World War II, also known as WWII and the Second World War, was a global war. It was fought from 1939 to 1945, between the Allies and Axis powers. The Allies had all the great powers on board which included: France, U.S., U.K., Soviet Union, China, Poland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Newfoundland, South Africa, Belgium , Brazil, Ethiopia, Greece, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, and Yugoslavia. The Axis powers, on the other hand, included: Germany, Japan, and Italy. The Second World War had practically involved whole the world. It caused an immense loss of human life inflicted by the most tragic events in the history of mankind, like the Holocaust and the first and only use of the atomic bomb. It was the greatest war in history involving more than 100 million army men and women in a state of total war.
1. Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was originally named Operation Fritz. Hitler renamed it after the Holy Roman Emperor Barbarossa who desired German predominance in Europe. It was the largest invasion in the history of warfare. The invasion involved over 4 million troops of the Axis powers along with 600,000 motor vehicles and 750,000 horses. It was Hitler’s great blunder to count upon his troops in isolation not duly accounting for the other strengths of the opponent. The Germans having 4.3 million soldiers compared with 3.2 million Soviets were definitely in a better position. What Hitler failed to take into consideration was that the Soviets had 11,500 aircraft against the Germans’ only 4,400 aircraft. Moreover, the Soviets had 16,000 tanks against 4,100 German tanks. Germany lost at all the three fronts of Leningrad, Nordicht, and Stalingrad.
2. Operation Uranus
The strength of a chain is measured by its weakest link. It was Hitler’s blunder to measure the strength of the chain by his strongest 6th Army rather than its weaker held Axis flanks which gave way under pressure from the Red Army invasion. Operation Uranus was the code name of the Soviet operation against the German attack on Stalingrad. The Soviet invasion began on November 19, 1942 and ended on November 23, 1942 after the weaker Romanian and Hungarian forces of the Axis powers collapsed. Consequently, the German forces were cut off and were surrounded in Stalingrad. The Axis resistance in Stalingrad stopped by early February, 1943. The troops belonging to the 6th Army either surrendered or were destroyed.
3. Exercise Tiger
Exercise Tiger, also known as Operation Tiger, was the code name given to full-dress rehearsals for the D-Day invasion of Normandy. On account of its resemblance to the intended target, Slapton Beach was selected for the exercise. It was a blunder on the part of the Allied forces that prior to complying with the orders of the Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower they did not ensure a few prerequisites like the sufficiency of training to use life jackets and the synchronization of frequencies for appropriate communication. General Eisenhower desired that exercise should be conducted under live fire to acclimate and harden the troops. A few causalities occurred in the very beginning of the exercise due to friendly fire. German E-boats attacked and killed 946 American Marines. On account of its secrecy, the event was not projected in its true sequence.
4. The Battle of Dunkirk
The battle of Dunkirk was fought between Germany and the Allies; U.K., France, and Belgium at Dunkirk, France from May 26 to June 4, 1940. On account of Hitler’s halt order allowing the evacuation of the Allied troops at a time when Germany was just miles away from victory has been considered his blunder. It is considered that Hitler did so to convey the message that it was he and not the other commanders who were the heroes of the battle. In spite of Germany’s double strength being 800,000 against the Allied strength of 400,000, the German causalities were about 20,000 against the 10,000 causalities of the Allied forces. Private and small ships and boats helped the regular Allied troops in evacuation, the phenomenon being known as the Dunkirk Spirit when the British stood together in the times of adversity.
5. MI9 ‘Stay Put’ Orders
M19 was a body created by Norman Crockatt of the London Stock Exchange. It aimed at helping the Allied forces’ POWs. Through a popular religious broadcast, M19 conveyed an order to the British POWs in Italy to ‘Stay Put’ in their camps until the arrival of Allied troops. It was one of the greatest blunders of the Second World War as the orders were strictly complied with even after the surrender of Italy, and they were an easy pick for the Germans when they invaded. They simply herded 50,000 British troops and dispatched them to Nazi camps in Germany through cattle trains for their ultimate, total destruction.
6. PEARL HARBOR, 1941
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a blunder which cost the heaviest loss of life at the hands of the first-ever used atomic bombs. The U.S. was a superior force in all respects, and it was in no way a wise move for Japan to be on the offensive against the U.S. Japan was ambitious to expand its territories in order to get a hold of the new sources of materials to support the empire. Although the Japanese destroyed and sank many U.S. ships, yet the oil storage facilities were intact. On account of the British and U.S. interests in Asia, the Japanese were aware of the possible U.S. attack on Japan. It was in this perspective that Japan adopted the policy of ‘Offence is the best defense.’ But contrarily, its offence proved to be its deadliest mistake inviting the first-ever atomic bombing on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Literally meaning ‘the divine wind,’ the Kamikazes were the suicide pilots who attacked the Allied forces’ targets. This strategy of destroying Allied target was adapted by Japan near the end of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. The Kamikaze attacks sank more than 47 Allied vessels and damaged 300 of them. A realistic review reveals that the strategy was not less than a blunder on the part of Japan as it lost 4,000 Kamikaze pilots, a deficit that Japan could never make up for. Japan, on this account, lost its aerial predominance in the region. Following these attacks in 1944, Japan faced many defeats and a decline in industrial production.
8. The London Blitz
Literally meaning ‘lightning’ in German, the blitz was a series of air raids by Germans on the U.K. from September 7, 1940 to May 21, 1941. More than 100 tons of explosives were dropped on 16 cities in the U.K. in 267 days killing more than 40,000 civilians and destroying more than 1 million houses in London alone. It was a German blunder because their aim to demoralize the British and extract their surrender was not achieved. Instead, the retaliatory British air raids killed more than 42,000 civilians in Hamburg alone during the bombing. The root cause of the German failure was lack of unity of purpose. Instead of targeting one and the same industry repeatedly with a focused approach, they shifted their attacks from one to another industry in the end causing no harm to the continuous production of the British war industries.
9. Italian Invasion on Greece
The Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, feeling jealous of Hitler’s achievements, desired to prove that he too could do something like Hitler. When the Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas rejected the Italian ultimatum, Italian forces invaded Greece. The Greeks in their counterattack repelled the Italian forces to retreat while encircling 530,000 Italian troops. Germany came to help Italy at a very heavy cost. Hitler’s Barbarossa plan was delayed, exposing the German forces to the harsh, Soviet winters which culminated in the German defeat. Hitler said, ‘If the Italians hadn’t attacked Greece and needed our help, the war would have taken a different course. We could have anticipated the Russian cold by weeks and conquered Leningrad and Moscow. There would have been no Stalingrad.’
10. The Battle of Kursk
Hitler did not learn any lesson from the Stalingrad battle. He opened a new front and initiated the battle of Kursk. It was fought between the German and Soviet forces near Kursk located at about 280 miles from Moscow. It was the largest and costliest day in the history of aerial warfare. When the German forces were exhausted against the Soviet defenses, the Red Army launched a strong counter-offensive which forced the Germans to be back on foot. The Red Army regained control of Orel and Belgorod on August 5, and took over Kharkov on August 23, 1943.
All the three: love, justice, and war are blind. They are unable to see who is who and what is what. Isaac Asimov said, ‘Dalton’s records, carefully preserved for a century, were destroyed during the World War II bombing of Manchester. It is not only the living who are killed in war.