Readers Point to the War’s Decisive Moments
More than 100 readers responded to our article “What Was the Turning Point of World War II?” in the July/August issue, submitting their own turning points by mail and joining the debate at WorldWarII.com. Some pointed to small errors that had big consequences, like the inadvertent bombing of London that launched the Battle of Britain. Others chose catastrophies like Kursk and Pearl Harbor. More than a few said the Axis lost the conflict before it began, due to Hitler’s incompetence and the United States’ “Germany first” strategy. See how the responses break down at left; a small selection follows:
I was 10 years old on December 7, 1941, and an avid follower of the war. My brother came running up the stairs, shouting: “The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor!” I remember thinking, “Now things are going to change for the better.” Even now, after years of reading on the subject, I still think that was the turning point of World War II.
JAIME H CUADROS
HACIENDA HEIGHTS, CALIF.
The Third Reich could never have ruled Europe for its predicted thousand years without conquering England. The Royal Air Force began Germany’s defeat with the Battle of Britain. From 1941 to the end of the war the Allies finished Germany’s defeat.
I’m really a “historian” of WW2 because I know everything about it even though I’m only 13! To me the turning point was my favorite battle, Stalingrad, and the best battle I love: D-Day 6/6/44. The reason I say this is because Stalingrad was really the first battle the Germans lost to the Soviets and after that the Soviets were halting them from going farther. For D-Day it was a foothold in France and got the Allies through Normandy and into Belgium and finally into the Third Reich, ending the war in Europe!
We should look at other possible turning points, points that affected both theaters. Possibly March 11, 1941, when the Lend-Lease Act was passed through Congress or the signing of the Atlantic Charter. Both of these seemingly inane acts signaled that this was now a global war—war between a continental power, a second class naval power, and two of the greatest sea powers in the world. It now signaled a battle of attrition, a type of war that the Axis could not win.
The war was lost because the moment it started the Germans lacked a strategic plan. When would the war end? What were the objectives? To destroy the USSR? That was a utopia from the start and the German generals knew it.
There was never a single point. The turning point happened every day, in every country, when millions of common citizens went to work and did their best for a common good—making B-17s or setting a bomb on a railroad, or making a stand against overwhelming forces knowing they were about to die. That’s why we call them the greatest generation, not because of one decision but because of the millions of little turning points that were made every day that helped win the war.
I vote for the German decision to go for Moscow in the first place. Their biggest strategic disadvantage was a shortage of natural resources. Had they gone directly for the oil fields further south, this would have crippled the Red Army while gaining an absolutely vital resource.
Granted it is difficult to argue one turning point in World War II; I nevertheless believe the Battle of Kursk should qualify in the top five. It was the loss of almost three-quarters of the irreplaceable German mechanized forces at Kursk in July 1943 that marked the end of German military strength.
JIM MARRS, WORLDWARII.COM
Good points all, and the discussions certainly fit the last line of the article: “Argument is one of the great pleasures of history.” My vote would go to the German declaration of war. With the focus on December 7th, President Roosevelt would have found war with Germany a tough quick sell through Congress.
The photos of the old USS (“Iron Will,” July/August) brought Oregon back many memories. Growing up in Portland, Oregon, every time I crossed the Broadway Bridge where she was moored I would scan the old hulk and would visit the museum every time I had the chance.
It about broke my heart when she was scrapped and dismantled.
Fast and Smooth
I was thrilled to see an examination of the M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer in the July/August issue (“Weapons Manual”), but feel compelled to comment.
The “uncomfortable” claim is way off target. The Hellcat is an extremely roomy vehicle, and is arguably one of the most comfortable tanks built in the war. The suspension was one of the strongest features of the vehicle, and provides an extremely smooth ride. It was the first American tank to use torsion bar suspension based on the Christie design, the same design used in all modern tanks.
Great magazine, great article. I’m biased because I own an M18 Hellcat.
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH
Permission to Respond Freely
I got my July/August issue and felt I needed to respond to Mr. Lynn’s letter on the amount of content in the January/ February issue devoted to topics that didn’t focus on Allied activities in the war.
World War II was a complex global conflict that needs to be studied from as many perspectives as possible. My father commanded Company B 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion, and faced off against panzer units on numerous occasions. I want to know who our enemies were and about their efforts to win the war.
I don’t care how much of an issue is devoted to other than Allied activities or achievements, I just want well written informative articles about any aspect of World War II. For my part, you seem to be doing a good job of it.
Personally, the reason I subscribe to your magazine is your excellent and broad coverage of various topics from all combatants and even non-participants during World War II. The magazine’s title is World War II, not U.U S . S ..World War II.
The M18 tank destroyer illustrated on page 58 of the July/August issue was replaced by the M36. Page 45 incorrectly stated the American First Army was in Tunisia. It was the British First Army. Page 51 of the September/October issue incorrectly identifies a photograph as taken in 1945; it was taken in 1942
Originally published in the December 2010 issue of World War II Magazine. To subscribe, click here.