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A Night Offensive: The Liberation of Zaporozhye, 1943

Pictured: The Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Zaporozhye City Council, Volodymyr Ploshchenko, showing the construction prospects of the city (in particular, the future development of the Central Boulevard) to Marshals Chuikov and Sudets, who liberated Zaporozhye, Ukraine in October 1943. The Marshals arrived to the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the city in September 1970. Between the two Marshals stood Ploshchenko’s first deputy, Valentin Yalansky. To the left of Marshal Chuikov, Grigory Kharchenko, who was the first secretary of the Leninsky District party committee. During this visit, Vasily Ivanovich planted an oak tree to mark the occasion.

Exactly one year after the hardest day in the Battle for Stalingrad on 14 October 1942, Chuikov’s 62nd-8th Guards Army were far from the defense on the Russian Steppe and in the thick of the offensive—liberating the besieged cities of Ukraine. On 14 October 1943, the city of Zaporozhye was freed from German occupation. Always one to use innovative strategies and “outside of the box” thinking, Chuikov suggested to Front Commander R. A. Malinovsky to conduct a night assault on the city. In his book titled In Battles for Ukraine, Marshal Chuikov recalled the decision to launch a night offensive on the Germans in a fully-coordinated attack, a unique operation in the history of the war:

“What appealed to us in terms of a night offensive, other than the usual advantages that a night battle gave? First of all, its suddenness. A night offensive by forces of an entire front is an unusual phenomenon in the art of war. During the Great Patriotic War, night battles were fought quite often, but there were no such battles with the forces of three armies and two tank corps. Consequently, the Hitlerite command will not immediately, not at the very first moment of the strike, guess that the entire front has gone on the offensive, therefore it will not be able to properly orient itself, it will miss the right moment for maneuvering reserves, and we will be able to make a decisive breakthrough to the city. We acted quite reasonably, that at about 5 o'clock in the evening we suspended the offensive: the enemy might think that our forces were exhausted.

The night offensive plan called for quick and energetic action from commanders at all levels and their staffs. It took us no more than 40 minutes to develop a plan for the army with General V. Ya. Vladimirov. Members of the Military Council of the Army with the officers of the Army Staff immediately went to the corps and divisions to bring the plan of the night offensive to each commander.

By 20:00, everything was basically ready. I returned to my command post in the village of Chervono-Armyskoye. He signed the most necessary orders and immediately went to the divisions with his direct assistants in order to direct the battle from there. The Chief of Staff of the army, General V. Ya. Vladimirov, remained at the command post. The appointed hour for a short night artillery attack on the enemy position was approaching.”

On 27 October 1943, Vasily Ivanovich was promoted to the rank of Colonel-General. Years later, he was recognized for his heroic leadership of the 62nd-8th Guards Army by the city. An article from a March 1974 issue of Pravda recorded the following:

“In 1974, another honorary citizen appeared in Zaporozhye. For outstanding merits in the fight against the German-fascist invaders and a great personal contribution to the liberation of our city, this title is awarded to Twice Hero of the Soviet Union, Marshal Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov.

The solemn meeting dedicated to this event was held in the meeting hall of the city council with the participation of Marshal Chuikov himself. The ‘Honorary Citizen of Zaporozhye’ ribbon, a commemorative medal, and a diploma were presented to the military leader by the chairman of the Zaporozhye City Executive Committee, Hryhory Kharchenko.”

Nearly 30 years after Marshal Chuikov’s passing, a monument memorializing him was opened on the anniversary of the liberation day of Zaporozhe, 14 October 2010. City and regional representatives, veterans, and the son of the legendary Marshal, Alexander Vasilyevich Chuikov, took part in the solemn occasion. (Pictured: Alexander Vasilyevich presenting a signed book as a gift to the local museum, titled Names of Victory: General Leaders and Leaders of the Great Patriotic War, published for the 65th anniversary of the Victory.)


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