IMPORTANT BATTLES IN THE WESTERN EUROPEAN THEATRE.
DUNKIRK (May-June 1940). The final warfare during the larger Battle of France, the 400,000 Allied (English, French, Polish, Dutch and Belgian) troops retreated to the beach of Dunkirk, France, pursued by Germans twice their number. Oddly, the Germans halted their advance, and more than 330,000 Allied troops were evacuated in nearly 1000 ships that crossed the English Channel from England. Although Britons were overjoyed by the rescue of the soldiers, it left the remaining French troops alone to fight the Germans. Paris fell to the Germans two weeks later.
BATTLE OF BRITAIN (July-October 1940). Following the fall of Paris, Hitler set his sights on Germany's prime target: England. Fought entirely in the air, Germany hoped to achieve air superiority before attempting a land invasion of the British Isles. The German Luftwaffe sent more than 2500 aircraft against the Royal Air Force, who managed to muster about 1900 planes in their defense. The powerful Luftwaffe were badly beaten during the four-month ordeal, losing about 75% of the aircraft engaged with more than 4200 casualties. The RAF suffered about the same rate of lost aircraft, but their entire casualties numbered less than 1000.
NORMANDY INVASION (June-August 1944). Dubbed "Operation Overload," the gigantic Allied invasion of the Normandy (France) beaches took the Germans by surprise (at least to some degree). The series of battles took place over a three month period; within six weeks, Allied forces landed more than 1.3 million troops to combat the overwhelmed Germans, who managed to muster only about one-quarter that number in defense of France. Allied and German casualties were more than 100,000 on each side during the first six weeks of combat. More than 20 battles took place during June-August. The invasion was one of the largest and most successful in all military history, the result of which was a strong Allied foothold in France.
BATTLE OF THE BULGE (December 1994-January 1945). One of the last German offensives of the war, the bloody fighting in the Ardennes Forest matched 800,000 Allied troops against about 500,000 Germans. Initially, the surprise attack by the Germans created a large "bulge" in the Allied lines, but reinforcements (primarily those of General George S. Patton) helped to turn the tide. The bloodiest battle of the war, Allied casualties totaled nearly 90,000, while the Germans lost a similar number of troops.