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Zhukov's Greatest Defeat: The Red Army's Epic Disaster in Operation Mars, 1942
By David M. Glantz
Publisher: University Press of Kansas 1999 448 Pages
PDF 7 MB
One of the least known stories of World War II, Operation Mars was a military disaster on an epic scale. Designed to dislodge the German Army from its position west of Moscow, it cost the Soviets an estimated 335,000 dead, missing and wounded men and over 1,600 tanks. But in Russian history books, it was a battle that never happened. It became instead another victim of Stalin's postwar censorship. This book offers an account of this forgotten catastrophe, revealing the key players and detailing the major events of Operation Mars. Using sources in both German and Russian archives, he reconstructs the historical context of Mars and reviews the entire operation from High Command to platoon level. Orchestrated and led by Marshal Georgy Kostantinovich Zhukov, one of the Soviet Union's great military heroes, the twin operations Mars and Uranus formed the centrepiece of Soviet strategic efforts in the fall of 1942. Launched in tandem with Operation Uranus, the successful counteroffensive at Stalingrad, Mars proved a monumental setback. Fought in bad weather and on impossible terrain, the ambitious offensive faltered (despite spectacular initial success in some sectors). Zhukov kept sending in more troops and tanks only to see them decimiated by the entrenched Germans. Illuminating the painful progress of Operation Mars with battle scenes and numerous maps and illustrations, Glantz presents Mars as a major failure of Zhukov's renowned command. Yet, both during and after the war, that failure was masked from public view by the successful Stalingrad operation, thus eliminating any stain from Zhukov's public image as a hero of the Great Patriotic War. For three gruelling weeks, Operation Mars was one of the most tragic and agonizing episodes in Soviet military history, Glantz's reconstructon of that failed offensive should fills a gap in our knowledge of World War II, even as it raises important questions about the reputations of national military heroes.