The Rzhev-Sychev strategic offensive operation or operation "Mars" ( November 25 - December 20, 1942 ) - the military operations of Kalininsky (commander - Colonel General M. A. Purkaev ) and West (commander - Colonel General I. S. Konev ) fronts in order to defeat the German 9th Army (commander - Colonel General V. Model , headquarters - Sychevka ) Army Group "Center" , defending in the Rzhev-Vyazemsky ledge . The operation was led by Army General G.K. Zhukov .
|Second Rzhev-Sychevskaya operation|
|Main Conflict: World War II|
The Great Patriotic War
The situation on the Soviet-German front in November 1942 - February 1943
|date||November 25 - December 20, 1942|
|A place||Moscow and Kalinin regions , USSR|
|Forces of the parties|
The idea of the Soviet operation "Mars" arose at the end of September 1942 as a continuation of the first Rzhev-Sychev operation ( July 30 - September 30 ) and consisted of defeating the 9th German army , which formed the basis of the Army Group Center , in the Rzhev region , Sychevka , Olenino , White . This was planned to be achieved by several simultaneous breakthroughs in those sectors of the front where major offensives had not been carried out before: between the Osuga and Gzhat rivers — with the forces of the 20th Army , in the area of Young Tud — with forces of the 39th Army , in the valley of the Luchesa River — with forces of 22 Army , south of the city of Bely - by the forces of the 41st Army . In the last three sections, the German defense density was 20 - 40 km per infantry division, which made it quite easily surmountable. On the site of the 20th Army, the defense was much denser - 2 divisions (including 1 tank) at a front of 15 km. In case of success of the first stage, the 5th and 33rd armies (the 3rd German tank army opposed them) were to join the operation in the direction of Gzhatsk and Vyazma .
Subsequently, after the failure of the first stage, the Directive of the Headquarters of the Supreme High Command, Commander of the Forces of the Western and Kalinin Fronts No. 170700 of December 8, 1942 set the following tasks for the development of the offensive  :
In the future, keep in mind: after the regrouping of the troops of the Kalinin and Western fronts, defeat the enemy’s Gzhat-Vyazma-Hill-Zhirkov group by the end of January 1943 and reach our old defensive line. With the occupation of Vyazma’s troops and reaching last year’s defensive line west of Rzhev-Vyazma, the operation was considered completed and the troops transferred to winter apartments
That is, it was planned to reach the line where, in September 1941, the armies of the Reserve Front stood in the rear of the Western Front .
At the same time, another operation was being prepared on the right wing of the Kalinin Front — the offensive of the 3rd shock army on Velikiye Luki and Nevel with the aim of cutting off the Leningrad - Vitebsk railway in the Novosokolniki area (see Velikolukskaya operation ).
According to some sources, information about the operation was partially disclosed to the Wehrmacht leadership in the framework of the strategic radio game “Monastery” in order to divert significant forces from Stalingrad , where an operation to encircle the 6th Army of General F. Paulus began at the same time)  .
On November 4, 1942, Heine-Max announced that the Red Army would strike the Germans on November 15, not near Stalingrad, but in the North Caucasus and near Rzhev. The Germans were waiting for a blow near Rzhev and repelled it. But the environment of the Paulus group near Stalingrad came as a complete surprise to them. Zhukov, unaware of this radio game, paid a dear price - thousands and thousands of our soldiers under his command were killed in the offensive near Rzhev. In his memoirs, he admits that the outcome of this offensive operation was unsatisfactory. But he never found out that the Germans were warned of our advance in the Rzhev direction, so he threw so many troops there.- P.A. Sudoplatov . Special operations. Lubyanka and the Kremlin. 1930-1950 years.
Soviet Jupiter Plan
The continuation of the Mars operation was to be the offensive operation Jupiter planned by the Soviet command, during which it was planned, after achieving the goals of Mars, the defeat of the central part of the German Army Group Center in the area of the city of Vyazma.
The operation was not carried out due to the fact that the operation "Mars", which ended in failure, did not achieve its goals, so that the matter did not come to the "Jupiter".
The forces of the parties
In November 1942, the forces of the Kalinin and Western fronts, as well as the Moscow defense zone, totaled 156 divisions — 1.89 million people, 24,682 machine guns and mortars, 3,375 tanks and self-propelled guns, and 1,170 aircraft  .
They were opposed by almost all the troops of Army Group Center (except for five divisions on its extreme right flank), and 2 divisions of Army Group North ( 93rd and 218th Infantry Divisions ) - a total of 72 divisions (excluding 9 security and training field in the rear), of which 10 are tank and 6 motorized, in which there were about 600 combat-ready tanks and 150-200 assault guns.
Only two Soviet fronts involved seven of the seventeen armies in the offensive: the 41st , 22nd , 39th , 30th , 31st , 20th and 29th .
At the first stage of the operation, forces equal in number to 33.5 Soviet divisions participated in the main strikes. Against them in the first line was 7 - 8 German. To support the first stage of the operation, four mobile corps were involved: the 1st and 3rd mechanized , the 6th tank and the 2nd guards cavalry ; in the future , the 5th Panzer Corps (as part of the 33rd Army) was to join.
The 5th and 33rd armies did not conduct offensive operations in late November and December 1942, but on November 19 they received a directive from the headquarters of the Western Front to destroy the enemy’s Gzhat group. On November 25, the 5th and 33rd armies were assigned the date of the transition to the offensive - December 1 . The planned offensive of these two armies did not take place solely due to the failure of the first stage of the operation.
At the same time, the troops of the right wing of the Kalinin Front, who participated in the encirclement of the Great Luke, which can be considered as conducting a private operation as part of the general offensive of the Western and Kalinin fronts, were excluded from the calculations.
72 divisions of Army Group Center (commander - Field Marshal G. von Kluge ) together with reserves had about 1.68 million people and up to 3,500 tanks  .
The 9th Army of Colonel General V. Model , which took the main blow of the Soviet troops, had in its composition:
- 6th Army Corps (2nd Airfield, 7th Airborne and 197th Infantry Divisions).
- 41st Panzer Corps ( 330th and 205th Infantry Divisions, regiment of the 328th Infantry Division).
- 23rd Army Corps ( 246 , 86 , 110 , 253rd and 206th Infantry Divisions, Regiment of the 87th Infantry Division and Regiment of the 10th Motorized Division).
- 27th Army Corps ( 95 , 72 , 256 , 129 , 6th and 251st Infantry Divisions, two regiments of the 87th Infantry Division).
- 39th Panzer Corps ( 337th , 102nd and 78th Infantry, 5th Panzer Division ).
In addition, the headquarters of the 9th Army were two motorized divisions (the 14th and the Great Germany ), the 1st and 9th Panzer Divisions , the tank battalion of the 11th Panzer Division (37 tanks) and the 1st cavalry division .
At the base of the ledge were the reserves of Army Group Center — the 12th , 19th, and 20th tank divisions , which in a critical situation could be quickly transferred to the threatened direction.
Soviet Offensive November 25 - 28
The operations of the troops of the Western and Kalinin Fronts began on November 25, 1942 in three directions at once.
Two armies of the Western Front ( 20th Major General N. I. Kiryukhin and 31st Major General V. S. Polenov ) attacked the eastern face of the Rzhevsky ledge south of Zubtsov , on a 40-kilometer stretch along the Vazuz and Osuga rivers (in the strip German 39th Panzer Corps of the General of the Panzer Troops Hans-Jürgen von Arnim ), while trying to block the approach of troops and reserves under Rzhev, by cutting off the nearby railway. The offensive of the 31st Army immediately stalled, but the 20th Army, supported by the 6th Tank (commander -and. about. commander Colonel P.M. Arman) and the 2nd Guards Cavalry (commander - Major General V.V. Kryukov ) corps, continued to conduct offensive operations.
At the same time, the 22nd (commander - Lieutenant General V. A. Yushkevich ) and the 41st Army (commander - Major General G. F. Tarasov ) of the Kalinin Front launched a counter strike from the western front of the ledge. The 41st Army, supported by the 1st Mechanized Corps of Major General M.D. Solomatin , attacked in the area of the city of Bely in the German 41st Panzer Corps strip of General Panzer Troops J. Harpe .
The Soviet 22nd Army advanced in the Luchesa Valley with the support of the 3rd Mechanized Corps, Major General M.E. Katukov .
The 39th Army of the Kalinin Front (commander - Major General A.I. Zygin ), delivering an auxiliary strike, forced the Young Tud River in the German 23rd Corps (commander - General K. Gilpert) and occupied Urdom .
German troops managed to stop the Soviet offensive. North of Sychevka November 29 - December 5, the troops of the 20th Army , the 6th Panzer Corps and the 2nd Guards Cavalry Corps were defeated.
Part of the troops of the Soviet 41st Army of the Kalinin Front , who attacked in the vicinity of the city of Bely , ended up in the "cauldron", in the creation of which the deployed units of the German 30th Army Corps of General M. Fretter Pico took part. By December 8, they were completely surrounded and later managed to break out of the ring, only having lost almost all the equipment.
The 22nd and 39th armies were also unable to break into the operational space, were counterattacked and stopped.
Resumption of the Soviet offensive
On December 8, G.K. Zhukov secured the resumption of Operation Mars, and on December 11 a new offensive by the Soviet troops began.
However, a new attack by the 20th Army , now led by Lieutenant General M.S. Khozin and received in support of the 5th Panzer Corps (Major General K. A. Semenchenko), as well as the reconstituted 6th Panzer Corps (led by Colonel I. I. Yushchuk), again ended in failure.
The 39th Army of A. I. Zygin and the 30th Army of V. Ya. Kolpakchi , who fought in previously minor sectors, resumed the offensive north of Rzhev , but their attacks were choked.
The new blow of the 22nd army of V. A. Yushkevich ended in failure (it was soon replaced by Major General M. D. Seleznev).
December 20 , when G.K. Zhukov decided to stop the Soviet attacks, they consider the end of Operation Mars.
Echo operations included the Germans' attempts to liquidate the breakthrough of the 22nd Army in the Luchesa Valley on December 23rd, 30th and 31st, 1942, which were unsuccessful ( on January 1, 1943, the commander of the German 9th Army B. Model ordered to stop the attacks).
The elimination of Soviet troops, encircled in breakthrough areas, continued until the end of December.
The offensive of the Western and Kalinin fronts failed  . Territorial acquisitions were very modest (breakthroughs in the Luchesa Valley and northwest of Rzhev).
At the same time, it is assumed that the exhaustion of the forces of the 9th Army of Army Group Center was of great importance. The battle swallowed up all the reserves of the Army Group, which could be used to release the surrounded 6th Army of F. Paulus in the region of Stalingrad .
M. Gareev expresses the opinion that since the operations "Mars" and "Uranus" were carried out within the framework of a single plan and the main strategic task in the operation "Mars" was to divert the enemy forces to ensure the success of the counterattack near Stalingrad, then " there is no good reason for that in order to consider Operation Mars a failure or “the largest defeat of Marshal Zhukov,” as D. Glents and other authors write about it ”  .
Moreover, M. Gareev cites information that the Soviet High Command intentionally “leaked” information about the preparation of the offensive near Rzhev in order to distract the enemy’s attention from the main directions of strikes  . Pavel Sudoplatov also claimed that the Germans had been specifically warned of the offensive near Rzhev in the framework of the radio game "Monastery" and were waiting for the offensive of Zhukov, unsuspecting about it  .
The arguments of opponents of this point of view are based, among other things, on the fact that more forces were involved in the Mars operation than in the Uranus operation, which is fully documented, unlike the speculations of M. Gareev. 
G.K. Zhukov, unaware of this radio game , paid a dear price - thousands and thousands of Soviet soldiers under his command were killed in the offensive near Rzhev. In his memoirs, he admits that the outcome of this offensive operation was unsatisfactory. But he never found out that the Germans were warned of the Soviet offensive on the Rzhev line, so he threw so many troops there. [eight]
A. V. Isaev points out  that in addition to influencing events on other sectors of the Soviet-German front in November – December 1942, the operation affected the course of the entire 1943 campaign.
It was “Mars” that most of all influenced the fact that A. Hitler and E. Manstein succeeded in organizing the withdrawal of Army Group “A” from the “Caucasian-Kuban Sack”, which saved the Wehrmacht from a crushing defeat in late 1942 - early 1943 .
In addition, the Wehrmacht, withdrawing forces from the Caucasus , retained and used them in subsequent defensive operations near Kharkov , Kursk , Mius Front , etc., where the Red Army suffered heavy losses.
In the winter of 1943, the 9th Army of V. Model left the Rzhevsky ledge ( Operation Buffalo , German: Buffel ).
The troops of the 9th German army filled the front of the newly formed Oryol ledge, the southern side of which was simultaneously the northern side of the Kursk Bulge . According to German plans for the summer campaign of 1943 , the 9th Army was to advance on Kursk from the north, to meet the troops of the 4th Panzer Army of G. Goth . However, the losses that the 9th Army divisions suffered during the second Rzhev-Sychev battle were not made up for by the spring-summer of 1943 .
According to official Soviet data, the irretrievable losses of the Soviet troops amounted to 42,000 people , sanitary - 70,000 people , other data in fiction  .
Losses of the 9th German army in October - December 1942 amounted to 53,500 people, of which up to 80% (that is, 40 - 45 thousand people) - in the operation "Mars".
- Rzhev-Vyazemsky operation (1942)
- The first Rzhev-Sychevskaya operation
- Hill Zhirkov Defensive Operation
- NARA T312 R307 fr7874417
- Preface by A.V. Isaev to the book of D. Glanz “The Biggest defeat of Zhukov. The catastrophe of the Red Army in the operation of Mars 1942. "
- Pavel Sudoplatov. Special operations. Lubyanka and the Kremlin 1930-1950
- History of the Second World War 1939-1945. Volume 6. - M.: Military Publishing House, 1976. - p. 35.
- V.V. Beshanov . The year 1942 is the “academic year”. - Mn .: Harvest, 2003. A.V. Isaev in the introduction to D. Glanz’s book speaks of 79 divisions of Army Group Center, which makes up 41% of all Wehrmacht divisions on the Soviet-German front.
- A. Isaev and D. Glants write about the failure of the operation.
- Gareev M. A. Operation “Mars” and modern “Martians” // Military History Journal No. 10, 2003.
- Pavel Sudoplatov. Special operations. Lubyanka and the Kremlin 1930-1950
- Георгий Глебович Колыванов «Марс», оказавшийся в тени «Урана»
- В предисловии к книге Д. Гланца «Крупнейшее поражение Жукова. Катастрофа Красной Армии в Операции „Марс“ 1942 г.», Москва, 2006.
- Гриф секретности снят: Потери Вооруженных Сил СССР в войнах, боевых действиях и военных конфликтах: Стат. исслед./ Г. Ф. Кривошеев, В. М. Андроников, П. Д. Буриков. — М.: Воениздат, 1993.
- Glants D. The largest defeat of Zhukov. The catastrophe of the Red Army in Operation Mars of 1942. / Per. from English W. V. Saptsina; foreword AB Isaev. - M .: AST, 2006 .-- 666 p. - ISBN 5-17-034382-5 .
- Gurkin V.V. “Mars” in the orbit of “Uranus” and “Saturn”: On the second Rzhev-Sychev offensive operation of 1942 // Military History Journal. - 2000. - No. 4. - S.14-19.
- Isaev A.V. When there was no suddenness. The history of the Second World War, which we did not know. - M .: Eksmo, 2005 .-- ISBN 5-699-11949-3 .
- Gareev M. A. Operation "Mars" and modern "Martians": On the 60th anniversary of the end of battles on the Rzhev-Vyazma land // Military History Journal. - 2003. - No. 10. - P.17-21.