The Top 10 Battle Stories Of WWII

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World War II saw many new and terrifying ways for nations to fight each other. The Axis Powers and Allied forces attempted to end the war through a combination of tank divisions, long-range bombers, aircraft carriers, submarines, jet aircraft and even primitive missiles. As such, military divisions that met on land, sea and air faced battles the likes of which the world had never seen before or since. When we commemorate the memories of the veterans of the Greatest Generation, discover the top 10 battle stories of World War II.

1. Operation Tidal Wave

On Aug. 1, 1943, Allied bombers took off from bases in northern Libya and southern Italy to bomb the oil refineries of Polesti, Romania as part of Operation Tidal Wave. The refinery complex and the surrounding oil fields supplied 60 percent of the fuel for the German military. A total of 178 B-24D bombers took off on a 2,000-mile journey into hell. Germans broke the radio code used by American and British flyers and the enemy monitored the departure. When the planes arrived near Polesti, the lead bomber took a wrong turn and became detected by German installations. Capt. Phillip Ardery, the squadron leader for the daring attack, wrote in his journal that the German anti-aircraft guns felt like a “curtain of steel.” Ardery’s job was to take out the huge boiler of the main plant at Polesti. The bombers came in low, and Ardery lamented the captain of another plane, named Pete, whose aircraft went down in a ball of flames before it could land. A total of 53 bombers. loaded with 10-man crews, never made it home. Despite destroying 42 percent of Polesti’s fuel-producing capacity, the Germans had the facility running at peak efficiency a few days later.

2. First Battle of Smolensk

The First Battle of Smolensk, codenamed Operation Barbarossa by the Germans, was a major offensive in the summer and early fall of 1941 as part of an overall effort to subdue the Soviet Union. The Russians committed huge numbers of troops to this front as a defense against the Germans who saw Moscow as the ultimate prize. Despite heavy losses and a German victory, Soviet troops slowed the Third Reich’s march to Moscow. The First Battle of Smolensk allowed Soviet troops to shore up defenses in the capital city in time to win the Battle of Moscow three months later. As many as 250,000 German soldiers died during this campaign, but several eastern Russian cities lay in ruins. The troops pictured are Soviet POWs being held prisoner by German captives.

3. D-Day Landing at Normandy

The D-Day landing at Normandy on June 6, 1944, was the largest military operation the world had ever seen at the time of its implementation. Under the command of American Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed on the 50-mile stretch of beach along the northern French coast. More than 9,000 Allied troops were killed in the advance, but the Allies finally got a foothold in continental Europe that they would never relinquish. Eisenhower said before the invasion that “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” Nearly one year later, Hitler and Germany fell in Berlin. The sacrifice of those on Omaha Beach, pictured above, should never be forgotten.

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