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A decisive victory
is an indisputable military victory of a battle that determines or significantly influences the ultimate result of a conflict. It does not always coincide with the end of combat. The Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...
, for example, is considered "decisive" despite the fact that the Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...
ended more than three years later because it represented a shift of power in the emerging Pacific
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...
naval conflict—one the Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...
was unable to reverse.
In Defining and Achieving Decisive Victory
, Colin Gray defined an operational decisive victory as "a victory which decides the outcome to a campaign, though not necessarily to the war as a whole".
The term has also been used to describe victories in which the prevailing side utterly overwhelmed the losing side. For example, the attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...
is sometimes described as a decisive victory for the Japanese, even though it did not decide the ultimate outcome of the war in the Pacific.
Writing in Military Review
, Thomas Goss attributes the popularity of the closely related term "decisive battle" to Sir Edward Creasy and his 1851 book, The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World
The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World: from Marathon to Waterloo is a book written by Sir Edward Shepherd Creasy and published in 1851. This book tells the story of the fifteen military engagements which, according to the author, had a significant impact on world history.-Chapters:Each...
. Goss recounts a variety of different definitions for the term used by historians and military leaders (neither of which typically define the term before using it): a battle that (1) achieves its operational objectives; (2) ends the conflict because one side has achieved its strategic objectives, or; (3) directly ends the conflict and results in a lasting peace between the belligerents. He concludes that "A decisive battle must directly lead to a rapid resolution of the contested political issues because the results on the battlefield caused both sides to agree that a decision had been reached."