Turned the Tide in the Second World War (2013)
During the Spring of 1940, the Nazis used the "Phony War" to improve their strategy and tactics. In early-1940, the Nazi Blitzkrieg was too much for Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway . . . and the Fall of France shocked the entire world. By June 1940, Great Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany.
The geopolitical and military shape of WW II was transformed. Stalin was beyond-anxious, in that he knew the USSR was nowhere-near-ready for a major Nazi offensive. The U.S. was engaged in an incredibly divisive national debate in terms of Isolationism or Intervention, which paralyzed any meaningful assistance to Britain. Mussolini joined Hitler, and Japan recalculated their options in Asia and the Pacific. In just the first ten months of WW II, the world was turned upside-down by the Nazi Blitzkriegs.
late-1941 and the Summer 1944. One reason was geography: for example, a decisive victory with a Blitzkrieg was unlikely in mountain ranges, as the Wehrmacht found out in Yugoslavia and Greece in 1941 . . . difficult geographical & physical circumstances favor the underdog.
Wide deserts with hundreds of miles of shifting sands restrict aggressive generals like Rommel in history, and give advantage to more conservative generals such as Montgomery. Also, great rivers slow down Blitzkriegs, and swift-and-decisive victories won't happen if the defensive forces are stronger, too entrenched and too numerous, regardless of the geography. And, the Blitzkrieg will falter if the attackers get too spread-out horizontally or vertically.
But the Nazis had a lot of the newest military weapons and technology, which made their Blitzkrieg seem revolutionary. The internal combustion engine and armored vehicles with railroads and aircraft were joined together to do something that seemed brand new . . . by the end of 1941, it did seem that the Nazi Blitzkrieg was invulnerable.
All three nations, however, possessed the inherent resources of strength, technology, and innovation. All three nations enjoyed a decent geographic distance from Germany (for Britain, it was the English Channel), which allowed the three Allies to develop their capabilities and allow engineers, inventors, and manufacturing to reach capacity. Only superior numbers of "everything" could beat the Blitzkrieg; the tenacity and operational effectiveness of a seasoned Germany army division was hard to equal in WW II.
But superior numbers were not the entire picture; by late-1943 in North Africa, Britain introduced superior radar, decryption, and orchestration of tactical air power with ground forces. Also, Great Britain had Special Forces, while the Germans and Italians had ZERO. Also, the Allies would soon have more powerful and adaptable aircraft (e.g. the P-51 Mustang). Flail tanks (pictured above) and acoustic mine detectors arrived on the scene, as well as a better-integrated command-and-control system. By late-1943/early-1944, the Allies had figured out how to defeat the Nazi Blitzkrieg . . . superior numbers of troops in advantageous strategic locations with more advanced weapons and technology combined with great organization.
The Eastern Front was decisive in determining the outcome of WW II, serving as the main reason for not only the defeat of the Blitzkrieg, but of Nazi Germany as well . . . so how did the USSR defeat the all-powerful Nazi War Machine? The Eastern Front was unique in that mechanization was combined with Asiatic-horde-like warfare; the clash between Teutons and Slavs was now entwined with technological competition. Both Germany and the USSR reached deep into their own very advanced technological/productive resources to bring forth newer and more destructive weapons. Those new/improved weapons, combined with millions of troops, and the strategies/tactics in the vastness of Russia, led to the extended nightmare of the Eastern Front.
By 1 November 1941, one major German army was out of fuel, artillery was frozen, and soldiers were crippled by frostbite. By the Spring of 1942, the ground conditions were even worse, due to Rasputitsa - "Quagmire Season". Surface snow had melted, but couldn't drain in that the soil was still frozen below; two feet of unfrozen soil turned into a muddy nightmare, and the Wehrmacht was literally stuck in the mud (pictured above). As the Germans discovered, Rasputitsas occurred in the Fall and Spring, but the mud was much, much worse during Spring.
The Wehrmacht made immense gains (625 miles by December 1941), but were unable to break through to Moscow. German political and military leaders grossly underestimated the ability of the USSR to oppose the Blitzkrieg, and there was no consideration at all for the geography/climate. The Germans had no real useful intelligence of their opponent, in part because the Nazis believed that the USSR was relatively primitive across-the-board. This time for the Blitzkrieg, there would not be an equivalent of the Fall of France in Russia.
The numbers of Russian troops in opposition to the Blitzkrieg was breathtaking, and the story stayed the same through 1942 and 1943. The Wehrmacht constantly tried to encircle and destroy the growing USSR forces, but with no success. The Wehrmacht believed that the lines of the Red Army were thinly held and could be outflanked, but the reality was that defensive positions reached 1000+ miles across and 200+ miles deep. Also, the battlefront was littered with broken bridges, poisoned wells, booby traps, ruined crops, PLUS the climate of summer heat, autumn mud, hellish winters, and even worse mud in the spring, as well as the incredible endurance of the USSR. By early-1943, the Nazis were guilty of overreach: there was no way to provide what was necessary for German troops in far-away locations in the Eastern Front.
Two days before the climactic tank battle, the Allies landed in Sicily, and Hitler re-tasked some forces from the Eastern Front. Also on 12 July 1943, the Red Army attacked the Wehrmacht with Operation Kutozov . . . by the Summer of 1943, fatigue finally set in on the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front. The Red Army started to advance against the Wehrmacht from the North, Central, and South; the pattern was that the USSR attacked, the Wehrmacht resisted and pulled back, and the Red Army advanced. Most WW II historians regard Stalingrad as the turning point in the Eastern Front, but that isn't entirely accurate, in that it took more than Stalingrad to defeat the Wehrmacht.
The Nazi Blitzkrieg was stopped at Kursk not only by the greatest tank battle in history, but also with the greatest minefield (pictured: Red Army soldiers removing mines after Kursk). Nothing frustrated swift panzer attacks more than deeply sown minefields. The Red Army laid tens of thousands of mines across the entire Kursk Salient (the line of battle that projects closest to the enemy), and soon those mines were more-than-hidden by summer wheat. Anti-tank mines averaged 2400 per mile, and anti-personnel mines averaged 2700 per mile, and the minefields were 16 to 25 miles deep . . . there was no chance for a Panzer Blitzkrieg at Kursk.
Operation Bagration was launched on 22 June 1944 (3 years to the day after Operation Barbarossa), which was a massive assault on the German central line in the Eastern Front. The ground-based forces used by the Red Army in Operation Bagration were several-times larger than the combined totals of all forces involved in the Marianas and D-Day attacks . . . nothing was small-scale on the Eastern Front. The size of the USSR forces exceeded anything from before . . . Operation Bagration finally broke the back of the Wehrmacht.
By now, the Soviet T-34 tank was virtually unstoppable, and it wasn't uncommon for the Red Army to outnumber soldiers in the Wehrmacht by a ratio of 10:1. Also, Stalin by 1944 had relinquished much of his inflexible command style to his major generals, while Hitler refused to do the same. German losses during Operation Bagration were astounding: 670k killed, wounded, or captured; although the USSR losses were greater, Russia had millions of men from which to draw for the singular purpose of defeating Nazi Germany in "The Great Patriotic War"
When Operation Bagration began, the Red Army was 750 miles from Berlin; at the same time, General Patton was 650 miles from Berlin . . . June 1944 represented the end for the Third Reich. By August 1944, the end of Operation Bagration was in sight, and Berlin became the focus for the Red Army. Somebody needed to march into Berlin and end the war, and the Red Army was the one to do so. Therefore, 85% of all Wehrmacht losses during WW II were against the USSR. By mid-to-late 1943, German U-Boats could not win the Battle of the Atlantic, nor could German Panzers win in Russia . . . Germany would fight on, ferociously, but moving forward with a Blitzkrieg was over.