Today is “V-E Day”, which is the cool guy 1940s newspaper man way of taking the phrase “Victory in Europe Day” and making it sound like an event some hospital put together to raise awareness for gonorrhea. Exactly seventy years ago today, the last shattered fragments of the Wehrmacht leadership sat in the demolished ruins of their burned-out capital and signed documents unconditionally surrendering to Allied Forces, thus marking the end of World War II in Europe and the final destruction of Nazi Germany once and for all. Naturally, the United States and U.K. immediately went to work jerking each other off about how they’d single handedly won the war by riding a Surfboard of Freedom into Normandy and then ruthlessly dick-slapping Nazis with their unstoppable Capitalist boners, even though anybody with a working knowledge of the Dewey Decimal System and/or an iPad can probably tell you that a vast majority of the heavy lifting in World War II was undertaken by the Fascist-demolishing warriors of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Well the USSR hasn't exactly forgotten about the twenty million casualties they suffered in their inexorable grinding onslaught towards Berlin – there’s a reason the Russians refer to WWII as “The Great Patriotic War” – and every year since 1945 they’ve chosen to celebrate the anniversary of their victory in one of the most badass ways possible: by having those huge-ass awesome parades where they drive tanks and nuclear missile trucks right through the heart of Red Square in a formal and coordinated display of their giant armor-plated nutsacks:
The Moscow Victory Parade is an awesome thing to behold, and holding such a balls-out display of military force in such close proximity to that one building from Tetris honestly scared the fucking piss out of most Americans for the vast majority of Cold War. So, as the Russians prepare to hold the 70th anniversary of the event tomorrow, it’s probably as good a time as any to talk about the man who, among all the soldiers and commanders who served in any capacity for any country during World War II, probably contributed the most to making Victory in Europe a possibility: Marshal Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov.
And if you have any questions as to whether or not the man who engineered some of Hitler’s most crushing military defeats was a hardcore badass in his day-to-day life, take a look at this and judge for yourself:
This is actually his bathing suit
While that second one is an awesome picture, don’t let it deceive you – the gold stars in the top-right corner of that ridiculous twenty-seven pound sea of medals indicate Zhukov was a three-time Hero of the Soviet Union, but in reality that isn’t true. He was actually a four-time Hero of the Soviet Union, meaning he received the Soviet Union’s Medal of Honor more times than I’ve received one of those lame green "Good Job, Participant!" ribbons you get for actually handing int a project for the high school Science Fair. This portrait was simply painted before he earned the fourth medal and he was too modest of a guy to ask for it to be updated.
For such an impressive-looking motherfucker, Georgy Zhukov actually came from jack shit. He was born in 1896 in a small village south of Moscow, to a peasant family who barely had enough cash to keep their kids from starving to death. Living as a peasant in Imperial Russia wasn’t super amazingly fun back in the time when Tsarist aristocrats ran shit like it was still the Middle Ages, and in order to keep himself from dying of exposure and starvation Zhukov had to quit fourth grade, move out of his house, and get a job at a fur coat factory in the Moscow suburbs, where he worked twelve hour shifts seven days a week and slept on the floor of his workstation.
Get a job, you damn punk kids
In 1915 Zhukov was drafted into the Imperial Russian Army to fight World War I against the Germans, and you know your job sucks a fat one when you’d rather be murdered with a machine gun than clock in for your shift. Zhukov happily went off to war, and was assigned to a cavalry regiment. Riding a horse into battle is a pretty terrible idea when the enemy has artillery and fully-automatic machine guns, but Zhukov’s assignment was even extra shitty because in Imperial Russia only aristocrats could be officers and most of those assholes were ragingly incompetent and/or a bunch of self-important ultra-entitled elitist pricks. Despite being put in a bunch of terrible situations where he had to attack uphill into German fortified positions, Zhukov performed heroic acts of bravery, was decorated twice with the St. George’s Cross, and eventually promoted to Sergeant. He was wounded in battle on more than one occasion but always kept fighting, and before long he was known for his efforts to bolster the fighting spirit of the enlisted men and getting them to work together in combat.
World War I led to the Communist Revolution in Russia, and Zhukov became a commander of cavalry forces for the Red Army. Fighting against the hated Tsarists who had oppressed the fuck out of him for his entire life, Zhukov received the Order of the Red Banner for leading a horseback saber charge head-on into enemy riflemen like he just couldn’t give a fuck. By 1923 he was a Colonel in charge of a cavalry regiment.
Shaving the Hitler stache was a good idea.
The Red Army triumphed, and during the break between World Wars Zhukov spent a lot of time reading cool books about armored warfare and writing treatises on how to kick asses in combat. When Stalin became Premier of Russia and started purging the shit out of the entire general staff of the Red Army – whacking nearly 40,000 supposedly-“disloyal” military officers, including three of the five top members of the Soviet military – Zhukov started carrying around an emergency bag full of guns and fake IDs so he could fight his way out if the KGB or whoever showed up to murder him. KGB spy assassins are cool and all, but my money would have been on Zhukov.
Despite earning a reputation for being a dude who didn’t mind talking back to superior officers, Zhukov somehow survived the Purges, and in 1938 he was sent to Mongolia to command fucking Mongols in a war with Japan along the Chinese border. Japan had taken over Manchuria in '35 and was trying to start shit with the Soviets in Mongolia, so naturally Georgy Zhukov had to roll in there like a 1940s Genghis Khan and start handing out dickpunches like they were double-scoop waffle cones at a Baskin-Robbins. After hopping off the Trans-Siberian Railroad in slow motion like a badass, Zhukov immediately ordered a three-pronged counterattack straight up the Japanese Army’s urethra. Using a combined force of tanks, aircraft, and artillery (one of the first times this was done in modern warfare), Zhukov outflanked the Japanese, caught them completely off-guard, and drove them back in disarray. The Japanese tried to regroup at the Khalkin Gol, figuring they were probably save from Zhukov’s wrath if they picked a meeting point that was 400 miles away from the closest Russian train station, but naturally they were really fucking wrong, and they ended up getting cold-cocked by machine-gun-toting Mongols riding on Soviet tanks. Which is awesome.
WWII Soviet Mongolian cavalry
After convincing one of the most warlike civilizations on earth not to fuck with him, Zhukov went back to Moscow just in time for Hitler’s Nazis to start royally beating the ever-loving shitballs out of the Soviet military repeatedly and without mercy. With hardcore panzers storming through Soviet lines in every sector and Russian resistance disintegrating, Zhukov suggested falling back from the front lines and regrouping in better defensive positions. Stalin told him to fuck off with that bullshit, instead demanding that the Soviet Army fight a series of dumb unwinnable battles against an enemy that massively overpowered them. Zhukov, furious, told Stalin “if you feel that the Chief of the General Staff talks only rubbish, my place is not here. Better to give me a command at the front where I can be of better use!”
Which is a nuts thing to say to a guy who just killed 40,000 of his own soldiers because he suspected maybe they weren’t 100% on the same page as him.
But, nevertheless, Zhukov’s request to stand in front of panzers was granted, and he was shipped to Leningrad, a city that was completely surrounded by Nazis and being slowly starved to death by a relentless German siege. Thanks to Zhukov’s efforts, however, Leningrad was able to evacuate 1.5 million civilians, and his efforts to organize the defenses allowed the city to hold out for an insane 900 days (!!!) despite being completely besieged and surrounded by Germans the entire time. He’d come back in ’43 to liberate it.
Personally sighting a machine gun at Kursk
About to burst into song on the parapets of Leningrad.
Zhukov was called back to Moscow, and Stalin put him back in charge of the Red Army. The situation was bad. German forces were 23 miles from the Kremlin. They were closing in on Stalingrad. The Soviet troops were starving and demoralized.
No problem. Zhukov’s got this.
Winter is what stopped the Germans in their tracks, but Zhukov is what got them moving backwards. This peasant worker turned military badass, seeing the Germans freezing to death in the dead of winter, took iron-willed and forceful command of his troops – who up to this point had been getting their heads kicked in for six months straight against a seemingly-invincible enemy – and made them believe that this was a war they could win. He had them attack, in the dead of December, charging forward in frozen temperatures so cold that some German tanks and machine guns were rendered inoperable, and launched a 200-mile-wide counterattack that kicked the Nazis square in the junkbags, driving them back and putting them on the defensive for the first time since Hitler took over. The attacks staggered, the Germans stumbled, and Marshal Georgy Zhukov was starting to win the greatest war of the modern era with a bunch of conscript soldiers he could barely afford to feed or equip with important things like fucking guns and ammunition.
They were used to easy victories. This deprived them of flexibility on the one hand,
of tenacity on the other. For them, war was merely maneuvers.
They have neither cavalry nor skiers, their tanks cannot pass over the snow.
Using quick maneuvers, artillery, air support, T-34 tank attacks, and railway lines to ferry troops from across the USSR, Georgy Zhukov and the Soviet Union slowly began to turn back to massive German onslaught. At Stalingrad his men held the line, then he personally oversaw the forces that arrived to encircle the Fascists and crush the entire German Sixth Army. He broke the siege of Leningrad. He organized anti-tank positions and personally sighted in weapons to turn back Nazi Panthers and Tigers at Kursk. Slowly, brutally, he drove the Nazis out of Mother Russia.
As a commander, Zhukov was fucking rad. His presence inspired the men to fight, and even though his tactics sometimes had about as much finesse as a two-hand sledgehammer blow to the face, he got shit done no matter what. When he needed men to take one enemy city, he released all the prisoners at a local jail, promised them complete freedom, then ordered them to charge across a minefield and spearhead an assault. Another time he needed to drop troops behind enemy lines but didn’t have any airborne soldiers available, so he just put regular infantry in the back of a cargo plane, had it fly real low, and ordered them to jump out into a snow-covered field without parachutes. Sure, some of those poor bastards plummeted to their deaths, but enough of them survived to take the objective and hold it until reinforcements arrived. Which is fucked-up but awesome. Basically, he’s the Ulysses S. Grant of the Soviet Union – plenty of people out there (probably correctly) call him a butcher, but he got shit done and his men loved him for it.
Oh yeah, and he also started hooking up with one of the female junior officers in his command, which is straight up Enemy at the Gates awesome shit.
“I need that objective taken by 0800 tomorrow, Lieutenant. No excuses.
Also what are you doing for dinner on Friday?”
Zhukov and the Soviets pushed the Germans back through Ukraine, into Germany, and it was Zhukov himself who personally oversaw the final assault on Berlin itself. Calling down artillery and driving heavy tanks through the streets of the Nazi capital, Zhukov organized and planned he battle, winning so completely that Hitler capped himself out of shame. The Russians flew a red flag over the Reichstag, the Germans surrendered exactly 70 years ago today, and Zhukov went out to grab beers with Patton because they were two of the toughest motherfuckers on earth and it’s only fitting they should pound a fifth of vodka together and smoke cigars like Real Men.
If I could attend one party in the history of the world….
After the war, Zhukov was by far the greatest and most well-known military hero in all of the Soviet Union. Known as “The Man Who Never Lost a Battle,” the Marshal actually started getting a little nervous, mostly because his popularity kind of started to rival that of Stalin himself. Stalin got pissed, demoted Zhukov to a minor post way the hell out in Odessa, and Zhukov started going out and saying things to newspapers about how Stalin planned everything and Zhukov was just following orders when he won all those battles. Sure, that sucks, but when your boss is a psychopathic mass murderer you kind of have to do stuff like that sometimes to avoid pissing them off too much. He pretty much laid low until Stalin’s death in 1953.
Zhukov became popular again after the death of Stalin, and was choses to be the Minister of Defense in the USSR in 1955. He would be fired two years later for “putting the military before the party,” which kind of sounds like it would be part of the job description for the Minister of Defense, but whatever, fuck politics, and Zhukov retired. He lived to be 78 years old, passing away in 1974. Nowadays the Russian Federation offers a medal in his honor – the Order of Zhukov.
It’s awarded for using tactical genius to win battles you’re not supposed to win.
"Where you find Zhukov, you find victory"