The Resolve Of The British People
On 10 May 1940 Chamberlain resigned as Prime Minister and Winston Churchill took over the position until July of 1945. Great Britain stood alone in its resistance to Adolf Hitler's plans for Nazi world domination. With British armed forces outnumbered by their German counterparts in almost every respect, it seemed certain that Britain would soon follow the fate of France .
Appearing before Parliament as the new prime minister he announced, "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat." He prepared his people for a long and desperate conflict. Winston Churchill, further promised his nation and the world that Britain would "never surrender," and the British people rallied behind their defiant but inspiring leader. On June 4 th 1940 , Churchill gave one of the most inspiring and defining speeches during Britain 's darkest hours
We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old
With Churchill's inspiring speeches and his steely defiance, he had raised the resolve of the people of Britain to stand up against Hitler. Hitler had found his match in the area of charismatic leadership. Churchill was one of the truly great orators; his energy and his stubborn public refusal to make peace until Adolf Hitler was crushed were crucial in rallying and maintaining British resistance to Germany during the grim years from 1940 to 1942
The Battle Of Britain
In order to have a successful invasion of Britain , Hitler needed to wipe out the British air force. Hitler ordered his generals to plan the invasion of Britain . The invasion plan was codenamed "Operation Sealion".
The plan was to land 160,000 German soldiers along a 45 mile stretch of south-east England . The Germans assembled a large sea force of vessels, which included 2,000 barges. However, Hitler's generals were worried about the British Royal Air Force could inflict major damage on the German Army during the invasion. Hitler agreed to postpone the invasion until the British airforce had been destroyed by the German airforce the Luftwaffe
On June 18 1940, in preparation for this expected invasion, Churchill gave one of his incomparable speeches on the upcoming "Battle of Britain," explaining that dependent upon victory was not only the future of British sovereignty, but the very fate of free Christian civilization.
In the Battle of Britain, British air force shot down many German planes. The Germans sent an average of 200 bombers over London every night for nearly two months in the summer and fall of 1940. They suffered heavy losses to the Royal Air Force which benefited from a combination of well prepared pilots, radar sightings, and visual detection.
On September 15th 1940 , came the last major engagement of the battle. On that day, the Luftwaffe lost 60 planes while the RAF lost 28. On September 17th, Hitler postponed indefinitely the invasion of Britain though the night time raids - the Blitz - continued
Due to a switch in tactics by the German airforce in subsequent raids, the bombing became a strategic bombing operation to destroy the will of the British people. All through the fall and winter of 1940-1941 Britain continued to be bombed. Night
bombing destroyed block after block of British cities. However, the people evacuated their children and old people to the north, going to work by day and sleeping in air raid shelters and underground stations at night, Britain 's people stood firm - and the bombing of civilians while devastating would not break their will.
Britain thus survived Hitler's invasion. Winston Churchill paid tribute to the Royal Air Force pilots when he said ""Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
The Russian Blunder
Quest For Living Space (Lebensraum)
In an earlier section it was mentioned that in Hitler's Mein Kampf ("My Struggle") book, he makes clear his belief that the German people needed Lebensraum ("living space", i.e. land and raw materials), and that it was to be looked for in the East. It was the stated policy of the Nazis to kill, deport, or enslave the Russian population, whom they considered inferior, and to recolonise the land with German stock. It should therefore not have been entirely surprising to see Hitler invade the Soviet Union . However, it still took Stalin, the Russian leader by complete surprise. Stalin did not belief that Germany would attack only two years after signing the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. He also was sure the Nazis would finish their war with Britain before opening a new front. Despite repeated warnings from his intelligence services, Stalin refused to believe the evidence
The planned invasion of the Soviet Union was codenamed Operation Barbarossa. Before Operation Barbarossa, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were on friendly terms, having signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact shortly before the German and Soviet invasion of Poland . It was supposed to be a non-aggression pact in which Germany and Russia had agreed how to divide up Eastern Europe between themselves.
Operation Barbarossa (Unternehmen Barbarossa) was the German codename for Nazi Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II, commenced on June 22, 1941 . It was to be a major blunder and the major turning point for the fortunes of Hitler's Third Reich, in that the failure of Operation Barbarossa arguably resulted in the eventual overall defeat of Nazi Germany. The Battle of Britain was Hitler's first taste of defeat. The Eastern Front which was opened by Operation Barbarossa would become the biggest theatre of war in World War II, with some of the largest and most brutal battles, terrible loss of life, and miserable conditions for Russians and Germans alike. The operation was named after the emperor Frederick Barbarossa of the Holy Roman Empire
Hitler was overconfident due to his rapid success in Western Europe , as well as the Red Army's inferior forces. He expected victory in a few months and did not prepare for a war lasting into the winter. His troops were not equipped with adequate cold weather gear. He hoped a quick victory against the Red Army would encourage Britain to accept peace terms. In preparation for the attack, Hitler moved 2.5 million men to the Soviet border, launched many aerial surveillance missions over Soviet territory, and stockpiled vast amounts of material in the East
The ultimate strategy Hitler and his assistants in the German high command decided upon involved three separate army groups assigned to capture specific regions and large cities of the Soviet Union once the invasion began. Army Group North was assigned to march through the Baltics, march into northern Russia , and either take or destroy the city of Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg ). Army Group Center would take the straight line to Moscow , marching through what is now Belarus and through the west-central regions of Russia proper. Army Group South was poised to strike the heavily populated Ukraine region, taking Kiev , continuing eastward toward the steppes of Southern Russia , all the way to the Volga River.
On June 22, 1941 , the Germans attacked. The operation encompassed a total troop strength of 3 million men, making it the biggest single land operation ever. Initially, it was very successful and Hitler's troops almost reached Moscow by early December. However, Hitler wanted to intervene against an anti-German overthrow in Yugoslavia and this delayed their advance. This cut five weeks off the already short Russian summer.
The bitter Russian winter halted the German forces outside Moscow . By the time they turned their sights on Moscow , the mud following the autumn rains and eventually the winter snowfall, ground their advance to a halt. Thus they were prevented from much further gain. Many of the German troops were inadequately clothed and prepared for the bitter cold and couldn't fight effectively. This gave the Russians time to form and equip new troops.
In addition, resistance by the Soviets, who proclaimed a Great Patriotic War in defence of the fatherland, was much fiercer than German command had expected it to be. As Russian reinforcements arrived from Siberia , the Russian began to drive the Germans back. In January 1943, Germany suffered a crippling defeat in Stalingrad . The long (September 14, 1942-February 2, 1943) and bloody battle between the Germans and the Russians was focused on the strategic, industrial city of Stalingrad on the Volga River . Hitler had fanatically sought to take the city, which under the constant pounding of artillery had little of importance left in it. His generals advised him to stop the attempt and retreat to a more defensible line. Hitler refused, and the German Sixth Army of 270,000 men was surrounded and finally captured in February 1943. Along the long front 500,000 German and affiliated troops were killed or taken prisoner. By the autumn of 1943 an army of 2.5 million Germans faced a Soviet force of 5.5 million.
The war at the Eastern Front went on for four years, resulting in 3.6 million German and 12 million Soviet battle deaths, plus another 15-18 million Soviet civilians perished in massacres, diseases, and starvation. The Eastern war had however considerably weakened German forces.
United States Enters The War (1941)
In the midst of the war with Russia , the Allies received a boost when America entered World War II after the surprise bombing of American naval base of Pearl Harbour by the Japanese. The Americans declared war on Japan . Hitler decided to declare war on America as well.
America , as the world's leading industrial power strengthened the British with troops and equipment on the western front. The British prime minister Winston Churchill had maintained a very close relationship with America through President Roosevelt and America 's entry into the war had boosted the British forces. American forces subsequently contributed to the massive D-Day Normandy invasion to liberate Western Europe from the Nazis beginning with the liberation of France
The 'D-Day' Normandy Invasion
During the first six months of 1944, the United States and Great Britain concentrated land, naval, and air forces in England to prepare for Operation Overlord, the massive assault on Hitler's "Fortress Europe. Led by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Battle of Normandy in 1944, codenamed Operation Overlord, was the invasion of Nazi-occupied Western Europe by the Allies. The Normandy invasion remains the largest seaborne invasion in history, involving almost three million troops crossing the English Channel from England to Normandy in occupied France .
Before the invasion, the air and sea components played major roles. The 12,000 planes of the Allied air forces swept the Luftwaffe from the skies, photographed enemy defenses, dropped supplies to the resistance, bombed railways, attacked Germany 's industries and isolated the battlefield
The Normandy invasion began with overnight paratrooper and glider landings, massive air and naval bombardments, and an early-morning amphibious assault. The battle for Normandy continued over more than two months, with campaigns to establish, expand, and eventually break out of the Allied beachheads. It concluded with the surrender of Paris and the fall of the Chambois pocket.
Normandy is, to this day, one of the best-known battles of World War II. In common language, the expression "D-Day" is still used to refer to the starting date of the invasion, and the opening day of the Battle of Normandy: June 6, 1944 .
More than 4000 ships crossed the English Channel and landed 50,000 British, French, American and Canadian troops along the beaches of Normandy . The landings were successful and the Allies advanced into German occupied France .
The Push Towards Germany
The Allied armies broke through the German defenses and liberated Paris at the end of August 1944 and Brussels at beginning of September 1944. The combined forces wheeled toward Germany .
However, the Germans in a last ditch effort were already planning a massive German counter-attack in the West since July. The German army would strike through the Ardennes , as they had four years earlier in the Battle of France. They would split the Allied lines, drive northwest to the Meuse river and capture the supply city of Antwerp , and encircle and destroy the Canadian, British and American armies.
The German counter attack began on December 16, 1944 . This was known as the Battle of the Bulge. Three german panzer armies attacked through the Ardennes . The initial advance caught the Americans by total surprise.
General Eisenhower had ordered vast reinforcements to the area. Within a week, 250,000 troops had been sent into the area. At the same time, the 101st airborne division along with a combat team from the 10th armored division was ordered move to and defend the town of Bastogne . However, German forces had completely surrounded Bastogne by December 1944. Fortunately, the Allied troops prevailed with the help of Patton's Third Army reinforcements
By December 24 1944 the German advance was effectively stalled short of the Meuse River , they had outrun their supply lines, and shortages of fuel and ammunition were becoming critical. Improving weather brought the massive Allied air superiority back into play. The Germans retreated from Bastogne on January 13, 1945
After fending off this major German offensive in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, the Allies were ready to march on to Germany.
The Assassination Plot
As it became clear that Germany is losing the war, several Nazi officials who were disenchanted with Hitler's overbearing decisions decided to assassinate him. Several plots have been planned, but one such plot nearly kicked Hitler.
Claus von Stauffenberg decided to do so at a conference attended by Hitler on July 20, 1944 . It was decided to drop plans to kill Goering and Himmler at the same time. Stauffenberg, carried the bomb in a briefcase and placed it on the floor while he left to make a phone-call. The bomb exploded killing four men in the hut. Hitler's right arm was badly injured but he survived the bomb blast. Although Hitler survived the blast, there was already some disenchantment with the Fuhrer and the Third Reich
Meanwhile on the eastern front, Soviet troops had won control of Vienna , the capital of Austria and Prague , the capital of Czechoslovakia . Hitler had lost the war on both fronts but he still refused to seek peace.
After Adolf Hitler survived the July 1944 plot Eva Braun, the young woman who had spent most of her life waiting for Hitler, wrote Hitler an emotional letter, ending: 'From our first meeting I swore to follow you anywhere - even unto death - I live only for your love.' Eva Braun would now be with him forever. She had agreed to share Adolf Hitler's fate.
With Germany lying in ruins after six devastating years of war, and with defeat imminent as Soviet troops fought their way into Berlin , the Nazi dictator decided to take his own life. But before doing so, he wanted to thank the one who'd remained completely loyal to him until the very end. Early on the morning on April 29, 1945 , in a civil ceremony in his bunker, Hitler married his mistress of many years, Eva Braun. The next day at a little after 3:30 p.m. , they bit into thin glass vials of cyanide. As he did so, Hitler also shot himself in the head with a 7.65 mm Walther pistol.
The Third Reich would survive him for eight more days as Germany surrendered - the nightmare he had unleashed was over ...