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Top 10 Battles in History

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Ryan Hechler These are more than just war stories! Join http://www.WatchMojo down our picks for the Top 10 Battles in History. For this list, we're reviewing specific battles in history, and not overall wars. These battles can be from any place in the world and from any time in history. Special thanks to our users hecklenstein, Baljit Singh and LANCASHIRE468 for submitting their ideas at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Battles in History
These are more than just war stories! Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Battles in History.
For this list, we’re reviewing specific battles in history, and not overall wars. These battles can be from any place in the world and from any time in history.

#10: Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC)
Thermopylae, Greece Fought during the second Persian invasion of Greece, this battle saw Spartan King Leonidas I lead fellow Greeks into battle against the forces of Persian King Xerxes I. Choosing to guard a small gap through which their opponents could reach Greece, Leonidas realized his forces were outmatched, with about 7,000 waiting to face a group of possibly 100,000 Persians. The Greeks managed to hold off the Persians until a turncoat leaked information to Xerxes: he informed the king of a path that led behind Leonidas’ men, and so Xerxes sent his men down the path to surround the Greeks. In a heroic last stand, Leonidas and his Spartans fought to the death, but ultimately lost this battle.

#9: Battle of Tours / Poitiers (732)
Tours & Poitiers, France
In an attempt to expand the Umayyad caliphate into the Tours-Poitiers region of Gaul, now France, ‘Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi led an army against Frankish and Burgundian forces. Since Al Ghafiqi thought he was facing unorganized barbarian groups, he was not expecting a formidable resistance from Frankish Prince Charles “The Hammer” Martel. He was subsequently killed in the battle, which turned out to be a decisive victory not only for the Franks, but for Christianity in Europe. In fact, many historians believe that had the battle gone the other way, Islam would be the dominant religion on that continent.

#8: Tet Offensive (1968)
South Vietnam
On January 30, 1968, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong launched the Tet Offensive against the South Vietnamese and U.S. militaries. The day the first attack took place was a significant one, as it was the Vietnamese New Year, known as Tết. These highly coordinated attacks saw more than 100 cities and villages attacked by the Communist Northern forces, surprising the South and their allies. This incident was a turning point in Vietnam conflict, as it precipitated a shift in U.S. public opinion against the war. While the U.S. and South Vietnamese eventually emerged tactically victorious, it was a political win for the North Vietnamese.

#7: Battle of Gettysburg (1863)
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Just as the Battle of Yorktown served to boost the morale of Americans during the Revolution, Gettysburg proved a turning point for the north in the Civil War. Intent on invading the Union, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia surged north and squared off against Union Major General George’s Meade’s Army of the Potomac in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania between July 1 and 3, 1863. While the Confederates initially had the upper hand, they were quickly beaten back, and within these three days this became one of – if not the – bloodiest battle of the entire war. The Confederacy was never in a position to invade the North again and this started the downward spiral that led to their defeat in 1865.

#6: Battle of Trafalgar (1805)
Cape Trafalgar, Spain
British Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson went head-to-head with Napoleonic France and Spain at Cape Trafalgar, Spain on October 21, 1805. With the Brits’ 33 ships facing a combined force of 41 ships, the Royal Navy proved their supremacy by taking down 22 of their opponents’ ships without losing one of their own. However, the British did lose roughly 500 seamen, including Lord Nelson who was killed by a French musketeer. The French and Spanish were left with a total of over 3,000 dead and 8,000 imprisoned, 3,000 of whom tragically drowned during a storm after the battle concluded. This was a decisive British victory during the Napoleonic Wars!

5: Battle of Cajamarca (1532)
Cajamarca, Inca Empire [Present-day Peru]
Inca emperor Atahualpa agreed to receive Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro at the city of Cajamarca on November 16, 1532. The conquistador arrived to an abandoned city and set a trap with his 106 infantry and 62 cavalry men, who were armed with 12 firearms, 4 cannons, and a lot of swords. Keeping his army outside of the city limits, Atahualpa entered with his unarmed royal entourage. The trap was sprung, thousands of Incas were massacred, and Pizarro captured Atahualpa thus bringing one of the largest empires in history to its knees.

#4: Battle of Waterloo (1815)
Waterloo, Netherlands [Present-day Belgium]
Napoleon returned to power in March 1815 and in response European powers formed the Seventh Coalition to oppose him. Fearful of an invasion of France, Napoleon pre-emptively struck at Waterloo in the Netherlands, now part of Belgium, on June 18, 1815. Napoleon’s French forces numbered 73,000, whereas the Coalition had 118,000 men, with forces drawn from the Netherlands, UK, Prussia, Hanover, Nassau, and Brunswick. Napoleon suffered a devastating loss with one-third of his army killed. This was Napoleon’s final campaign and he was forced into exile, ending his reign as Emperor.

#3: Battle of Gaugamela (331 BC)
Gaugamela (near Mosul, Iraq)
Alexander the Great was bent on bringing the Achaemenid Empire, known as the First Persian Empire, under his control. To achieve this, he personally led his army into combat against Persian King Darius III on October 1, 331 BC at Gaugamela, which today would be found near Mosul, Iraq. Alexander led a Greek army of roughly 50,000 into battle against a Persian army likely more than double its size and emerged victorious due to carefully coordinated tactics. This single battle brought Babylon and much of Persia under his immediate control, causing the downfall of the Achaemenid Empire.

#2: Battle of Stalingrad (1942-43)
Stalingrad, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Nazi Germany invaded western Russia and came to a standstill at Stalingrad, now Volgograd. The battle began August 23, 1942 and continued until February 2, 1943, and during that time the Nazis fought Soviet forces throughout the city and targeted civilians. Germany met with early successes but was ill-equipped for a Russian winter and lacked sufficient rations. The Soviets saw this and pushed the Nazis back, and this became a turning point for the Allies. Potentially the bloodiest battle in history, the Soviets themselves suffered more than 1 million casualties, according to records – but they decisively won the encounter.

Before we get to our number one battle in history, let’s review some honorable mentions:
- Siege of Orléans (1428-29)
Orléans, France
- Battle of Hastings (1066)
Hastings, East Sussex, England
- Battle of the Somme (1916)
Somme & Pas-de-Calais, France
- Huaihai Campaign (1948-49)
Shandong, Jiangsu, Anhui & Henan, China
- Battle of Cannae (216 BC)
Cannae, Italy
- Siege of Masada (73-74)
Masada, Israel
- Battle of Megiddo (c. 1457)
Megiddo, Israel

#1: Invasion of Normandy (1944)
Normandy, France
On June 6th, 1944, the Allies overwhelmed Nazi forces in occupied France by storming the beaches of Normandy by sea and parachuting men behind enemy lines, in an event now referred to as D-Day. The Allies sent between 130-156,000 soldiers on this first day to overwhelm the Nazi forces. After that first day of fighting, the invasion lasted until mid-July; the Allies sent a total of 1,300,000 men whereas the Nazis were only able to send 380,000. In what is still the largest invasion by sea ever, the Allies pushed the Nazis back eastward and thus began the crushing defeat of Germany.

Do you agree with our list? What historical battles do you think are the most significant? For more excellent Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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