10 Deadliest Battles in History


There has been some fighting in the course of history. Historical records are full of reports of campaigns, sieges, occupations, looting and so on. There is no doubt that all those battles and wars have claimed millions and millions of victims.
It is obvious that the two world wars of the 20th century caused a very large number of deaths. For the first time in history, so many different countries and peoples fought each other with advanced weapons of destruction. Yet the battle with the largest number of dead does not date from WWI or WWII, but from… the 13th century.

10. The Siege of Leningrad

battle for credit
RIA Novosti archive, image #1000 / Vsevolod Tarasevich / CC-BY-SA 3.0

One of the bloodiest episodes of the Second World War was undoubtedly the siege of Leningrad, which lasted from September 8, 1941 to January 27, 1944. For almost 2.5 years, the Soviet Russian city of Leningrad (today Saint Petersburg) came under attack from troops of the German and Finnish army. By November 1941, the city was already completely surrounded by enemy troops. Leningrad was heavily bombed and the food warehouses went up in flames. The population faced a long period of rationing, hunger and deprivation. In the year 1942 alone, 650 000 inhabitants died. The only way to bring food into the city was through the adjacent Lake Ladoga. In the course of 1943, the Soviet Russian army managed to partially break through the encirclement around Leningrad. In January 1944, the weakened German army was finally driven out and the siege of Leningrad was over. The siege of the city had claimed 1.12 million victims.

9. The Battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme took place during World War I in northern France. This battle also cost 1.12 million lives. German troops fought here from July to November 1916 against French and English army units. The first day of the battle, July 1, 1916, went down in history as the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. On that day alone, no fewer than 57,470 British soldiers lost their lives. The battle continued for another three months, at the cost of a huge number of casualties. Only a hundred square kilometers were eventually recaptured from the Germans. One of the German soldiers who fought was none other than Adolf Hitler .

The Battle of Stalingrad

The battle of the Soviet Russian city of Stalingrad (today’s Russian city of Volgograd) marked a turning point in World War II. For the first time during WWII, an army unit of the German army was crushed to death. The Battle of Stalingrad took place from August 23, 1942 to February 2, 1943. Stalingrad, named after the Soviet-Russian leader Joseph Stalin, had a symbolic meaning for Hitler. He made the fatal mistake not to allow his troops to advance further into the Caucasus, but to attack the symbolic Stalingrad. The Russians resisted fiercely and almost every street had to be fought over. In the end, the German forces were surrounded by the Soviet Russian Red Army and forced into a humiliating surrender. The battle claimed a total of about 1.25 million casualties.

7. Operatie Ichi-Go

Operatie Ichi-Go
IJA military reporter/public domain

Operation Ichi-Go, which began on April 19, 1944, is a relatively unknown World War II military campaign. However, this operation claimed 1.3 million deaths. The Japanese army fought against the Allies, which included China. The Japanese mainly wanted to get their hands on a strategic railway between Beiping and Hong Kong. A second target was the military airfields of the Allies in southern China. After all, American planes carried out bombing raids on Japanese cities from these airports. The Japanese managed to occupy large parts of southern China, but could not prevent the US military from continuing to bomb Japan.

6. The Battle of Berlin

battle of berlin
Federal Archives, image 183-E0406-0022-012 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The Battle of Berlin marked the end of World War II in Europe. The weakened German army fiercely resisted the crushing attack by Soviet Russian troops, which began on April 16, 1945. No fewer than 20 Soviet Russian army units, 8,500 aircraft and 6,300 tanks advanced towards the German capital. Berlin was completely surrounded on April 24. The German army continued to fight heroically against the Russian attackers. The result was a bloodbath: 1.3 million dead, countless wounded and a completely destroyed city were left behind after the battle. On April 30, Hitler committed suicide in his bunker deep below the Reich Chancellery. The German army surrendered unconditionally on May 7, 1945.

5. Operation Barbarossa

Operation Barbarossa
Federal Archives, picture 101I-020-1268-36 / Hähle, Johannes / CC-BY-SA 3.0

On June 22, 1941, Adolf Hitler launched one of the largest military operations in history: Operation Barbarossa. The campaign was directed against the Soviet Union. About 3 million soldiers of German, Romanian and Finnish nationality and 3500 German tanks were deployed in the battle. The attack took place over a front that was 2,900 kilometers long. The German army was initially very successful and managed to penetrate deep into Soviet Russian territory. However, the Red Army repulsed mercilessly, and the harsh Russian winter did not make the situation any easier for the German army. The operation finally came to a halt in December 1941, with the loss of 1.4 million lives.

4. The Spring Offensive

Spring offensive
British government/public domain

In the spring of 1918, the last year of World War I, the German army launched a series of offensives in hopes of forcing a breakthrough on the Western Front. Its main purpose was to drive a wedge between the French and British army units. The first attacks were launched on 21 March. The Germans gained ground, but at the cost of many losses and without much strategic advantage. By July 1918, all German offensives had stalled. The death toll rose to 1.55 million.

Battle of the Dnieper

The Battle of the Russian Dnieper River is one of the greatest battles of World War II. The battle took place in August and September 1943 on the territory of the then Soviet Union. In total, no fewer than 4 million men were involved, belonging to the German or Russian army. The fighting took place over a front with a length of 1400 kilometers. The Soviet Russian army gained the upper hand and was able to drive the German army from the eastern bank of the Dnieper. The number of victims was 1.58 million.

2. The Brusilov Offensive

Brusilov Offensive
George H. Mewes /public domain

The Brusilov Offensive is known as the largest Russian offensive during the First World War. The battle was fought from June to September 1916 between troops of the then Russian Empire on the one hand and army units of Austria-Hungary and the German Empire on the other. Russian General Alexander Brusilov led the offensive against the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army, which was crushed to death. However, the offensive also went down in history as the bloodiest of the 20th century, with a death toll of 1.6 million victims.

1. The Mongol Siege of Baghdad

siege of baghdadThe two world wars in the 20th century caused massive casualties, but the bloodiest siege in history dates back to 1258. The siege and looting of Baghdad by Mongol fighters left 2 million dead, both civilians and warriors. The attack on Baghdad took place from January 29 to February 10, 1258, only 12 days. Leader of the Mongol army was Hulagu Khan, brother of the Mongol emperor. Because the Caliph of Baghdad did not want to surrender, the city was overrun by the Mongols. The result was a massive massacre, an unparalleled number of victims and the end of the Golden Age of Islam.

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