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Battle of Anzio
The Battle of Anzio was a battle of the Italian Campaign of World War II that took place from January 22, 1944 beginning with the Allied amphibious landing known as Operation Shingle to June 5, 1944, and ending with the capture of Rome. The operation was opposed by German forces in the area of Anzio and Nettuno. The operation was initially commanded by Major General John P. Lucas, of the U.S. Army, commanding U.S. VI Corps with the intention being to outflank German forces at the Winter Line and enable an attack on Rome.
The success of an amphibious landing at that location, in a basin consisting substantially of reclaimed marshland and surrounded by mountains, depended on the element of surprise and the swiftness with which the invaders could build up strength and move inland relative to the reaction time and strength of the defenders. Any delay could result in the occupation of the mountains by the defenders and the consequent entrapment of the invaders. Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark, commander of the U.S. Fifth Army, understood that risk, but Clark did not pass on his appreciation of the situation to his subordinate, Lucas, who preferred to take time to entrench against an expected counterattack. The initial landing achieved complete surprise with no opposition and a jeep patrol even made it as far as the outskirts of Rome. However, Lucas, who had little confidence in the operation as planned, failed to capitalize on the element of surprise and delayed his advance until he judged his position was sufficiently consolidated and he had sufficient strength.
While Lucas consolidated, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, the German commander in the Italian theatre, moved every unit he could spare into a defensive ring around the beachhead. His artillery units had a clear view of every Allied position. The Germans also stopped the drainage pumps and flooded the reclaimed marsh with salt water, planning to entrap the Allies and destroy them by an epidemic. For weeks a rain of shells fell on the beach, the marsh, the harbor, and on anything else observable from the hills, with little distinction between forward and rear positions.
After a month of heavy but inconclusive fighting, Lucas was relieved and sent home. His replacement was Major General Lucian K. Truscott, who had previously commanded the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division. The Allies broke out in May. But, instead of striking inland to cut lines of communication of the German Tenth Army’s units fighting at Monte Cassino, Truscott, on Clark’s orders, reluctantly turned his forces north-west towards Rome, which was captured on June 4, 1944. As a result, the forces of the German Tenth Army fighting at Cassino were able to withdraw and rejoin the rest of Kesselring’s forces north of Rome, regroup, and make a fighting withdrawal to his next major prepared defensive position on the Gothic Line.
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 for Caen
The Battle for Caen (June to August 1944) is the name for the fighting between the British Second Army and German Panzergruppe West in the Second World War for control of the city of Caen and vicinity, during the Battle of Normandy. The battles followed Operation Neptune, the Allied landings on the French coast on 6 June 1944 (D-Day).
Caen is about 9 mi (14 km) inland from the Calvados coast and is astride the Orne River and Caen Canal at the junction of several roads and railways, the Orne and Odon rivers and the Odon canal, which made it an important operational objective for both sides. Caen and the area to the south were flatter and more open than the bocage country in western Normandy and the Allied air force commanders wanted the land captured quickly, to base more aircraft in France.
The British 3rd Infantry Division was to seize Caen on D-Day or to dig in short of the city if the Germans prevented its capture, masking Caen temporarily to maintain the Allied threat against it and thwart the possibility of a German counter-attack from the city. Caen, Bayeux, and Carentan were not captured by the Allies on D-Day and for the first week of the invasion, the Allies concentrated on linking the beachheads. The Anglo-Canadians resumed their attacks in the vicinity of Caen and the suburbs and city center north of the Orne were captured during Operation Charnwood (8–9 July). The Caen suburbs south of the river were captured by the II Canadian Corps during Operation Atlantic (18–20 July). The Germans had committed most of their panzer divisions in a determined defense of Caen, which made the fighting mutually costly and deprived the Germans of the means greatly to reinforce the west end of the invasion front.
In western Normandy, the US First Army cut off the Cotentin Peninsula, captured Cherbourg and then attacked southwards towards Saint-Lô, about 37 mi (60 km) west of Caen, capturing the town on 19 July. On 25 July after a weather delay, the First Army began Operation Cobra on the Saint-Lô–Périers road, coordinated with the Canadian Operation Spring at Verrières (Bourguébus) ridge to the south of Caen. Cobra was a great success and began a collapse of the German position in Normandy; the Allied break-out led to the Battle of the Falaise Pocket (12–21 August), which trapped most of the remnants of the 7th Army and 5th Panzer Army (formerly Panzergruppe West), which opened the way to the Seine and Paris.
The city of Caen was destroyed by Allied bombing which, with the damage from ground combat, caused many French civilian casualties. After the battle little of the pre-war city remained and reconstruction of the city lasted until 1962.
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 Kasserine Pass
The Battle of Kasserine Pass was a battle of the Tunisia Campaign of World War II that took place in February 1943. Kasserine Pass is a 2-mile-wide (3.2 km) gap in the Grand Dorsal chain of the Atlas Mountains in west-central Tunisia.
The Axis forces, led by Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel, were primarily from the Afrika Korps Assault Group, elements of the Italian Centauro Armoured Division and two Panzer divisions detached from the 5th Panzer Army, while the Allied forces consisted of the U.S. II Corps led by Major General Lloyd Fredendall, the British 6th Armoured Division of Major-General Charles Keightley and other parts of the First Army of Lieutenant-General Kenneth Anderson.
The battle was the first major engagement between American and Axis forces in World War II in Africa. Inexperienced and poorly led American troops suffered many casualties and were quickly pushed back over 50 miles (80 km) from their positions west of Faïd Pass. This result confirmed a prediction of Winston Churchill, who had strongly advocated that the invasion of France as laid out in the proposed 1942 plan Operation Roundup be delayed until the Allies could support such an ambitious undertaking, which would give the American troops time to get up to speed with the realities of war against the experienced and well-equipped Italians and Germans.
After the early defeat, elements of the U.S. II Corps, with British reinforcements, rallied and held the exits through mountain passes in western Tunisia, defeating the Axis offensive. As a result of the battle, the U.S. Army instituted sweeping changes of unit organization and replaced commanders and some types of equipment.
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 – Donets Campaign
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 the Korsun–Cherkassy Pocket
The Korsun-Shevchenkovsky Offensive led to the Battle of the Korsun–Cherkasy Pocket which took place from 24 January to 16 February 1944. The offensive was part of the Dnieper–Carpathian Offensive. In it, the 1st and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts, commanded, respectively, by Nikolai Vatutin and Ivan Konev, encircled German forces of Army Group South in a pocket near the Dnieper River. During weeks of fighting, the two Red Army Fronts tried to eradicate the pocket. The encircled German units attempted a breakout in coordination with a relief attempt by other German forces, resulting in heavy casualties, estimates of which vary.
The Soviet victory in the Korsun-Shevchenkovsky Offensive marked the successful implementation of Soviet deep operations. Soviet Deep Battle doctrine envisaged the breaking of the enemy’s forward defenses to allow fresh operational reserves to exploit the breakthrough by driving into the strategic depth of the enemy front. The arrival of large numbers of American- and British-built trucks and halftracks gave the Soviet forces much greater mobility than they had before. This, coupled with the Soviet capacity to hold large formations in reserve gave the Red Army the ability to drive deep behind German defenses again and again.
Though the Soviet operation at Korsun did not result in the collapse in the German front that the Soviet command had hoped for, it marked a significant deterioration in the strength available to the German army on that front, especially in heavy weaponry, nearly all of which was lost during the breakout. Through the rest of the war, the Red Army would place large German forces in jeopardy, while the Germans were stretched thin and constantly attempting to extract themselves from one crisis to the next. Mobile Soviet offensives were the hallmark of the Eastern front for the remainder of the war.
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 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.
At the beginning of 1944, the western half of the Winter Line was being anchored by Germans holding the Rapido-Gari, Liri and Garigliano valleys and some of the surrounding peaks and ridges. Together, these features formed the Gustav Line. Monte Cassino, a historic hilltop abbey founded in AD 529 by Benedict of Nursia, dominated the nearby town of Cassino and the entrances to the Liri and Rapido valleys. Lying in a protected historic zone, it had been left unoccupied by the Germans, although they manned some positions set into the steep slopes below the abbey’s walls.
Repeated pinpoint artillery attacks on Allied assault troops caused their leaders to conclude the abbey was being used by the Germans as an observation post, at the least. Fears escalated along with casualties and in spite of a lack of clear evidence, it was marked for destruction. On 15 February American bombers dropped 1,400 tons of high explosives, creating widespread damage. The raid failed to achieve its objective, as German paratroopers occupied the rubble and established excellent defensive positions amid the ruins.
Between 17 January and 18 May, Monte Cassino and the Gustav defenses were assaulted four times by Allied troops, the last involving twenty divisions attacking along a twenty-mile front. The German defenders were finally driven from their positions but at a high cost. The capture of Monte Cassino resulted in 55,000 Allied casualties, with German losses being far fewer, estimated at around 20,000 killed and wounded.
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 the North Cape
The Battle of the North Cape was a Second World War naval battle which occurred on 26 December 1943, as part of the Arctic Campaign. The German Battleship Scharnhorst, on an operation to attack Arctic Convoys of war materiel from the Western Allies to the USSR, was brought to battle and sunk by Royal Navy (RN) forces—the battleship HMS Duke of York plus several cruisers and destroyers—off Norway’s North Cape.
The battle was the last between big-gun capital ships in the war between Britain and Germany. The British victory confirmed the massive strategic advantage held by the British, at least in surface units. It was also the second-to-last engagement between battleships, the last being the Battle of Surigao Strait in October 1944.