In torment Russia lashed out on the Moscow front like a wounded giant beating a beast that gnaws his vitals. Stalingrad's peril was so great that distraction was necessary. For the desperate offensive, handsome, hard-eyed General Georgy Zhukov chose the Rzhev region, where the German lines bent within 130 miles of Moscow. One morning, early in August, deep-throated Soviet artillery opened up in the birchwood and meadow land around Rzhev. It concentrated first on Nazi battery positions, then on German division headquarters, finally on communications and transport centers. Ground-strafing Stormoviks joined...

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