10 Famous Historical Battles That Impacted the World
History can teach us many things, and those who study history may help us understand how our world arrived at its current condition. Some historians believe we can understand the most profound lessons from famous historical battles. Here are some of those battles, whose lessons may help us prevent future wars:
1. Battle of Gettysburg
From 1861 to 1865, America was engaged in the Civil War. The citizens of the North lived in brick homes and owned thriving industries. The Southern States represented massive cotton plantations and mansions with spacious barns. These barns were more ornate than the 1930 pole barn.
The Battle of Gettysburg is considered one of the famous historical battles our nation will not forget because it marked the Civil War’s turning point. Just before this conflict, General Lee and his Southern troops had won a decisive victory in Chancellorsville, Virginia. Lee was sure Gettysburg would allow him to secure a win for the South.
The Union forces held their ground through the second day of fighting. On the third day, the Union’s army defeated the South and forced them to retreat. After that battle, the North’s victory gathered the momentum of a falling snowball. In 1865, when the South surrendered, slavery was subsequently outlawed.
2. Somme Offensive
During the First World War, France and Germany fought together to attempt to beat the German forces. The spring of 1916 featured attacks by the Germans on France at Verdun, so the Allies launched an attack at the river Somme. Since France’s forces were depleted, the British troops led the charge.
When the Allies arrived at the Somme, they discovered the German forces waiting for them. The two armies fought fiercely, and the British did not achieve an easy victory. The battle began on July 1, 1916, and there were 57,000 British casualties on that day. 19.240 of those men died, making the Somme Offensive one of the famous historical battles the world will remember.
The following week, over one million men were killed in the battle. France and Britain remained shaken by this encounter, but they would rally and go on to be declared the winner of the First World War in 1918. The memory of the Somme still holds sadness for many British subjects. Some of Somme’s veterans met during a centennial ceremony in 2016 and spoke of horrific memories and the need for counseling services.
3. Battle of Okinawa
The Battle of Okinawa was fought in Japan during World War II. It was the last significant battle of World War II and is remembered for its devastatingly high death toll. The Allies had attacked this area as part of their quest to conquer the Ryuku Islands and weaken the Japanese offensive. It’s hard to equate the current conditions of this area – with its peaceful country fields and nearby kelp farms – with the tumultuous contest that took place.
When the battle began, the Allies fighting in the eastern countries like Japan were optimistic for our troops in Europe, who were rumored to be near victory. They launched the attack on Okinawa fresh from a decisive victory in Iwo Jima. They used Iwo Jima as inspiration to capture Japan’s air travel center there. The Allies seemed to advance easily when they arrived, but the Japanese forces were waiting. When the battle finally raged, the Allies were met with troops on land, and with swarms of kamikaze pilots, who destroyed many of our troops. Japan finally surrendered at Okinawa, but not without horrific losses of lives on both sides. This battle, which turned the tide in Japan for World War 2, is another of the famous historical battles of the world.
4. Battle of Berlin
As previously mentioned, the Allied forces in Europe were near victory over the Germans when the Allies were battling in Okinawa. The Battle of Britain was considered Germany’s last stand against the Allies, because the Germans admitted defeat in Berlin, and then were forced to surrender. The Battle of Berlin is considered one of the famous historical battles because it ended the European fighting in World War II.
Perhaps the Soviets were so intent on defeating the Allies because of the rumors of the Third Reich’s experimenting on war prisoners and convicts in prison camps like Ravensbruck and Auschwitz. Stories of Hitler’s orders of inhumane medical experimentation in the camps, such as exposing prisoners to freezing temperatures, forcing them to breathe mustard gas, and experimenting with bone grafting.
In the spring of 1945, the Soviets swarmed into Berlin. Berlin’s forces had been depleted, forcing them to use children from the Hitler Youth to fight for the Axis. The Soviet generals ignored their high number of casualties and annihilated the Berlin stronghold of the Axis. It was during this battle that Adolf Hitler committed suicide. By the end of this conflict, the Germans had to admit defeat to the Allies.
5. Invasion of Normandy
This battle is better known as ‘D-Day.” This was another battle of World War II, and it took place when the Allied forces invaded the beach at Normandy, France, in June 1944. By the end of August 1944, the Allies had freed France from the influence of the Axis troops. Germany had occupied France since 1940, and the Allies wanted to remove Hitler’s forces from the area. In 1943, Hitler put Erwin Rommel in charge of defending the area. In 1943, as part of their attempt to ramp up their offensive operations, the Allies devised the D-Day plan. Hitler fought back by erecting a 2,400 wall in France to prevent the Allied invasion.
Normandy’s invasion is considered a famous historical battle, because of the Allies’ surprise to Hitler and his suicide. The battle is considered another of the turning points of the European branch of World War II fighting. Although it would take the Battle of Berlin to end the war (see above), the Normandy invasion’s decimation of the Axis troops was a precursor to that surrender.
6. Battle of Waterloo
In 1815, Napoleon (the Emperor of France) had been making a series of attempts to dominate the continent for 23 years. Napoleon fought at Waterloo (in southern Belgium) against the Duke of Wellington and Marshal Blucher. The Prussian and British armies began to enter the Netherlands, and Napoleon chose to split his armies and attempt to defeat both armies separately.
When Napoleon reached Belgium, he was able to defeat Blucher’s army. Wellington had just thwarted a French attack at Quatre Bras. With Wellington and Blucher floundering, both arrived at Waterloo. Together, they rallied sufficiently to gain strength, defeat Napoleon, and end the Napoleonic Wars.
Napoleon was so bereft after his defeat that he retreated to the island of St. Helena, where he remained in exile. The Battle of Waterloo has become one of history’s most famous historical battles. The battle at Waterloo has a treasured place in the memory of Europe and has inspired a complex of memorial tributes in Belgium.
7. Tet Offensive
In 1968, with Americans protesting America’s role in the Vietnamese War, the North Vietnamese Army attacked several South Vietnamese cities. The North was trying to coerce the South Vietnamese into rebellion against the U.S. Although the U.S. and South Vietnam were able to fight back, news of the offensive caused Americans’ War protests to escalate. Although North Vietnam lost the battle, they counted it as a moral victory since the world’s attitude was beginning to turn against the U.S. forces.
Part of the impact of North Vietnam’s attacks was their choice of the attack date. January 31, the date of the attack, is a Vietnamese holiday called Tet. One significant event of the episode was the North Vietnamese Army’s attack of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. The skirmish there was televised, and the U.S. Citizenry was appalled at the carnage.
This series of attacks is considered one of the famous historical battles because of its significance in both Eastern and Western history. Many believe the division between the ‘Hawks’ (people in favor of War) and the ‘Doves’ (people against the War.) contributed to the foundation of today’s U.S. political division. During the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, many of our veterans, when witnessing incidents such as the Tet Offensive, became addicted to drugs and now require treatment for addiction.
8. Battle of Tours
In 732, the Frankish leader Charles Martel defeated an invading Islamic army – led by Emir Abdur Rahman – at Tours, France. The invasion was spurred by the Muslims’ desire to spread Islam throughout Europe. When the two sides met in Tours, Charles Martel was aided by other Frankish chiefs and nearby German chiefs.
The Frankish forces defeated the Muslim forces after causing the Muslims to lose 1,000 men. At the time of this conflict, it’s interesting to note pain management methods were primitive. Since 100 B.C., acupuncture had been used to relieve pain, and the alternatives consisted of turmeric – or trepanning for head wounds. (2) With these as available pain management options, it is easy to see why so many deaths occurred during this battle.
The battle is on the list of famous historical battles because it prevented the Muslims from advancing into Europe. After his win at Tours, Charles Martel gained power in the area, and his reign was extended. Martel’s kingdom grew to become the Carolingian Empire, which would eventually be ruled by Martel’s grandson, Charlemagne.
9. Battle of Stalingrad
This battle was a 1942- 1943 World War II conflict between the Russians and Germany. The encounter is the most protracted military conflict in modern warfare. It is also rumored to be one of the bloodiest current conflicts. The Battle of Stalingrad was a precursor to the Battle of Berlin, and this Russian victory turned the direction of the Allies’ forces toward its eventual triumph.
Joseph Stalin was the leader of the Russian Army, and he led them to a victory against Germany earlier that year. Stalin and future Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev thought Germany’s attack would be in Moscow. Hitler decided to attack Stalingrad instead, because of its industrial significance – and because it had Stalin’s name. When the Russians discovered the Germans were going to attack Stalingrad, they banded together and defeated the Germans.
This conflict is considered one of the famous historical battles for the same reason the Battle of Berlin is memorable: it was a significant blow to the German forces and helped the Allies win the War. The battle caused heavy losses on both sides, and those providing aid to the fallen troops were probably thankful medic first aid kits were invented over 80 years before the battle – and, therefore, available to medical personnel.
10. Siege of Yorktown
The Siege of Yorktown was part of the American Revolutionary War. The French army had come to the aid of the American colonists, and their two armies worked together in 1781 to trap the British army at Yorktown, Virginia. At the end of the Battle, the British admitted defeat. General Lord Cornwallis oversaw the British forces, while the Marquis de Lafayette led the American army.
In addition to the French army, the Americans had also obtained assistance from the Hessian (German) army. Cornwallis had been leading his army through more southern states, reaching Yorktown, and fortifying his troops there. Lafayette led his troops, plus the allies who came to their aid, to capture thousands of British soldiers as prisoners. Eventually, Cornwallis was forced to defeat.
The enormity of the victory by Lafayette and the colonists becomes even more significant when we again consider the conditions under which they fought. Food, munitions, camping supplies, and medical equipment were shipped by horseback, ships, or soldiers on foot. This battle is a significant addition to the list of famous historical battles since it led England to admit the colonists had become a nation and granted their independence. It’s interesting to note Yorktown would also become a battle site in the Civil War.
These famous historical battles were responsible for millions of deaths but also helped form international history into its present state. Many nations have secured their independence – including the U.S.A. If we study the effects of these battles, we may learn military strategy, but we can always hope they may deter future battles.