11 Iconic Battlefields of WWII Then And Now


After just over 70 years, we look back at 11 iconic locations of the Second World War as they were then – and as they are now.

WWII Starts – Gleiwitz Radio Station

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Left image: holocaustresearchproject.org Right Image: Smerus

On 31 August 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, Nazi forces conducted a false flag operation on the German radio station at Gleiwitz in Germany. Germans, some of the concentration camp inmates were dressed up in Polish uniforms and attacked the radio station. The next day, under the pretense of this “Polish” attack, Germany invaded Poland which was the start of World War II.

The Fall of France – Paris – June 1940

Left image: Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0 Right image: Public Domain
Left image: Bundesarchiv

In June of 1940, after the Germans had invaded France and the British Expeditionary Force was withdrawn from Dunkirk, Nazi Germany launched a second major operation, codename Fall Rot.

Even though the depleted French forces were able put up stiff initial resistance, the air superiority and armored mobility of the German Forces quickly overwhelmed what was left of the French Armies. After the German Troops outflanked the Maginot line and had pushed deep into France, they arrived on 14th June at the undefended and “open city” of Paris. France was not able to stop the Germans and not surrendered

France was no longer able to stop the Germans and surrendered shortly after the fall of their capital. With France out of the war most of Europe fell under Nazi Occupation.

US Joins the War – Pearl Harbor / USS Arizona

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On the morning of December 7th, 1944, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on the  United States naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Taking the Americans completely by surprise they Japanese planes were able to sink and damage several battleships but the aircraft carriers were out at sea and thus survived the carnage.

This attack meant the entry of the United States into the war.

First Japanese Defeat – Midway Island

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Right image: Bing Maps / Digital Globe

Fought only 6 months after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, the battle of Midway was the turning point in the war in the Pacific. Between 3 and 7 June 1942, the United States Navy was able to sink 4 Japanese carriers which swung the strategic initiative to the United States. From that moment on, Japan was on the defensive.

The Beginning of the End – Stalingrad

Left image: Wikia Right Image: Public Domain

The battle of Stalingrad was a turning point on the eastern front, in Europe. Over a million men died in this months-long battle, in the ruins of what was a grand city and the German 6th Army was completely destroyed. This battle meant the final end of all major offensive operations in Russia and from that moment on the were Germans slowly pushed back to Berlin.

Pictured is the Flour Mill, before the battle and as it is preserved today, with a replica monument in front.

Liberating Western Europe – D-Day / Omaha Beach

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Omaha Beach was the code name for one of the five beaches on D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normand on 6 June 1944. It was the most daunting beach to land on as the Germans were up on a bluff overlooking the beach and fortified this bluff like no other of the D-Day beaches.

After suffering heavy losses and being stopped for a couple of hours, the German defenses were overwhelmed and a small toe hold was captured.

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