Zhukov was the most successful Russian general in World War Two. Zhukov effectively led the attack on Berlin in April/May 1945 and throughout the whole Russian campaign was known as the ‘man who did not lose a battle’.
Zhukov was born in 1896 and he served as an officer in the Russian Imperial Army during World War One. After the Bolshevik victory in November 1917, Zhukov joined the communist Red Army. He served as a cavalry commander during the Russian Civil War.
After the Civil War had ended in Russia and relative calm had descended on the nation, Zhukov studied the use of armoured warfare in battle. He had seen for himself, the cost in human lives of outmoded warfare and he developed his own ideas on how armoured vehicles could be used in combat. His knowledge and skill clearly impressed Joseph Stalin who had used the Purges to rid himself of many senior Red Army officers. In 1940, Zhukov was appointed chief of staff by Stalin. Zhukov knew that failure would not be tolerated by Stalin – neither would be getting on the wrong side of the leader.
Operation Barbarossa cruelly exposed the Russian Army for what it was at that time. The Germans surged on to Stalingrad in the south, got into the suburbs of Moscow and besieged Leningrad in the north. Zhukov’s first great test was to save Moscow which he did. He then used his expertise to destroy the German Army at Stalingrad which lead to Field Marshall von Paulus surrendering his forces. From this surrender, the German forces would only be retreating back to Germany such was the devastating nature of this defeat.
For the advance into occupied eastern Europe, Zhukov used to his advantage the new T-34; a weapon that set new standards for tank design. The victory of the Russians at Kursk gave them a huge advantage over the Germans in terms of armoured warfare.
Zhukov was given the credit for the victory of the Russian forces over the Nazis in the Battle for Berlin. Though a victory in military terms, the Russians had taken very many casualties in this battle. However, this victory sealed for Zhukov the title of the ‘man who never lost a battle’. In the aftermath of this victory, Zhukov, now a marshal in the army, headed the Russian occupation force.
However, his success and fame was his undoing. Stalin could never tolerate someone in Russia being more famous than he was – or even threatening that fame. In 1946, Zhukov was demoted by Stalin to a regional post in Russia and he was sidelined. When Stalin died in 1953, Zhukov regained the prestige his career merited. In 1955, he was appointed First Deputy Minister of Defence. In 1957, he was promoted to the Executive Committee of the Communist Party. However, he was sacked from both positions in 1957 when he was accused of putting the military before the party.
From 1965 to 1968, Zhukov wrote articles for Russian periodicals but their content would have been heavily censored by the government. Other than that, the man who effectively led the Russian military during World War Two, led a quiet life in retirement.
Gregory Zhukov died in 1974 aged 78.