Marshall... GEEEEORGY ZHUUUUKOV!
|Georgy Zhukov, the best Russian Zerg Rusher of all time|
Firstly, he kicked Japan's butt in Russia and Japan's little border war at the start of World War 2 (before Germany signed the defensive pact with Japan).
Now Stalin, being quite paranoid, was suspicious of Zhukov's success and promptly demoted him (which is a lot better than being killed by the Russian secret police which is what Stalin tended to do).
Operation Barbarossa (Germany's invasion of Russia), saw the soviets losing more and more territory. Germany laid siege to Leningrad (aka ST Petersburg, aka Petrograd, former capital of Russia under Tsar rule), Stalin saw some sense for once and in September 1941 he was made commander of the Leningrad front where he promptly kicked nazi ass.
Then when the Germans laid siege to Stalingrad, Zhukov was sent there and led the soviets to victory, despite the fact that they had previously been pushed back to occupy the west bank, only 10% of the city. Zhukov flanked the Axis army, causing the Italians who were guarding the German flanks to route and then proceeded to encircle them.
Now the battle of Stalingrad was a turning point in the history of the war. Historians agree that after the soviet victory at Stalingrad there was no possible way the Germans could conquer Russia. The Russian reversal had begun.
The highlight of Zhukov's career though, was the battle of Kursk. The Kursk salient was a big soviet bulge that was a major eyesore for Hitler and the German high command. Their reaction was expected; blitzkreig the hell out of the Kursk bulge and shorten their defensive line. Zhukov was expecting this and proceeded to fortify Kursk and prepare the perfect counter.
Geoergy's strategem was defense in depth. Defense in depth is nothing new, it is an age old strategy. It was used countless times in medieval warfare, trench warfare and was even used by Hannibal with the result of slaughtering ten Roman legions at once.
It's simple: the defender deliberately gives up ground in order to weaken the attacker. This is usually doen by setting up directional defenses which can be progressively abandoned. The defenses are directional in that they only protect the inhabitants in one direction, so once the attackers takes them, the attackers gain no advantage, only ground. In the process of this the attackers get shot at. Simple, easy.
Yet despite it's simplicity, there were doubts of it working. Before the battle of Kursk, nothing could withstand a German Blitzkreig in full force. The soviets had one battles against the Germans before, but not against a blitzkrieg and not against double encirclement.
Kursk was proof that, the blitzkreig could be countered. Zhukov happily let the german Panzer and Tiger divisions gain their ground (with heayv losses) and then launched a vicious counterattack upon the survivors. At this point, the Eastern front was lost to the Germans. After the battle of Kursk, the Soviet Russia won battle after battle and invaded Germany.
What a hero. That said there are some thing I don't like the about Georgy. Firstly, although he won a lot of battles, he almost always had numerical superiority, but then again, maybe he was an expert at picking his battles.
Another sore point is the fact that he was in charge of the soviet forces occupying Hungary after the war.
Apart from that though, he was a good general and to some extent a good politician because unlike all the other good Russian generals at the time, Stalin didn't try to kill him (Stalin bled the country white with Great Purge).