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Turning Points & Reasons for Allied Victory in World War II Adapted from a History Lecture by Ken Webb.

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Presentation on theme: "Turning Points & Reasons for Allied Victory in World War II Adapted from a History Lecture by Ken Webb."— Presentation transcript:

1 Turning Points & Reasons for Allied Victory in World War II Adapted from a History Lecture by Ken Webb

2 The issue of hindsight in history… Advantages: We know the result Perspective Can see the long-term effects of events Research Lack of emotional involvement (hopefully) Danger: Nothing in history is inevitable, even if hindsight suggests it is!

3 An outline… Turning Points: Identifying a turning point Suggestions – Battle of Britain (Aug – Sept 1940) – Survival of Moscow (Dec 1941) – El-Alamein (October 1942) – Kursk (July 1943) Reasons for Allied Victory: Economies, organisation & mobilisation Victory at sea Air supremacy Moral high ground Leadership

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5 Identifying a turning point… An ‘unhistorical’ notion? Too simplistic History is complex The danger of ‘what if’ history List of turning points is (almost) endless

6 The Battle of Britain: Aug – Sept 1940 What, when, where? Outcomes Reasons for outcomes – RAF skill, courage – Churchill & British determination – radar – where battle was fought – German errors Beware the myths! – the ‘few’

7 Significance of the outcome of the Battle of Britain (1) End of Operation Sealion – the debate: was it realistic? Britain’s survival – Churchill’s survival – galvanised opposition British morale International impact – the USA & Roosevelt

8 Significance of the outcome of the Battle of Britain (2) Richard Overy’s argument – revisionist, but… – a calamity avoided Strategic significance – two-front war – ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier’ – promoting resistance – D Day & after

9 The Survival of Moscow: Dec 1941 Operation Barbarossa Success of blitzkrieg – staggering Soviet losses – ‘unstoppable’ Wehrmacht August: Kiev & the Ukraine – impressive victory, but… Dec: Moscow, so close, but… – climate – logistics & communication – Stalin & Soviet morale – Zhukov’s tactics – effect on German morale

10 Significance of the Survival of Moscow (1) Russell Stolfi’s argument: – Hitler so close in 1941 – Britain no real threat – result: German control of Europe Rodric Braithwaite’s argument: – chaos of Moscow – impact of Moscow’s fall/survival Significance of Moscow: – communications hub – industrial centre – issue of morale – military & political collapse

11 Significance of the Survival of Moscow (2) Moscow’s survival meant the Soviet Union’s survival – economically, politically & psychologically Strategic significance – meaningful two-front war – economics an issue – the USA Why not Stalingrad? – symptom not cause of Nazi failure

12 The Battle of El-Alamein: Oct 1942 October 1942: – British 8 th Army, led by Montgomery – Deutsche Afrika Korps, led by Rommel (on leave) The battle: – artillery bombardment – overwhelming Allied superiority in tanks – infantry assault – ‘WWI battle fought with modern weapons’ Lasted 12 days – ended with heavy Axis losses & DAK in full flight

13 Significance of the outcome of the Battle of El-Alamein (1) End of the Axis presence in North Africa: – Nov ’42: Allied landings in Vichy N. Africa – Apr ’43: Tunisia falls – Axis POWs Strategic importance: – Suez Canal is safe – oilfields of the Middle East safe – threatens Italy, Balkans Morale booster

14 Historians’ differences: – John Bierman/Colin Smith call it a major ‘turning point’ – Russian historians claim it was small compared to the E. Front Churchill’s view: – ‘ This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is perhaps, the end of the beginning.’ – ‘Before Alamein, we never had a victory. After Alamein, we never had a defeat.’ Significance of the outcome of the Battle of El-Alamein (1)

15 The Battle of Kursk: July 1943 Operation Citadel – Hitler’s view of Kursk – Stalin’s view of Kursk The battle: – greatest tank battle in history – Hitler ‘tantalisingly close’? – had to partially disengage to reinforce Sicily By Nov ‘43… – Germans had lost Kharkov, Smolensk, Kiev, etc

16 Significance of the outcome of the Battle of Kursk (1) Paul Carrell’s argument: – in ’43, Nazi victory still a possibility – victory by the Germans would allow them to regain the strategic initiative General view of Kursk: – decisive defeat for Germany – strategic initiative passed to Red Army – inexorable process of weakening of the Wehrmacht

17 Significance of the outcome of the Battle of Kursk (2) Richard Overy’s argument: – impact of German losses – balance of armoured vehicles now completely in favour of the Red Army – initiative passed to Red Army Teheran Conference in Nov ‘43: – dominated by the ‘Big Three’ – discussed setting up post-war Europe – gave Stalin leverage

18 Axis defeat: isn’t it obvious? Axis defeat has an air of inevitability about it Allies had: more men, more weapons, more everything Superior Allied economic strength Germany had ‘bitten off more than it could chew’ Axis Defeat

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20 Reasons for Allied Victory Reasons For Allied Victory USA’s ‘economic miracle’ Soviet Union’s superhuman efforts Situation inside Nazi Germany Allied control of the seas Allied leadership Allied air supremacy Allied victory in the ‘war of morale’

21 Situation inside Nazi Germany Germany in 1939 was geared for a short war Success of blitzkrieg led to complacency Internal structure & rivalries Role of ideology Belated move to ‘total war’ in 1943 Chaos, confusion, rivalry & duplication

22 USA’s ‘economic miracle’ Roosevelt’s persuasion & preparation American ‘know how’ Mass mobilisation Patriotic profit Relatively untouched by war Some amazing production stats

23 Soviet Union’s superhuman efforts Fight for survival Single-mindedness of the Soviet state & people Economic relocation Rationalisation Soviet morale Some amazing production stats

24 Allied air supremacy Effects of air supremacy – closed the ‘Atlantic Gap’ – destruction of enemy ground forces & supplies – freedom of movement for own assets – reduction of enemy morale & industry Relationship & differences between tactical & strategic bombing Allied innovation in strategic bombing Significance of strategic bombing

25 Allied control of the seas Britain almost brought to her knees by U-boat menace in WW1 Churchill extremely worried by U-boat threat Kriegsmarine neglected by Hitler Allied control of shipping lanes crucial to supply Britain & build up troops to liberate Europe Air power crucial to closing the ‘Atlantic Gap’ Achieved by mid-1943 in Atlantic & Mediterranean

26 Allied victory in the ‘war of morale’ The ‘side of right’/moral ‘high ground’ ‘Big Three’ presented a united front to the Axis The Resistance in Occupied Europe Nazi rule by fear/terror Domestic propaganda

27 Allied leadership Hitler’s lack of perspective & decision-making Nazi system of government The ‘Big Three’ (Western) Allied leaders were politically answerable to their countrymen

28 Reasons for Allied Victory Reasons For Allied Victory USA’s ‘economic miracle’ Soviet Union’s superhuman efforts Situation inside Nazi Germany Allied control of the seas Allied leadership Allied air supremacy Allied victory in the ‘war of morale’


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