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It is an undeniable fact that the Marshal Georgy Zhukov is the most commended and highly-praised military commander of the Soviet Union, especially for his services in the World War II. It was due to his relentless efforts that the German army was defeated in the East and the war was brought to an end quickly. A good number of historians acknowledge that "the name of Marshal Georgi Konstantinovich Zhukov, the distinguished military leader of World War II and a controversial figure in the postwar military and political hierarchy, conjures up a picture of an outstanding, often ruthless commander, one of a few who led massive armed forces and never lost a battle."
Georgi Konstantinovich Zhukov was born Strelkovka (near Moscow) to a peasant family on December 1st, 1896. In 1906, he finished school and was then sent to Moscow to pursue a career in fur-making. During World War I, he fought for his country and was twice awarded the Cross of St. George as recognition of his services. He was them given the promotion as a non-commissioned officer as he was acknowledged as a brave warrior. In 1918, Zhukov joined the Red Army. Later, he was promoted to the rank of troop commander during the 1917-1921 Russian Civil War. Afterwards, the great commander became a part of the Communist Party. During times when engagement in battle was not necessary, Zhukov made sure to be present at military school.
1 Otto Preston Chaney, Zhukov, rev. ed. (Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996), pageNr.
He was also a part of the 1938-1939 Soviet action against the Japanese army on the border of Manchurian. Not only this, he also participated in the war with Finnish. In 1940, Zhukov was given the promotion to the rank of full general in 1940. 2 His military career is full of combats and victories. In 1941, he took the place of Semyon Timoshenko. Thus, he defended Moscow as the commander of the central front. In 1942, he led the southwestern front as the commander of the armed forces. In 1943, the Germans were defeated by him at Stalingrad. In 1944 offensive, Zhukov led the forces. He conducted the final physical attack on Germany in 1945. It was under his command that the Russian forces were successful to take Berlin under their control.
As a consequence, Zhukov became the commander of the German lands that were occupied by the Soviet Union. He was given the command of the ground forces of Soviet Union in 1946. After the death of Stalin, he was made the deputy defense minister. In 1955, Zhukov became the defense minister of the country. He then had disagreements with Nikita Khrushchev who kicked out Zhukov in 1957. However, when Khruschev fell in 1964, the reputation of Zhukov was allowed the restore even though he was not given any position in the government till his death in June 1974.3
2 Stalin's General: the Life of Georgy Zhukov [hardcover]  (author) Geoffrey Roberts (publication place: Random House, 2012), pageNr.
It is widely accepted that Zhukov was perhaps the only senior commander of the Soviet Union who was gifted with front line know-how, political steadfastness and leadership abilities that helped him to lead large formations in the most effective manner. 4
Role of Zhukov at the Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk was a "furious death grapple between two of history's most formidable fighting forces -- a battle that might possibly have been the greatest of all time." 5 After a deadlock of two years, the Soviets and Germans both looked-for main altercations that would characterize the force for both sides. The major confrontation that turned out to be a significant encounter then occurred near Kursk, a settlement in Southern Russia. In 1943, Erich von Manstein, a German general took Kharkov under occupation. This city was located at the southern side of Kursk. New weapons were brought into usage in the battle by the German forces that included the Ferdinand self-propelled artillery and the Pather (tank) that was particularly designedfor countering the T-34 tanks of the Soviet Union. The Soviet forces were able to surround the city as Manstein had deliberately allowed an entry through his line so that the Soviet forces could move forward.
Robert Forczyk, Georgy Zhukov: Leadership, Strategy, Conflict (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2012), pageNr.
5 Dennis E. Showalter, Armor and Blood: the Battle of Kursk: the Turning Point of World War Ii (publication place: Random House, 2013), pageNr.
Colonel General Kurt Zeitzler had devised the plan to get rid of the encircled Soviet forces. This offensive was planned due to Adolf Hitler's continuous insistence although Heinz Guderian was not in favor of taking too much risk believing that the consequences won't be much beneficial for the Germans. 6
The attack plans couldn't be kept in secret as both the British intelligence and "the Lucy Ring" (Soviet spy group) learned of them. The defensive forces of the Soviet Union were under the command of Marshall Georgi Zhukov. He was the one who persuaded Josef Stalin to keep from starting an attack as he wanted to destroy the enemy at Kursk at the earliest. In order to get ready for protection and resistance, Zhukov called for three hundred thousand civilians. He also ordered to build a sequence of defensive techniques such as tank ensnares, mine fields and a variety of protective positions. As far as the military was concerned, Zhukov used and manipulated the power of more than ten million men, thousands of tanks and excessive amount of artillery. He also brought more than two thousand aircraft in exercise. As far as the German side was concerned, they were also prepared to attack with full vigor and power including eight hundred thousand men and thousands of tanks and aircraft. 7
Just like Hitler, Stalin served as the absolute leader of Russia's highest center of operations. He was also known as the coldblooded, merciless authoritarian of his people. Both of the mentioned rulers are known to closely observe and hold every single feature of the battle.
6 M.K. Barbier, Kursk: the Greatest Tank Battle (publication place: Amber Books, 2013), pageNr.
However, Stalin trusted his generals more than Hitler did. This was the main reason why Stalin made Marshal Georgy K. Zhukov the absolute commanding officer of the Russian armed forces at Kursk. To put it more simply, it was originally Zhukov idea that the Stavka were inclined to adopt the defense and the ensuing retaliation plan. Thus, it can be said that it was very logical of Stalin to choose Zhukov as the Soviet commander. His choice proved to be a great one as Zhukov was successful in bringing in a set of very competent and skilled officers for commanding the Soviet forces that engaged in the Battle of Kursk.
On 4th July, 1943, the battle of the Kursk began. Germans made quick advances during the daytime. However, the Soviets' fierce resistance made their advances slow down later. The role of Georgy Zhukov is of particular importance here because it was because of his cleverly designed defensive structures that enabled Soviets to decelerate the advances made by Germans. It is important to mention here that the pre-setup mine fields that the Soviets arranged were the main reason why Germans lost their speed. It was the ultimate vision of Marshal Zhukov to pull off a swift and unfathomable breach with dominant force combinations to assault Germans. The Red Army masked the whole action by a gigantic tricky effort. 8
The Soviets, under Zhukov's able command, launched the counterattack on August 3 and caught the German forces speedily by the employment of Zhukov's excellent strategies, operations and tactics.
Robin Cross, The Battle of Kursk: Operation Citadel 1943 (New York: Penguin Global, 2005), pageNr.
Another reason why Germans slowed down was the employment of a rather non-conservative tactic by Walther Model of the German 9th Army who withheld a number of his tanks to set aside as an alternative of pouring the entire armor force into combat straight away. Marshal Georgy Zhukov was well acquainted with this German movement so he ordered his soldiers to bombard German forces around midnight by using artillery pieces, field guns and Katyusha rocket launchers.
The war continued for several days and in the end it was the Soviet forces that had to suffer more casualties as compared to German forces. However, the battle of Kursk turned out to be a successful event for the Soviets as they were able to stop Germans' plan to attack them unknowingly. According to the historians, Zhukov was also able to guide his forces successfully and gained a tactical victory at Kursk as he could sense the depletion and demoralization of the German forces that were easily caught off-guard with no support from the reserved forces.
There are only a small number of battles that have attracted so much interest as the Battle of Kursk. Hitler gave the code…[continue]
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