive and fight. In essence, the Battle of the Atlantic was a tonnage war: the Allied struggle to supply Britain and the Axis attempt to stem the flow of merchant shipping that enabled Britain to keep fighting. From 1942 onwards, the Axis also sought to prevent the build-up of Allied supplies and equipment in the British Isles in preparation for the invasion of occupied Europe. The defeat of the U-boat threat was a pre-requisite for pushing back the Axis. The outcome of the battle was a strategic victory for the Allies—the German blockade failed—but at great cost: 3,500 merchant ships and 175 warships were sunk for the loss of 783 U-boats.
The name “Battle of the Atlantic” was coined by Winston Churchill in February 1941. It has been called the “longest, largest, and most complex” naval battle in history. The campaign started immediately after the European war began, during the so-called “Phoney War”, and lasted six years, until the German Surrender in May 1945. It involved thousands of ships in more than 100 convoy battles and perhaps 1,000 single-ship encounters, in a theater covering millions of square miles of ocean. The situation changed constantly, with one side or the other gaining advantage, as participating countries surrendered, joined, and even changed sides in the war, and as new weapons, tactics, counter-measures, and equipment were developed by both sides. The Allies gradually gained the upper hand, overcoming German surface raiders by the end of 1942 and defeating the U-boats by mid-1943, though losses due to U-boats continued until war’s end.
Battle of Belgium – 1940
The Battle of Belgium or Belgian Campaign, often referred to as the 18 Days’ Campaign in Belgium, formed part of the greater Battle of France, an offensive campaign by Germany during the Second World War. It took place over 18 days in May 1940 and ended with the German occupation of Belgium following the surrender of the Belgian Army.
On 10 May 1940, Germany invaded Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgium under the operational plan Fall Gelb (Case Yellow). The Allied armies attempted to halt the German Army in Belgium, believing it to be the main German thrust. After the French had fully committed the best of the Allied armies to Belgium between 10 and 12 May, the Germans enacted the second phase of their operation, a break-through, or sickle cut, through the Ardennes, and advanced toward the English Channel. The German Army (Heer) reached the Channel after five days, encircling the Allied armies. The Germans gradually reduced the pocket of Allied forces, forcing them back to the sea. The Belgian Army surrendered on 28 May 1940, ending the battle.
The Battle of Belgium included the first tank battle of the war, the Battle of Hannut. It was the largest tank battle in history up to that date but was later surpassed by the battles of the North African campaign and the Eastern Front. The battle also included the Battle of Fort Eben-Emael, the first strategic airborne operation using paratroopers ever attempted.
The German official history stated that in the 18 days of bitter fighting, the Belgian Army were tough opponents, and spoke of the “extraordinary bravery” of its soldiers. The Belgian collapse forced the Allied withdrawal from continental Europe. The British Royal Navy subsequently evacuated Belgian ports during Operation Dynamo, allowing the British Army to escape and continue military operations. France reached its own armistice with Germany in June 1940. Belgium was occupied by the Germans until the autumn of 1944, when it was liberated by the Western Allies.
Battle of the Caucasus
The Battle of the Caucasus is a name given to a series of Axis and Soviet operations in the Caucasus area on the Eastern Front of World War II.
Battle for East Prussia
The East Prussian Offensive was a strategic offensive by the Red Army against the German Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front. It lasted from 13 January to 25 April 1945, though some German units did not surrender until 9 May. The Battle of Königsberg was a major part of the offensive, which ended in victory for the Red Army.
The East Prussian Offensive is known to German historians as the Second East Prussian Offensive. The First East Prussian Offensive (also known as the Gumbinnen Operation), took place from 16–27 October 1944, and was carried out by the 3rd Belorussian Front under General I.D. Chernyakhovsky as part of the Memel Offensive of the 1st Baltic Front. The Soviet forces took heavy casualties while penetrating 30–60 km (19–37 mi) into east-northern part of Poland, and the offensive was postponed until greater reserves could be gathered.
Battle of Kiev – 1943
The Second Battle of Kiev involved three strategic operations by the Soviet Red Army, and one operational counterattack by the Wehrmacht which took place between 3 October and 22 December 1943.
Following the Battle of Kursk, the Red Army launched Belgorod-Khar’kov Offensive Operation, pushing Erich von Manstein’s Army Group South back towards the Dnieper River. Stavka, the Soviet high command, ordered the Central Front and the Voronezh Front to force crossings of the Dnieper. When this was unsuccessful in October, the effort was handed over to the 1st Ukrainian Front, with some support from the 2nd Ukrainian Front. The 1st Ukrainian Front, commanded by Nikolai Vatutin, was able to secure bridgeheads north and south of Kiev.
Battle of Kharkov, Third
The Third Battle of Kharkov was a series of battles on the Eastern Front of World War II, undertaken by the German Army Group South against the Red Army, around the city of Kharkov (or Kharkiv) between 19 February and 15 March 1943. Known to the German side as the Donets Campaign, and to in the Soviet Union as the Donbas and Kharkov operations, the German counter strike led to the recapture of the cities of Kharkov and Belgorod.
As the German Sixth Army was encircled in Stalingrad, the Red Army undertook a series of wider attacks against the rest of Army Group South. These culminated on 2 January 1943 when the Red Army launched Operation Star and Operation Gallop, which between January and early February broke German defenses and led to the Soviet recapture of Kharkov, Belgorod, Kursk, as well as Voroshilovgrad and Izium. The Soviet victories caused participating Soviet units to over-extend themselves. Freed on 2 February by the surrender of the German Sixth Army the Red Army’s Central Front turned its attention west and on 25 February expanded its offensive against both Army Group South and Army Group Center. Months of continuous operations, however, had taken a heavy toll on the Soviet forces and some divisions were reduced to 1,000–2,000 combat effective soldiers. On 19 February, Field Marshal Erich von Manstein launched his Kharkov counterstrike, using the fresh II SS Panzer Corps and two panzer armies.
The Wehrmacht flanked, encircled, and defeated the Red Army’s armored spearheads south of Kharkov. This enabled Manstein to renew his offensive against the city of Kharkov proper on 7 March. Despite orders to encircle Kharkov from the north the SS Panzer Corps instead decided to directly engage Kharkov on 11 March. This led to four days of house-to-house fighting before Kharkov was recaptured by the 1st SS Panzer Division on 15 March. The German forces recaptured Belgorod two days later, creating the salient which in July 1943 would lead to the Battle of Kursk. The German offensive cost the Red Army an estimated 90,000 casualties. The house-to-house fighting in Kharkov was also particularly bloody for the German SS Panzer Corps, which had approximately 4,300 men killed and wounded by the time operations ended in mid March.
Battle of Königsberg
The Battle of Königsberg, also known as the Königsberg Offensive, was one of the last operations of the East Prussian Offensive during World War II. In four days of violent urban warfare, Soviet forces of the 1st Baltic Front and the 3rd Belorussian Front captured the city of Königsberg – now Kaliningrad, Russia. The siege started in late January 1945 when the Soviets initially surrounded the city. There was heavy fighting for the overland connection between Königsberg and the port of Pillau, but by March 1945 Königsberg was hundreds of kilometres behind the main front line. The battle finished when the German garrison surrendered to the Soviets on 9 April after a three-day assault made their position untenable.
Battle of Leros
The Battle of Leros was the central event of the Dodecanese Campaign of the Second World War, and is widely used as an alternate name for the whole campaign. The Italian garrison in Leros was strengthened by British forces on 15 September 1943. The battle began with German air attacks on 26 September, continued with the landings on 12 November, and ended with the capitulation of the Allied forces four days later.
Battle of Moscow
The Battle of Moscow was a military campaign that consisted of 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, the capital of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the Soviet Union’s largest city. Moscow was one of the primary military and political objectives for Axis forces in their invasion of the Soviet Union.
The German strategic offensive, named Operation Typhoon (German: Unternehmen Taifun), called for two pincer offensives, one to the north of Moscow against the Kalinin Front by the 3rd and 4th Panzer Armies, simultaneously severing the Moscow–Leningrad railway, and another to the south of Moscow Oblast against the Western Front south of Tula, by the 2nd Panzer Army, while the 4th Army advanced directly towards Moscow from the west. According to Andrew Roberts, Hitler’s offensive towards the Soviet capital was nothing less than an ‘all-out attack’: “It is no exaggeration to state that the outcome of the Second World War hung in the balance during this massive attack”.
Initially, the Soviet forces conducted a strategic defence of the Moscow Oblast by constructing three defensive belts, deploying newly raised reserve armies, and bringing troops from the Siberian and Far Eastern Military Districts. As the German offensives were halted, a Soviet strategic counter-offensive and smaller-scale offensive operations forced the German armies back to the positions around the cities of Oryol, Vyazma and Vitebsk, and nearly surrounded three German armies. It was a major setback for the Germans, the end of the idea of a fast German victory in the USSR. Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch was excused as commander of OKH, with Hitler appointing himself as Germany’s supreme military commander.
Battle of the Netherlands – 1940
The Battle of the Netherlands (Dutch: Slag om Nederland) was part of Case Yellow (German: Fall Gelb), the German invasion of the Low Countries (Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) and France during World War II. The battle lasted from 10 May 1940 until the main Dutch forces surrendered on the 14th. Dutch troops in the province of Zealand continued to resist the Wehrmacht until 17 May when Germany completed its occupation of the whole nation.
The Battle of the Netherlands saw one of the first major uses of paratroopers to occupy crucial targets prior to ground troops reaching the area. The German Luftwaffe utilised paratroopers in the capture of several major airfields in the Netherlands in and around key cities such as Rotterdam and The Hague in order to quickly overrun the nation and immobilise Dutch forces.
The battle ended soon after the devastating bombing of Rotterdam by the German Luftwaffe and the subsequent threat by the Germans to bomb other large Dutch cities if Dutch forces refused to surrender. The Dutch General Staff knew it could not stop the bombers and surrendered in order to prevent other cities from suffering the same fate. The Netherlands remained under German occupation until 1945, when the last Dutch territory was liberated.
Battle of Belgium/Netherlands – 1944-45
The Allied advance from Paris to the Rhine was a phase in in the Western European Campaign of World War II.
This phase spans from the end of the Operation Overlord (25 August 1944) incorporating the German winter counter offensive through the Ardennes (commonly known as the Battle of the Bulge) up to the Allies preparing to cross the river Rhine in the early months of 1945. This roughly corresponds with the official U.S. European Theater of Operations Rhineland and Ardennes-Alsace campaigns.
Battle of Ortona
The Battle of Ortona (20–28 December 1943) was a battle fought between two battalions of elite German Fallschirmjäger (paratroops) from the German 1st Parachute Division under Generalleutnant Richard Heidrich, and assaulting Canadian troops from the Canadian 1st Infantry Division under Major General Chris Vokes, most of whom were fresh recruits whose first taste of combat was during the Invasion of Sicily. It was the culmination of the fighting on the Adriatic front in Italy during “Bloody December”. The battle was known to those who fought it as the “Italian Stalingrad,” for the brutality of its close-quarters combat, which was only worsened by the chaotic rubble of the town and the many booby traps used by both sides. The battle took place in the small Adriatic Sea town of Ortona, with a peacetime population of 10,000.
Battle of Remagen
The Battle of Remagen during the Allied invasion of Germany resulted in the unexpected capture of the Ludendorff Bridge over the Rhine and possibly shortened World War II in Europe. After capturing the Siegfried Line, the 9th Armored Division of the U.S. First Army had advanced unexpectedly quickly towards the Rhine. They were very surprised to see one of the last bridges across the Rhine still standing. The Germans had wired the bridge with about 2,800 kilograms (6,200 lb) of demolition charges. When they tried to blow it up, only a portion of the explosives detonated. U.S. forces captured the bridge and rapidly expanded their first bridgehead across the Rhine, two weeks before Operation Plunder. The GIs’ actions prevented the Germans from regrouping east of the Rhine and consolidating their positions.
The battle for control of the bridge caused both the American and German forces to employ new weapons and tactics in combat for the first time. Over the next 10 days, the Germans used virtually every weapon at their disposal to try to destroy the bridge. This included infantry and armor, howitzers, mortars, floating mines, mined boats, a railroad gun, and a giant 540 mm super-heavy mortar. They also attacked the bridge using the newly developed Arado Ar 234 B-2 turbojet bombers. To protect the bridge against aircraft, the Americans positioned the largest concentration of anti-aircraft weapons during World War II leading to “the greatest antiaircraft artillery battles in American history.” The Americans counted 367 different German Luftwaffe aircraft attacking the bridge over the next 10 days. The Americans claimed to have shot down nearly 30% of the aircraft dispatched against them. The German air offensive failed.
On 14 March, German Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler ordered Schutzstaffel (SS) General Hans Kammler to fire V2 rockets to destroy the bridge. This marked the first time the missiles had been used against a tactical objective and the only time they were fired on a German target. The 11 missiles launched killed six Americans and a number of German citizens in nearby towns, but failed to damage the bridge. When the Germans sent a squad of seven naval demolition swimmers wearing Italian underwater breathing apparatus, the Americans were ready. For the first time in combat, they had deployed the top-secret Canal Defence Lights which successfully detected the frogmen in the dark, and they were all killed or captured.
The sudden capture of a bridge across the Rhine was front page news in American newspapers. The unexpected availability of a bridgehead on the eastern side of the Rhine more than two weeks in advance of the planned crossing allowed Allied high commander Dwight Eisenhower to alter his plans to end the war. The Allies were able to rapidly transport five divisions across the Rhine into the Ruhr, Germany’s industrial heartland. The bridge had endured months of aircraft bombing, direct artillery hits, near misses, and deliberate demolition attempts. It finally collapsed at 3:00 PM on 17 March. Twenty-eight American Engineers were killed and 63 were wounded. But by then U.S. Army combat engineers had finished building a tactical steel treadway bridge and a heavy duty pontoon bridge followed by a Bailey bridge across the Rhine. Over 25,000 troops crossed into Germany before the Americans broke out of the bridgehead on 25 March 1945. This was 18 days after the bridge had been captured. German and American military authorities agreed that capturing the bridge shortened the war. The Ludendorff Bridge was not rebuilt following World War II.
Battle of Sedan
The Battle of Sedan or Second Battle of Sedan (12–15 May 1940) was a Second World War battle fought during the French Campaign. The battle was part of the German Wehrmacht’s operational plan codenamed Fall Gelb (Case Yellow) for an offensive through the hilly and heavily forested Ardennes, to encircle the Allied armies in Belgium and north-eastern France. German Army Group A crossed the Meuse river with the intention of capturing Sedan and pushing northwards towards the Channel coast, in order to entrap the Allied forces that were advancing east into Belgium, as part of the Allied Dyle Plan strategy.
Sedan was situated on the east bank of the Meuse River. Its capture would give the Germans a base from which to capture the Meuse bridges and cross the river. Should this occur, the German divisions could then advance across the open and undefended French countryside, beyond Sedan, and to the English Channel. On 12 May, Sedan was captured without resistance. In the following days, the Germans defeated the French defences surrounding Sedan on the west bank of the Meuse. This was largely achieved by the Luftwaffe. As a result of German bombing and low morale, the French defenders were unable to mount a coherent defence. The Germans captured the Meuse bridges at Sedan allowing them to pour forces including armour across the river. On 14 May, the Allied air forces, the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) tried to destroy the bridges, and prevent German reinforcements reaching the west bank. The Luftwaffe prevented them from doing so. In large air battles, the Allies suffered high losses which depleted Allied bomber strength in the campaign.
The crossing of the Meuse enabled the Germans to break into the strategic depths, or undefended rear, of the Allied front and to advance to the English Channel without significant opposition. The French attempted to launch counter-attacks against the German-held bridgeheads, from 15–17 May, but the offensives fell victim to delay and confusion. Five days after consolidating their bridgeheads at Sedan, on 20 May, the German Army reached the Channel. The victory at Sedan achieved the operational goal of Fall Gelb and encircled the strongest Allied armies, including the British Expeditionary Force. The resulting battles destroyed the remaining French army as an effective fighting force, and expelled the British Army from the continent, leading to the defeat of France in June 1940. The battle at Sedan was instrumental in the fall of France.
Bombing of Berlin
Berlin, the capital of Nazi Germany, was subject to 363 air raids during the Second World War. It was bombed by the RAF Bomber Command between 1940 and 1945, by the USAAF Eighth Air Force between 1943 and 1945, and the French Air Force between 1944 and 1945 as part of the Allied campaign of strategic bombing of Germany. It was also attacked by aircraft of the Red Air Force, especially in 1945 as Soviet forces closed on the city. British bombers dropped 45,517 tons of bombs; the Americans dropped 23,000 tons. As the bombings continued more and more people moved out. By May 1945, 1.7 million people (40% of the population) had fled.
Bombing of Hamburg
The Allied bombing of Hamburg during World War II included numerous strategic bombing missions and diversion/nuisance raids. As a large port and industrial centre, Hamburg’s shipyards, U-boat pens, and the Hamburg-Harburg area oil refineries were attacked throughout the war.
The attack during the last week of July 1943, Operation Gomorrah, created one of the largest firestorms raised by the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Forces in World War II, killing 42,600 civilians and wounding 37,000 in Hamburg and practically destroying the entire city. Before the development of the firestorm in Hamburg there had been no rain for some time and everything was very dry. The unusually warm weather and good conditions meant that the bombing was highly concentrated around the intended targets and also created a vortex and whirling updraft of super-heated air which created a 1,500-foot-high tornado of fire, a totally unexpected effect. Various other previously used techniques and devices were instrumental as well, such as area bombing, Pathfinders, and H2S radar, which came together to work with particular effectiveness. An early form of chaff, code named ‘Window’, was successfully used for the first time by the RAF – clouds of shredded tinfoil dropped by Pathfinders as well as the initial bomber stream – in order to completely cloud German radar. The raids inflicted severe damage to German armaments production in Hamburg.
The Budapest Offensive was the general attack by Soviet and Romanian armies against Nazi Germany and their Axis allies from Hungary. The offensive lasted from 29 October 1944 until the fall of Budapest on 13 February 1945. This was one of the most difficult and complicated offensives that the Soviet Army carried on in Central Europe. It resulted in a decisive victory for the USSR, as it disabled the last European political ally of Nazi Germany and greatly sped up the ending of World War II in Europe.
The Continuation War (25 June 1941 – 19 September 1944) consisted of hostilities between Finland and the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1944. The Continuation War began 15 months after the end of the Winter War, which was also fought between Finland and the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union, the war was considered part of the Great Patriotic War. Germany regarded its operations in the region as part of its overall war efforts on the Eastern Front, and it provided Finland with critical material support and military cooperation.
Acts of war between the Soviet Union and Finland recommenced on 22 June 1941, the day Germany launched its invasion of the Soviet Union. Open warfare began with a Soviet air offensive to Finland on 25 June. Subsequent Finnish operations undid its post-Winter War concessions to the Soviet Union on the Karelian Isthmus and Ladoga Karelia, and captured East Karelia by September 1941. On the Karelian Isthmus, the Finns halted their offensive 30 km from Leningrad, at the pre-World War II border between the Soviet Union and Finland. In 1944, Soviet air forces conducted air raids on Helsinki and other major Finnish cities.
Eventually, in mid-1944, the Soviet strategic offensive drove the Finns from most of the territories they had gained during the war, but the Finnish Army later brought the offensive to a standstill in July 1944. A ceasefire ended hostilities on 5 September and was followed by the Moscow Armistice on 19 September. The 1947 Paris peace treaty concluded the war formally. Finland ceded Pechengsky District to the Soviets, leased Porkkala peninsula to them and paid reparations, while retaining its independence.
Defence of the Polish Post Office in Danzig
The Defence of the Polish Post Office in Danzig (Gdańsk) was one of the first acts of World War II in Europe, as part of the Invasion of Poland.
On September 1, 1939, Polish personnel defended the building for some 15 hours against assaults by the SS Heimwehr Danzig (SS Danzig Home Defense), local SA formations and special units of Danzig police. All but four of the defenders, who were able to escape from the building during the surrender, were sentenced to death by a German court martial as illegal combatants on October 5, 1939 and executed.
The Demyansk Pocket (German: Festung Demjansk or Kessel von Demjansk; Russian: Демя́нский котёл) was the name given to the pocket of German troops encircled by the Red Army around Demyansk (Demjansk), south of Leningrad, during World War II on the Eastern Front. The pocket existed mainly from 8 February-21 April 1942. A much smaller pocket was simultaneously surrounded in Kholm, about 100 km (62 mi) to the southwest. These both resulted from the German retreat following their defeat during the Battle of Moscow.
The successful defence of Demyansk, achieved through the use of an airbridge, was a significant development in modern warfare. The pocket demanded an inordinate response on the part of the Soviets, stalling offensive actions elsewhere. Its success was a major contributor to the decision to try the same tactic during the Battle of Stalingrad.
The Dieppe Raid, also known as the Battle of Dieppe, Operation Rutter and, later, Operation Jubilee, was an Allied attack on the German-occupied port of Dieppe during the Second World War. The raid took place on the northern coast of France on 19 August 1942. The assault began at 5:00 a.m. and by 10:50 a.m. the Allied commanders were forced to call a retreat. Over 6,000 infantrymen, predominantly Canadian, were supported by The Calgary Regiment of the 1st Canadian Tank Brigade and a strong force of Royal Navy and smaller Royal Air Force landing contingents. It involved 5,000 Canadians, 1,000 British troops, and 50 United States Army Rangers.
Objectives included seizing and holding a major port for a short period, both to prove that it was possible and to gather intelligence. Upon retreat, the Allies also wanted to destroy coastal defences, port structures and all strategic buildings. The raid had the added objectives of boosting morale and demonstrating the firm commitment of the United Kingdom to open a western front in Europe.
Virtually none of these objectives were met. Allied fire support was grossly inadequate and the raiding force was largely trapped on the beach by obstacles and German fire. Less than 10 hours after the first landings, the last Allied troops had all been either killed, evacuated, or left behind to be captured by the Germans. Instead of a demonstration of resolve, the bloody fiasco showed the world that the Allies could not hope to invade France for a long time. Some intelligence successes were achieved, including electronic intelligence.
A total of 3,367 of the 6,086 men (almost 60%) who made it ashore were either killed, wounded, or captured. The Royal Air Force failed to lure the Luftwaffe into open battle, and lost 106 aircraft (at least 32 to flak or accidents), compared to 48 lost by the Luftwaffe. The Royal Navy lost 33 landing craft and one destroyer. The events at Dieppe influenced preparations for the North African (Operation Torch) and Normandy landings (Operation Overlord).
Invasion of Sicily
The Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, was a major campaign of World War II, in which the Allies took the island of Sicily from the Axis powers (Italy and Germany). It was a large amphibious and airborne operation, followed by a six-week land campaign and was the beginning of the Italian Campaign.
Husky began on the night of 9/10 July 1943, and ended on 17 August. Strategically, Husky achieved the goals set out for it by Allied planners; the Allies drove Axis air, land and naval forces from the island and the Mediterranean sea lanes were opened for Allied merchant ships for the first time since 1941. The Italian leader, Benito Mussolini, was toppled from power in Italy and the way was opened for the Allied invasion of Italy. Adolf Hitler, “canceled a major offensive at Kursk after only a week, in part to divert forces to Italy,” resulting in a reduction of German strength on the Eastern Front.
Occupation of Denmark
During most of World War II, Denmark was first a protectorate, then an occupied territory under Germany. On 9 April 1940, Germany invaded Denmark in Operation Weserübung and established a de facto protectorate over the country. On 29 August 1943, Germany placed Denmark under direct military occupation, which lasted until the Allied victory on 5 May 1945. Contrary to the situation in other countries under German occupation, most Danish institutions continued to function relatively normally until 1945. Both the Danish government and king remained in the country in an uneasy relationship between a democratic and a totalitarian system until the Danish government stepped down in a protest against the German demands to institute the death penalty for sabotage.
Just over 3,000 Danes died as a direct result of the occupation. (A further 4,000 Danish volunteers died fighting in the German army on the Eastern Front while 1,072 merchant sailors died in Allied service). Overall this represents a very low mortality rate when compared to other occupied countries and most belligerent countries.
An effective resistance movement developed by the end of the war, and most Danish Jews were rescued in 1943 when German authorities ordered their internment as part of the Holocaust.
In 2003, in a speech for the 60th anniversary of the end of the 1940–43 collaborationist government, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that Denmark’s cooperation with Nazis was “morally unjustifiable”, which was the first public condemnation of the World War II era Danish leadership by a Danish leader.
Operation Bodenplatte (Baseplate), launched on 1 January 1945, was an attempt by the Luftwaffe to cripple Allied air forces in the Low Countries during the Second World War. The goal of Bodenplatte was to gain air superiority during the stagnant stage of the Battle of the Bulge so that the German Army and Waffen-SS forces could resume their advance. The operation was planned for 16 December 1944, but was delayed repeatedly due to bad weather until New Year’s Day, the first day that happened to be suitable.
Secrecy for the operation was so tight that not all German ground and naval forces had been informed of the operation and some units suffered casualties from friendly fire. British signals intelligence (Ultra) recorded the movement and buildup of German air forces in the region, but did not realise that an operation was imminent.
The operation achieved some surprise and tactical success, but was ultimately a failure. A great many Allied aircraft were destroyed on the ground but replaced within a week. Allied aircrew casualties were quite small, since the majority of Allied losses were empty planes sitting on the ground. The Germans, however, lost many pilots that they could not readily replace.
Post-battle analysis suggests only 11 of the Luftwaffe’s 34 air combat Gruppen made attacks on time and with surprise.The operation failed to achieve air superiority, even temporarily, while the German ground forces continued to be exposed to Allied air attack. Bodenplatte was the last large-scale strategic offensive operation mounted by the Luftwaffe during the war.
Operation Donnerkeil – Betrieb Donnerkeil
Betrieb Donnerkeil (Operation Thunderbolt) was the codename for a German military operation of the Second World War. Donnerkeil was designed as an air superiority operation to support the Kriegsmarine’s (German Navy) Operation Cerberus, also known as the Channel Dash.
In 1941, Kriegsmarine surface vessels had carried out commerce raiding sorties in support of the German U-Boats in the Battle of the Atlantic. In January 1941, Operation Berlin was launched followed by Operation Rheinübung in May 1941. The dominance of the Royal Navy’s surface fleet prevented the German units returning to ports in the Baltic sea or Germany. The surviving ships, the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the cruiser Prinz Eugen, docked in the port of Brest, France. Throughout 1941 RAF Bomber Command attacked the ships in dock. The proximity of the ports to Royal Air Force (RAF) airfields allowed a large number of sorties to be flown against the targets in quick succession. The Oberkommando der Marine (Naval High Command), and Adolf Hitler desired to move the ships out of range from potential air raids.
In December 1941, the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (High Command of the Air Force) was ordered to formulate an air superiority plan for the protection of three German capital ships to escape from France to Germany through the English Channel. General der Jagdflieger Adolf Galland prepared the aerial assets for the operation. Both Cerberus and its supporting operation, Donnerkeil, were launched on 11 February 1942. During the first phase of the operation the Germans achieved surprise. The German ships reached Germany on 13 February 1942, just two days after the start of Cerberus and Donnerkeil.
During the Channel Dash the Luftwaffe succeeded in defeating air attacks on the German ships during the operation, thus allowing them to reach German waters. In the air battles that took place over the Channel the British suffered heavy losses for a non-existent return. German losses were modest, and the operation achieved its objective.
Operation Dragoon – Invasion of Southern France
Operation Dragoon was the Allied invasion of southern France on 15 August 1944, during World War II. The invasion was initiated via a parachute drop by the 1st Airborne Task Force, followed by an amphibious assault by elements of the United States Seventh Army, followed a day later by a force made up primarily of the French First Army. The landing caused the German Army Group G to abandon southern France and to retreat under constant Allied attacks to the Vosges Mountains. Despite being a large and complex military operation with a well-executed amphibious and airborne component, Operation Dragoon is not well known as it was overshadowed by the larger Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy (D-Day) two months earlier.
The objective of Operation Lila was to capture intact the units of the French fleet at Toulon, and was carried out by the 7th Panzer Division, augmented with units from other divisions. Four combat groups including two armoured groups and a motorcycle battalion from 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich were entrusted with the mission. To prevent the French naval units scuttling themselves, Marinedetachment Gumprich was assigned to one of the groups.
Operation Market Garden
Operation Market Garden (17–25 September 1944) was an unsuccessful Allied military operation, fought in the Netherlands and Germany in the Second World War. It was the largest airborne operation up to that time.
Field Marshal Montgomery’s goal was to force an entry into Germany over the Lower Rhine. He wanted to circumvent the northern end of the Siegfried Line and this required the operation to seize the bridges across the Maas (Meuse River) and two arms of the Rhine (the Waal and the Lower Rhine) as well as several smaller canals and tributaries. Crossing the Lower Rhine would allow the Allies to encircle Germany’s industrial heartland in the Ruhr from the north. It made large-scale use of airborne forces, whose tactical objectives were to secure the bridges and allow a rapid advance by armored units into Northern Germany.
Several bridges between Eindhoven and Nijmegen were captured at the beginning of the operation but Gen. Horrocks’ XXX Corps ground force advance was delayed by the demolition of a bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal, an extremely overstretched supply line at Son, and failure to capture the main road bridge over the river Waal before 20 September. At Arnhem, the British 1st Airborne Division encountered far stronger resistance than anticipated. In the ensuing battle, only a small force managed to hold one end of the Arnhem road bridge and after the ground forces failed to relieve them, they were overrun on 21 September. The rest of the division, trapped in a small pocket west of the bridge, had to be evacuated on 25 September. The Allies had failed to cross the Rhine in sufficient force and the river remained a barrier to their advance until offensives at Remagen, Oppenheim, Rees and Wesel in March 1945. The failure of Market Garden ended Allied expectations of finishing the war by Christmas 1944.
Operation RHEINÜBUNG – BETRIEB RHEINÜBUNG – Go to this Link
Operation Spring was an offensive operation conducted by II Canadian Corps during the Normandy campaign. The plan was intended to create pressure on the German forces operating on the British and Canadian front simultaneously to American offensive operations in their sector known as Operation Cobra, an attempt to break out from the Normandy lodgement. Specifically, Operation Spring was intended to capture Verrières Ridge and the towns on the south slope of the ridge. However, strong German defenses on the ridge, as well as strict adherence to a defensive doctrine of counterattacks, stalled the offensive on the first day, inflicting heavy casualties on the attacking forces, while preventing a breakout in the Anglo-Canadian sector.
The Prague uprising (Czech: Pražské povstání) was an attempt by the Czech resistance to liberate the city of Prague from German occupation during World War II. Events began on May 5, 1945, in the last moments of the war in Europe. The uprising went on until May 8, 1945, ending in a German victory and ceasefire. One day after the Germans conquered Prague, they surrendered on the arrival of the Red Army.
Siege of Breslau
The Battle of Breslau, also known as the Siege of Breslau, was a three-month-long siege of the city of Breslau in Lower Silesia, Germany (now Wrocław, Poland), lasting to the end of World War II in Europe. From 13 February 1945 to 6 May 1945, German troops in Breslau were besieged by the Soviet forces which encircled the city as part of the Lower Silesian Offensive Operation. The German garrison’s surrender on 6 May was followed by the surrender of all German forces two days after the battle.
Siege of Malta
The Siege of Malta was a military campaign in the Mediterranean Theatre of the Second World War. From 1940–42, the fight for the control of the strategically important island of Malta pitted the air forces and navies of Italy and Germany against the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy.
The opening of a new front in North Africa in mid-1940 increased Malta’s already considerable value. British air and sea forces based on the island could attack Axis ships transporting vital supplies and reinforcements from Europe. General Erwin Rommel, in de facto field command of Axis forces in North Africa, recognized its importance quickly. In May 1941, he warned that “Without Malta the Axis will end by losing control of North Africa”.
The Axis resolved to bomb or starve Malta into submission, by attacking its ports, towns, cities, and Allied shipping supplying the island. Malta was one of the most intensively bombed areas during the war. The Luftwaffe and the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Royal Air Force) flew a total of 3,000 bombing raids over a period of two years in an effort to destroy RAF defenses and the ports. Success would have made possible a combined German—Italian amphibious landing (Operation Herkules) supported by German airborne forces (Fallschirmjäger). It was never carried out. In the event, Allied convoys were able to supply and reinforce Malta, while the RAF defended its airspace, though at great cost in material and lives.
By November 1942, the Axis had lost the Second Battle of El Alamein and the Allies had landed forces in Vichy French Morocco and Algeria under Operation Torch. The Axis diverted their forces to the Battle of Tunisia, and attacks on Malta were rapidly reduced. The siege effectively ended in November 1942.
In December 1942, air and sea forces operating from Malta went over to the offensive. By May 1943, they had sunk 230 Axis ships in 164 days, the highest Allied sinking rate of the war. The Allied victory played a major role in the eventual Allied success in North Africa.
Siege of Sevastopol 1941–42
The Siege of Sevastopol also known as the Defence of Sevastopol took place on the Eastern Front of the Second World War. The campaign was fought by the Axis powers of Germany, Romania, and Italy against the Soviet Union for control of Sevastopol, a port in the Crimea on the Black Sea. On 22 June 1941 the Axis invaded the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa. Axis land forces reached the Crimea in the autumn of 1941 and overran most of the area. The only objective not in Axis hands was Sevastopol. Several attempts were made to secure the city in October and November 1941. A major attack was planned for late November, but heavy rains delayed the Axis attack until 17 December 1941. Under the command of Erich von Manstein, Axis forces were unable to capture Sevastopol during this first operation. Soviet forces launched an amphibious landing on the Crimean peninsula at Kerch in December 1941 to relieve the siege and force the Axis to divert forces to defend their gains. The operation saved Sevastopol for the time being, but the bridgehead in the eastern Crimea was eliminated in May 1942.
After the failure of their first assault on Sevastopol, the Axis opted to conduct siege warfare until the middle of 1942, at which point they attacked the encircled Soviet forces by land, sea, and air. On 2 June 1942, the Axis began this operation, codenamed Störfang (Sturgeon Catch). The Soviet Red Army and Black Sea Fleet held out for weeks under intense Axis bombardment. The German Air Force (Luftwaffe) played a vital part in the siege. The Luftwaffe made up for a shortage of Axis artillery, providing highly effective aerial bombardment in support of the ground forces. Finally, on 4 July 1942, the remaining Soviet forces surrendered and the Axis seized the port. Both sides had suffered considerable losses during the siege and attack.
With the Soviet forces neutralised, the Axis refocused their attention on the major summer campaign of that year, Operation Blue and their advance to the Caucasus oil fields.
The Tunisia Campaign (also known as the Battle of Tunisia) was a series of battles that took place in Tunisia during the North African Campaign of the Second World War, between Axis and Allied forces. The Allies consisted of British Imperial Forces, including Polish and Greek contingents, with American and French corps. The battle opened with initial success by the German and Italian forces, but the massive supply and numerical superiority of the Allies led to the Axis’s complete defeat. Over 230,000 German and Italian troops were taken as prisoners of war, including most of the Afrika Korps.