The BEST Soviet military commander of WWII

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Four-time Hero of the Soviet Union, Marshal Georgy Zhukov was the architect of the Red Army’s main victories over the Nazis in World War II. He was always sent to the most dangerous sectors of the Soviet-German front.

He was one of the main authors of the triumph of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany. Field Marshal Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov participated in the formulation of the most important strategic operations of the Red Army during World War II. The soldiers said of him: “Where Zhukov is, there is Victory.”

Georgy Zhukov began his military career on the battlefields of World War I, during which he rose to the rank of squadron commander and was twice awarded the Cross of St. George. Having joined the Bolsheviks after the Revolution of 1917, he also took part in the Civil War. His debut as a major military commander came much later – in the summer of 1939, during the fighting against the Imperial Japanese Army on the Khalkhin Gol River.

Georgi Zhukov in 1923.

Taking command of the 1st Army Group, which struggled to hold back the Japanese after their foray into the territory of USSR ally Mongolia, Zhukov essentially turned defeat into victory. He not only repelled a planned enemy attack from the rear of his forces, but also succeeded in surrounding and destroying the enemy. “For all of our troops, formation commanders, unit commanders and for me personally, the battles of Khalkhin Gol have been an excellent school for gaining combat experience,” said Georgy Konstantinovich. reported to Stalin. “I think the Japanese side, too, will now draw their own conclusions more precisely about the strength and capabilities of the Red Army.” He was right – after the defeat Japan became much more cautious in its aggressive plans against the Soviet Union.

Georgy Zhukov (second from right) and Mongolian People's Army Marshal Khorloogiin Choibalsan during the battles of Khalkhin Gol.

“In my opinion, Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov remains a man of strong will and determination, richly endowed with all the qualities necessary for a military leader”, another distinguished Soviet military commander, Konstantin Rokossovsky, mentionned on the general. Zhukov was never afraid to act boldly and with determination, he was able to correctly assess a complicated strategic situation and make the right decisions in critical and rapidly changing circumstances. He was one of the first Soviet military leaders to realize the important role mechanized formations played in modern warfare and he learned to use them effectively.

Konstantin Rokossovsky and Georgy Zhukov.

After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Zhukov was in great demand. He was not only a permanent member of the Supreme High Command Headquarters and Deputy Supreme Commander Joseph Stalin, but on several occasions he commanded the forces of five fronts. Georgy Konstantinovich was sent to the areas where the most dangerous enemy blows fell.

In September 1941, Georgy Zhukov arrived in Leningrad, which was then on the verge of disaster. On his orders, in the event of an unauthorized retreat or abandonment of the line of defense around the city, any commander or soldier was to be immediately shot. “A panic sower could be the dismantling of an entire unit; squads and platoons could suffer heavy losses from a single coward. We all experienced this during the battles of Leningrad. Therefore, I can say with certainty that Zhukov’s orders helped us defeat the enemy, ”P. Mushtakov, one of the city’s defenders, recalled. Finally, having mobilized all the meager resources of the city, the general stabilized the front and prevented the enemy from seizing the city, as well as preventing the German and Finnish armies from allying themselves.

In October, as German Operation Typhoon swept over the leadership of Moscow, Zhukov was transferred to the capital. The troops of the Western Front under his command resist the main enemy strikes and wear out and weaken the Germans. December 5 saw the start of the Red Army’s full-scale counteroffensive, in the planning of which Georgy Konstantinovich had played an active role. As a result, the Wehrmacht was pushed back 100-250 km from the capital. “During the period of particularly fierce fighting… Personally, I could not sleep more than two hours a day and, even then, it was at strange times…”, Zhukov recalled. “When the crisis of the Battle of Moscow passed, I fell asleep so soundly that I could not be awakened for a long time. Stalin called me twice during this time. He was told: “Zhukov is asleep and we cannot wake him up. The chief said, “Don’t wake him up, wait until he wakes up on his own.”

Joseph Stalin and Georgy Zhukov.

The idea spread in the post-Soviet period that Georgy Zhukov was a real “butcher” and “poacher of the Russian people” who did not spare his men and piled up the battlefield with corpses during his encounters with the enemy. Yet the statistics say the opposite. “It is distinguished by its low number of victims”, answer historian Alexei Isaïev. “If you look at the numbers compared to the total number of men on the front line, he consistently has lower percentage losses than other commanders – for example, Konev or Malinovsky. That is why he was given a front of a million men. They knew he would manage to manage the front and keep losses to moderate levels because he was truly a top professional.

The general also faced significant setbacks, including the second Operation Rzhev-Sychevka, also known as “Operation Mars,” which took place under his command. It began on November 25, 1942, just a week after the start of the offensive by Soviet troops in Stalingrad. Operation Mars ended in failure, but it also played a positive role. The weakened German Army Group Center was unable to send in supplies to aid Friedrich Paulus’ 6th Army which found itself surrounded at Stalingrad.

The second Rzhev-Sychevka operation.

Zhukov was the architect of the Red Army’s victory over the Kursk Salient in the summer of 1943, after which the Germans definitively lost the initiative for the war against the USSR. It was Zhukov who had advised the Supreme High Command headquarters not to launch a large-scale offensive, but to operate from a defensive position. “It would be better that we exhaust the enemy with our defense and that we eliminate its tanks, then, bringing in new reserves and going to the general offensive, definitively finish off the main group of the enemy,” he said. declared. mentionned in a report of April 8, 1943. The plan was beautifully executed in July and August.

The Battle of Kursk.

Become Marshal of the Soviet Union in 1943, Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov led large-scale offensive operations that literally crushed and knocked out the enemy. For example, this is how General Friedrich Wilhelm von Mellenthin described the Vistula-Oder operation during which Zhukov’s 1st Belarusian front routed 35 German divisions and reached the outskirts of Berlin: “The Russian offensive beyond the Vistula developed with strength and unprecedented speed; it is impossible to describe everything that happened between the Vistula and the Oder in the first months of 1945. It was a tragedy of unprecedented magnitude… Europe had seen nothing like this since the destruction of Roman Empire.

Marshal Zhukov, Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery and Marshal Rokossovsky in Berlin.

It is not surprising that Stalin entrusted Zhukov with the capture of the capital of the Third Reich and, subsequently, the inspection of the Victory Parade in Red Square in Moscow on June 24. – period of war, due to disagreements with the “Father of Peoples” and with the latter’s successor as head of state, Nikita Khrushchev, he has always enjoyed the great affection of ordinary people, among whom he is gave the nickname ‘Marshal of Victory’. For his part, Zhukov wrote in his memoirs: “The most important thing for me was to serve my homeland and my people. And I can say with a clear conscience that I have done all I can to fulfill this duty.

Zhukov inspecting the Victory Parade on Red Square in Moscow.

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