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Decisive Battle

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"In the year of our Lord 1314, patriots of Scotland, starving and outnumbered, charged the fields of Bannockburn. They fought like warrior poets. They fought like Scotsmen. And they won their freedom."

A war-deciding clash that may be a Final Battle and takes place before The End. A Decisive Battle is a chance for an organization to turn the tide of a war in their favor. Whether it's of a greater scale than the clash(es) which end the war for good is neither here nor there. It can lead directly to the final conflict(s) or even set up the (premise of the) main story to be told.

These scenes usually involve lots of extras, CGI, and miniatures for distant shots with close ups of the main actors, extras and stuntmen doing all the physical work, and thus usually takes p a lot of the budget as the producers try to provide a thrilling and awesome setting for the audience to enjoy and tense up about. Historical battles can be an exception as many require little post-production work to look decent, though they can always use a bit of sprucing up. As they are drawn from Real Life they certainly can qualify for epic-ness depending on the battle and its circumstances.

The following clichés are common in Decisive Battles, although not all of them need to be used:

  • One side will have a secret weapon which they plan to unleash to destroy their enemies or turn the tide of battle.
  • It will be a pivotal point in the war and change the fortunes of one side and the fate of the world.
  • The good guys will usually be vastly outnumbered, under equipped or at a disadvantage, however both sides can be equal as well.
  • The battles make use of thousands of soldiers or vehicles taking part to show the scale of it (in most productions made after the late 1990s they will all be computer generated).
  • Several or all of the main characters will be involved as well as several minor characters and background characters at once to show how everything is united in a common goal.
  • The enemy will either be overconfident to the point they see no need in a backup plan or to send everything at the good guys, or they will charge everything in knowing they will win.
  • When it looks like the enemy have all but won the battle, reinforcements show up save the day and win the conflict.
  • The heroes will have a time limit in which they have to win, they will always achieve this with only a few seconds left.
  • Someone will make a Heroic Sacrifice or perform a Heel–Face Turn or Face–Heel Turn.

These battles can easily overlap with the Final Battle trope, as well as many other Military and Warfare Tropes depending on genre and context.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: After having been on the backfoot for most of the One Year War, the Federations victory during Operation Odessa, a massive counteroffensive against the Zeon forces to recapture the areas surrounding the Black Sea, ultimately proved to be the most decisive battle of the war with Zeon losing their primary foothold on Earth.

     Fan Works 
  • My Father's Son: Rhaegar's Rebellion was a near run back and forth between those supporting the rebelling prince and Aerys's loyalists. However, all that would change with The Battle of the Bells. With the Rebels taking a defensive position around Stony Sept (ironically enough given canon), The royal armies had a perogative to wipe them out and finish the war right there. While better equipped thanks to having calvary advantages, Rhaegar had sent out a play to finish the war by appealing to Tywin Lannister to finally decide whom to work with. And thus, he came in as The Cavalry and along with Ned Stark defeating the Tarly armies through single combat, the royals were eventually broken and defeated in summary.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Dune: Part Two: Paul Atreides/Muad'Dib turns the already formidable Fremen into an implacable war machine, lures all the Harkonnen and Imperial Sardaukar troops at one place, and uses a combination of atomic missiles, sand worms and the skill and ferocity of the Fremen Fedaykin to obliterate them and depose The Emperor, taking revenge for the destruction of House Atreides in Part One. By the end, the Corrino Empire is no more, but Paul still has to confront the other Houses of the Landsraad, who don't accept him as emperor, and a Holy War begins.
  • Midway (2019): The Battle of Midway itself is this, with the Americans destroying half of Japan's carrier fleet, and losing hundreds of experienced pilots, crewmen, and officers, among them brilliant flag officers such as Admiral Yamaguchi. The Japanese ultimately end up losing more men and materiel they cannot afford to replace, while the Americans end up making good their losses in a year.
  • Star Wars:
    • The Battle of Coruscant in Revenge of the Sith. In essence, this was a hail mary attack orchestrated by Darth Sidious to determine which side SHOULD win the Clone Wars. With a massive attack on the Galactic Republic's capital, it ends with the Separatists forced to flee in defeat, with much of their fleet destroyed and their leader Count Dooku killed in a duel with Anakin Skywalker. While it would take a few more days to settle the war once and for all, this defeat would put the Separatists on the back foot for the remainder of the war, with Sideous even telling Grievous "The end of the war is near General."
    • The Battle of Yavin in A New Hope. The Empire spent nearly 20 years building the first Death Star to enforce its rule on the galaxy and crush anyone who defies them... only to have it destroyed by Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance exploiting its critical weak-spot. Even though the Galactic Civil War would still rage on for several years, the destruction of the Death Star had many ramifications throughout the galaxy. For the Empire, they lost many of their top brass (including Grand Moff Tarkin) along with countless troops, soldiers, and fighter squadrons, which weakened their ability to enforce control in the galaxy. It was also when they began to truly view the Rebels as a serious, legitimate, and existential threat to their rule and thus needed to take further action. For the Rebels, it was the first overwhelming victory they had against the Empire and enabled them to take more ambitious actions to great success. It also proved to the galaxy that the Empire can be defeated, and hundreds of worlds defected to the Rebels for good.
    • The Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi. The Second Death Star is destroyed, Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader are killed and with them the Banite Sith Order, and the Rebels inflict serious damage on a major Imperial fleet (including killing a number of senior flag officers aboard the Super Star Destroyer Executor). Both Expanded Universe continuities, Star Wars Legends and the new Disney-managed Star Wars Expanded Universe, take this as the turning point that led to the fall of the Galactic Empire.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Dogfights has the episode "Death of the Japanese Navy", which covers the Battle of Leyte Gulf, and how it ultimately caused the destruction of the Imperial Japanese Navy as an effective fighting force.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power:
    • Brief moments of the War of Wrath against Morgoth are shown in the Opening Monologue. The Valar, Men and Elves win the battle, but at great costs, Beleriand is sunk under water, and Sauron escapes in the far North.
    • The battle of Ostirith between the Men of the Southlands and Numenor and the Orcs led by Adar end with a decisive victory for the Orcs. They manage to turn the Southlands into Mordor, which is already known is going to be their homeland for many millenniums.
  • Several happen during the Dominion War in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Operation Return sees the Federation reclaiming Deep Space Nine and the annihilation of the Dominion's reinforcements from the Gamma Quadrant.
    • The Second Battle of Chin'toka marks the Breen's first major engagement in the war, wiping out an entire fleet with unstoppable energy-dampening weapons.

  • The Battle Of Chibi in both actual Chinese history and Romance of the Three Kingdoms: the combined yet still vastly outnumbered armies of Shu (led by Zhuge Liang) and Wu (led by Zhou Yu) against the massive naval fleet of Cao Cao's Wei. This battle is considered the one that finally establishes the three-way power struggle between the titular kingdoms, and is rightfully featured heavily in any adaptation of the novel.
  • Two are featured in The Lord of the Rings.
    • The first is only alluded to in the books but shown in the films, that being the siege of Mordor where the Last Alliance of Elves and Men were able to defeat Sauron. However, Isildur's refusal to destroy the ring ultimately led to the War of the Ring at the end of the third age.
    • The other battle was the Siege of Minas Tirith in which Sauron attempted to topple Gondor and ensure his domain over Middle-Earth, but reinforcements from Rohan and then from Aragorn with several Dunedian and soldiers from south Gondor ensured that Mordor's army was routed and the king returned.
  • Star Wars Legends: The New Jedi Order — Destiny's Way is bookended by two of them. It begins with the Alliance ambushing and destroying a sizable Yuuzhan Vong fleet at Obroa-Skai, seeking to assassinate Supreme Overlord Shimmra who turned out not to be aboard. After this, Shimmra complains to his generals that the loss of this fleet means the Yuuzhan Vong no longer have any strategic reserve remaining and berates them for advancing into the galaxy "over a rampart of our own dead". The book then ends with the Alliance luring in and destroying a fleet led by Warmaster Tsavong Lah at Ebaq 9; Lah ejects from his flagship in an Escape Pod and is killed on the ground by Jaina Solo. The war continues for another five books (this is a long series), but after Destiny's Way it's pretty much all downhill for the Vong.
  • The grav lance in Honor Harrington: On Basilisk Station is created as a response to the inability to pursue one in space due to Reactionless Drive physics. The series starts with the "arms vs. armor" balance tipped way over in the armor direction, so fleet battles tend to end with the losing side standing up on their impeller wedges and fleeing, using the impenetrability of the impeller field as a shield. Any pursuers expose their vulnerable bow to the defenders' less-vulnerable stern. The grav lance which Honor's ship is equipped with is designed to eliminate the sidewall Deflector Shield and allow highly damaging energy torpedoes to go to work on the bare hull, but its range is too short to make it practical unless you can pull off an ambush. By later books, new developmentsnote  make decisive battles more feasible.
  • In the backstory for A Song of Ice and Fire, and its TV adaptation Game of Thrones, the Battle of the Trident was the decisive battle of Robert's Rebellion. The war began about 18 years before the time of the main story, and involved defiance against the unjust rule of King Aerys II Targaryen, who was called "the Mad King" because he, uh, was. Boisterous Bruiser Lord Robert Baratheon, his Old Friend Lord Eddard "Honor Before Reason" Stark and their Parental Substitute Lord Jon Arryn agreed to rebel, instantly setting three of the setting's Seven Kingdoms against the king; via Arranged Marriage of Eddard with Catelyn Tully, they were able to bring a fourth kingdom in as well. Meanwhile, the king had the loyalty of House Martell (their princess was married to the crown prince) and House Tyrell, which wasn't worth as much as expected. King Aerys's Number Two and former bestie, Lord Tywin Lannister, sat the war out, preferring to see how things shook out, while Lord Quellon Greyjoy was uninterested due to still focusing on reforming The Iron Islands. Well, at the Battle of the Trident, Robert Baratheon faced Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and personally killed him. This led directly to the end of the war: Lord Tywin sided with the rebels, even going so far as to provide a Cavalry Betrayal by marching to the capitol and claiming to side with the king before attacking it as a show of fealty to Robert. The Sack of King's Landing is also when Aerys II met his fate at the blade of a Praetorian Guard turned Kingslayer, marking a formal end to The War of The Usurper.
  • Military thriller Victoria offers the Battle of New York as the decisive event in its near-future Second Civil War scenario, with the 42nd National Guard Division "Numero Uno" routed by the forces assembled by the newly independent Northern Confederation. After this, the Confederation is de facto recognized as independent, and while the federal US Government lingers a while longer, its death knell has tolled, as the other secessionist states press their advantage.
  • The Death of Russia: The Battle of Vladivostok is this for the DPRK's invasion of the Far Eastern Republic, with its failure being the beginning of the end for not only Kim's dreams of nuclear weapons, but the end of the Kim family's rule of North Korea, as the thoroughly embarrassed China invades North Korea and installs a Puppet State that will actually listen to them when they say not to launch pointless invasions.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In BattleTech, the Battle of Tukayyid was a last stand against the invading Proud Warrior Race Clans after the previously neutral ComStar realized the Clan's end goal was capturing Planet Terra, their headquarters. ComStar set up a treaty with the Clans; should ComStar win, the Clans would sign a 15 year armistice with the rest of the Inner Sphere, but if the Clans won ComStar would not oppose them. ComStar unveiled the hidden ComGuard, a well trained army using Lost Technology. Through martial prowess, excellent leadership, and exploitation of the Clans warrior code, the battle was won in favour of ComStar, with only three of the eleven clans achieving even part of the agreed upon objectives. The Battle of Tukayyid became one of the largest and most important battles in the history of the Inner Sphere, appearing in several of the expanded universe novels.
  • Warhammer 40,000: the Siege of Terra during the Horus Heresy was the final all-or-nothing attack by Horus' Traitors to overthrow the Emperor and the Imperium, culminating in a final duel between the Emperor and the Warmaster aboard Horus' flagship the Vengeful Spirit. The Emperor killed Horus and the Loyalists routed the Traitors, but the win was a Pyrrhic Victory that set the stage for the Imperium to regress into the theocratic hellhole it is as of the current setting.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown: When the war begins, Erusea seizes control of the Lighthouse, and hijacks the Arsenal Birds. Because of them, the Oseans have a difficult if not impossible time gaining territory against the Eruseans. Until Stonehenge Defensive, where the Oseans manage to slip several battalions through the Arsenal Bird’s perimeter towards the Stonehenge Railgun Battery, and repair the remaining railgun that was disabled by a meteor strike. After fixing it, powering it with a fleet of generator trucks, and Trigger slowing down the Arsenal Bird, the Oseans are able to shoot it down, which turns the tide to Osea’s favor.
  • In Call of Duty: Vanguard, the four main characters were specifically recruited into the titular team due to their exploits and accomplishments in four of the most decisive battles of World War II mentioned below in the Real Life section; namely the D-Day (Arthur Kingsley), Battle of Stalingrad (Polina Petrova), Battle of Midway (Wade Jackson) and Battle of El-Alamein (Lucas Riggs).
  • Several in the Command & Conquer series.
    • In Red Alert, the turning point of the war comes when the player manages to destroy the Iron Curtain. This leads to the Allies turning the war from defensive to counter-offensive.
    • Red Alert 2 has a 2-parter.
      • Part 1 has Tanya destroying Soviet nuclear weapons in Western Europe, allowing European nations to freely provide support to the US without fear of Nuclear Armageddon.
      • In the next mission the Allied counteroffensive succeeds in retaking Washington DC, a major strategic victory.
    • Tiberian Sun has two: Unifying of Nod, which leads to Nod launching their major offensive and later the destruction of Nod's missile and Banshee facilities, leading to a GDI offensive that wins the war.
    • The Battle of Temple Prime in Tiberium Wars was supposed to be the decisive strike that would break the resurgent Nod forces wide open, in a deliberate Call-Back to Tiberian Dawn, where the final GDI level also involved a strike at a Temple of Nod at Sarajevo. Although the attack is successful, it has unforeseen consequences... (unforeseen except to Kane, of course).
  • In Dynasty Warriors 8, the turning point that leads to Wei's Hypothetical Route is Wei emerging victorious at Chibi.
  • In the Fire Emblem series, being a series of strategy RPG games all about warfare where death is (mostly) permanent, losing any battle means game over, but at least once a game there are battles where victory turns the tides of the conflict on a larger scale than your own survival, even when it's not the final battle itself.
    • In Shadow Dragon, there's a series of them for each major obstacle Marth faces on his journey, but an important one halfway through the game is in Chapter 12, where he liberates the ancient capital of Archanea and the focus of his army's efforts shifts from gathering their strength to an all-out offensive campaign against the Dohlrian empire and their allies. Also notable is Chapter 23, featuring the battle against Gharnef and his powerful dark magic to reclaim the Falchion, the only human weapon effective against the Final Boss Medeus.
    • For the sequel New Mystery of the Emblem, there's Chapter 20, which is the final battle against Marth's former ally Emperor Hardin. However, the decisive part of the battle boils down to whether you collected all the spheres of the Shield of Seals and are able to restore it after reclaiming the Darksphere from Hardin. Succeeding allows you to play the rest of the game, while failing to do so leads to the party getting tricked by an illusion and being convinced that the war is over, leaving a resurrected Gharnef to revive Medeus behind the scenes.
    • Blazing Blade has an example different from the others in that the conflict throughout the story remains fairly small, as causing a large-scale war between the nations of the continent is the Big Bad's ultimate goal. Even so, Chapter 19 still fulfills this role, as Eliwood's party finally finds his father Elbert, only for him to die protecting them from Nergal, the true villain of the game. The story then shifts from finding Elbert to stopping Nergal's nefarious plans.
      • Subsequent chapters prove to be decisive victories in their own conflicts, as Chapter 27 smashes the last remaining Black Fang, and Chapter 32x sees the last remaining morphs overcome and destroyed before the Final Battle.
    • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones has a few at key points in the story. Chapter 8: where Eirika and Ephraim fight off a trap by Grado's forces and are finally reunited after the start of the game, allowing them to plan their counterattack against Grado and splitting up again to do so, Chapter 15: where the twins join up once again and the end the result of their campaigns have utterly destroyed the Grado Empire's forces, reducing them to being known as "The Remnant" when fighting them in all subsequent story battles, and Chapter 19: where before marching to the final battle, Eirika and Ephraim must fend off an assault by the enemy to protect the final Sacred Stone, the only thing capable of sealing away the Demon King for good.
    • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance has one that lasts through Chapters 26 and 27, featuring Ike and the Crimean army's offense against Daein's final defenses standing between them and King Ashnard. The final part of Chapter 27 also features the climactic battle against the Black Knight, not only representing the peak of Ike's journey throughout the game, but also where he gets Ragnell, a weapon so powerful that it allows him to almost handle the rest of the game on his own from this point, provided that he's gotten strong enough to do so.
    • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn has a major one for each part of the game. Part 1 has Chapter 5, where Micaiah and the Dawn Brigade join up with the lost prince Pelleas and the forces he's managed to put together to become the Daein Liberation Army, spending the rest of the Part freeing their country from Begnion forces. Part 2's in in its Endgame, where Ludveck's rebellion enters its final stages and marches on Elincia at the castle while the Royal Knights were engaged elsewhere, the fate of Crimea resting on the outcome. Part 3 also has one in its Endgame, featuring the final clash against the Laguz army (led by Ike,) and the Daein army (led by Micaiah,) deciding whether the laguz army can advance into Begnion, only for the medallion to awaken due to the chaos, and unleashing an apocalypse, petrifying most of the people of the world. Part 4's is also the Final Battle, featuring Yune's chosen (Ike, Micaiah, and Elincia's armies,) against Ashera's chosen (Lekain, Zelgius/The Black Knight, and Dheginsea's armies, as well as Lehran and Ashera herself) to decide the fate of the world.
    • Fire Emblem: Awakening has a major one in Chapter 9, where Chrom and the Shepherds infiltrate Plegia to rescue Emmeryn from Gangrel's Execution ceremony. Unfortunately, their plan to rescue her fails, and they are held at sword point to make a Sadistic Choice to either give up the Fire Emblem or watch Emmeryn be executed. However, before Chrom and Robin can make their choice, Emmeryn chooses to sacrifice herself. However, this turns out to be very important, as Emmeryn's selfless display ends up having the opposite effect that Gangrel intended her death to be: the majority of the Plegian soldiers quickly drop their arms and desert the army, allowing the Shepherds to easily wrap up the war in Chapter 11. Chapter 18, near the end of the Valmese war section of the game, turns out to be one of these in hindsight: The majority of the Valmese forces fighting for Walhart were being held in check by Yen'Fay, and with his death, the armies quickly defect from Walhart's side and join Chrom's at the end of Chapter 19, suddenly reducing Walhart's side to merely the forces he has with him in his castle. The final major one that isn't the final battle occurs in Chapter 23, where Chrom and company try to stop Validar from carrying out Grima's resurrection. They succeed, only for Validar's Heirophant to appear and reveal themself as the Robin from Lucina's future, who is possessed by Grima, as the ritual was carried out without interference in that timeline. They then carry out the ritual on their own body, reviving Grima in the present day.
  • The entire plot of Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity is Doomed by Canon given it takes place 100 years before The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in which they all lose... except it isn't. The Siege on Fort Hateno becomes a tipping point in this alternate timeline where Zelda, thanks to this one chance of awakening her powers early, manages to completely tip the scale in the opposite direction and swing Hyrule back into a winning position.
  • The penultimate battle in Nexus: The Jupiter Incident is the largest battle in the game. It involves your task force facing off against constant waves of whole enemy fleets periodically arriving via the wormhole to the Solar System. Not only is the battle incredibly tough, but you must constantly watch that your ships don't get too close to the wormhole lest they be sucked in. You may get some reinforcements, but that depends on your actions in previous missions (e.g. Chief Zatuk's Warcry will only arrive if you kept him alive during an impromptu Escort Mission earlier). The final battle involves just your ship facing off against a massive Vardrag cityship while also fighting the massive gravitational pull of the Nexus.
  • Project Wingman: When Sicario disables the Solona Communications Array, the Federation tried to pull back its forces across the Bering Straight to reorganize and recover after the Cascadians took advantage of the Federation’s communications blackout. The Cascadians sent air squadrons to prevent them from escaping, and the Federation sent in reinforcements to protect them, eventually snowballing into a massive aerial battle above the Bering Straight. When Sicario arrived, they single handily turn the tide to Cascadia’s favor, even when the Federation sends in Crimson Squadron to deal with them. The losses sustained by the Federation was so great that they couldn’t reestablish air superiority throughout the rest of the war.
  • Happens in Warcraft series.
    • In Warcraft II: the Tides of Darkness the Horde was close to defeat the Alliance in the battle of Lordaerons capital city, but the Alliance won and started to turn the tide of the war because of the conflict between Doomhammer and Gul'dan. The Alliance were then able to drive the Horde all the way back to the Dark Portal. This is not how it is in the game itself (the Alliance campaign never has the Horde reach Lordaeron's capital, while the Horde campaign has the Horde win the battle even after Gul'dan's schemes ends with a several clans destroyed or too far to assist), but how things were described in later games and media (to explain how both campaigns were canonical, but the Alliance campaign was more canonical).
    • The battle at Blackrock Spire after the failed siege is probably a better example. While the Alliance has indeed pushed the Horde back to the Spire, the Horde still had a chance to strike. Orgrim Doomhammer hoped that killing the supreme commander of Alliance forces, Lord Anduin Lothar would cause the Alliance forces to lose faith and be crushed. For a moment, it nearly happened. Then Lothar's Number Two Turalyon took command, captured Doomhammer, and routed the Horde.

    Real Life 
  • In World War II there are several examples of battles which helped turn the tide in favour of the allies.
    • The Battle of Stalingrad was the big one for the Soviets note , with 200,000 German combat-troops (and 200,000 Rumanians+Italians) and all their heavy weapons being killed or forced to surrender - this being a full 1/8 of the Germans' entire combat-strength on the Ostfront (1.6 million), and 1/9 of their entire combat-strength. While this may not sound like much, take our word for it that Germany would take at least six months to replace those lossesnote and there was no way in hell that the Soviets were going to give them that kind of time (after Stalingrad they went on to liberate the entire Caucasus and eastern Ukraine in four months, killing or taking prisoner another 100,000 German and 100,000 Rumanian+Italian combat troops). Before Stalingrad, some thought the Germans could win the war. After Stalingrad, even the Germans themselves knew that they would losenote .
    • Another turning point would be Unternehmen Zitadelle, the German Summer Offensive of 1943. Not only did it fail, but it had no chance of succeeding because it was a great big trap just like Stalingrad. The Soviets let the Germans think they could pull it off so that they would try it. Again, like Stalingrad it wasn't the battle itself that destroyed the Germans - it was the eight months of non-stop campaigning throughout the summer, autumn, and winter that completely annihilated Germany's panzer forces and rendered her totally incapable of any kind of offensive actionnote . Before Zitadelle people thought the war might last another five-six years. After Zitadelle, people thought the war would be over within two-three years.
    • The final turning point would be Operation Bagration, the Soviet Summer Offensive of June-August 1944. In the first two weeks of it they killed 25k and captured 263k German combat troops (1/4 of Germany's ever-dimishing figure of 1,023,000 combat troops on the Ostfront and 1.2 million in total), and in the two months of it they liberated Belarus and reached the Vistula (killing or capturing at least another 50,000 German combat troops). Worse still, the reinforcement of the Allies' beach-head in France forced Germany to transfer as many as 100,000 combat-troops to the west to hold them back, leaving them with less than 600,000 combat-troops to face the Soviets' 2 million. Before Bagration, people thought the war would be over in two-three years. After Bagration, people thought the war would end that yearnote  or in 1945 at the latest.
    • El-Alamein was the big one for the British. The Battle of El Alamein was a major decisive battle and the first major victory over Germany by the Allies. In it the British Empire was able to halt the German offensive in North Africa, preventing Germany and Itally from capturing Egypt, and therefore both the valuable oilfields in Iraq and the Suez Canal, which would have essentially cut the Empire in half. As it was it was, the British had numerical superiority over the Axis (with 195,000 vs. 116,000 men and nearly twice as many tanks), and, with superior equipment including Spitfires and new Grant, Sherman, and Churchill tanks, were able to decisively beat the Axis force over a 19-day period. From that point on, Allied victory was all but assured; the Allies continued to be on the offensive until 1945, putting the Germans on the defensive for virtually the rest of the war. It allowed the driving back of German and Itallian forces in North Africa, and the Allied invasion of Italy. This also laid the groundwork for the Allied invasion of Normandie.
    It may almost be said, "Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat".'
    — Winston Churchill
    • D-Day is perhaps the final and most iconic for the Western Allies, where 175,000 soldiers were able to establish a beachhead in Normandy and successfully reopened the Western Front against Nazi Germany, something that the Germans could not afford to have alongside the Eastern Front against the USSR. Before D-Day, the Third Reich was losing the war but did have a chance of fighting off the Soviets (albeit a small one). After D-Day, and the subsequent liberation of France, it became apparent to German High Commandnote  that total defeat was inevitable.
    • The Battle of Britain marked the turning point on the European Front, when aerial warfare became heavily stacked in favour of the Allied forces, especially those of the UK. While Britain had stood alone in the face of Germany steadily annexing Continental Europe, this was the battle that well and truly humiliated the Luftwaffe, and cemented the iconic Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire as aircraft that helped turn the tide of battle. Joined by Canadian, American, Australian and other allied air forces, the result wasn't necessarily a decisive victory, but one that dealt such heavy losses to the German air force that they weren't able to fully recover.
    • The Battle of Midway in 1942. Midway saw the loss of two thirds of Japan's heavy carrier fleet, losses that the Japanese Empire couldn't replace at the rate the US could note , and essentially shifted the war from an offensive one to a defensive one for Japan as they could no longer project airplane-based force in the Pacific Theatre to rival the US.
    • The battle of Guadalcanal, starting just two months after Midway and ending into February of the next year, also counts. While Midway shattered Japan's hopes of conquest, this battle essentially showed that they couldn't defend their Empire in the long run. Both the Americans and Japanese committed thousands men and hundreds of ships and planes in a series of battles in and around the island. The end result was the Japanese Army and Navy losing even more men, planes, and ships that they could never afford or recover from, and being forced to permanently withdraw from the island.
    • The Pacific War in 1944 had two major naval battles that effectively destroyed (both figuratively and literally) the Naval Power of the Imperial Japanese Navy:
      • The Battle of the Philippine Sea was a major assault attempted by the Japanese Navy to destroy the US Fleet... and instead became one of the most one-sided naval battles in history.note  The Japanese lost 3 incredibly vital aircraft carriers and approximately 600 planes, whereas the Americans lost only 123 aircraft.note  The Japanese Navy had spent more than a year rebuilding its air strength after the heavy losses from 1942, only to have them eviscerated in just two days. As a result, Japan lost any effective air power that it could never recover.
      • The Battle of Leyte Gulf is widely believed to be the largest naval battle in world history note . It was Japan's final attempt to defeat the American Navy, committing nearly every major surface vessel into the operation. The battle was a resounding defeat for the Japanese, who suffered heavy losses and never sailed in comparable force thereafter. The operation burned through their navy's fuel reserves and afterwards their surviving ships were stranded in bases for lack of fuel for the rest of the war, effectively giving the Americans Command of the Sea. What remaining power the Japanese Navy had was effectively destroyed or rendered irrelevant.
    • Most notably, the strategy adopted by the Imperial Japanese Navy for the war counted on this trope, revolving around a Decisive Battle where their fleet would crush the US one in a single, climactic battle. This strategy was epitomized on the massive Yamato-class battleships. The US Navy, on the other hand, defied this trope between the loss of battleships at Pearl Harbour forcing the USN to rely on its carriers, the island-hopping strategy that intentionally avoided large concentrations of Japanese forces, and the massive industrial advantage the US had over Japan allowing it to replace its losses.
      • The Imperial Japanese Navy obsession with a single war-winning "decisive battle" was based on the influence of 19th century American naval historian and strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan's The Influence of Sea Power upon History, and was seen as validated by the Russo-Japanese War in which the comprehensive defeat of the Russian Navy in the Battle of Tsushima was decisive. However, this reflected an oversimplification of Mahan's doctrine. He taught that a single decisive battle can give one side command of the sea, not that such a battle would instantly win the war. The winner of said decisive battle could then exploit their command of the sea to force the other nation to surrender, such as by blockading their ports to strangle them economically. However, the uniquely favorable geographic location of the United Statesnote  makes it nearly immune to blockades, and its sheer size combined with the vast distance separating it from Japan made an invasion of the mainland even more ridiculous. Thus, even if Japan had won the decisive battle at sea they were seeking, it would've only delayed their defeat.
    • The Battle of the Bulge was the final decisive battle that erased any sliver of hope for the Germans that they might still win. Hitler hoped to split the Allied lines by dashing for and re-capturing the port of Antwerp. Despite taking the Allies completely by surprise, the Americans were able to hold the Germans off and then push back hard. While the battle was the bloodiest for the U.S. in the European theatre, with some 19,000 killed, the Germans had anywhere from 67,500 to 125,000 soldiers killed wounded or captured. And 800 tanks and armored guns were destroyed. As a result, Germany's last remaining strategic reserve forces were destroyed. The Western Allies soon invaded Germany itself, advancing rapidly through the western half of the country and with the Soviets squeezing them from the other side, the Nazis were finished within 5 months.
    • Despite everything, Adolf Hitler became increasingly delusional that the victorious end of the war was near. The fact that Franklin D. Roosevelt died just prior to the beginning of the Battle of Berlin was seen by him as divine proof that he was meant to succeed. The fanatical generals under his command who were willing to fool themselves by sharing these delusions, if not simply rejecting defeat on account of accounts pride and arrogance, believed that if they could just hold out against the Soviet advance then they could secure a deal with the Americans and British to end the war. Of course, the Americans and allies refused this outright as Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill agreed at the Yalta Conference in February 1945 to the goal of achieving unconditional surrender from Germany. Plus, the Soviets had faced so much loss of life that nothing short of complete victory and humiliation for Germany would be tolerated. Some psychologists have theorized that Hitler himself believed he was the main character of a Wagner play in which he will succeed at the end through divine intervention, damn the odds without realizing that he was trying to use extremely battered reserve troops, old men unfit to fight and the Hitler youth to delay the inevitable against MILLIONS of Soviet troops, armor and air power. Hitler's decisive battle never occurred as Germany simply crumbled under the combined assault of the Soviets and the remaining allies to the point where Hitler abandoned the will to endure defeat and shot himself, leaving his staff to ultimately surrender.
  • The Spring Offensive in early 1918 during World War I. The United States had just entered the war on the side of Britain and France, and Germany knew it would lose the war if the massive industrial resources the Americans possessed were fully brought to bear. On the other hand, the Russians were no longer in the war thanks to the Brest-Litovsk Treaty and so the Eastern Front was no longer a concern, freeing up nearly 50 divisions. Germany had a manpower advantage, but one that wouldn't last once the Americans came in. As a result, this large offensive was one last push to try to end the war on Germany's terms. From late March through mid April, the Germans gained the most ground since the start of the war before trench warfare settled in (Paris was within 50 miles of the front), but couldn't sustain the offensive nor hold it with their depleted reserves. With the Hundred Days' offensive that August, the German lines eventually collapsed and the German Empire capitulated in November.
    • From November 1917 to late October 1918, the three Battles of the Piave. Coming right after Russia's collapse and the German-supported Austro-Hungarian victory at Caporetto and starting before the United States could even start to bring troops in Europe, it was believed it would give Italy the final blow to kick them out of the war, thus freeing the entire Austro-Hungarian military to fight in France and the Atlantic Ocean. Then the Italians brutally defeated the first Austro-Hungarian offensive in November and treated even more brutally the second in June 1918, making clear that the Austro-Hungarians would not be freed up anytime soon and the only thing that remained was to try and fight through winter to negotiate a favourable peace, and the last battle, better known as the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, saw the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapse and opening the southern border of Germany to Italian invasion, that, in the already dire straits they were for both the mutiny of the navy and the contemporary Hundred Days Offensive, could do nothing but surrender.
  • The Battle of Trafalgar is considered one of the most decisive battles of The Napoleonic Wars and the greatest British naval victory of all time. Before the battle, Napoleon had been building up the French and Spanish navies for a potential invasion of England, as you cannot invade the British Isles without going through the Royal Navy. Admiral Horatio Nelson led the British fleet to victory and though he did not survive the battle, nearly half of the Combined Franco-Spanish Fleet was captured with the British losing no ships of their own. Never again would the French be in a position to challenge the British at sea, leaving them to blockade and strangle off trade bound for the continent. In addition, the battle essentially assured British naval supremacy for the next century.
    • The real decisive battle was "The Battle of Leipzig"/"Battle of the Nations". Napoleon was an undisputed land power on the Continent even after Trafalgar and returning from his disastrous expedition of Russia, he was still powerful. All that mattered was getting through an allied force of Prussians/Austrians/Russians. Had Napoleon won, he would in all likelihood have remained Emperor, but this defeat cracked his myth of supremacy and was so devastating that Napoleon's Conscription based army would never quite recover previously. Napoleon was forced to Abdicate the Throne and while he made a spirited comeback in 1815, he never quite recovered to pre-Leipzig strength.
  • Another similarly decisive battle was the Battle of Tsushima during the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. Fought between the Imperial Japanese Navy and the Imperial Russian Navy, it was the only decisive battle between steel-hulled battleships and the first and only large-scale battle between pre-dreadnought battleships.
    • 4 Japanese and 8 Russian first-class battleships, as well as 38 cruisers, 28 destroyers, and numerous other vessels, were involved in the battle. After having sailed halfway across the world, the Russian fleet were completely annihilated by the technologically superior and more skilled Japanese fleet, let by Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō from the battleship Mikasa. In some of the most Epic Ship-on-Ship Action of the 20th Century, Tōgō managed to get his fleet to perform a U-turn and 'cross the T' of the Russian battle line, he was able to split up the Russian formation. Russia lost nearly their entire fleet, including all 8 of their battleships and all 3 coastal battleships. Japanese losses were just three torpedo boats.
    • The battle effectively won the Russo-Japanese War, making Japan the chief naval power in East Asia, allowing the expansion of the Japanese Empire, as well as leading to World War One by encouraging the design of dreadnoughts. It also formed Japan's doctrine of Kantai Kessen, or victory through a single decisive battle, which guided their World War Two strategies. Surviving ships include the Japanese flagship Mikasa as well as the Russian protected cruiser Aurora.
  • The Battle of Lukaya was the engagement that decided the Uganda–Tanzania War. Tanzania's victory there not only opened the way to Uganda's capital of Kampala, but also broke the morale of the Ugandan army.
  • Gettysburg in The American Civil War; Robert E. Lee's defeat here destroyed whatever offensive capability the Confederacy had in the east(a few smaller offensives into the North would be attempted in 1864, but never to the scale of Gettysburg), galvanized the Union into finishing the fight, all but secured Abraham Lincoln's second term as President, and finally convinced potential European sympathizers that the South was doomed (though Lee's earlier defeat at Antietam and the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862 had already dealt a blow against the South, as nations like France and the UK were less likely to side with the slaveholding Confederates after Lincoln made the war an anti-slavery crusade).
    • Happening concurrently with Gettysburg was the Siege of Vicksburg in Mississippi. One of the key Union strategies in the Civil War was to capture the entire Mississippi River, but the town of Vicksburg on its banks was turned into a massive fortress for the Confederacy to maintain a foothold. After a months-long campaign led by General Ulysses S. Grant, the fortress-town was finally captured in July 1863, being the last Confederate Stronghold along the Mississippi River. With the loss of Vicksburg and the entire River, the Confederacy was effectively split in two, with the two divided sides unable to support or communicate with each other. The Eastern Confederacy could not rely on reinforcements or supplies from Texas, Arkansas, or Louisiana, while the Western Confederacy was largely left rudderless to wither on the vine. President Abraham Lincoln called Vicksburg "the key to the war."
    • The Battle of Chattanooga in the West. The Union's Western Army had been working to take over Tennessee, and had maneuvered Braxton Bragg out of Chattanooga earlier that year. However, the army was routed due to some mistakes at the Battle of Chickamauga, and the South had some momentum to take back the city. However, Ulysses S. Grant arrived in the city for his last big battle in the western theatre, and with the help of his generals, he drove Bragg from the city, securing the state for the immediate future. The Southern Army of Tennessee would never have the strength or chance to be as offensively capable after this defeat, and this would be the final confirmation for Abraham Lincoln to bring Grant back East as his new Supreme Commander of the Army of the Potomac.


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Battle of Yorktown

Hamilton celebrates the battle that won independence for the American colonies.

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Main / DecisiveBattle

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