Great Britain and France declare war
1939 – In response to Hitler’s invasion of Poland, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. This surprised the over-confident Hitler and diverted his grand plan from its intended course by opening a second war front.
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Hitler’s original plan was to occupy Poland, then Russia, and with Russia’s endless natural resources in his control, to take the rest of the world while having one war front at a time.
Hitler partly rectified this diversion by occupying France in mid 1940, but the 2nd front remained during the entire war, and denied Germany of the ability to strategically follow the prime principle of war, the principle of concentration of effort.
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 pre-emptive 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 1942 – Just six months after Pearl Harbor, even before the war potential of the US was translated to vast new fleets, the Japanese navy lost its aircraft carriers force in the battle of Midway, and with it its superiority in the Pacific Ocean and Japan’s initiative.
Stalingrad and Kursk
In the two following summers of 1942 and 1943, Hitler attacked in Russia again with all the force his army still had, but in both cases his advancing forces were first stopped by fierce defensive fighting of Russian lines of defence, and later heavily beaten in massive counter attacks that caused the Germans huge losses which at that stage were no longer replaceable.
After these two great bloody battles, the Russian army gained the initiative and moved from defence to attack, an attack which pushed the German army all the way back to Berlin.
Admiral Max Horton gets command
November 1942 – As the new commander of the allied forces in the north Atlantic, Admiral Horton, a former submarine captain and commander of the British submarine force, taught the air and naval forces under his command how to fight against the German U-boat submarines much more effectively than they did before.
The difference was significant. After a period of training and preparations, the escorted ship convoys in the north Atlantic no longer tried to avoid engagement with the German submarine “wolf packs”. Now they were ready to meet them and sink them. After several lethal engagements, Admiral Doenitz, the commander of the German submarines force, ordered all his submarines to return to their bases until a new tactic will be developed.
The hunters became the hunted, and the sea way was opened to mass move America’s new military might to England in order to attack Germany from above and later on the ground.
Long range fighters
Late 1943 – The British night bombing campaign of German targets could not be as precise and efficient as daylight bombing. The American heavy bombers bombed in daylight, but even with many gunners on each bomber they suffered heavy losses from the Luftwaffe’s fighters.
The arrival of long range fighters, especially the P-51 Mustang, enabled allied fighter pilots to escort the heavy bombers all the way to their targets in Germany and back. This greatly reduced the losses of bombers, and constantly reduced the Luftwaffe’s force.
The result was that the mighty allied air power was finally able to efficiently strike the German military industry and its vital resources again and again, and to cause heavy losses to the Luftwaffe. This significantly weakened the German forces in all fronts.
June 6, 1944 – After months and years of fighting and preparations, the western allies were finally ready for their decisive move of invading Western 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 after D-Day.