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Operation Mars

Operation Mars, also known as Second Rzhev- tance around Vyazma was neutralized, the 9th and 10th
Sychevka Oensive Operation (Russian: Tank Corps and the 3rd Tank Army would then penetrate
- ), was deeper into the rear of Army Group Centre.
the codename for the oensive launched by Soviet forces
against German forces during World War II. It took place
between 25 November and 20 December 1942 around
2 Oensive is launched
the Rzhev salient in the vicinity of Moscow.
The oensive was a joint operation of the Soviet Western
Front and Kalinin Front coordinated by Georgy Zhukov.
The oensive was one in a series of particularly bloody
engagements collectively known in Soviet and Russian
histories as the Battles of Rzhev, which occurred near
Rzhev, Sychevka and Vyazma between January 1942 and
March 1943. The battles became known as the Rzhev
meat grinder (" ") for their huge
losses, particularly on the Soviet side. For many years
they were relegated to a footnote in Soviet military history.

The oensive was launched in the early hours of 25

November 1942. It got o to a bad start, as fog and
snowy weather grounded the planned air support. It also
greatly reduced the eect of the massive artillery barrages preceding the main attacks, as it made it impossible
for the forward artillery observers to adjust re and observe the results. The northern thrust made little progress.
The eastern attack across the frozen Vazuza river slowly
ground forward. The two western thrusts made deeper
penetrations, especially around the key town of Belyi.
Still, the progress was nowhere near what the Soviets expected.

Soviet plans

The German defenders fought stubbornly, clinging to

their strong-points, which were often centered around
many of the small villages dotting the area. In some cases,
the German strong-points remained manned for a time after the Soviets advanced past them, creating more problems for the Red Army in their rear areas. Despite repeated, persistent Soviet attacks, small-arms re and preplanned artillery concentrations cut down the attacking
infantry. Soviet tanks were picked o by anti-tank guns,
the few German tanks, and in close combat with infantry.
The relative lack of initial success compounded the Soviet problems. The minor penetrations and the resulting
small bridgeheads made it dicult to bring forward reinforcements and follow-up forces, especially artillery so
critical for reducing the German strong-points. The Germans reacted by shifting units within the salient against
the points of the Soviet advance and pinching o their
spearheads. With limited reserves and reinforcement unlikely due to Soviet oensives elsewhere, the Ninth Army
was placed under great pressure.

Soviet collective farmers hand over KV-1 tanks to their crews

In Operation Mars, planned to commence in late October, forces of the Kalinin and Western Fronts would encircle and destroy the powerful German Ninth Army in
the Rzhev salient. The basic plan of the oensive was to
launch multiple, coordinated thrusts from all sides of the Eventually the shifting of German forces, coupled with
salient, resulting in the destruction of the Ninth Army.
Soviet losses and supply diculties, allowed the GerOperation Mars was to be followed soon there after by man forces to gain the upper hand. Their lines held, and
Operation Jupiter, which was to commence two to three much of the lost ground was retaken. The counteratweeks later. The Western Fronts powerful 5th and 33rd tacks against the Belyi (western) and the Vazuza (eastern)
armies, supported by 3rd Guards Tank Army, would at- thrusts resulted in several thousand soldiers being trapped
tack along the Moscow-Vyazma highway axis, link up behind German lines. A few of these would manage to
with the victorious Mars force, and envelop and de- break through to Soviet lines, some after ghting in the
stroy all German forces east of Smolensk. Once resis- German rear for weeks. Almost all vehicles and heavy


weapons had to be left behind. Though the Germans were

not able to remove Soviet forces from the Luchesa valley
in the northwest of the salient, this was of little signicance since the Soviets there were unable to press their
attack through the dicult terrain.


Operation Mars was a military failure, and the Soviets

were unable to accomplish any of their objectives. However, in the aftermath of Operation Mars General Von
Kluge recommended the salient be abandoned to economize on manpower and to assume more defensible positions. Hitler refused. His denial of a major withdrawal in
the winter of 194142 had ultimately stabilized the army
when it was on the edge of a collapse. Subsequently he
was less willing to heed the advice of his commanders. In
addition he was unwilling to give up any ground he had
won, and saw usefulness in retaining the jump o point
for a future thrust upon Moscow. However, in the Spring
of 1943 his desire to move back onto the oensive made
him more receptive to withdrawing forces from the salient
to free up manpower. A staged withdrawal was begun at
the beginning of March 1943. By the 23rd of that month
the withdrawal was complete.
Historian A. V. Isayev has pointed out that together with
inuences on other sectors during the winter of 1942, Operation Mars had an eect upon the strategic situation
in 1943. In the plan for the large oensive at Kursk in
July 1943, the German Ninth Army was located in the
southern area of the Orel salient. It delivered the assault
upon the Kursk salient from the north. However, losses
suered at Rzhev during Operation Mars resulted in the
Ninth Army being short of forces, particularly infantry
formations, and it could not muster enough force to fulll
its task.[3]


In the nal assessment Operation Mars was a failure

for the Soviet forces.[5] However, the unintentional result of the battle was losses to the reserves of Army
Group Center which reduced the forces which could be
redirected against the more successful Soviet operations
against Army Group South. About this matter, German
Colonel-General Kurt von Tippelskirch commented:
In order to conne the German forces
in every sector of the front and prevent the
large reinforcement to the critical sectors, and
in order to strengthen their (Soviet) position
in the places which were suitable for future
oensives in the following winter, the Russians
renewed their oensives in the central sector.
Their main eorts focused on Rzhev and

Velikye Luky. Therefore, our three panzer

divisions and several infantry divisions
which were planned to be used in the southern
sectors had to be kept here to close gaps in
the front and to retake lost territories. This
was the only method for us to stop the enemy
Kurt von Tippelskirch.[6]

An area of controversy is whether the operation was intended as a major oensive, or was it really intended to
simply divert German attention and resources from the
Stalingrad pocket to prevent the relief of their Sixth Army
at Stalingrad? The forces concentrated for Operation
Mars were much larger than the ones used in Operation
Uranus.[7] Military historian David M. Glantz believes
that Operation Mars was the main Soviet oensive, and
that the narrative that it was intended as a diversion attack was a propaganda eort on the part of the Soviet
government. He termed Operation Mars as the greatest
defeat of Marshal Zhukov.
In the unlikely event that Zhukov was
correct and Mars was really a diversion, there
has never been one so ambitious, so large, so
clumsily executed, or so costly.
David M. Glantz

British historian Antony Beevor disagrees with Glantz,

citing that Zhukov spent less time planning Mars than
Uranus, and that the artillery shell allocation was much
smaller for Mars than for Uranus.[8] In addition, the Russian historian M. A. Gareyev used many Stavka orders
to make the case that the goal of Operation Mars was
to tie down German forces in the Rzhev sector, preventing them from reinforcing Stalingrad. Thus, it ensured
the success of Uranus and the Soviet oensives in the
According to P. A. Sudoplatov, Soviet intelligence intentionally leaked the plan of operation Mars to the
Germans, this was part of a series of deception radio
games named Monastery (). One of the
Monastery operations was intended to lure the German
attention to the Rzhev sector. During this intelligence
operation, the Soviet double agent Aleksandr Petrovich
Demyanov (code name Heine) sent information about
a large-scaled Soviet oensive at Rzhev area in order to
make the Germans believe that the next main blow of the
Red Army would occur in the central sector. Aside from
the Soviet intelligence agency, only Joseph Stalin knew
about this Monastery operation.[10][11][12][13]

5 Casualties

70,373 irrecoverable
145,301 sanitary[2]
100,000 killed[3]
235,000 wounded[3]
1,600 tanks[3]
German: 40,000 casualties [4]


[1] , .
. , . .:
, , 2006. (Alexey Valeryevich Isayev. When
the sudden element was lost History of World War II,
the facts that we do not know. Yauza & Penguin Books.
Moskva. 2006. Part II: 1942 Autumn-Winter Oensive.
Sector 2: Operation Mars)
[2] :
: . ./ . . , . .
, . . . .: , 1993.
[3] David Glantz: Zhukovs greatest defeat page 308
[4] .
. : ,
1996. German name: Grossmann H. Rzhew: Eckpfeiler
der Ostfront. Friedberg : Podzun-Pallas-Verlag, 1980.
[5] . , . , .
[6] . .
.:,1999 /(Tippelskirch K.,
Geschichte des Zweiten Weltkrieges. Bonn, 1954,
Chapter VII (Russian)
[7] . ,
(Georgy Glebovich Kolyvanov. Mars
in the shadow of Uranus. Article published in the Independent 2 December, 2005)
[8] Beevor, Antony (2012). The Second World War. London:
W&N. ISBN 0297844970.
[9] M. A. .
// - 10,
[10] , . .
19301950 . .: , 1997. (Russian)
[11] Lyutmila Obchinikova. Secret activities at center of
Moskva. at ocial website of FSB. 18-1-2002 (Russian)
[12] Andrey Tyurin, Vladimir Makarov et al. The ght between Lyublyanka and Abwehr The Monastery radio
game. Newspaper Independence. 22-4-2005. (Russian)
[13] Eduard Prokopyevich Sharapov. Eltigen incidcent and the
punishment blade of Stalin The person of special goal.
Neva Publisher. Sainkt Petersburg. 2003. (Russian)

7 References
Glantz, David M. (1999). Zhukovs Greatest Defeat:
The Red Armys Epic Disaster in Operation Mars,
1942. ISBN 0-7006-0944-X.
Krivosheev, G. F. et al. (1997). Soviet Casualties
and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century. Stackpole. ISBN 9781853672804

8 External links
Counterpoint To Stalingrad: Operation Mars
Operation Mars The Second Oensive in Rzhev
Vicinities. NovemberDecember 1942


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