What Was the Turning Point of World War II?

What Was the Turning Point of World War II?

By Laurence Rees
6/1/2010 • Politics, World War II

The improbable German victory in May (after which Hitler toured Paris) turned a fool's gamble into a great military triumph.
The improbable German victory in May (after which Hitler toured Paris) turned a fool's gamble into a great military triumph.

Argument is one of the great pleasures of history. Join the conversation in the comments below.

What was the turning point of World War II? Is it possible to pick one event—great or small—in this immense conflict and say, “This was the decisive moment”? That’s the question I recently posed to some of the war’s finest historians.

Of course, there is no right answer. To come to any decision about when the turning point might have been means making a judgment about what would have happened if things had been different, and counterfactual history is notoriously impossible to resolve. But that was the challenge of asking the question in the first place. History is all about argument, and the issue of when the turning point of the war was stimulated a lively debate about the relative importance of key moments in the conflict.

In my judgment the turning point of the war occurred on October 16, 1941. And toward the end of this article I explain why this date was so crucial, not just to the outcome of the war, but also to the whole course of the 20th century.

But let’s first consider what the distinguished historians I spoke to had to say, beginning with Adam Tooze, recently appointed professor of history at Yale. Tooze—whose book The Wages of Destruction, an economic history of the Third Reich, is a groundbreaking piece of scholarship—is adamant that the turning point occurred less than a year after the war began. “There’s no question,” he told me, “that the entire history of the war is determined in some sense and shaped by the German victory in France in May 1940.”

Tooze was the only historian I talked to who pointed to May 1940 as the moment everything changed, and he makes a powerful case. The mistake most people make, he suggests, is in thinking that the German victory over the British and French in spring 1940 was somehow predestined. It’s a myth, he says, that the Germans had superior equipment in the fight. In fact, in terms of numbers and quantity of motorized vehicles, the Allies held a distinct advantage. No, Tooze argues, the Germans won this battle because of superior leadership and, crucially, because they were lucky.

It’s hard to underestimate, he says, the immensity of the risk Adolf Hitler took with this attack. The German armored thrust through the Ardennes  forest (territory previously thought almost impassable for tanks), and then the race to the French coast at the Bay of the Somme, was a gigantic gamble. If the Allies had been able to isolate or significantly hold up the German advance, then not only would the Nazis have lost the battle for France, they would have lost the whole war.  In essence, what a detailed study of this history has taught him is that if the British and French had not performed so appallingly in this one fight, then World War II would have ended by the summer of 1940 in an ignominious defeat for the Germans.

But because of the incompetence of the Allies and the brilliance of German generals like Erich von Manstein, Heinz Guderian, and Erwin Rommel, the Nazis were victorious, and  Hitler’s status as a war leader rose to stratospheric levels. This was all the more extraordinary given that just months before, he had been considered an incompetent military strategist for even suggesting the invasion of France. In the autumn of 1939, senior military figures like Franz Halder, the chief of staff of the German army, had thought that Hitler was almost insane for directing the Germans to mount an attack west.

The First World War cast a long and dark shadow over any second world war, as far as the German leadership was concerned. And the German High Command feared above all else a repeat of the bloody stalemate of the trench war in France between 1914 and 1918. But instead of repeating that inconclusive and costly struggle, Hitler led the Germans to total victory in six weeks. At the time, it seemed to be the greatest military triumph in history. It also meant, of course, that when Hitler subsequently called for the invasion of the Soviet Union, his generals were relatively relaxed. After all, what problems could the shambolic, ill-led Red Army pose to an army that had so swiftly conquered France?

None of the other historians I talked to picked such an early event of the war as the decisive one. Conrad C. Crane, for example, the director of the U.S. Army Military History Institute and a former professor of history at West Point, chose as his turning point precisely the moment this contest became a true world war. “The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the war in such a way that it was fully mobilized and fully antagonized and eventually it’s going to have a major influence in both theaters of the war,” he told me. Another distinguished American military historian, Professor Geoffrey Wawro of the University of North Texas, agreed with Crane—at least in the context of the Pacific war. And Akira Iriye, a scholar who was born in Japan and later became a professor at Harvard University, also thought that Pearl Harbor was the turning point of the war—in part because the attack on the American fleet turned out to be such a “monumental mistake.”

But they were the only historians I talked to who believed that Pearl Harbor was the key moment of the conflict. Others, like the presidential historian Robert Dallek, thought Pearl Harbor—while obviously important—could not be considered the turning point because America was already set on a path to war. “I think the United States would have gotten into the war anyway,” Dallek told me, “because the Japanese were intent on delivering a blow to American power in the Pacific, clearing us out of there and not allowing us to really compete with them.”

In fact, Dallek was one of no fewer than six historians who voted for a turning point that took place on the Volga River in the south of Russia, at a city that bore the name of the Soviet leader—Stalingrad. “It was the decisive defeat of Nazi arms in Russia that finally allowed people to say that this is not an invincible force and it can be overcome,” Dallek says.

“Stalingrad changes everything,” agrees the prominent British historian Max Hastings. “Once the Germans have been thrown back from Stalingrad, once they’ve lost that battle, the war was never the same again.”

“The Battle of Stalingrad is not a turning point necessarily in strategic terms, because a lot more has to be done before the Soviets can be certain of defeating Germany,” says renowned World War II historian Richard Overy. “The West has still got a lot to do to get its act together properly. But it’s the extraordinary symbolic power that Stalingrad has for the Soviet people, and it’s the point at which they suddenly begin to believe in themselves, and suddenly historic Russia has been saved. Suddenly the Germans are vulnerable. And this is the message that goes round the world.”

On a practical level it’s hard to disagree with this analysis. The Germans had fought nearly a thousand miles across the Soviet Union to get to Stalingrad. But this was as far as they would reach into the territory of their enemy. They would spend the next 27 months making a fighting retreat all the way back to the center of Berlin. So, quite literally, this was a turning point.

But almost more importantly, the Soviet offensive at Stalingrad marked the moment when Stalin stopped believing he always knew better than his generals. The victory had been possible only because the soviet leader had allowed two of his best commanders, Georgi Zhukov and Aleksandr Vasilevsky, time and space in the autumn of 1942 to plan the vast encirclement, Operation Uranus, that was to trap the German Sixth Army in Stalingrad.

A million Red Army soldiers took part in Operation Uranus, which was launched at 6 a.m. on November 19, 1942. Just four days later, on November 23, units of the Red Army met up at Kalach, west of Stalingrad, and the encirclement of the Germans was complete. Despite Erich von Manstein’s best efforts in Operation Winter Tempest it was to prove impossible for the Sixth Army to be saved, and Stalingrad fell to the Red Army at the end of January 1943.

“Militarily, it’s the moment when the balance significantly shifts,” professor William I. Hitchcock of Temple University told me. “Victory is not inevitable, but it’s far more likely after Stalingrad than beforehand for the Allied powers. It’s also important to pick Stalingrad because it reminds us of the importance of the fighting in the East, where the decisive fate of the Second World War was really going to be decided.”

Other experts I talked to, like the acclaimed British military historian Antony Beevor, agreed that Stalingrad was the turning point of the war because of this combination of military, political, and psychological reasons. As a result, Beevor told me, “Stalingrad became a huge symbol.” Stalingrad was, as Max Hastings admitted, “the boring answer” to the question—what was the turning point of World War II?—but, he claimed, one which “has to be the right one.”

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171 Responses to What Was the Turning Point of World War II?

  1. The Forester says:

    With 2 major theaters of warfare involving different (Axis) opponents, there really can’t be a single turning point. Each theater of operations had its own, separate, turning point.

    In Europe, I agree with the majority that it was Stalingrad. Up to that point, the Nazis advanced steadily, although not on all fronts (Moscow, Leningrad). The loss of the ENTIRE 6th Army group spelled their doom, & the Nazis retreated steadily thereafter. From forward motion to backward motion: what better example of a TURNING point could there be?

    In the Pacific, it’s just as obviously Midway, for the same reasons. While Imperial Japan’s fate was sealed by their failure to destroy our carrier fleet at pearl Harbor (the primary objective of the raid), their advance across the Pacific continued. It was finally halted at the Coral Sea, but only after losing nearly all of their own carriers at Midway did the retreat begin (albeit slowly.)

    • Richard says:

      A lovely question, THE turning point. The fall of France is an excellent starting point, given the wonderful question of “hubris” on the part of the Germans (I hope everyone is aware of the power of that quote). Did hubris lead the Axis to an unwinnable situation? Were the Soviets bound to defeat Germany? The decision at Kiev, the setback in front of Moscow, the Japanese decision to bomb Pearl in conjunction with the decision not to open a second front against the Soviets; these are all critical points. If there was a chance for the Germans to defeat the Soviets, if there was a chance to force a peace on the Western Allies, then the decision has to lie somewhere in the material advantage given the entire war effort deployed by the Americans. Could the Soviets have completed the defeat of Germany without the transport to move their supplies in the final months of the war? Could they even have supported the continued hammer-blows throughout ’44 without the trucks and half-tracks to carry the supplies to the front? Were the railways enough to support the logistics trail? Unlikely, if unproveable.

      Given, the Japanese would be defeated utterly as soon as the smoke cleared at Pearl. That particular move incensed the Americans to the point that no decision short of unconditional surrender would be acceptable. Therefore, Pearl was the turning point of the Pacific. Then again, American pride and sympathy for their participation finds it hard to understand that the Pacific was a sideshow in the total war effort.

      It all boils down to…could the Germans defeat the Soviets? And…could the Soviets defeat the Germans? Without outside intervention, would that theatre have become another WWI? If the Germans could have realistically defeated the Soviets, at what time did that become impossible? Was it Moscow? Or Stalingrad? Or Kursk? When that became impossible, could the Soviets have carried their war into Germany unaided?

      Since these items are individually uncertain, the decisive date has to be December 8th, 1941. Once Hitler declared war on the U.S. and made it into a truly world war, with cooperation pretty certain on the point of the Allies, it was a done deal. And, if this isn’t THE turning point, it would probably be January 23rd, 1943, when the results of Casablanca assured the world that nothing short of unconditional surrender of all Axis powers would suffice to end the war.

  2. Johann says:

    I believe that the turning point was the cancellation of Operation SeaLion, the invasion of Britain. To me, this was strategic and was worth any cost. Had Britain been defeated in 1940, the Italians would have maintained there african empire and dominated the mediterranian, the egyptian army would have revolted and joined the axis, in fact, the muslim world may have joined. persia would not have had a british sponsored coup and so the axis had oil. turkey may have joined the axis and not only supply several million troops but have army group south start in southern russia at barbarrossa, 700 miles behind the main front. america in 1940 was indecisive and had not been supporting anyone like they did a year later. germany would not need to expend resources for u boats or anti bombing or africa. russia would be isolated and not get the benefit of british or other allied aid. british colonies would see this as opportunity and the japanese may well take over the far east british colonies in the fashion of their capture of indochina.

    anyway, i think it would have been worth anything to take britain. while we say that the fleet may be an issue, think of the dunkirk evacuation, performed under the umbrella of the luftwaffe, why couldn’t a german invasion go the same way. there are a lot of details I could go into, but i think it was possible, but more so than that, it was necessary. regardless of the eastern front, as long as england existed, the war was lost.

    • Richard says:

      All of your points are extremely valid, and certainly the cancellation of Seelowe was one of the war’s critical point, but I have to ask this question. If the German High Command determined that Sealion was impossible, but Barbarossa was possible, do you think they undervalued their capabilities across the Channel? Does the evacuation of Dunkirk in reverse really apply to a German invasion? The British abandoned their heavy weapons at Dunkirk.

  3. johnjay says:

    I think the turning point of the war was the overall German failure to concentrate their advanced technology on the main chance instead of spreading it all over creation. The Me-262 if placed into mass production as a fighter as soon as possible would have given the Germans air superiority and bought them the time to bring advanced u boats into the North Atantic earlier. Spending scarce resources on the V-1, V-2, etc produced little toward turning the tide of battle.
    It was largely Hitler’s fault for micro managing.
    Speer did miracles for German war production right up until the end, properly focused, that production could have turned the tide for the German military. As for Stalingrad, Moscow, etc. the Romans suffered endless huge defeats but always came back stronger. But they always learned from their mistakes and rapidly changed leaders and tactics, Hitler was problematic for the Germans.

    • Richard says:

      Hitler had a fascination with technology, for sure. Would the Me-262 have dominated the air? Unlikely. Jet fighters are of little use without trained pilots and that’s a multi-year project, hard to carry out during a war, as the Japanese discovered. The technology that could have won (and some might argue, did win) the war was the bomb. Hitler backed the wrong horse.

  4. David says:

    I think the turning point of the war was Hitler himself. If he had left his Generals alone they would of won the war for him. They would of never gone into russia but since they did they would of left Stalingrad(never gone in there to begin with) before the incirclement. Hitler order them to stay and wasted good men. Hitler order the army to stop at Dunkirk his Generals wanted to keep going. Could of captured good allied troops. Cancellation of Operation SeaLion, gave the allies, (usa) a port close to the theater of operations in Europe. Think about it, no land close to Europe, the Germans would of know we were coming and sank our ships at sea, if only they had seized England. But what I think really changed the war was the Japs never landed troops in Pearl Harbor and they never attacked russia from the east, like they were supposed to. That freed up good russian men to push west to fight the germans. . If the japs had captured the island, then the priority for the usa could of been the japs not the germans. You could make an argument that the Japs help defeat the germans indirectly. England and Russia could never of defeated the Germans without the Americans. Just a thought?? Yours??

    • Chrisgollop says:

      This is the one i most agree with. The “boring answer” is Stalingrad, but above all Hitler throughout ´41 became obsessed with command and refused to enter Moscow, turning Panzer divisions North and South (against the wishes of his generals). So if you want a good debate, go with Hitler and his mental screw up of a campaign that was already on a knife edge.

  5. JIMBO says:

    As a Military Historian, have hundreds of books and have come with 2. Simply 1) Launching “Operation Barbarosa” is the turning point for the Nazi’s. All downhill from there. 2) MIDWAY in the Pacific, The Japanese went down hill from there. That’s my educated guess.

    • Richard says:

      Barbarossa is a good choice, but it assumes the Germans never had a chance, which is quite possible. It is equally, maybe even more possible, that the Soviets never had a chance to win, either, at least unaided.

  6. Pelotard says:

    The German decision to go for Moscow in the first place. Their biggest strategic disadvantage was 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 for the Germans.

    • Albert Linden says:

      The path to the proper means makes sense to me. If this stratergy had been applied, I believe, a race of time would have had to taken place- to utilize these resorces quickly enough to defend other fronts. Were these fields guarded and prepared against such an attack? I believe not, so they could have been taken over intact so as to continue output for the Germans.

      • Richard says:

        Capturing the fields intact would not have been enough. They would have had to create an infrastructure to move that oil to refineries with the capacity to convert it into something useable. Given what the Germans did with infrastructure repair in Russia, I’d say the whole project is most unlikely.

  7. The Forester says:

    The failure to defeat Britain prior to invading the USSR, as well as the drive to Moscow instead of securing natural resources, were strategic blunders but not turning points.

  8. Spencer says:

    22 June 1941. Germany (Hitler) committed a fatal strategic blunder. No matter how good the Germans were operationally or tactically, they should have finished off Britain before taking on the USSR. Hitler’s blunder reminds me of Napoleon – exactly how many enemies does one need to prove he can go down fighting? If Hitler HAD to invade the USSR for ideological reasons, he should have first at least secured the Middle East, and possibly Gibraltar, when he cancelled SEALION; then invaded the USSR in 1942. Another strategic blunder tied to Barbarossa was Hitler’s failure to get the Japanese to attack the Soviets in the East when Germany attacked in the West.

    • Richard says:

      But the Germans did not have the capability to finish off the British in a timely manner. Perhaps if they’d taken a few years to build their u-boat fleet, but that would probably have brought the United States into the conflict. Operation Sealion was a chimera, the Battle of Britain never really stood a chance, either. At no point did the Germans match the British production of single-engine fighter planes, and their casualties were all lost, while the British casualties often parachuted to safety.

  9. Jaime H Cuadros says:

    I was 10 years old on December 7, 1941, but I had been an avid follower of the War since 1939, by reading magzines, listening to the radio and to the adults around me. The war was not going well by 1941, and I was not optimistic about the outcome.
    Then, on December 7th, by brother came running upstairs shouting: “The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor!” In that instant I knew the everything will be OK from then on. The entry of the US into the war, will bring the gigantic war machinery production and the american soldiers into the war and there was no question of the final victory. To me, this perception was the turning point of the war; the actual battles to come in the future, would be the implemetation of this perception.
    In all the following years, up to the present, I have read many excellent history books describing and analysing the events that followed, the battles on the ground ,sea and air, and they are very well thought out and present valid points. I agree that Stalingrad, El Alamein and Midway were important points that illustrates the fact that once the US entered the war, the positive outcome was innevitable, although it might take a few years to achieve.
    Of course, the errors of commision and omission by Hither shortened the war and trew away the posibility of a stalemate lasting for decades, and increased the casualties and destruction in the many countris involved.
    I have not changed my mind that December 7th was the ‘moral turning point’ of the war, the entry of the United Stated into the war,

  10. Old Suffolk says:

    It all depends on what you mean by “turning point”.

    Do you mean ‘the point at which Allied failures turned into consistent successes’ (Stalingrad and the almost simultaneous El Alamein)?

    Do you mean ‘when the ultimate result became inevitable’ (the entry of the US into the war) ?

    Or do you mean ‘when an enemy failure left the Allies the means to win’?

    That would be my choice and of course it was the Battle of Britain and the German failure to invade. That gave Churchill his ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier’ from which the RAF and USAAF would dominate German air space and from which we would launch the invasion of Europe.

    Consider what would have happened if Britain had fallen in 1940.

  11. Johann says:

    Whoa, OK, Midway could be called a turning point on Japan, except that several months later, after some American carriers were sunk, we were down to one carrier, the Enterprise, while the Japanese, despite the Midway losses still had a bunch of carriers. I agree that the failure of the Japanese to exploit Coral Sea was the end of the high water mark for Japan. I also think that there was no real turning point for Japan, except Pearl Harbor. They were going to loose no matter what. But, after the Midway debacle, if they wanted to salvage negotiations, the turning point, strategically, to me, was Guadelcanal. A defeat there would have altered the whole American strategy.

  12. Johann says:

    As for Stalingrad, while no doubt a major disaster for Germany, was not the turning point, it only sped up collapse. As I like to say: “Stalingrad meant the Germans would not win on the Eastern Front, Kursk meant they would lose it”. By the end of 1942, North Africa was a cul-de-sac, America was not only mobilized, but was in Africa, the war was already lost. As oppossed to thinking about the Stalingrad defeat as a symbol of turning points, ask: “what would be the result of a German victory at Stalingrad, in say Nov. 1942??” El Alamin and Operation Torch would have still happened. The Sixth Army would still be exhausted. The Russian winter would still come on. The Soviet Govt would not have collapsed. The Germans at that time of year would not be able to advance anymore til spring. Moral victory aside, the Russians already made those choices after 1941. If nothing else, they just needed to “wait it out”. No, it wasn’t Stalingrad, I might make a case that the “Fall Blau” in itself was a turning point but not the battle itself.

  13. ilsm says:

    Sun Tzu noted: No prince prospers by long war.

    Clauswitz observed that war is strategy, tactics and logistics.

    The logistics turning point occurred sometime in 1940 when FDR relented and allowed Lend Lease and the initial mobilization of the US toward a war footing.

    The logistic turning point in WW I was similarly, the entry of US arms manufactures into the Allied arsenals.

    The super weapons of the world wars were US (USSR) farms, factories and energy sources.

    The side with strategic logistics advantage, which is based on resources and manpower, endures less pain.

    • Richard says:

      Absolutely, though quoting Clauswitz loses you points. Part of the blame of the destructivenss of the World Wars can be laid on his tombstone. “Politics by another means,” my oldest tie. Logistics, however, was the the crux of the entire war.

  14. The Forester says:

    At Midway, the IJN lost 4 of their 6 fleet carriers; they only had 3 other small carriers remaining (unless you count subs that carried 1 or 2 seaplanes) for a total of 5, so I suppose this could qualify as a ‘bunch’. The US lost 1 of their 3 Pacific Fleet carriers (we had more in the Atlantic.) We also possessed the resources to build many more, which the Japanese did not. Had Japan won at Midway, the US would still have won the war due to our much greater industrial capacity, but the TURNING point would have come much later.

    • Richard says:

      Yes, the Japanese could have won at Midway, invaded Hawaii, all while losing no men, no planes, and no ships, and they would still have lost the war. We put 137 brand new carriers into the Pacific after that. It was never in doubt.

  15. Paul Penrod says:

    The turning point in the war? Hitler’s declaration of war on the US. He obviously didn’t understand the American political system. Even though it had seemed that FDR had been president for ever he was still an elected official and even he couldn’t have convinced Congress to declare war on Germany without being provoked first. Hitler handed FDR the excuse on a silver platter and sealed Germany’s fate.

  16. NormD says:

    There seems to be some missing logic. Turning point must mean the point at which the Germans were incapable of winning. To win they must win in Russia. If they win in Russia, an Allied victory would be impossible. German resources sent to Japan would also have made a victory against Japan more difficult (but still likely)

    I think that most historians would agree that if a few more things had gone their way, the Germans could still have won in 1942. Stalingrad ended this possibility, thus it must be “The” turning point.

    • Richard says:

      Technically, the Germans could have won in Russia the same way the Japanese planned to win in the Pacific…by not losing too badly. They could have force a peace on the Soviets, gaining land concessions and loads of resources. This would still have freed up their military for use against the West.

  17. JAMES GODFREY SR says:

    With all the discussion and opinion;s about the Germans versus the Russians, I haven’t heard one word about the Russion Lend-Lease from America-guns, tanks, air power, ammunition. Without it, I don’t believe Russia would have defeated the Germans. We must not forget all the Victory Ships and American Merchant Marine Men who sacrificed their lives to deliver this much needed weapon’s etc., used to defeat the German’s.

  18. OldPOP says:

    We should look at other possible turning points, points that affected both theatres. Possibly March 11, 1941, when the Lend Lease Act was passed through Congress or the signing of Atlantic Charter. Both of these seemly inane acts signalled that this was now a global war. A war between a continental power, a second class naval power and two of the greatest sea powers in the world. It now signalled a battle of attrition, a type of war that the Axis could not win.

  19. Jim Marrs says:

    Granted that it is difficult to argue one turning point in WWII, I nevertheless believe the Battle of Kursk should quality in the top five. While there seems to be a consensus that the war was for the most part won on the Eastern Front, some arguing for the defeat in front of Moscow and others for the loss of the 6th Army at Stalingrad. But a careful study will show that, even with the loss at Stalingrad, the German military was still capable of successful offensive operations in the East. 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. From that point on, it was simply one long, slow rear guard action all the way back to Berlin. This fighting retreat also meant left only one quarter of the German forces to meet the Allies on the beaches of Normandy the following year not to mention the loss of material and machines. If the Battle of Kursk had been successful for the Germans, defeat of the Allies on D-Day would have been possible and the Nazi occupation of Europe assured for many months, if not years, to come.

  20. purpleraider says:

    IMHO…the decision to take Stalingrad, not the battle itself, instead of bypassing the city and going for the oil fields.

    • jamiya says:

      im doing a reprot on propaganda if you dont know what that means ill tell you by the way just so you know a little about me im 17years old and doing a report on military triumph and i was wondering if you could help me out a little all i found was this and it doesn’t go on my can you send it back to this commet please reprot………… But let’s first consider what the distinguished historians I spoke to had to say, beginning with Adam Tooze, recently appointed professor of history at Yale. Tooze—whose book The Wages of Destruction, an economic history of the Third Reich, is a groundbreaking piece of scholarship—is adamant that the turning point occurred less than a year after the war began. “There’s no question,” he told me, “that the entire history of the war is determined in some sense and shaped by the German victory in France in May 1940.”

    • Richard says:

      Stalingrad sat mostly unguarded nearly a month before the Germans made their push toward it. A battalion might have fought their way in.

  21. Ron Rosenberger says:

    In Europe the turning point was the German invasion of Yugoslavia. The Germans were appalled at the brutality and blood lust and soon realized the potential of guerrilla warfare. It must be noted that Stalin, later on, wanted no part of entering this area with the largest army on the planet. Yes I know Tito was a Communist.

    This poor decision by the German High Command/Hitler in the spring 1941 delayed the attack on Russia. If the German Army had the extra 2-3 months Russia would be history and the world would be quite different.

    In the Pacific the turning point was the Japanese calling off the third and successive raids on Pearl Harbor. It was a missed opportunity allowing the US Fleet to remain in Pearl.

    At the time these decisions were made one would find it hard to realize this is the major decision of the future unlike a Gettysburg where both sides had feelings this is the “Time”.

    • Richard says:

      If I recall correctly, the thaw came late to the Russian steppes in ’41, and the rains were also delayed. The Germans were not prepared to invade 2-3 months early, but they were prepared to invade 6 weeks earlier than they did and that argument has been laid to rest before this time. The weather was awful. The Germans would have been opening their assault in the mud. It is unlikely the panzers would have done well in that mud, and the Luftwaffe assault on the airfields would have gone equally as bad, not to mention all those Soviet aircraft would probably have not gotten caught on the ground by advancing panzers, since they would have gotten stuck in the mud.

      And once again, the Pacific War was really never in doubt. Had the Japanese sunk the entire US Pacific fleet, captured Hawaii (which they didn’t even have plans for), and otherwise achieved undreamt dreams, they were still out produced in a manner that defies description. No wait, here’s a description 137:13, the number of aircraft carriers produced by each side during the war.

  22. Mike Reese says:

    The Germans lost at Stalingrad and El Alamein at about the same time. Rommel retreated West to Tunis and the Americans landed in NW Africa. THEN the Germans poured another army into NA. What if instead the Germans had not reinforced NA more than to hold open the ports in Tunisia and allow the AK to pull out of Africa into Sicily. That would have saved the Germans almost 500,000 men, prevented the US Army from getting the experience it needed, and provided the Germans with a second operational reserve. They would throw one away at Kursk but they threw away two Tiger Battalions (minus one company in Sicily) in NA as well as three Panzer Divisions. Hold Sicily with the Luftwaffe operating from there keeping the sea lanes open to allow a withdrawl from NA, incidently keep Italy in the war, vastly increase the defenses in Sicily and Italy and have the resources to reinforce Russia. . Would the US Army have insisted that a cross channel invasion take place in 1943 if the Germans had pulled out of NA instead of fighting there. Would the addition of the divisions lost in Tunis at Kursk allowed the German southern pincer to succeed? Don’t know, but it certainly could have been a decisive turning point in NW Europe and the Russian Front.

  23. djbroderick says:

    The descion by Japan to not attack Russia…

    Two turning points stem from this descion:

    One – Russia can move massive amounts of reserves to stalingrad to start an offensive which crippled Germany.

    Two – Japan turned its focus on the US and brought the US into the war, which ultimately developed multiple fronts in the pacific and european theators…

  24. sgt_eddie says:

    Vietnam War Vet, amateur historian and I have read many of the historians quoted. 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. Clearly one of the most confusing decisions made as I can find rare instance where the Axis supported each other unilaterally. This one decision (that I believe is not well known or remembered) paved the way for the Allied Germany First Strategy that was initiated at the beginning of our involvement and set the stage for the German defeat. With the focus on December 7th, President Roosevelt would have found “War with Germany” a tough “quick” sell through Congress.

  25. Bbsquid74 says:

    If there was a specific turning point it would have to have been when Hilter declared war on the U.S.. If he hadn’t done this the public would have insired that japan would be the number one target. Aid to Britian and Rusia would have been reduced. The Americian public always viewed japan with more anger than the Germans after Pearl Harbor. FDR wouldn’t have been able to make the case that the Germans were the greater danger. This means that instead of the majority of the arms production going to the ETO it would have gone to the Pacific allowing Hilter more time to create his suoer weapons. The bombing of Germany would have been reduced keeping the materials need to be produced in greated numbers.

  26. colin harding says:

    There are three ‘turning points’ depending on the theater. On the Eastern Front, Stalingrad; in the Pacific, Battle of Midway – entire course of the Pacific war turned in five minutes time. But for the Western Front, the Second Battle of El Alamein. This started the rollback of German forces – first out of Africa – and laying the ground work for the invasion of Sicily & Italy, and the near simultaneous invasions through southern France and the Normandy invasion.

  27. Steve Busch says:

    I am glad to see that a few folks in the comment list agree with me – The turning point of WW II was the Battle of Britain. But I would like to set some parameters for my opionion:

    1) “turning point” by my definition is when the Axis lost their best chance to win, whether by their own bungle or Allied action, or both.

    2) I am also looking for specific watershed moments in time. Considering the possibility of differences in tactical and strategic doctrine on the part of, for example, France in 1940 or Russia in 1941 requires “re-writing” months or years of history touching many lives to achieve a different historic outcome. I speak to the opposite of this. In my mind, a “turning point” is a short amount of time as defined by the actions and decisions of a few important decision makers and the actions of specific military formations under their direction.

    Generally speaking, the whole of the Battle of Britain can be considered the turning point. It was Germany’s first defeat – at a time when victory would leave them WITH NO ENEMY. Imagine the potentialities of such a situation:

    1) Does the German public, cowed as they were, support an attack on Russia if the war is “over and won”?

    2) Is the “final solution” ever “necessary”? One might even believe a mass deportation and a forced creation of a Jewish state in the former British colonies, under an ostensibly less-anti-semitic Italian regime in the Mediterranean.

    3) Assume Hitler still “sees red” and launches Barbarossa. I’m guessing that the 1 – 1.5 million additional troops (including Italians) not needed anywhere else would have made that endeavor easier, Russian T-34s, reserves, and weather notwithstanding.

    Those are the possibilities that make this turning point compelling, acknowledging the political and military realities of the time.

    In speaking to the specific decisions within the Battle of Britain, I believe most agree that the German decision to switch tactics from attacking airfields, aircraft factories, and radar installations to be their folly. That combined with the will and perserverence of the RAF pilots proved the Germans undoing. But what made that happen? A decision based on an accident. A German bomber formation accidentally bombs London. The British high command then bombs Berlin. We here in America praise the power of the Doolittle raid, not because of tangible physical results, but because of the psychological power it had on the Japanese or Americans, or both. Yet we inexplicably gloss over the “British version” of the Doolittle raid. In one night of making Goering into “Mayer” the British people were galvanized and, far more importanly, The German high command completely changed there tactical approach to the battle. That change caused the first German defeat of the war. The British raid on Berlin in 1940 is, quite simply in my humble opinion, the single most effective and far-reaching piece of psychological warfare ever perpetrated by one polity upon another. And the decision to launch that raid is THE turning point of WW II.

    • Richard says:

      I can agree with your logic on the Battle of Britain being the turning point. You still seem want to make the argument, however, that Germany could have won that battle. Yes, we can all agree that the decision to change targets was a cricially poor decision. The question still remains, though, that if those targets had not been changed, could Germany have won the battle? And going forward, if they had won that battle, could they have won the war?

      The Germans had already curtailed single-engine fighter production at a time when the British had switched it to their top priority. Now the Germans did reverse that decision later, and it was coming into effect about April of ’41, but it was still less than England. At the height of the Battle of Britain, England was outproducing the Germans significantly, and their fighters were all being poured into the battle, whereas the Germans’ were not.

      All of this still ignores the essential resource of fighter pilots. The German training program was not only insufficient, but every pilot shot down was a total loss, whereas the British were recovering a goodly portion of their pilots shot down.

  28. Estragon says:

    I have to agree with those who point to Germany’s failure to try to take out Britain before the US was fully involved made the overall war almost impossible to win. They let the reeling foe regroup, and struck out at the Soviets, allowing American industry to come to the aid of both.

    Had Germany been able to defeat Britain, the US would not have been in a position to intervene in Europe.

  29. Marc says:

    Ultimately, I believe the beginning of the end of WWII lies in the Eastern Front. Strategically, it was Hitler’s decision to attack the Soviet Union, particularly at the time he did. Operationally, it was the failure of the Nazis to defeat the Soviets at Kursk. Overall, he underestimated Soviet manpower and tenacity.

  30. TKapner says:

    While the Battle of Britain was a major accomplishment, it was more about saving England than defeating Germany. It definitely provided an Achilles heel that came back to haunt Germany later on.

    I would say that the decision to postpone Barbarossa by 5 weeks to help bail out the Italians was as crucial as any other single event. The Red Army was hanging on by its fingernails when the infamous Russian weather took a turn for the worse. More than a few historians have claimed that it was the weather more than anything else that helped defeat the German army in Russia. What might they have done with another 5 weeks of good weather?

  31. Don says:

    The “turning point” of the war, in my opinion, would be well before the actual start of World War II. I would say the year 1933 is pivotal. That is the year Hitler was appointed chancellor and transformed the Weimar Republic into the Third Reich. Since Hitler micromanaged the military and did not give his subordinate generals the autonomy to make decisions and strategy on their own, Germany was doomed from the start. Albeit, notwithstanding success early on, Germany was going to be defeated as long as Hitler remained in power. History has proved that point given the multitude of mistakes he made in dictating such strategy. When President Roosevelt died, Hitler and Goebbels thought that good fortune would smile on them, based upon a collapse of the United States Army in Europe, for they believed that Roosevelt was “calling the shots,” so to speak. Little did they realize, Roosevelt was not telling the likes of Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, Hodges, etc., when and where to attack, unlike Hitler with his generals.
    Imagine if someone else where the chancellor of Germany and left military strategy up to those who know best, his generals, what then would be the outcome?

  32. Marioncarl says:

    I think to answer this question you have to choose the earliest battle, that had the Allies lost, the war was all but over. In my mind the obvious answer is The Battle of Britain and the cancellation of operation Sea Lion. If we had lost the battle in the air over Britain, the success of operation Sea Lion was all but assured. With Britain occupied and a puppet gov. installed you can begin to see the cascading effect of this defeat.With the war over in the West, as with France, Great Britain would have to bargain away its’ empire, and technologies to have any kind of freedom at home.The Italians no longer have to fight for North Africa and the Germans will now never have to deploy and loose a Stalingrad sized army in the desert.The Axis now control the striates of Gibraltar and have access to oil in the Middle East.With the Med closed off and Italy not out of the war the battle for the soft underside of Europe will never occur.Hitler’s navy can now sortie and Norway wont have to be so heavily garrisoned. Even when the invasion of Russia takes place, with the North Sea controlled by Germany, the US has no way to send lend lease material to the Soviets.The added man power the Axis now have available to fight the Russians is staggering. In the Pacific and Indian Oceans, will the Japanese take over the British possessions [India] as they did the French? Would there even have been a viable China,Burma,India theatre? Would China have survived without a British controlled India and Burma as a conduit for supplies? How would that have affected the US fight in the Pacific? What does Australia and Canada do? Can you imagine the P 51 without the Merlin engine! If you buy any of my long winded rant it is amazing to think that this could of happened if Goering had not let Fighter command off the hook and started bombing London!

  33. Brad Howe says:

    My belief is that turning point was Bararossa. This campaign was not well planned, the German Army was not fully prepared to wage war on such a large front & Hitler blew his chances with the Russian people i.e., wining the hearts & minds of the masses by killing so many civilians as well the Jews. Stalin was not well liked by the Russian people and if the Germans had come as liberators as opposed as greater oppressors, Hitler would have had thousands, if not millions, of people who would have been willing to fight for him.

  34. Woody says:

    Everyone always wants to find that one instance, that one turning point that made a difference. You missed the point with this article. There was never a ‘single point’.

    The turning point happened every day, in every country, when millions of common citizens in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, South Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand and countless other countries went to work and did their best for a common good making B-17s or B-25s or Avro Lancasters.

    The turning point happened every day in the occupied counties of Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Poland, Austria, France, China, the Philippines, and countless other countries when men, women and children risked their lives to gather information and transmit it by radio to the allies, or set a bomb on a railroad, or assassinate a high ranking officer or official. They did this knowing that if caught they would suffer a horrible and merciless torture that in many ways was torture just for the sake of torture, and only then if they were lucky would they be shot. Many died from hanging where instead of a rope, a piano wire was used.

    The turning point happened every day in the field at the fronts, in Algeria, Libya, Italy, France, Greece, the Balkans, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, and countless other countries and small islands in the Pacific when fighting men dove on top of hand grenades, or made a stand against overwhelming forces knowing they were about to die.

    The turning point was when female nurses volunteered to move up as close as possible to the front to help nurse wounded and dying soldiers and sailors and flyers, instead of staying at home in Ottawa, be it Canada or Kansas.

    No, the turning point happened every day in every country in a million different times and places.

    That’s why we call them the greatest generation, not because of one decision but because of the millions of millions of little turning points that were made every day that helped win the war.

  35. nejat says:

    I believe the turning point of the war was in the autumn of 1941 when the Soviets learned through their informants including Richard Sorge that the Japanese would not be invading through Manchuria and would be attacking the British colonies and the US instead because of their need for resources. Soviets were able to redeploy most of their troops there to Moscow to stop the German onslaught in the winter of 1941 and counterattack. They left their eastern flack weak knowing Japan would be elsewhere.
    It was the first time German army was stopped in its tracks and even beaten back.

  36. steve says:

    To begin, I would like to say how much I enjoy your magazine – every month it is a cover-to-cover read for me. I especially enjoyed the article in your July/August 2010 issue titled “What was the Turning Point of the War?”

    While I am definitely not a scholar of the caliber of those who contributed to the article, I would like to offer another date/event that I feel could be argued as “the turning point of the war.” That date would be August 15th, 1940. That was the date when a single event would set in motion, a series of events that would cost Germany the war.

    That was the date when a single plane, piloted by Hauptman Walter Rubensdorffer, while lost in the fog, dropped its bombs on the outskirts of London. This led to retaliatory strikes by Great Britain on targets in and around Berlin on August 25th. This, then caused Hitler to rescind No. 17 Directive issued on August 1st 1940 that prohibited “terror attacks” on England’s cities which shifted Luftwaffe attacks from the RAF airfields, to it’s populated areas. It was this single shift in strategy that would allow the RAF (which admittedly, by those in command, was a week or less from total destruction) the brief yet crucial respite that allowed them to recover and eventually defeat the Luftwaffe.

    Simply put, it was this date that cost Germany the Battle of Britain, which caused them to shift their attentions to the attack of the Soviet Union (for which they were not yet ready), allowed England to remain free to be used as a staging ground for future air attacks by the RAF and USAAF, and lastly, as a launching point for the raids against fortress Europe on D-Day.

    It is frightening to think how the war may have turned out had the Luftwaffe continued to pound the airfields of the RAF.

    Thanks for your time and your great work.


  37. baldknobber says:

    I think it is important to distinguish between turning points and pivotal points. I think the former was well defined above – a point at which the tide and momentum turned from one of possible Axis victory to probable Axis defeat. I agree with those who mention Stalingrad, El Alamein (the defensive battles, before Lightfoot and Supercharge), and Midway, assuming that definition.

    Pivotal points, to me, are other decisions, battles, or operations which have substantial short-term effect on the tide and momentum, but cannot be further defined as turning points. Like turning points, they are also among the interesting “what if” counterfactuals of history.

    One example – Churchill’s decision to send British & Commonwealth forces to Greece in early ’41. This ended up seemingly as throwing good money after bad. What if the Brits would have stuck to driving the Italians out of Libya? Would there have been an Afrika Korps, a Desert Fox? Would it have eliminated the next two years’ campaigns in the Western Desert? It would be doubtful that the Axis could have retaken the North African coast, if they’d been decisively defeated in Libya. What about French North Africa then? Could a victorious British army on the Mareth Line in the spring of ’41 have brought the Vichy French in North Africa to the Allied cause sooner, in spite of Dakar and Mers El Kebir?

    Could a complete British victory in Libya, along with British consolidation of the Mid East, have thwarted German designs in Syria and Iraq earlier and easier? And lastly, think of the troops, aircraft, and tanks, not lost in Greece and Crete, and freed up by victory in Libya. Could some not have went to Singapore and Malaya, and helped prevent the greatest military debacle in British history?

  38. Mr. Whipple says:

    I think that there were turning points in each theater and in the air war as well as the Naval war. I also believe that there were multiple turning points. As Churchill said: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

    The Nazis losing the momentum was a turning point and the gaining of the momentum by the Allies was another one. There is no such thing as a single turning point.

  39. Ed Szupel says:

    Reference your article in World War II July/August 2010.

    My opinion is when Germany (Hitler) declared war on the United States. With all of the isolationism and anti-war agitation and legislation among the US Congress and US the US may have never entered into a war against Germany even after Pearl harbor. FDR’s hands were tied by anti-war legislation so he could only assist Britain secretly at the risk of impeachment. Hitler’s unilateral declaration changed all that.

    Japan was another story, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor would be my second choice for a turning point. Many of the Japanese military leaders knew bombing Pearl Harbor was a mistake because it would awaken a “sleeping giant” that Japan could not possibly defeat in the long run. The executor of Operation Tora Tora Tora held that belief.

    Ed Szupel
    Newport News, VA

  40. SteveB says:

    I agree that there is not a single turning point in WWII. Stalingrad, El Alamein and Miday were definitely the turning points in the respective fronts but I don’t see a single date or event turning the war course.

    For me the war was lost the moment it started because the Germans lacked a strategic plan. When would the war end? What were the objectives? Was it to destroy USSR? That was a utopia from the start and the German generals knew it. Was it control the whole of Europe or to destroy the French/British colonial empires and acquire their resources?
    Germany had no control over the seas (Italian navy was incapable of even defending Italy, not to mention Meditteranean from the British navy). So they could have never controlled the colonies.

    In my view, that’s the reason Germany’s invasion to GBR would have failed also. The British fleet would have destroyed the invasion fleet before it even landed. The Lutwaffe was unable to destroy the British industrial base (which was inferior to the German), they could not even find the British air bases. Somebody mentioned that the technical superiority of the Germans would have made a difference. But we forget that most of the weapons the Germans invented and mass produced were designed as a response to the current state of the Allied forces (Panther was designed to counter T34, the anti-tank Panzerfaust to counter the vast number of Allied tanks on the front, the Me262 to counter the vast number of Allied aircraft in the skies, the U-boats to counter the complete control of Allied navies in the seas, etc.). The Germans would not have designed those weapons before they got into trouble in the Eastern/N Africa/Western fronts. And by that time it was too late because their resources were outnumbered.

    Invading USSR was a fundamental mistake. Even if the Germans had captured Moscow I don’t think Stalin would have surrendered or given up. They would have fought from the Ural mountains if necessary. They moved their whole industrial production to the East, as the Nazis advanced, that shows how determined they were. I agree that once the US joined the fight the loss was even ore imminent for the Germans as they could not match the industrial production or resources of the US. Their only hope was a honorable peace treaty that the German generals wanted so that they could maintain their control over West Europe but Hitler did not let them.

    Strategically Germany never had the human resources to control (not capture) vast areas (West/Eastern Europe/N.Africa, Middle East etc.). The Nazis alienated most of local population they controlled with their mass murders, complete exploitation of resources (which led to the destruction of the local economy) and use of slave labor to replace their men at war in their factories. That guaranteed continuous revolts and constant guerilla activity. Which means that the Germans would have to maintain tens of divisions to control all occupied territories.

    Even if Spain, Turkey, Egypt and other countries had sided with Germany, I don’t believe their armies or navies were trained/equipped to successfully support the German army in their fight against the allies. It would have protracted the war, this is for sure but the loss was imminent.

    If Japan had attacked USSR instead of China this could have made a difference in the Eastern front as the Soviet army would have to be divided. I think Japan would have eventually lost the war with the US since they lacked the material/resources to sustain their war machine or industrial production (which is the reason they started the war in the 1st place) and the human resource again to control all occupied territories in SE Asia. Their navy/air force was proven inferior to the US. Their tactics resulted in heavy losses of army personnel that they could not easily replace.

  41. Colton says:

    Regarding the “Turning Point” in WWII I clearly remember my older brother yelling to me from the house – “We beat the Japs at Midway.” All the news up to then had been bad, save for the theatrical Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, and this news was electrifying!

    Everybody in this country felt a lot better after the battle of Midway and as far as the PTO it was certainly a turning point. Wars can have many.

    In Europe, Hitler seemed hell-bent on losing the war. First Dunkirk (May 1940), then Smolensk (1941) and finally, July 23, 1942. That was when Hitler split off 4th Panzer Army from the Sixth Army.

    This drive to the Caucuses was his best (and last) chance of knocking the Soviet Union out of the war. As it was the Soviet forces at Stalingrad managed to beat out the German army by only 15 minutes and keep the vital ferry dock in Soviet hands.

    If Hitler had not interfered it is almost certain that Stalingrad would have fallen virtually without a fight. From every point of view this would have spelled disaster for the Soviet Union. Troop morale probably would have collapsed; oil from the Caucuses could now be interdicted by the Germans, and not only denied to the Soviets, but worse, become a German asset!

    In such a circumstance, Churchill, always a great meddler, might have withdrawn forces from North Africa (actually Egypt) and tried to head off a total Germans capture of the oilfields by sending troops through Iran into Southern Russia. This might have led to a very different situation for Rommel and The Second Battle of El Alamein – assuming there was one.

    In any event, it is difficult to see how the Soviet Union could have stayed in the fight. Even Stalin’s “Not a step back!” Order 227 could not have restored the lost oil and all that it meant.

    While some Soviet forces could be expected to fight bravely and gallantly, eventually, they would be overwhelmed and defeated.
    It is hard to see how Soviet Union could have remained in the war much beyond July 1943.


  42. Dana Ormerod says:

    The turning point of the war came when the reports of Japan’s decision of expanding into the Pacific (sent by the Tokyo-based Soviet spy Richard Sorge) and obtain the colonial possessions were believed by Stalin and the experienced troops of the East were brought to the Moscow-front. These troops were inserted at critical moments allowing, in the end, successful defense of Moscow and the carrying out of the winter offensive. German failure to take Moscow effectively ended their opportunity to defeat the Russians.

  43. NavyBrat says:

    In the final analysis I feel that the ultimate turning point of WWII was Operation Barbarossa in June 1941. Up until this point, Hitler ran unchecked over most of continental Europe and it is difficult for me to envision the Allies defeating the Axis powers on land without the role the Soviets played from 1941 thru 1945.

    Before June 1941, Germany and the Soviet Union were de-facto allies with the Russians supplying them with considerable war-making raw materials, including precious oil (which ultimately was Germany’s Achilles heel). After Operation Barbarossa commenced in June 1941, not only did Germany lose this vital access to certain raw materials, but she was forced to commit a two million man army to a war that never ended until the fall of Berlin. Eight of every 10 soldiers that Germany lost during the War were killed by the Red Army. Both the Americans and the British like to tout their countries’ contributions to the war as decisive, but in my opinion the Battle of Britain was basically a draw and their combined efforts in North Africa produced a victory that the Germans never saw as anything more than a minor side-show. Finally, given all of the trouble that the Anglo-American allies had from D-Day onward (almost a full year of fighting), does anyone seriously think that those landings would have been successful if the Germans weren’t fighting a two front war? [And remember, without the war on the Eastern Front the American Allies would have been facing an additional 200 full-strength German divisions plus the full weight of the Luftwaffe!]

    In response to those who feel that the turning point was Moscow in December 1941, or Stalingrad in December 1942, or the Battle of Kursk the following year, I say this: Regardless of the individual outcome of ANY of these events, the war in the east was unwinnable for the Germans. Once Barbarossa commenced, the size of the task was beyond the German’s ability to wage war on that vast a scale. The distances were too great, the supply lines were too long, the weather was too severe, and the number of soldiers that the Soviet Union could employ was too massive. Even if the Germans had taken Moscow, beaten the Russians in Stalingrad, and seized Kursk, does anyone see the Germans being able to wage a war east of the Urals for years on end?

    Thank you for publishing this EXCELLENT article which was enjoyable to read and has been fun to debate! But in my opinion, the pivotal turning point of WWII will always be the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.

  44. Aaron Piedmonte says:

    This is an excellent debate and there are many great opinions here. We all agree that Hitler’s horrible decisions proved to be a major factor in the end…Declaring war against the U.S., Operation Barbarossa, Stalingrad, etc.

    The Battle of Midway is widely considered by many to be the turning point in the Pacific and the entire war. However, I highly doubt that Japan would have ever come close to winning a long term war against the United States. Some of these reasons include the lack of manpower and manufacturing ability of the Japanese compared to the Allies. The same argument can be made that the Germans didn’t have the manpower or materiel to outlast the Allies. This may be true, however, the Germany first strategy proved to be correct because German forces were the strongest. In addition, the Germans were highly advanced in many areas including weapons, aircraft, tanks, and veteran leadership.

    I believe that the turning point of World War II was Stalingrad. The Germans wasted away far too many men and materiel on this intense battle. Stalingrad can actually be considered a major war all by itself. Up until this point, German success and morale was strong.

    As much as I want to believe that the U.S. would have beaten Germany “No matter what”, victory would not have been possible without the success on D-Day. If the Germans didn’t waste all of those men and supplies at Stalingrad, I doubt that Operation Fortitude and Operation Overlord would have been a success…Then you might say, “Well, that means that your choice of the turning point should be Operation Barbarossa because if Hitler doesn’t invade Russia to begin with, then the rapid decline of German forces never happens.” That may be true, but remember at this time many people believed that Russia had no chance to defeat Germany. Even if Operation Barbarossa was lost, Germany could still withdraw in time before the slaughter began at Stalingrad.

    Stalingrad made it impossible for the Germans to ever recover. The estimated 841,000 casualties and 900 aircraft lost there could have made the difference in prolonging the war. With more time, the Germans would have continued to mass produce Tiger II’s, jet fighters, new weapons, and other things that just might have made it too tough for the Americans to ever advance through France. Without U.S. air superiority in Europe, the Germans would have continued to mass produce, without having to constantly worry about their factories being bombed.

    Ultimately, you can say that Hitler’s blunders cost the Axis powers the war, but Stalingrad really points to the significant turning point of the war.

  45. martin says:

    What is the question; Turning point – When ‘it’ became unachievable. Of what –‘WORLD’ war.
    So, when did winning a war to dominate the world become unachievable? In my view, it was from the outset, but specifically the failure of the Nazis to develop a long-range heavy bomber force.

    The Germans had armaments to achieve short-range, fairly rapid assaults – blitzkrieg. This style of warfare was effective in such theatres as Spain, Poland and Belgium.

    But with Britain it was going to be necessary to cross the channel and with Russia it was necessary to drive for miles, and miles, and miles. In neither of these theatres did the Germans have the capability to deliver a heavy ‘knock-out’ punch which meant that the defending forces were able to survive the level of onslaught inflicted. Everything else for the allies then became the logistics of outlasting (as in, out-manufacturing) the Axis.

    Perhaps the same ‘logic’ that prevented the development of a heavy bomber force also prevented the development of newer equipment by the Nazis during those early years until, as we now see, it was too late to do so with a winning effect.

    I also have, a perhaps more contentious view that Japan was doomed from the outset and, even with the US-led effort, would have eventually been overrun by the Russians. Some seem to forget that Japan and Russia did join battle during the early years of conflict, and that the Russians were victorious in battle. The Russians did not pursue this success, which was prior to Operation Barbarossa.

    After the European theatre the Russians built up their Eastern forces and enjoined battle at the same time as the US tested their new bombs on the Japanese mainland. Japan faced devastation from such bombs, but had already decided to fight to the last man. They also now had the spectre of Russian invasion, a country with some 50 years of ‘wrongs’ and losses to seek retribution for.

    Unconditional surrender must have seemed the lesser of the two evils,

  46. Aaron Piedmonte says:

    Forgive me, I forgot to add German U-boats in my sentence: “In addition, the Germans were highly advanced in many areas including weapons, aircraft, tanks, and veteran leadership.”

  47. Stuart says:

    I Believe that the turning point actually occured in May 1941 in which the German pause at Dunkirk enable the British to continue. The continued threat of attacks in the West and South played key role in the war. Hitler and Germany had to maintain force over such a large area when the forces were needed in the East.

    If you want to think of a time during the Russian campaign it was Hitler paused in his attacks toward Moscow in August 1941. He had the Russian forces before crumbling every day. His stopping allowed the Russians to regroup forces before Moscow and build the defences that ultimately stopped the Germans.

  48. Galand says:

    Without a question the turnining point was the decision to stop bombing the RAF airfield during the Battle of Britain. History shows that the RAF was within days of complete collapse and the decision to switch to targeting cities was a collosal blunder.

    One more week of pounding those airfields and the entire world would look different.

    One musn’t forget all the equipment that was left at Dunkirk and left abandoned in France. The British would have had very little defense against Rommels panzers rolling through the English country side at will.

    The Germans had crack paratrrooops that could have easily seized airfields or any target at will in the UK regardless of Churchill and his speeches. The Irish wanting their own country for many decades would have switched allegiance to the Germans.

    There would have been no two front war, no place to store all the equipment for D Day, Uboats could roam the seas at will sinking anything everywhere going to the Russians.

    Without a doubt, this was the turning point.

    It showed the world the Germans could be turned back and stopped and it happened in 1940.

  49. sg1 says:

    At first I was shocked by the Prof Tooze’s choice of May 1940 and the early, unexpected victory in France. However, it also started me thinking about its unintended consequences.

    One way Germany might have won the war at that point might have been to close the Straights of Gibraltar to British sea traffic, thus severely weakening USSR logistical support later, in 1942. Suez would have been closed. There would have been no need for an extensive North African campaign. India might even have broken away from the Empire, becoming neutral, changing the situation in the East. I have read that this was the basis of a German naval based strategy proposed in 1941.

    In this regard, I think the well known failure of the meeting between Franco and Hitler in Oct. 1940 might well have been a turning point. When Hitler declined to agree to Franco’s demands including post war possession of Gibraltar, and thereby forfeited Spain’s active military alliance in this regard, it eventually allowed sufficient materiel to reach Russia to keep it fighting, and allowed contesting first North Africa, then Sicily, and finally Italy.

  50. Perry W says:

    I have read the article and some of the comments…

    One issue that no one seems to have looked at, is…

    WHAT IS A TURNING POINT, in a war…?

    So lets see.

    Well, It can’t be when an Aggressor, starts a war, and wins, because there is no Turning Point. There fore, it mus be…

    When a Aggressor, starts a war against a Perceived Enemy, and then, at some point, losses that war… The Turning Point is that moment when the Aggressor begins to LOSE the WAR…

    First of all, there were TWO separate wars… The European and Pacific theaters… So far removed from each other, at least in the context that we can understand, as a result of just how the “WAR” ended… 2 separate Peace Treaties…

    Looking at the war in the European Theater… most historians look at the Battle of Moscow or Stalingrad as the major turning points in that theater. How ever…WHY did the Germans LOSE either of those two major battles… This is what everyone misses…

    North Africa and Italy… Not turning points in and of themselves, of course no. But remember, When Rommel left Africa, he left 250,000 Africa Corps troops, who, had they been on the Eastern Front, would have helped the Germans to take both Moscow and Stalingrad…

    Personally, I cannot accept Moscow as the Turning Point, Because the Germans still had the strength to attack Stalingrad with impressive forces. Had Hitler recognized the need to concentrate his forces, a notion any worth while military person understands, he would have captured Moscow first, waited thru the winter and then in the Spring, gone after Stalingrad. But neither way of attack, Hitler could over come the loss of forces needed to hold back Allied Forces in North Africa and then Italy. So, the Turning Point, for me, has to be Stalingrad… At that moment, when 6th Army was surrounded, and made impotent, is when the Russians really began winning. From that moment, their drive to Moscow, was not impeded to any real degree…

    On the Pacific side… The Battle of Midway, has to be the Turning Point in the Pacific… For that moment, is when the Japanese began losing battles… and even though Guadalcanal would last for nearly 6 months, and the Allied Forces suffered terribly, the fact is that Halsey and Vandergrift, working together, held off attack after attack by the both Japanese Naval and land forces. Ultimately, driving the Japanese, from their “Island of Death”, as they came to call it.

    That’s my take. I have been studying WWI for over 40 years…

  51. Perry W says:


    Last sentence in the 2nd to last paragraph…

    … is when the Russians really began winning. From that moment, their drive to…

    BERLIN… was not impeded to any real degree…

  52. Perry W says:

    Studying WWII

    for over 40 years…

  53. Perry W says:

    Just as a side note…

    Relative to my studies of WWII…

    I belonged to a group of individuals, who, for over 24 years, helped to eventually bankrupt the old Soviet Union. Which is why I studied WWII. It is a great teacher of what to do, and more over, what NOT to do, in a conflict.

    After finishing the “Evil Empire”, we turned our attention to the Middle East, and Iraq and Iran…

    Yes, I am writing a book…

    And I love the Magazine…

    Perry Walkov
    Anaheim, California

    • Srini says:

      Why is no one talking of spies?
      after all Richard Sorge did a great job and his single piece of work allowed Stalin to shift his forces to the western front and thus defeat the Nazis-
      Japan did not attack -exactly as Sorge predicted

  54. David Browda says:

    The Third Reich could never have ruled Europe for its predicted thousand years without conquering England.

    The Royal Air Force victory in the Battle of Britain (August through end of 1940) postponed indefinitely Germany’s Operation Sea Lion invasion of England, and led directly to the end of World War II. This victory allowed American, Canadian and British forces to gather and organize unmolested on British soil, preparing for Operation Overlord, their June 1944 D-Day invasion of Europe. This was the Second Front which forced Germany to fight on her east and west, and spelled her doom.

    The Royal Air Force began Germany’s defeat. From 1941 to the end of the war the allies finished Germany’s defeat.

  55. JSJH says:

    NO doubt in this mind; THE turning point in WW II was when the German attitude toward the Soviet peoples when they invaded “Russia”…

    …and the Germans did not make absolute national policy to treat the Soviet peoples ans comrades, equals and present themselves all of the time, in every way, as noble, honourable liberators…

    …rather than behave as ruthless saavge conquerors and the indigenous population as “subhumans.”

  56. K Buller says:

    I have to agree with Steve Busch, he put it much more eloquently than I could. The Battle of Britain is the turning point without question. It threw off Hitler’s time table of what he wanted to accomplish in what time. Because Coventry was bombed, which in turn led Churchill to order Berlin bomed, which in turn led to the change in tactics that allowed the RAF to bounce back from the ropes it was on, led to a victory for Britain by stopping Germany from invading. Decisions made from this point by Hitler to further the war were mistakes compounded by the fact he did not finish off England. He attacked Russia, which many point out was a turning point, but it was also where he started a multi front war because he had not taken care of business in England. By not taking care of England, he gave the United States the place it needed to start it’s bombing campaign once they entered the war, which Roosevelt was looking for a reason.

    Failing in England was the fatal error for Hitler. Japan was never going to be a factor, even Yamamoto knew this and predicted it, he knew that they best they could do was a draw (quickly) with the US. Hitler did not have the resources to fight a multi front war, so he should not have messed with Russia until….. he took care of England first.

  57. Robert Drumheller says:

    I believe the turning point was the battle for Dunkirk. If the Germans had captured Dunkirk and forced the British army to surrender, then England would have been wide open for an invasion. I see three possible scenarios happening if the Germans had capture Dunkirk.
    First, and most likely, is that England would have come to terms with Hitler. Churchill would have continued to be against it, but I could easily see the English Government voting in favor of a seperate peace. Many in England did vote for a seperate peace with Hitler after the miracle of Dunkirk. Without an army, they would have most likely voted for a separate peace. With England out of the picture and France secured, the Russians would have faced a bigger army and bigger airforce. The losses in the historical Battle of Britain would have been available against the Russians.
    Second option, everything plays out the same as in did historically. Hitler delayed the Battle of Britain until August and is defeated as he was historically.
    Third option, the Germans recognize that they have a golden opportunity at hand and even a small invasion force with paratroop landings in mid July, would overcome the English. Hitler chooses not to offer a seperate peace plan with the English. With the loss of their army in France, England has only six divisions to defend the country and only half of them have weapons. A very small invasion force with paratroops would have won the day, providing it happened in mid July before Fighter Command was truly operational. I list this option as third, because I do not believe that Hitler possessed the imagination needed to mount such an operation and defeat the English in 1940.

  58. Gunner says:

    All good points and not one of them is arguable; however, what if the U.S. would have lost all three carriers at Midway? Guadalcanl wouldn’t have happened; forces destined for Europe would have been diverted west possibly Hawaii. This would have postponed North Africa and eventually overlord; consequently, this would have given the Germans time to develop their weapons previsously mentioned. Moreover, the Japanese would have developed the air base on Guadalcanal and Austrailia would have been attacked. Battle of Britan a very good point, Stalingard very good also; but without Midway I doubt there would have been another front for the germans to worry about thus throwing more forces at the Russians. My vote is Midway.

  59. B Beverley says:

    The biggest reason Germany lost the War was because Hitler was fighting on two fronts at the same time. Had Germany not attacked Russa and just attack to the west only the world might look diffirent today. We would be speaking German today.

  60. B Beverley says:

    There are people I have talked to about this every subject World War Two wasn’t suppose to start until about 1948 or 1950. Think about that for a moment . Had a man with the Name of Hitler changed all that. Think about what that war might look like had it not start until 1950? If someone could use a computer to try and find that question a what if WORLD WAR TWO DID NOT START UNTIL 1950 ! ! What would the world look like today ?

  61. Konrad Raether says:

    I feel the most significant turning point of the war would have to be the German’s inability to reach Moscow. However, there were many factors. First of all, the rains had caused the roads to become extremely difficult to travel efficiently. This had stalled the German advance and allowed the winter to set in. He also directed his troop advancement south, just shy of Moscow, electing to take Kiev first. By the time they succeeded with that it was very late in the year and the snows started to fall. When they pleaded with Hitler to send them proper equipment for dealing with the hostile conditions, he refused. Hitler also refused the requests by the Generals to hold off until spring. With the German army still acquiring cities outside of Moscow. The Russians were able to pull their divisions from Siberia because Spys had reported that Japan wasn’t focused on Russia. This gave the Russians fresh, winter experienced reinforcements. I believed if Hitler hadn’t diverted south just shy of Moscow, and gone directly to the capitol city, they would have succeeded in taking the city and forced Russia to surrender.

  62. Konrad Raether says:

    For military success, the supreme commander and his Generals must see eye to eye on the way to conduct the strategies. Hitler became too blinded by arrogance and his maneuvers through Russia were the start of strategic blunders. Therefore the beginning of the Nazi downfall and the turning point of the war.

  63. Galand says:

    The battle plans for the Invasion of England for operation Sea Lion.


    Don’t discount the Irish, which despised the British.

    A little known fact that their were actiually Irish NAZIS before there were German ones.

    The Irish would have been a fifth column behind enemy lines, reeking havoc, blowing up phone lines, railroads, bridges and vital installations as well as more than likely terror bombings in cities.


    In would not take that many Irish to create havoc, chaos and diversionary tatics to have the British going in many directions just as the allied forces did during D Day with the French Underground forces,

  64. Christopher Stanwood says:

    Because of the vast distances and overall differences between the two theaters of war, it is impossible to seperate those two theaters when deciding on a deciding event.

    In Europe I would break from most and say that the German “decision” to place European Jews as their #1 enemy was that war’s turning point. The huge amounts of man power, materials, and thinking that went into Germany’s war on Jews definately had a big effect on their ability to effectively fight on two fronts.

    In The Pacific I would side with Robert Leckie and go with Guadalcanal as that war’s turning point. While Midway was a crushing defeat for the IJN, their loss of Guadalcanal left open the whole Southwest Pacific which the Americans methodically rolled up. Rabual, Truk, The Gilberts, The Marianas, and the Phillipines fell in turn.

  65. Chico says:

    This sentence is confusing and I don’t think it makes any sense: “It’s hard to underestimate, he says, the immensity of the risk Adolf Hitler took with this attack.” I think you mean it’s hard to “overstate” it, and maybe spell-checker corrected it. It’s always easy to underestimate, which is the point of what he says previously about few people realizing that the German victory over the Franco-English forces was not guaranteed.

  66. Chico says:

    Having read the entire article, the absence of credit to the Battle of Britain victory — which is in the comments — is stark. While there’s fascination and some anti-Western sentiment at play with historians, you have to apply what would have happened had Hitler not been forced to postpone Sea Lion. He’d have invaded the USSR and it would have rendered everything else moot.

    Without clear sea lanes, the United States would have been unable to supply Stalin and the Joe Kennedys would have gotten their way for peace with Hitler…for the time being. Without the American lifeline, Stalin’s poorly equiped, badly trained conscripts would have had even less to fight when than they did.

    As was said, sometimes the obvious answer is right even though it’s right. Historians like to see huge tanks rolling and big battles, but you have to look up in the air to see the battlefield for the RAF-Lufftwaffe fight. Plus, because the Soviets wasted so many more lives, one feels it’s only fitting they should earn the title of having turned the war.

    But they didn’t. Churchill and the Brits did.

  67. Sixpack says:

    Hm, most interesting, many people, many opinions.

    I would say that germany lost on an operational level with Operation Zitadelle by throwing away all of the available reserves and not being prepared enough for an allied invasion in Italy.

    On a Manpower level it started with the loss of the Afrika Korps.

    The whole war was probably lost before it even started.
    Somewhere between 1930-1938 with the wrong men in the wrong positions and a high loss in brilliant scientists.

    Because whatever would have happened there would not have been any kind of answer against nuclear firepower.

  68. kerry skidmore says:

    What was the turning point of World War II?

    Mr. Rees is very correct in his conclusion that December, 1941, was the turning point of World War II. However, this only marks the correct time for the turn in the war, but does not pinpoint the most critical piece. Thanks to the Japanese Navy, the United States entered the war fully committed to victory. America’s entry was early enough that it changed the course of the war from what was inevitably a deadly stalemate al-la World War I.
    Pearl Harbor was the trigger. Tangentially the single moment that irrevocably sealed the Axis defeat was the launch of the first liberty ship, SS. Patrick Henry, on 27 Sept 1941. Though the first “liberty’s” were commissioned before the war, their purpose changed and the purpose and methods of building them changed with the declaration of war. As a demonstration of the awesome impact an involved and focused United States had on the war, 3,000 liberty ships, 534 Victory ships, hundreds of service vessels, and mightiest warship fleets ever seen came down the ways was filled with every imaginable tool of war and warriors and went half way around the world to win a war.
    Why the early U.S. involvement was the tipping point? By December, 1941, World War II was headed for a deadly stalemate. By 7 December the European and Asian combatants had reached a virtual strategic stalemate which was in most ways no different than that of WWI, the various armies were bleeding themselves and each other white and the war had devolving to a unmoving stalemate. It is reasonable to predict the Second World War would also reach that same state without US intervention after 1941:
    • Great Britain. Still exhausted from WWI, was soundly beaten in France, and bombed to near capitulation during Operation Eagle Attack. England had effectively retreated to the castle keep. England could indefinitely count on US support to ensure their survival (The original purpose of the Liberty ships was lend-lease. It must be noted that American industry was not stretched to provide sufficient lend lease, it was virtually an industrial sector). Assured of survival, the British rejuvenated their military and concentrated on retaining what it could of the overseas empire; particularly the Middle East and India.
    • France. Ceased to be a factor in a Compiegne railroad car 20 June 1940. Her captured equipment and formidable navy were never a factor.
    • Italy. Short of fuel and technology; shorter on leadership at every level.
    The major adversaries: Japan, Russia, and Germany were all as logistically crippled as Britain by Dec 1941:
    • Japan. Japan’s navy was first class but logistically crippled in every way. They had less that two years of oil supply and the size of the major fleet units was limited to 3/5ths of the US and Britain. The ability to build new units was severely hampered by the need to import everything as well as a shipping industry which was not geared to mass production. While Japanese industry was struggling to bring two monster battleships and two carriers into service, the North Carolina class battleships were on the ways as were the Essex class carriers. Comparisons of the emerging warships (the Yamato class battleships had not radar, lethal longitudinal bulkheads; the Shokaku class carriers were comparable to the Yorktown class of 1937-41); technologically and strategically, the Japanese Navy was past its apogee. The Japanese Army, structured for shock assaults, primitive logistical support, inferior armor, and nonexistent transport and supply capabilities. By 1941 the Japanese army— Kwangtung Army—mired in China since 1937 (and even into August, 1945) had managed to fight two disastrous border clashes with the soviet Far Eastern army of Georgiy Konstantinovich Zhukov. The soviet army armor and tactics so completely overwhelmed the Japanese forces they sued for piece and lived in morbid fear of any future conflicts with the Soviet Union. They were forced to tie up 700,000 troops at the border. Kotanti states the only discussions of invasion were premised on the fall of Moscow and/or the transfer of all eastern troops to counter the German invasion. Stalin transferred all but 30 divisions which was sufficient to dissuade any further Japanese incursions. Internally, the Japanese army and navy were as antagonistic to each other as to the allies. Their ability to develop an effective Pacific defense barrier was hampered by limited army support for garrison forces, an inability to supply their forces, and a crippling lack of technological and industrial strength. By 1941, the empire had reached it’s high point. In their desperation to avoid being eclipsed they planned the Pearl Harbor attack.
    • Russia. The Soviet Union was not beaten by December 1941 and never would have surrendered. The military purges of the 1930’s and the 1941 destruction of three soviet armies aside, Stalin’s armies were growing more capable since the disastrous June. 1100km, half of the European Russian territory was lost. However, by December, 1941, most of their military factories had been moved to the Urals and were grinding out improved aircraft and, importantly, T-34 tanks. Whether Moscow fell or not, another 1400 km and another 167 million people dedicated to the “Rodina” stood before any German hope of victory. By December, 1941, news of the atrocities being committed by the German occupation had reached every sector of the Soviet Union. Stalin, famous for stating “a single death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic,” had no qualms about whatever it took to preserve the Soviet Union. He absolutely meant it. In August 1942, his order 227, decreed, “Not a step backward!” He issued similar commands in the first 22 days of Barbarossa, but these cost him half a million casualties. To illustrate his resolve to all he stated he would not leave Moscow; yet his train was waiting and his chauffer had the car warmed up. He would have moved—ironically to ekaterinburg—and taken his war apparatus STAVKA with him. It worked; people were digging tank trenches with their dinner bowls. His approach was cold blooded but it worked. Further, he had good reasons to believe the German invasion was spent.
    • Germany. Could Germany have ever won WWII? No. Despite the most professional army on earth, in 1941, Germany was a virtually landlocked, resource poor, ethically corrupt nation of 73 Million people. Germany was not even a unified country until 1871. Even after the Bismarck era, the country was confronted by a series of regional conflicts. The Prussian military grew enormously competent from the conduct of these campaigns; simultaneously a national psyche emphasizing their nascent nationalism and a propensity for superior technology rose. Germany was the dominant land power by 1914. Germany lost World War I largely because they ran out of resources. Their U-boat blockade gets all the press, but the allied blockade literally starved Germany into submission. Again the Achilles heel of Germany leveraged the outcome. Germany tried to conduct a lightening campaign to win in the West, only to bog down into trench warfare across the whole front. They had few alternatives to break the stalemate except to affect an unrestricted blockage on the British Isles. Ultimately they only brought the US into the war which sealed their fate. The armistice crippled Germany. When they finally emerged they were saddled with a psychopathic leadership and in the rush to meet the leadership demands, the army general staff overlooked the glaring weaknesses and challenges inherent in their environment. While the German army was by no means ready to go to war, they did made a number of brilliant and lucky stokes which gave them stunning victory after stunning victory. Careful examination of the 1939-1940 conquests reveals they were really repeats of their 1870’s conflicts: regional conflicts at or adjacent to their border, marked by quick vicrtories. Granted the victories were stunning uses of new technology and armor tactics. However, the German army took trains to the front, drove down paved roads and refilled the panzers in every town. Dennis Showalter, in his excellent book, “Hitler’s Panzers,” characterizes the German army on 22 June 1941 is an army relying on lightning motorized strike forces but armed with too few motorized units. The Panzer groups had 80% all motor vehicles yet they made up only 30% of the German army. Much of the rest was on foot or horseback. German industry could not make tanks and trucks at the same time. It is not a problem when the supporting infantry and service units could make it to the front in time to support the armored spearhead units quickly using the numerous European trains and paved roads they provide all the support necessary to maximize the impact of the rapidly moving spearhead units. The invasion of the Soviet Union quickly revealed all the ignored logistical handicaps. Briefly, the German army groups faced: virtually no passable roads, a railroad system of a different gauge (5’ vs 4’8”), no gas or unsatisfactory fuels of every kind, and a totally scorched earth: no food, no shelter, no bridges; all in unbelievably bad weather. The German army’s challenges were further exacerbated when Hitler turned his SS loose on the captured territories. The legions of the Waffen SS—particularly Totenkopf—and its collaborators unleashed such cruelty that the army had to send more and more units to garrison the rear to prevent sabotage. The irony is the populations of the occupied areas were not committed to being part of the Soviet Union. The cruel occupation and genocide drove them to Stalin’s cause. Despite all the obstacles German spearheads were within sight of Moscow by December, 1941. Had Hitler not interfered, Army Group Centre likely would have taken Moscow before the Soviet Far East Troops arrived. The impacts are interesting. It is not likely Moscow could have been held after the first of the year. The conquest of Kiev would have been delayed (The Lötzen decision diverted Guderian’s 2d Army Group south on 23 August to help overwhelm the Kiev garrison, delaying the German advance on Moscow until Typhoon in October) and, the ultimate drive to the caucus oil fields would have been delayed even longer. Quite simply German army and air units could not get sufficient support to conduct offensive operations 700 km inside enemy territory. There was little fuel, parts, or reinforcements and any gains were possible only by pooling of resources already at the front. When Guderian was diverted south (August) to assist with the capture of Kiev, Stalin had proof the Germans were at the end of their capabilities. He threw the Cossacks from the East at Group Centre. The Moscow front was stabilized by January, 1942 and would not retreat once winter ended. Had the US not intervened starting 8 Jan 1941, the two powers would have both grown stronger at a concomitant pace assuring stalemate. The blows and counterblows would have resulted in little real movement for years; until the Germans and Russians had bled each other white. It is ironic that the major opponents to the Communist regime: Ukraine, Baltic States, and the Belarus were under German control and were enslaved.
    It is reasonable to conclude that Germany was the key to the conduct of WWII. While they were the best prepared Army, and supporting air force, they were limited to one kind of war, lightening strikes with a quick armistice. The strategy developed as a result of both their environmental constraints and neighbors (principally France). So the German army was too limited in its capabilities to support a front more than 500 km from Germany (see also their North African debacle), particularly the capabilities to support and conduct an extended war. Conversely their leadership was too ethically and morally corrupt to not try. It is a tribute to their superb military that they were able to conquer most of Europe, get to the gates of Moscow and almost to the Suez. Unfortunately they were also strong enough to hold out against the entire world for nearly two more years. The only result was the additional loss of millions of lives. All for a war Germany could never have won.

    • Showalter, Dennis. Hitler’s Panzers. Berkley, 2009
    • Kotani, Ken. Japanese Intelligence in World War II. Osprey, 2009
    • Pleshakov, Constantine. Stalin’s Folly. Houghton, Mifflin, 2005
    • Wikipedia contributors. Battle of Kiev (1941). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Kiev_(1941). Accessed 15 July 2010.

  69. Galand says:

    Plan Kathleen.

    in April of 1940 the IRA set force plans for German forces to invade and occuppy Ireland. Acting Chief of staff of the IRA sent plans to Berlin to invade and help reunify Ireland, with the promise of 25,000 friendly Irish forces to help them.

    For what ever reasons the Germans did not act on this plan, did not tweak it or did not take it seriously.

    Having control of Ireland and their airfields would have made all the difference in the Battle of Britain only months later.


    A huge mistake on the part of the Germans.

  70. John Theye says:

    This just in… According to Norbert Frei, the “moral turning point” of the Tate-LaBianca murders was the failure of the Los Angeles Police to arrest the Manson Family before the crimes took place.

    –John Theye

  71. Leonard Spencer-Lewis says:

    A great question to pose.
    I am not a “proper” historian and have studied the War mainly via Churchill as I have just recently published a book called Winston Churchill – An American Idol.

    For me I would put forward 5 points.

    Churchill taking office – No Churchill, Britain would have gone with peace with honor. We would be speaking German.

    Battle of Britain – If we had lost we would have been invaded and ultimately defeated, Hitler could have taken his time before attacking the soviets and used lots of surplus British military equipment in the process.

    Churchill’s decision to support Greece against the Nazi’s and send 50,000 troops which led Hitler to delay Barbarossa by a month, ensuring he got stuck in the snow before reaching Moscow,

    Pearl Harbour

    Finally the decision to build the Atomic Bomb, ultimately defeated the Japs but also stopped the Russians taking any more of Europe.

  72. Galand says:

    If Britain was knocked out of the war in 1940 after the Battle of Britain.

    The Germans and Italians would have ruled the Mediterranean.

    The need to fight in North Africa would never have happened for the Germans

    The British sending troops to Greece would have never happened.

    The Germans would have had clear passage to Iraq and their oil fields.

    The ability to ship supplies and material to the Soviets would have been crippled.

    D Day from Iceland for US forces – unlikely.

    The Germans for whatever reason failed to seize the moment as it sat right in front of them. If they had, there is no doubt the majority of the Western world need to learn to speak the German language to this day.

    I am a tenured history professor at an IVY league school in the states.

    Based on all the evidence I have looked at, the question as posed, this was the turning point, no doubt in my mind in the European Theatre.

  73. Galand says:

    The Turning Point in the Pacific

    Pearl Harbor

    The Japanese missed all of the the strategic targets they were trying to hit.

    THEY MISSED ALL THE CARRIERS, , They did not attack attack the fuel tanks and ammo depots which would have given the Japanese forces another year and left US forces in Pearl in constant peril.

    They managed to awake a sleeping giant.

    Take out the ammo storage depots and fuel facilities in Pearl, would have set back US forces 3 – 6 months.

    In that time who knows what could have happened,

  74. Jack says:

    Italian invasion of Greece. If not for the Italians, Germany would have invaded the Soviet Union several weeks earlier.

    The Soviets would have been even more ill prepared, if that were possible.

    The Germans would have been at the gates of Moscow in fair weather.

    Leningrad would not have remained in Soviet hands.

    Rostov would have fallen and not been retaken.

    It’s entirely possible the entire Soviet military and/or government would have collapsed. Came close enough to that as it was.

  75. Domenic says:

    Britain initiating WWII by declaring war on Germany.

  76. Wally says:

    I am amazed that 17 “scholars” did not mention two events that clearly influenced the outcome of World War 2; Germany’s rescue of the italian army in the battle for Greece (Operation Marita) and Hitler’s decision to shift the bombing of RAF bases (directive 17) to British cities. As the Italian campaign to take Greece in March l141 was failing, Italy implored Germany to bail them out. German armies finally won victory over Greece in April l941. Had Germany begtun operation Barbbarossa in April or May of l941 it would have entered Moscow before the winter ground it to a stop. Even before this catastrophic mistake by Hitler, he could have successfully invaded
    Britain had he not succomed to his anger over some inconsequential and inadvertent RAF bombing of German citizens. Just as the Luftwaffe was about to destroy the RAF and completely control the air space over the channel, enabling the successful invasion of Britain, he abruptly shifted his foces to the destruction of British cities. This impulsive decision by Hitler enab led the RAF to emerge from the ashes and eventually force Hitler to postpone and subsequently cancel the invasion. Had Hitler stuck to his original directive he could have succeeded in his invasion of Britian, eliminated any possibility of a western front for the Allies, and proceeded with a successful invation of Russia.

  77. Irv says:

    How the British Navy and Air Force Saved Malta
    Since I last wrote about the importance of saving the island of Malta from Axis occupation and it’s importance to the defeat of the German/Italian forces in North Africa it is important to know how this was done by getting just enough supplies to keep the civilians and military alive and able to fight.
    Malta contained a considerable civilian population, a large garrison drawn from all three Services and served as a very active operational base throughout the siege, it may be assumed that only the use of a considerable number of large merchant ships could support the demands for food, fuel and other supplies. Indeed, the great maritime/air battles that ensued around the convoys from east and west are usually seen as the means of supply. It is true that the failure of anyone of these operations would have made inevitable the surrender of the island, there was always a predicted but always changing date by which the island must capitulate due to starvation. However, lack of ammunition for the defenses, fuel for them and the population, and loss of aircraft could also have forced such an act prior to starvation itself. The support of Malta therefore took a number of forms. Firstly the passage of heavily escorted convoys conveying bulk supplies of food, fuel and ammunition. Secondly, the provision of very scarce (“high value”) items such as vital spares, ammunition, medical stores and concentrated food by fast warships. Thirdly, the delivery of similar items by submarines, either as part of an operational patrol or a dedicated supply trip by a partly converted vessel. Fourthly, the provision of fighter aircraft by using Fleet carriers to take them within flying range of the Island and, finally, by clandestine voyages by independent merchant ships. The failure of anyone of these would have proved fatal to Malta.
    The rest of this debate can be found at this blog

  78. Ceaman says:

    The turning point of the Second World War was 17 September 1940 on that day Hitler made the decision to postpone Sealion indefinitely. This decision allowed Britain and the Commonwealth to fight on alone and become a steady drain on German resources which were not available for the assault on the Soviet Union. If these resources had been available for the attack on The Soviet Union, Army Group South would have had a greater proportion of front line German troops and would have saved Army Group Center having to come to the aid of Army Group South allowing Army Group Center to push on to Moscow possibly ending the war in Europe

  79. Ceaman says:

    On 25 August 1940, 81 bombers of Bomber Command were sent to raid Berlins industrial targets in retaliation for the accidetial bombing of London. Visibility was poor over the target and so the bombing was inacurate. This caused the Germans to change targets from Fighter Command to targeting London and other cities giving Fighter Command the break from attacks.

  80. Lucas Fedrick says:

    I couldn’t decide on a single turning point but I narrowed it down to these two events: The German defeat by the Russians at Stalingrad, and the Japanese defeat by the United States at the Battle of Midway.

  81. Brian Free says:

    Dec. 1941
    The German Army stands frozen at the gates of Moscow.
    Pearl Harbor is on fire.
    and.. Hitler commits the stupidiest of moves – He declares war on the US. After Pearl Harbor, he was free of his two front war (Britain was weak). The US would focus her attention on Japan for the next three years. Without US help, where would England get the supplies and material she needs – It’s going to the Pacific. The Germans might be free to focus on the Red Army
    No daylight bombing, no liberty ships ect, ect, ect

  82. […] What was the Turning Point of World War II? The answer may depend on how you interpret the question. […]

  83. Jeremiah says:

    Big BOOM! haha

  84. Jose Monteiro says:

    As Portuguese, we were neutral in World War II, I have interested for the great moves made in last century. In my humble opinion, the turning point was the supported that Winston Churchill gave to the Stalin regime.
    As you know, all the movements made by the German Army in Russia who were captured by the decryption of Enigma machine made in Bletchley Park were reported to the Stalin staff. Even when everybody known that the war was “over” in the last Battle of Kursk, Winston Churchill gave vital information to the Red Army.
    There were some responsibilities that Winston Churchill may share with Stalin.
    The dead by starvation so well known by Churchill and all the MPs were not enough for saw the dimension of the man that Stalin was.
    It was better to fight against the Germany rather than Russian because the victory it was guaranteed to the Russians.

    In First World War, Winston Churchill had some responsibilities for the fall of Romanov family, who could make some shadow to British Monarchy. After the Parliament deny him the increase of navy fleet, he “stressed” the Russian Monarchy to increase his fleet. Curiously, the red revolution started with the sailor’s labour force, instigated by the horrible labour conditions and so on.

    Even the Dardanelles operation leaded by Churchill has some tricks that one-day I will find the reason.

    In my opinion there were reasons and much more important, some guilty for the World War Two had begun.
    First of all the French occupation of Ruhr who brought millions of people to embrace the Nazi party. Please remember, that the Nazi party was much less supported people in those days than in Beer Putsch days.
    Second, the Civil War of Spain who was a European Civil War with the famous Red Brigades. For all the Christians, if Spain had fallen down the communism would be spreaded all over Europe and all the Christians values would be dead.

    And the last one, the racial issue. As we all know this issue was not the major issue. The lebensborn was.
    The racial question and above all the Jews problem was not a Germany problem. It was first of all a Russian problem. They created the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to justify all the crimes they made. As you already know, many countries and important people studied the pure race and those beliefs. As everybody also knows, in some states in US they practiced sterilization of criminals and the disabled in those days. In England, Marie Stopes for example, she was a believer of the pure race.

    All of these are linked and we cannot see “the vision of the conqueror”.
    We have a mind and we should use it. Before any judgment we have the obligation to study this matters, and study, and study and before we make a statement, study again.

    I hope I have contributed to the forum.

  85. Susan Violante says:

    I think that it is very ambicious to pin the turn of World War II to a particular fact or date. It is true that there were decisive battles and political events, but the human factor needs to be taken into account when speaking about the turning point of a war. While the allies had the support of its people increasing by the minute, the German and Italian Armed Forces’ support from the masses was decreasing through the awakening of people.

    Through my father’s recordings I witnessed his awakening; from being a 10 year old Italian Balila proud of being part of Mussolinis’s youth within the Italian Colonies of Lybia before the war, to observing the persecution of his little sister Jewish babysitter’s family, and his realization that all of what he learned at school was a lie once the Americans arrived.

    I believe the people’s awakening in Europe had its weight in the turn of the War, bringing as consequence desperate retiliations such as massive killings and the loss of battles

    But it is thanks to the turn of events, and awakening of the people in Europe that I now live in freedom, and am able to tell the story from the other point a view.

    Author of Innocent War

  86. Robert Thompson says:

    Undoubtedly the historic turning point of the war was the invasion of Russia in the Spring of 1941, because of this one crucial fact. The Soviets were burning everything completely as they fled before the German army.
    The Gemans began to exhaust their hard won resources, with the hope of gaining nothing. every town they entered was completely burned and leveled. NO REST, NO RESOURCES, just a quickly approaching Russian Winter. The Germans pride in the rapid victory of France can possibly be attributed to the dellusion that Russia could be overcome through the use of Blitzkrieg tactics. (and Divine influence on Hitlers mind).

  87. Susan Violante says:

    Mr. Monteiro, I read your comment and agree with it especially because you do take into account not only the battles, but also the human factors and believes of the time.

    I especially agree that fighting the Russians was an impossible mission. According to both of my parents accounts about their relatives sent to Russia, the people that came back was so traumatized for what they endured that they never recovered. My mother’s uncle came back totally insane and almost in his skeleton.

    He was captured and imprisoned until after the end of the war. My mother remembers him carrying always a bottle of rubbing alcohol which he would use to clean everything before he touched it. He would also not speak to people; and only talked to himself. The sad part is she also remembers him before he left as a young healthy twenty year old.

    I recently posted an interview with my father as he spoke about some of his experiences while growing up in the middle of the war, and what he had to say is very interesting. You can listen to it at:


  88. Susan Violante says:

    To all the Veterans…Thanks to you my parents were able to give me a free life!


  89. TomO says:

    Just to throw something new out there I’ll posit that the turning point was Chamberlain giving Czechoslovakia to the Nazi’s. WWII may have been waged completely differently if the Allies would have taken a stand. One could also say that Chamberlain, by appeasing the Nazis, bought valuable time to prepare for war.

  90. Vincent says:


    My opinion? In the East, the battle before Moscow and the 6th Armies annihilation at Stalingrad are my choices. In the PTO I would have to say Guadalcanal. It’s been said by some that Guadalcanal was the “Gettysburg” of the Pacific and I must agree with this statement.

    Thank you veterans!

  91. pzjgtom says:

    I agree with the idea that the turning point in WWII was when Germany lost the battle of Britain. If they had knocked Britain out of the war the war would have been over. Period. A second war might have broken out in the Pacific when Japan attacked or Russian was invaded but those are separate issues. A successful invasion of Britain would have ended the war at that time. North Africa, the Balkans, non of that would have happened or even mattered. Hitler still might have declared war on the US but again that would have been a different and new war.

  92. Harry says:

    The real turning point of the war is indeed, when Germans had to stop at Moscow, having failed to knock Russia out in Blitzkrieg.

    Once that happened then Germans had to face the full weight of a larger country, numerically, territory wise and also with larger industrial output. . As Russia got the needed breathing space, it exploited it ruthlessly and in 1942 started out-producing Germany in Tanks and Aircrafts. In addition Russian Tanks were superior to German Tanks until 1943. Afterwards it was only a matter of time before a larger country would overwhelm a smaller country in attrition war.

    After that only luck, such as some new far-advanced weapons or colossal mistakes by Russian Generals, could have save Germans from eventual defeat.

  93. Harry says:

    Other point worth mentioning here is that if Hitler had waited until he conquered Britain to attack Russia, by that time Russia would have become much stronger. Russia was slowly encroaching on Balkans after 1940 and was closer to Romanian oilfields. With German conquest of Britain, Russia would be expecting German attack, and would not have been caught off guard in surprise attack and lost so much men and material in first year, granted that much of equipment lost were of inferior type, not T-34 or KV type tanks. It was surprise attack that enabled Germans to destroy Russian Airforce in first few weeks. Stalin, being highly cautious man, did not expect Hitler, after conquering so much, to gamble for another front while he had not finished Britain.

  94. CJ says:

    Turning point was the decision to turn the 2nd panzer group south to kiev. If Hilter had let Hoth and Guderian take Moscow in August 1941 before the mud / winter hit he would have at worst won a negotiated peace.

    IF he had let his Generals run the war and stuck to politics he had a pretty good chance before America got into the war. Once he was stuck in a long war with GB, USA, and USSR against Germany with only Italy in the West and Japan alone in the Pacific it was just a matter of time. I believe if someone like Manstien had been running the military he could have prolonged defeat and maybe achieved the stalemate in the east that Manstien believed he could achieve. Chuchill woulnd never have negotiated though, and I dont believe that the US would either.

  95. Michael says:

    The turning point was clearly the failed invasion of the Soviet Union, or more directly, the Russian winter. If Hitler would have invaded three months earlier he would have knocked Russia out of the war in 1941.

    But this brings me to an often overlooked fact: it is was the Royal Greek Army that dealt the Axis its very first defeat in 1940-41.

    The Italians invaded the Greek Kingdom in October of 1940 and were stopped cold. In fact it was quickly the Greeks who were invading deep into Axis territory (Italian-controlled Albania, which was part of Mussolini’s “Third Roman Empire”).

    This Greek-Italian War lasted 6 months. The Germans were forced to intervene and invade Greece, Serbia and Crete. The Greek victories postponed the invasion of the Soviet Union for many months.

    So by the time the Germans attacked Russia they had no hope of capturing Moscow before the winter ice and snow season began. It did not help that Russia experienced the worst winter in 50 years.

    “If there had not been the virtue and courage of the Greeks, we do not know which the outcome of WWII would have been.” -Sir Winston Churchill

    “The Russian people will always be grateful for the Greeks in delaying the German Army long enough for winter to set in, thereby giving us the precious time we needed to prepare. We will never forget.” -Joseph Stalin, in an open letter read frequently on Radio Moscow during the war

    “Historical justice forces me to admit that of all the enemies that stand against us, the Greek soldier above all others, fought with the most courage. He surrendered himself only when the continuation of resistance was not possible any longer…. However, he fought so bravely, that even his enemies cannot deny their respect for him…. thus, the Greek prisoners of war were released immediately, having in mind the heroic stance of these soldiers.” -Adolf Hitler, in a speech to the Reichstag, May 4, 1941

    “I forbid the press to underestimate the Greeks, to defame them… the Fuhrer admires the bravery of Greeks.” -Joseph Goebbels, in his diary, April 9, 1941 (before Greece had even been defeated)

  96. Declan says:

    I have to say that the battle of Guadalcanal would be the turning point in the Pacific. It was the first battle that the Allies gained land in the Pacific and was the first time Japan faced a land based defeat. Guadalcanal was the first time Japan had truly been pushed back and showed the Allies that Japan could be stopped.

    As for Europe I would have to say the cancelation of operation Sea Lion would be Nazi Germanys downfall, that and the decision to invade soviet Russia.

  97. […] difficult question even for the historians What Was the Turning Point of World War II? Reply With Quote + Reply to […]

  98. ritchie says:

    wasn’t the bombing of pearl harbor on december 7 ‘1941 indicating that the information relating to this artical has fasle information and has misguided it readers from the perhaps needed information that is upon the requested topic for the genarla public?

  99. Carry loves history says:

    It is way too hard to narrow it down to 1 turning point.. but if i had to say it would be either pearl harbor or battle of midway

  100. David P. Graf says:

    The turning point took place on August 2, 1939 when Einstein wrote his famous letter to FDR which led to the Manhattan Project. With the nukes and B-29s, Hitler could have held all of Europe including Russia and England and the Japanese could have controlled all of SE Asia and it wouldn’t have done them any good at all.

  101. Sandpiper says:

    As I understand it, the turning point of most wars, not just WWII, is when one side can no longer initiate offensive operations and is found to be in a holding pattern or in a retreat. Surely Kursk was the last time Hitler was able to go on the offense, and in the Pacific, Japan was incapable of initiating offensive operations after Guadalcanal.

  102. Marcelo Jenisch says:

    “because if the Soviets had left the war in the autumn of 1941 it’s hard to see how the Nazis could ever have been dislodged from Europe without nuclear weapons.”

    http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA … ic1-3.html

    “… As a basis for estimating the munitions and shipping that the Army would need, the Army planners calculated on an ultimate Army strength of 8,795,658 men with “approximately 215 Divisions.” Of the over 8,000,000 men, about 2,000,000 were to be allotted to the Army Air Forces. …”

    http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA … ic2-5.html

    Then goes on to say:

    “Meanwhile, the progress of the war on the Soviet front and the prospective air bombardment over the European continent still left uncertain, at the end of 1942, the Army’s ultimate size as well as the number of combat divisions necessary to win the war. It was still difficult to predict with exactitude the casualty rates to be expected and the amount of reserve strength needed to be built up. Postponement of the plan to launch a major cross-Channel operation made the need of mobilizing a large U.S. ground Army less immediate. Instead, greater emphasis was to be placed on first developing U.S. airpower. Given the anticipated limitations in shipping, it appeared at the end of 1942 that the projected deployment of a huge air force



    “overseas by the end of 1944 would definitely restrict the number of divisions that could be sent overseas by that time. It was clearly undesirable to withdraw men from industry and agriculture too long before they could actually be employed in military operations. Allowing a year to train a division, the mobilization of much more than a hundred divisions by the end of 1943 appeared to be premature. In late 1942, moreover, procurement plans for the armed services for 1943, particularly for the Army ground program, were revised downward by the JCS in response to a War Production Board recommendation. All these limiting factors pointed to the need for scaling down previous long-range calculations, as well as for effecting economies in manpower within the Army.21
    The process of reducing earlier long-range estimates, begun on the War Department and joint planning levels toward the end of 1942, was clearly reflected in the approved Army Troop Basis for 1943, circulated by G-3 in January of that year.22 This troop basis set the mobilization program for 1943 at 100 divisions. It called for a total Army strength of 8,208,000, a figure previously approved by the President. This troop basis marked the turning point in War Department and joint Army-Navy calculations. In place of limited objectives that would be greatly exceeded in time, these estimates were approaching the ultimate ceiling strengths of the Army.

    Soon, however, the War Department began to foresee difficulties in meeting even the 100-division goal. At the beginning of 1943 divisions were moving overseas much less rapidly than had been anticipated. With ground units accumulating in the United States, the activation schedule for divisions was slowed down. The modification of the procurement program sharply curtailed production of both housing and equipment for U.S. troops in training. The decision to arm French troops with weapons of U.S. manufacture threatened to cut still further into equipment available for the U.S. forces. As a result, War Department authorities were greatly concerned by the spring of 1943 over the question of a balanced mobilization for the remainder of the year.”

    There were three things that appear to limit the size of the US Army.

    1) Transport over seas. This seems to have been one of the biggest but given time would go away.

    2) Equipment shortages. Mobilization of troops was slowed to conform to delivery of equipment. This also would go away over time and faster if the aid to the Soviets was kept for internal use.

    3) Support requirements were greater than expected. This would have meant that the 200 division force was likely not reachable but something well in excess of 100 would ultimately be.

    I belive the US Army alone could have gathered enough strenght to defeat Germany (however it needed GB as springboard). However we cannot desconsiderate the strenght of the British Empire. Taking that into account, the possibility of the West defeat Nazi Germany regardless of the Soviet Union is realistic.

  103. Steve says:

    Many things contributed but one has to think that the German decision not to go after the oil fields first, before going after Moscow/ Stalingrad was a crucial egotistical blunder. Governments can be run in exile, refuges can move, armies can retreat and remobilize – but a war effort like defeating the Nazis could not be done without supplies, and key among those were oil.

  104. Joshua Santiago says:

    Personally I think the turning point that lead to the Allies winning was when America had joined the Allies because of America defeating the Japanese and surrounding Germany. Germany was surrounded by all sides but that was only because of December 7th, 1941 when the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor and thrown America into the fight. I believe that if the Japanese could have hold America a little longer or not attacked America at all, that Germany could have taken over lots of Russia and UK so that they could have more land and income to build factories for tanks and so on that the Axis could have won the war, or at very least make it last longer. Germany had easy to make and yet powerful tanks on their side to help take over the Russian army. The Russian army only had multitudes of people to fight in the war, but for every Nazi soldier killed there were about 5-15 Russians and about 15-30 Allies soldiers killed. I believe that December 7th was the turning point for World War II. If the Japanese would have not to attack America and America still joined the war later on that it would have been too late to stop the Germans.

    • Joshua Santiago says:

      Also the lack of good Allies tanks could have led to the downfall of the Allies if Germany had not been Triple Teamed. It would have done well against Britain and Russian armies. I’m not trying to be offensive but Russia had a bad army to defend with while Britain had a OK army to defend themselves with, but they had to also help defend Russia therefore coming with a thinning of forces. The only Russian victories (if any) were won by simply overwhelmed. The Russian army outnumbered the German numbers by 1/10.

  105. Steve says:

    This question begs the question of what is a turning point. Yes in terms of ground Stalingrad was the literal turning point because the Nazis were retreating from Russia from that point forward. But were there other things before that battle made their defeat inevitable ? If they had taken Stalingrad would the cost have been too great thus making the turning point a little later and their defeat inevitable ? From what I have read about WWII being a war of attrition supported by industrialized economies I am inclined to believe there are aspects that comibined turned the tides of war.

  106. Greg Bald says:

    I have read quite a few (but not all) of these comments and so far no one has mentioned Kursk. After Stalingrad the Germans recovered their armoured strength under Guderian as inspector of Panzers, This lead to the Germans launching operation Citadel, an attack which even Hitler admitted the thought of turned his stomach.
    Had the Germans not attacked at Kursk, but husbanded their armoured strength, they would have had the means to inflict a serious reversal on any Soviet attack (most likely from the Kursk salient).
    This leads to the prospect of a stalemate in the east, buying the Germans valuable time in the development of their more advanced weapons such as the Me.262, type XXI U-Boats and perhaps a nuclear warhead.
    Love the discussion.

  107. ed adamson says:

    i likehistory

  108. Brian says:

    Excellent article. Thanks for taking the time to research and write it.

  109. Tim says:

    Pearl Harbor. It brought America into the war and thereby awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve. Even if the battle for Stalingrad had been lost by the Soviet Union, the bringing of America into the war would always have resulted in Germany’s defeat.

    • Greg Bald says:

      Tim, although you have a very valid point, if the Germans had won at Stalingrad it may well have led to the defeat, either militarily or politically, of the Soviet Union, therefore freeing up massive resources for the Germans to focus on fighting the Allies. The invasion of Sicily would have been heavily opposed even if the Axis had been defeated in Tunisia, and therefore we can assume that the German defences in Normandy would be unassailable. A protracted war of attrition would have swung public opinion in the USA against the war in Europe. The only solution after this would be for the US to use the atom bomb in Europe, after a long and protracted stalemate. It is feasible to assume that the Allies may have come to a political solution way before the use of “the bomb” on European soil.

  110. Jon Nowacki says:

    The turning point to me will always be Pearl Harbor. They awoke a sleeping giant. Nobody could win a war on two fronts except the U.S. Hitler opened a second front because he all but gave up on taking over England, or at least, not in the traditional. Then you could say the turning point was the evolution of the continents, which made England an island apart from its European neighbors. You could also argue the attack of Poland was the turning point because the U.S. began to mobilize, knowing war was inevitable. Pearl Harbor was just the green light.

  111. Steve says:

    While not exactly a turning point this decision may have at least prevented the Allies from having been doomed from the start. And that is the Nazis belief that they could win the coming war with piston engine aircraft and thus the decision to not put all possible resources into developing the Messerschmitt before the war started. Think of it this way: the development efforts they put later and at the end of the war were too little too late. The ratio of kills to losses was impressive but not enough to win the war of attrition that WWII had become by that point. Back in 1939-40 the Allies had not yet broke the codes. Yes they had radar and that gave a crucial several minutes warning to scramble the RAF and intercept Luftwaffe bombers. Imagine how much less time they would have had against jet bombers. And an inferior kill rate against a vastly faster airforce ? Perhaps it was an arrogance or mistaken confidence in the technology they had, coupled with a lack patience to develop even better aircraft that set the future stage for loosing. Certainly there is much to debate but it’s worth thinking about.

  112. Phil Tevlin says:

    I once asked a German woman who had worked as a nurse for the German Army when she realized that the war was lost. She responded: “The day the US declared war on us.”

  113. Steve says:

    The spy network probably would have seen that didn’t happen. Example, Nihls Bohr Danish physicist blithely continued his academic research through the war. He only learned after that his lab was wired. Had he made a critical break through in atomic research the lab would have been blown up. As for the Me-262 backing it so late in the war was correctly too little too late. If on the other hand he had developed it rapidly in 1939-40 and postponed precipitating the war with the invasion of Poland, then it may have made a huge difference in the Battle of Britain.

  114. Vladimir Stankov says:

    To Johann – I also agree with you ! For me also also, this is the turning point of the war… Having all the books of Mr. Laurence Rees – we say in Bulgaria to this kind of men – \ Hats down \ !!! and having read them, I can agree with him that October 1941 was the first psychological turning point, the second one – Stalingrad, the third – and this one is THE MILITARY one – Koursk !
    But – strategically speaking, Hitler lost the war at Dunquerque -even before the Battle of Britain, when \he\ ( i.e. H. Goering ) allowed 330 000 Allied soldiers to go back to England !

  115. Jesse says:

    I agree with most of your assessment. Had Operation SeaLion succeeded, then two things would have occurred: First, British command would have been evacuated, likely to Canada, where they would have continued operations in a significantly reduced capacity. Remember, Britain had an empire, so knocking out the British Isles would have been a major blow to the Allies, but not necessarily the end of the war–the colonies would have continued to fight under the exiled British leadership.Second, the Germans would not have had to fight a two-fronted war. They would have been able to concentrate entirely on Operation Barbarossa. Would that additional strength allowed them to ultimately defeat the Soviets? Probably not, but who knows.

    It’s very interesting to drill deeper into Operation SeaLion, however. Why was it cancelled? Because the Brits won the Battle of Britain. Yet early on, there were very strong indications that the Luftwaffe were winning the BoB. German bombers were pounding British airbases and aircraft factories to the point where the British air superiority was steadily decreasing. Had this strategy continued, there’s no doubt that the Germans would have won the BoB, and likely would have moved forward with Operation SeaLion. However, in late Aug. 1940, a Luftwaffe bomber dropped its load of bombs near the London docks. Up until that point, bombers on both sides had stayed away from cities, but the following night the RAF retaliated by bombing Berlin for the first time. Enraged, Hitler shifted the Luftwaffe strategy to \erase\ London and other British cities.This was a massive strategic blunder which had the effect of steeling the British resolve and also relieving the pressure on the RAF bases and production facilities. Ultimately it allowing the Brits to win the Battle of Britain, and continue to force a 2-fronted war for the Nazis.

    So if I were to pick a single incident that changed the course of WW2, it would be that Luftwaffe bomber that missed its target and bombed London.

  116. Angelo says:

    Actually in my opinion Pearl Harbor was the turning point and not for the reasons everyone thinks. It was the single event that with a speech Hitler could have won the war! If he didn’t declare war on the US but rather declared Japan’s acts unconscionable to a neutral power and declared war on Japan instead how could the US declare war on Germany? Public opinion wouldn’t allow it! Then if he was being really cagey he announces that the US could borrow his surface fleet of pocket battleships, cruiser and the Tirpitz to protect our shores. The ships were bottled up in the Baltic by the British and were useless to him! Public opinion would force Britain to an arm instance with Germany. No one realizes that the US supplied 100% of the ball bearings the Soviet used to build their tanks, guns and planes. Ball bearings are vey difficult to manufacturer and is but one example of the impact US manufacturing had on the ability of every allied power to build arms to fight the axis. Without the US the soviets produce far less and the Germans don’t have to worry about Britain or a second front and can even but oil from the US. One single speech and a gesture to the American people and Europe speaks German. Thank God Hitler didn’t do it!

  117. Learn your history says:

    The Turning point was when the United States and Soviet Union entered the War -even if Germany didn’t know it yet. Both countries massively outproduced Germany in every field.

    Even Hitler said in hindsight if he had known the real figures on Russia he would not have invaded. Manstein even admitted that if entire Russian armies were en-circled and destroyed in some miracle, the Russians would still hold the advantage.

    And the Technology difference between the Axis and Allies is largely a myth used for propaganda. In reality Germany did have an advantage in the early stages of the War, but that gap closed quickly and it came down to pure attrition and resources.

  118. Steve says:

    Angelo, your string of hypothetical events is interesting but very unrealistic. Correct me if I am wrong but didn’t Japan and Germany actually have a written alliance ? Even if they didn’t a single speech wouldn’t have undone the relation between England and the US. All the Nazi’s would have to have done would sink one US ship by accident and the US would declare war. As for use of another nation’s navy I am not aware of that ever having been done. Even if it has, the US certainly was not so weak as to have ever in a million years seriously considered it. There was also the small issue of German U-boats sinking Canadian ships in the St. Lawrence. So the US would stay neutral while Germany attacks their geographic neighbour ? I don’t think so.

  119. Allan Mailer says:

    Possibly not \THE\ turning point-but possibly the one that had the most impact was the delay of the invasion of Russia due to the problems thrown up by the Balkan campaigns.
    Barbarossa had to commence as early as possible so as to bring the campaign to a conclusion before the onset of winter.
    The invasion of Russia was not just an ideological invasion-Russia was at near parity with Germany in terms of Armaments production and by 1942 it was projected that Soviet arms output would exceed that of Germany.
    So-thanks Yugoslavia for holding up the operation and preventing a NAZI victory!!!!

    • Richard says:

      As I recall, the Balkan invasion held up the Axis timetable by 6 weeks. The Russian Rasputitsa, the Spring muds, were late that year. Germany wasn’t actually held up by the Balkan campaign, or if they were, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. They would have had to wait until the weather over the Soviet Union cleared anyway.

  120. Ken Oaten says:

    7:00PM Sunday May 28 saw the event that pre-empted all of the other \Turning Point\ pretenders. At that time Churchill had been conducting (and losing) the great stare down with Halifax and Chamberlain who had moved Churchill’s Inner Cabinet to go belly up and support a negotiated peace with Hitler which would have delivered an unmitigated global disaster even on a USA looking for any excuse to stay isolated from Europe. Churchill went to his Outer Cabinet and wooed them with his \….choking in his own blood….\ spine stiffener which won him both the Cabinet debate and the rest of the non-Axis world and rallied them to fight Hitler – and ultimately to beat the beast from Austria. THAT’S the turning point – the battle without a shot being heard in Churchill’s war bunker deep beneath Whitehall.

  121. Captain Obvious says:

    To answer this question we need to define what is a turning point? As such I will have a few guesses:
    1. The point a which the axis could not longer win the war: the appointment of Churchill as PM as Ken Oaten rightly pointed out. With little real hope of winning the BoB and therefore executing Sealion, the scene was set for a very long stalemate. Churchill’s appointment killed the Axis’ only foreseeable hope of a negotiated peace.
    2. The point at which the Axis were certain of defeat: Pearl Harbour. Japan had lost the war before it started as it was geared to a strategy of winning a single large battle and hoping for a stalemate and peace settlement. After pearl, this would never happen. With the US in the war, Japan would never be in a position to open a 2nd front against the Soviets, dooming the Germans to face the massive human and material resources of the USSR.
    3. The point at which the Allies started winning: Late 1942. From that point, the Axis advantages of training, experience, organisation and equipment were cancelled out and the initiative passed to the Allies who had finally learned the hard lessons of 1941-42 to field forces that were close to qualitatively equal and quantitatively superior. As the war shifted from a individual tactical battles to continental strategy, the logistics, industrial output, global communications and general ability to run a world war from centuries of imperial administration (for UK at least) finally began to bear fruit.

  122. Poul Johnson says:

    I believe that the turning point of the war was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941. After this date, it was only a question if the US would win the war with conventional weapons or with nuclear weapons. Germany was extremely lucky to loose the war before it became a nuclear war. It would \only\ have taken about five bombs to make the infrastructure of Germany collapse. It is worth mentioning that in 1944 Roosevelt requested a plan for how the bomb could be used against Germany. He had no hesitation in using it.

  123. Phillip J Lederer says:

    My view has been alluded to already. As Wikipedia reports: \At a meeting between President Roosevelt, Vannevar Bush, and Vice President Henry A. Wallace on 9 October 1941, the President approved the atomic program\. After that point, it was inevitable that Hitler and Hirohito would lose, no matter the outcome on the Eastern or Western or Pacific fronts. Hitler’s aversion to \Jewish science\ was ultimately his undoing.

  124. Harry says:

    Actually there were two turning points in World War II

    1. Hitler’s decision to accept Manstein plan over German staff’s plan and it’s successful execution. Most people fail to realize that combined British & French forces were larger and better equipped. So defeat of France was not foregone conclusion at the beginning of War.

    2. Stalin’s decision to stay in Moscow reflecting his overcoming of his fears, which led German defeat at Moscow. This allowed Soviet Union breathing space & time to enable it to use it’s larger manpower and Industrial capacity to defeat Germany in war of attrition.

  125. Penelope says:

    I think the turning point for WW2 starting is the Treaty of Versailles, i mean come on this restricted Germany from doing so many things that this made Hitler so angry and frustrated that he wanted to take revenge against everyone who made Germany sign the treaty. This treaty stated that Germany was to cuts her land army to 100,000 men, no tanks allowed, no submarines allowed, no air force and they had to give up all their land that they had rightfully won. Appeasement also plays a part in this because Great Britain and France were keen to meet Hitler’s demands after the First World War because they didn’t want another war on their hands.

    Everyones points are extremely valid but i thought that mine is one of the more important becase if they didnt make this happen then Germany wouldnt have of had to cut anything- even making sure there wasnt another war.

  126. shaan says:

    after watching movie the imitation game i think the turning point of ww2 was the breaking of the enigma machine (german machine used for the communication) by those 5 mathematicians …..they knew about each german move beforehand and also allowed germans to believe that their machine ,enigma, is still working effectively….

  127. Ken Oaten says:

    Really good comments and some cause and effect stuff too. The Enigma story deserves all the telling it gets – and them some – but the Germans were also quite successful in Sigint/Cryptanalysis but, on balance, Bletchley Park delivered a compelling advantage but I’m not sure it made the difference between winning and losing. Similarly re the A-Bomb but not because it did assure an Allied victory but because it’s probably certain that Japan would have fallen anyway at that stage – especially with the promised Russian armies also monstering the Japanese people and their institutions.

    Versailles was certainly a powerful influence on the public mood when Germans in their millions embraced Hitler as Chancellor initially and then as dictator (Fuhrer) and then drove them all into war. But in terms of the conflict itself Versailles would only qualify as its turning point if Hitler’s appointment to power was itself a turning point – and that happened years before the conflict actually started.

    But, in this particular vein, perhaps our spotlight also falls on the cesspool of European politics in the 1870s which resulted in German unification, which then led to…..

  128. Serge says:

    To me there are 2 turning points, one in the European theatre and one in the Pacific. In the european theatre the decision to split army group B in two in view of Stalingrad and send army group A down the caucasus as both army groups kept together would have made short work of Stalingrad and the soviet forces on the Don whislt splitting them achieved neither objectives, another good case for a turning point is the decision to launch operation Zitadelle the attack on the Kursk salient while the Germans could have husbanded their armoured formations and deploy a defense in depth and let the Russian break their teeth on defensive position and keep the panzers as fire brigades to finish off any breakthroughs. In the pacific, it’s Midway, a defeat of the remaining US aircraft carries would have given a free hand to the japanese in the pacific.

  129. kevin says:

    The turning point in the European war was December 5th and 6th, 1941. Those were the dates the Russian counter-offensive was launched around Moscow.

    Included in this offensive were 70 well equipped, highly trained Siberian divisions, who specialized in winter warfare. Orders to allow these units to be pulled from the eastern border and sent to assist in the Moscow defense were given by Stalin in late August.

    These Soviet Divisions had been on the eastern border as a defense against a Japanese attack which Stalin had thought likely since the war began. It has been speculated that Stalin finally allowed their transfer partly out of desperation and partly because his master spy there convinced him the Japanese were looking west, not east.

    On December 4, the German offensive stalled all around Moscow as temperatures dropped as low as -38 F, causing the lubricants used on German guns and in their vehicles to jell.

    In temps still well below zero–and using better quality lubes–the Russians tore into the German lines beginning the next two days. It was during the next week that German forces around Moscow were forced to retreat. At one point, it nearly became a rout.

    Only thanks to the overall superior leadership of the German forces, did their lines finally stabilize and dig in.

    The Soviets had some high quality military leaders as well but they were not always allowed the freedom of command they would be later in the war. It was during this time that such changes began to occur in the Russian military.

    Seeing that the Russians were not going to be beaten in 1941, several German generals knew right then that Germany would ultimately lose if the war continued. However, they felt their duty was to continue the fight as long as the leadership required. Or:

    1) They simply saw no sense in trying to defy the Nazi regime.
    2) They began to work secretly to see the leadership changed.

  130. kevin says:

    Thanks for the kind words.

  131. adam stuhlman says:

    I have often thought of that-why didn’t Hitler commit his full armada to Operation Sealion? But at the same time, I have read that Stalin was also thinking of invading Germany as earlier as 1940-Nazism vs. Communism was a fight to the death of two ideological evils, and my guess is that Hitler wanted to get a jump start.

    As for the most significant factor in Hitler’s defeat, there really isn’t one-it began with Stalingrad-50% of the reason he lost, and the success of D-Day, trapping Hitler, the other reason-it is only then that it can be truly said that Hitler was finished after D-Day-it left him with nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide (to borrow a line from a Wolfenstein commercial). Those two events together equally signed his death warrant.

    But we can’t forget the RAF’s victory in crushing the Luftwaffe and keeping England safe from invasion-it was only after that that D-Day was possible, that the allied bombing raids that helped Russia were possible. In reality, it just may be that all three aspects played an equal role. We did it together, and that is the only thing that matters. Egos go to hell!

  132. Seadawg says:

    I have always believed it to be the Battle of Britain. That marked the first time in the war that Germany was unsuccessful in defeating another country. If \Sea Lion\ had been successful, and Britain fell,then the full might of Germany would have turned on Russia. Hitler would not have pursued \Barbarossa\ when he did if there was any chance of invading Britain. It also marked the first defeat for the German Luftwaffe, who up till the Battle of Britain had demonstrated an invincibility in the relative new and deadly \air war\. In order for Germany to launch a seaborne invasion they had to have at least air parity over England and air and sea superiority over the channel. this they never came close to achieving. In fact, so superior was England over the channel in air and naval forces, that many of the top English decision makers actually hoped Hitler would try to invade…Churchill perhaps put it best when he said he \was curious to see how well the fish in the channel liked German food\. Some would argue that because the Blitz continued that England could still be brought to her knees, but many historians contend that when the Germans turned to bombing cities instead of trying to defeat the British air force it constituted an admittance of defeat in the air battle. One must also take into account, that after the fall of France no one in the world gave England a chance whatsoever of stopping Germany. the pursuance of \Barbarossa\ was a farther admittance of defeat by the Germans at the hands of Britain.It also bought England precious time to produce war machinery and allow \Lend Lease\ to take effect. Once again Churchill put in perspective when he addressed the House of Commons , regarding the historic fight put up by the young men of the Royal Air Force, when he said, \Never have so many owed so much to so few.\

  133. Dutchman says:

    I absolutely love this topic!! Just like the author of the main article, it’s for the sake of arguing that attracts me to the subject of the debate; the “turning point”. I believe that all of the historians’ and commentators’ answers are valid and just. That’s what makes this topic so controversial, since it appears that the war in its’ entirety, along with its’ fluid timeline, are all noteworthy of being called key points. But I have a somewhat different view of all this. What if the biggest influence on the outcome of the war was not based on an event, but rather a series of events that were all intertwined together, each one being a consequence of the previous and a pretext for what was to occur later. It’s easy to reflect on history and its events with the great advantage of hindsight and pinpoint exact moments and label them as crucial or inconsequential. Yet although history is studied and enjoyed by its descendants, it is in fact created by the people living in the present; those who do not have the benefit of looking at their lives as one complete timeline with a set beginning and an end. To them, it’s not a graph or a scale. It’s not taken from a textbook or a gameplan. To those who create history, they do not look at their embodiment of work and call it a masterpiece of art that is to be adored by all. They see it as we see our lives today; people living their lives. And although the generation of humanity that experienced the horrors of WW2 certainly knew that they were involved in an unprecedented historical event that would go down as one of the most significant in memory, they probably did not find themselves discussing whether or not that event was destined to be the greatest in human history, or if it was to be the worst conflict of all time. Considering that mankind had already fought “the war to end all wars” a quarter of a century earlier, there is no reason to assume that those who fought in WW2 knew that they were in fact fighting the last war of its kind; that never again would humanity allow itself to be engaged in a conflict on such a massive scale; that this war was going ultimately and absolutely influence the way that all other conflicts that followed were executed and resolved. They had no way of knowing the profound, everlasting effect on the world’s political, economic, and social fiber that they had by fighting this war. And even if they did, I doubt that were at all concerned with these matters at the time.
    Having languished on about this, and remembering that those who make history are forever trapped in their own present time, I would say that the biggest influence on the outcome of the war was not a battle at all, although I will concede that there were several battles that were vital in the overall sequence of events. To me, the single greatest influence that “dictated” events was a derivative of that very word, “dictator”. Adolph Hitler and his single mind, his single persona, and his absolute influence of the actions of his country were, to me, doomed to be the reason that Germany and the Axis lost the war. His misguided belief in his military infallibility, coupled with his illusions of his own prophetic existence, led him to belief in the utmost righteousness of his cause, and that the German People, properly led by his undeniable genius and supported by his invincible military might, would be the greatest civilization the world had ever seen, or would ever see again. History itself would end with the ultimate victory of the German Reich, and the homogeny of Germany throughout the world. Armed with this maniacal ideal, Hitler constantly without fail made one terrible miscalculation after another. From his severe underestimations of his enemies’ resolve, his inability to keep his personal beliefs from influencing his military decisions, and his unattainable strategic goals, Hitler plundered his chance of prevailing time and time again. Had he relinquished control of the military command to his Generals (who by the way were the biggest reason for Germany’s successes in the war and were among the best military leaders in the world), his chances of a favorable outcome would have greatly increased. I could write a long detailed essay on this subject alone, but that will have to wait for another forum. In short, the only power that could stop Germany was her own Fuhrer, and he alone was the biggest catalyst for her final devestation.

  134. Peter says:

    I think that it had many turning points…Stalingrad was border that measured how far Hitler can go, similar that Vienna measured how much Ottoman Empire could go…Every nation that goes to conquer other nations has limit how much it can go…But also we forget that in history there is a domino effect, one event triggers another, and history as whole is connected…WW2 maybe was defeat for Nazi Germany, but it started Soviet-American rivalry that ended in 1989, that influenced some things today…And things that happens today will influence things tomorrow…
    At some point you can look like this, the war starts when one Empire go in conquest and the war ends when the Empire dissolve and get inside ethic borders…War with Turks lasted until their Empire was formed in XIV century and it dissolved after WW1…So normally people could expect that even if things would not go as it was at some point Germany would loose its power, since in one turn or another everybody must loose some time…History has proven that…Only good thing is that Nazi ideas was stopped which could result in death even after the war…

  135. […] fact I will go on. The Nazi’s are about to take France. Nelson Mandella is about to be imprisoned. Lance Armstrong is about to be diagnosed with brain, […]

  136. […] Rees, L. (2010, January 01). What Was the Turning Point of World War II? Retrieved from historynet.com: http://historynet.wpengine.com/what-was-the-turning-point-of-world-war-ii.htm […]

  137. Luke Handy says:

    Kudos to Lawrence Rees for an outstanding logical insight on the turning point of WW2. Albeit a Nazi victory. What i know of this conflict of planetary proportions is this, that yes there were turning points. The 3rd biggest turning point after Germany’s triumph over the

    • Chris Hebbron says:

      Although the Germans lost a goodly number of their aircraft, Luke, they also lost many pilots who either were killed or became prisoners of war. However, the success of the British in winning the Battle of Britain had another turning point, because the British Isles was available as a platform for invading France on D-Day and creating a second front, actually a third front, as the Allies were also fighting in Italy.It is difficult to see the war being one without this platform.

  138. Karinrinkashi says:

    I would say that Hitler’s VERY stupid decision to march against the Red Army while the Eastern front was still not secure was the BIGGEST turning point of the war, and the second one would be Pearl Harbor which brought the US into the war.

  139. rforzani1@optonline.net says:

    I like Rees’ style. He invites discourse, and provides many well reasoned opinions of knowledgeable people.
    My thoughts? Simple, because I don’t look for possible but unprovable effect on morale (Stalin staying in Moscow) or ,whether the US would eventually come in anyway (Pearl Harbor). A true turning point is measurable, quantitative and dramatic. That is why Stalingrad is the only choice.
    Here we have the first major defeat of German arms, an instant and never-reversed withdrawal from Russia, and a public relations and morale disaster for Germany. It is a clear demarcation, a reversal of fortune for Hitler that never is changed from that point. A turning point.
    I would give the same status to the battle of Midway in the Pacific. While we took the offensive in August of ’42 in Guadalcanal, we stopped the Japanese cold and dealt a mortal wound to their navy in May.

  140. Stephen Youhanaie says:

    My take is the turning point of the war was the day when Hitler gave the order for his Army Group Center to turn south towards Kiev. Had he not done this, Moscow would have fallen before the bad weather had set in.

    • Agreed. Guderian was planning an assault on Moscow the same day Hitler issued Directive No. 33. Had Guderian succeeded in convincing Hitler to withdraw it, or had Hitler never issued it in the first place, Moscow would have fallen.

  141. aaron1313 says:

    I’d go with Kursk July 1943.Stalingrad was indeed a great victory but it did not destroy the offensive power of the Wehrmacht.(Rember Manstein’s victory at Kharkiv in March 1943?)Kursk did.Although the Red Army lost heavily too,the Wehrmacht’s losses were more serious and it was incapable of further serious offensive action-at least on the eastern front.

  142. Houston14 says:

    Stalingrad was Germany’s “Pickett’s charge.” It was a defeat that they would never recover from. Defeated and exhausted…they had nothing to show for the effort. And like a declining champion boxer…the full realization that they were now capable of losing a big fight and had bad management. Kursk was further proof of that.

  143. Kiev was the turning point. Guderian could have taken Moscow only then and there, in august 1941. By ordering the 2nd Panzer group south, Hitler doomed Barbarossa.

  144. Jerry says:

    the turning point of WW2 ? I agree with the above but there is another factor, The evil Hitler was an idiot and got too involved in the operations of his battles chocking his general’s power to properly plan for a positive outcome. So in a sense that bastard did himself in because of his idiocracy and lust for control !! Thank God for big favors.

  145. Chris P says:

    One crucial event in Dec 1941 often forgotten is that it was Hitler who declared war on USA after P Harbour. FDR had steadfastly resisted war with Germany, despite US shipping losses in the Battle of the Atlantic.
    If Hitler had not acted so rashly in his declaration, would FDR really have committed the USA to a war on 2 fronts? Japan was a formidable enemy, and had caught the USA napping, so FDR knew he had his hands full in the Pacific.
    By dragging the USA into the European war, Hitler turned the annoying side show in N Africa into invasions of Sicily, Italy and (eventually) Normandy, as well as incessant US bombing of German cities and factories, all of which drained him of vital resources from the crucial Eastern Front.

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