Thursday, February 16, 2006

THE GREAT COMMANDERS: Georgi Zhukov



The German-Soviet war was the most destructive in history and left a divided Europe in ruins. Ultimately Nazi Germany was defeated - at an estimated cost of 27 million Soviet lives - and the military commander most responsible for Hitler's downfall was Georgi Konstantinovich Zhukov.

Deputy Supreme Commander-in-Chief Zhukov, was the first and only deputy Stalin ever had. He possessed neither charisma nor oratory skill, yet his achievements as a commander place him on a par with Alexander and Caesar. Like them he had a clear strategy, efficient logistical supply, fierce determination and overwhelming strength of character.

Russia had suffered greatly at the hands of the German forces and the Soviet soldiers knew they were fighting for their country's very survival. Under Zhukov's guidance, they snatched Stalingrad back from almost certain defeat and began to drive the Nazis back the way they had come until only Poland lay between Zhukov and Berlin.

Operation Berlin marked the final phase of the Second World War in Europe. The core of this operation, involving over 2.6 million Soviet troops, focused first on the Oder River (the German/Polish border) and then onto Berlin itself. No city of this size had ever been taken before and it was a campaign that America and Britain had avoided, partly through fear of heavy casualties.

Although not a brutal man, Zhukov was fearless and expected the same of his troops. His planning and his ruthlessness were simply too much for the semi-broken Nazi regime to resist and finally Berlin fell, smashed by the sheer relentlessness of the Soviet war machine.

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