Publication Date: March 20, 2012
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Zhukov was the dominant figure in the Red Army during World War II even though his actual job title varied from day to day. Serving as a senior General Staff representative from the Stavka, Zhukov moved from one critical sector to the next, serving as advisor, coordinator and de facto front commander as required. There is no doubt that Zhukov played a critical role in salvaging the critical situation in the fall of 1941 and leading the Red Army to an amazing reversal of fortunes in 1942-43 and eventual victory in 1944-45. He was instrumental in the initial defence of Leningrad, before moving to Moscow to stem the German advance and lead the counterattack in the winter of 1941. In 1942-43 he was responsible for Operation Uranus that cut off the German 6. Armee in Stalingrad, and led the defence of the Kursk Pocket against Manstein's attacks. His was the voice of reason and patience that convinced Stalin to let the Germans expend themselves at Kursk before launching the Soviet offensive that drove the Germans back hundreds of miles and almost broke the German Army inthe Ukraine. Without him Kursk would never have been fought as a defensive battle by the Russians. In 1944 he led the massive Soviet Operation Bagration that destroyed the German Heeresgruppe Mitte and continued on in command of front through to the end of the war, which saw him become the first post-war Soviet commander in East Germany.
However, Zhukov's methods were brutal and contributed to massive Soviet casualties, while he continued to keep his hand in political affairs as well. As the most recognized Soviet soldier of World War II, Zhukov's post-war fall from grace was equally precipitous and it was not until the fall of the Soviet Union that he was awarded his reputation was restored.
Robert Forczyk has a PhD in International Relations and National Security from the University of Maryland and a strong background in European and Asian military history. He retired as a lieutenant colonel from the US Army Reserves having served 18 years as an armor officer in the US 2nd and 4th infantry divisions and as an intelligence officer in the 29th Infantry Division (Light). Dr Forczyk is currently a consultant in the Washington, DC area.
"A well-wrought introduction to the brutal but often brilliant Red Army leader who was heeded even by Joseph Stalin."
--Gene Santoro, World War II magazine (September/October 2012)