Marshal Georgy Zhukov
Born in Strelkovka, Russia on December 1, 1896 to peasants, Georgy Zhukov was one of the most famous life long military men in the country. Being a professional soldier, he received many top honorary titles in Russia and was on three occasions bestowed on the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. As a child, Zhukov worked in the fields and at age 12 he travelled to Moscow for apprenticeship to a furrier. Four years later, he had completed his apprenticeship and entered the business in 1912. His business career was a short lived one as he was soon conscripted into Russian army in July 1915 for service during World War 1.
The Russian Civil War
Upon entry into the army, Zhukov was assigned to cavalry where he performed his duties with distinction and won the coveted Cross of St. Georgia twice. This earned him a promotion to become a non commissioned officer due to the bravery he had shown in battle. In 1918, he joined Red army. During the time of Russian Civil War between 1917 and 1921, the brave and decisive solder served as a troop commander first and later took charge of 1st Cavalry Army. In conflict, he served with 10th Dragoon Novgorod Regiment and 106th Reserve Cavalry and his time in military came to an end after sustaining a bad wound.
When Zhukov was not being engaged in the battle, he was attending military school in Moscow. He was later to join the Communist Party. According to a fellow student at the military school, like no other, Zhukov studied very hard. He was seen crawling over maps on the floor each time he was in his room. By then, he had considered his duty and work to be of significant importance to him. Zhukov was in 1939 asked to lead the military in a battle against Japanese army in Mongolia. He explored the surroundings carefully for two days after which he contacted the Soviets in Moscow and asked them to have their aviation strengthened and send at least a tank brigade and at least three infantry divisions.
In Mongolia, he planed his mission to be a counter attack and his requests were granted by the Soviet government. On 3 June at night, the Japanese moved their operations through Khalkhin Gol and they occupied Bain- Tsagan Mountain. However, before they settled completely, Zhukov started off his attacks using two tank brigades. With the support of infantry, he was able to encircle the Japanese army and defeated the Japanese troops within few days. For this operation, Zhukov was awarded the title of the Hero of Soviet Union for the first time.
Zhukov and Stalin
In October 1941, Stalin assigned Zhukov in a battle to defend Moscow. His troop, being led by him was able to firmly hold their position in Moscow and defended the city successfully. He then launched an extreme and successful counter attach on German army. A year later, the best division of German army at the time was quickly approaching Stalingrad. He launched a knockdown army against the Germans at the city outskirts which lasted for over 3 months. Thanks to his command, Russia was able to give Germans the most catastrophic and shameful defeat Germany had suffered in history by then.
Using his classic tactic of first defense, Zhukov in 1943 coordinated the well known Battle of Kursk. He carefully followed the battle and was able to know the exact time when German army was exhausted and out of breath. At that time, Zhukov launched his successful attack against the Germans. Russian troops in 1941 failed to keep the German army from closing in to Leningrad, present day St. Petersburg. The siege was later lifted in 1943. In all the operations that he led, Zhukov showed courage, great organization talent and his adamant will and desire to win the battle.
Even though Zhukov’s troops did suffered heavy losses in battle, they were able to capture Berlin with his command in 1945. This historical battle led to him being awarded the title of the Hero of Soviet Union for the third time. On 8 May, Germans agreed to sign the act of capitulation and WWII was over.
Zhukov played a great role during the World War II. As Soviet forces continued to suffer reverses on nearly all the fronts, he was compelled that he signs Directive of People’s Commissariat Defense No. 3. This directive called for Zhukov to undertake a series of several counter attacks against the enemies. Zhukov argued about the plans which were included in the directive and the government proved him correct years later when Russian forces failed drastically with heavy losses.
This led to Zhukov being sacked on July 29 as the chief of General Staff when he advised Stalin that they abandon Kiev. Stalin refused to agree to this recommendation proposed by Zhukov which led to the capture of more than 600, 000 men after the Germans encircled the city. Zhukov was that October made the commander of Soviet forces that was charged with the responsibility of defending Moscow, replacing General Semyon who was relieved of his duties.
To help in providing the city with adequate defense, he recalled the Soviet forces that were stationed in Far East. Together, they planned a brilliant logistical feat and had them transferred across the country quickly. With this reinforcement, Zhukov was able to provide the city with the much needed defense and on December 5, he launched a counter attack that pushed German forces back to between 60 and 150 miles away from the city. Having saved the city successfully, Zhukov was later made the deputy commander in chief for the Russian army and was sent to southwestern from where he took charge of defending Stalingrad.
While General Vasiliy Chuikov led forces within the city to battle against the German forces, Zhukov together with General Aleksandr Vasilevsky were on the other hand planning for Operation Uranus.
He designed a massive counter attack that aimed at surrounding and enveloping German 6th Army based in Stalingrad. Operation Uranus was launched on November 19 and the plan was executed as the Soviet Forces staged attacks on the south and north of the city. The German forces were fully surrounded by Zhukov and his troops which led to their surrendering on February 2. As this operation at Stalingrad was coming to a conclusion, Zhukov was charged with the responsibility of overseeing Operation Spark that opened way in January 1943 to Leningrad, the besieged city.
During Operation Spark, Zhukov used the strategy of guessing the intentions of Germans where he advised Soviet Union to take a defensive stance while letting Wehrmacht to exhaust itself.
Final years and Legacy
General Dwight Eisenhower, the commander of Allied offensive on Western Front said that due to the success of war in Europe, the United Nations really owns a great debt to Zhukov for his contribution in the war. In Moscow, Zhukov himself led the Russian Victory Parade where he rode on a white stallion on Red Square via the parade ground. It was the intention of Stalin that he would lead the victory’s parade although he had to give up his ambitions due to poor riding skills. Unfortunately, this only ended up with Stalin being more jealous towards Zhukov. Stalin didn’t like the fact that the name Zhukov was behind all major war victories in Russia. Of all his battles, Zhukov was highly successful and the only time that he was forced to stop was after their supply line becoming too extended.
The whole of USSR hailed and adored Zhukov as a great hero as he didn’t loose even one battle. However, later, a number of authors in Russia and other parts described Zhukov as a very cruel general and commander who did anything it took to succeed at his missions. He had no sympathy or thought for the human life. Soon after the war ended, Zhukov became supreme military commander for Soviet Occupation Zone planned by Russia in German. A year later, Zhukov was removed by Stalin from the post as he felt that Zhukov’s popularity was becoming a threat to him. Later, he was assigned to Odessa Military District which was relatively insignificant.
In 1953, Stalin died and Zhukov was now able to enjoy favors from the new leader, first becoming the deputy minister for defense and in 1955, he became Russia’s minister for defense. In 1957, Nikita Khruschchev removed Zhukov from the ministry even though Zhukov was his supporter. In June 1957, he was removed from Central Committee after arguing with Nikita regarding army policy. Despite being greatly liked by Aleksei Kosygin and Leonid Brezhnez, this was the last role he ever served in the government but he still remained to be a top favorite among the Russian people.
Even though little is known about the personal life of Zhukov, historical records show that he had three daughters from his two marriages. On 18 June 1974, Zhukov died and was buried on Red Square just next to Kremlin walls.