Rokossovsky, Marshal Konstantin, 1896-1968

Rokossovsky was one of Russia’s most able successful Front Commanders of the war. A veteran of the Far East, he was arrested during the purges of 1938 but was subsequently released and reinstated. In 1941 after the German invasion he led the first tank counterattack in the Ukraine. Transferred north, he helped the trapped inexperienced 16th and 20th Armies to break out of their encirclement at Smolensk on 6 August. He distinguished himself in November and December in the defence of Moscow as Commander of Southern Section, Siberian Army.

In 1942 Rokossovsky served as Commander of the Don Front at the defense of Stalingrad. Here his Armies achieved a decisive breakthrough against the Rumanian and Italian Armies enabling the Soviets to move southwards to encircle PAULUS’ Sixth Army and later to mount an offensive against it. At the Battle of Kursk Rokossovsky commanded the Central Front while VATUTIN commanded the Voronezh Front. Opening the battle on the night of 4 July with an artillery barrage, the Central Front held its ground throughout the Germans’ week-long onslaught until on 10 July Field Marshal KLUGE and General MODEL went onto the defensive leaving behind them 50,000 German dead, 400 tanks and mobile guns and 500 aircraft. In the counteroffensive beginning 3 August, Rokossovsky broke through to the Dnieper and in the fall continued through to the Pripet Marshes.

In June 1944 Rokossovsky was given command of the 1st Belorussian Front which moved against the German Center to take Lublin and Brest-Litovsk. On 29 June Rokossovsky trapped two German Panzer Corps and took Bobruisk with 24,000 prisoners. By July 1944 he had advanced to Warsaw but was unable to continue due to supply and transport problems and to the weariness of the troops. However in August the city of Warsaw rose against the Germans assuming that the advancing Russians would soon come to their aid. Rokossovsky not only did not aid them in any way but did not allow the Western Allies to use Soviet airfields to supply the Warsaw insurgents. The uprising was put down by late September. In January 1945 the Fronts were reorganized and Rokossovsky, now commanding the 2nd Belorussian Front, resumed his advance, first taking Warsaw and then heading north to sweep through northern Poland and take Danzig on 26 January. This trapped the Germans in east Prussia. On May 1945 his troops made contact with the British at Wittenberg. After the war Rokossovsky became Chief of Armed Forces in Poland.

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