Nearly 74 years after the final shot was fired, the human cost of World War II still defies human comprehension. Estimates range from 60 million to 80 million people killed, most of them civilians. The Soviet Union suffered the most, losing as many as 27 million people by some estimates. To place the carnage in context, these staggering losses occurred over just a six-year period, 1939 to 1945, nowhere close to the longest wars fought by mankind. These are the longest wars in history.
Many of the battles on the list are conflicts between the Soviet Union, one of the Allied powers, and Nazi Germany, the main Axis power. These battles were characterized by the size of military resources involved and the significant civilian population loss.
The fog of war always complicates exact casualty totals. The estimates are the result of historians patching together primary documents over many years.
As the 80th anniversary of the start of the world’s worst conflict nears, 24/7 Wall St. has compiled a list of the largest battles of World War II based on the number of casualties, which includes deaths and wounded. When available, we included civilian casualties. To create our list, we reviewed material from sources such as the Imperial War Museum in London, World War II battle database, globalsecurity.org, history.com, and britannica.org.