World Battlefronts: BATTLE OF RUSSIA: Zhukov's Dagger

Nikolai Vatutin's salient was a long, narrow thrust into prewar Poland. To the Germans it looked like a dagger that could strike at Rumania, at Poland, at the last remaining rail line feeding the Wehrmacht in the Ukraine.

For three weeks Field Marshal Fritz Erich von Manstein tried to blunt the salient with the flesh of his men. Vatutin's army, grimy with the dust of the 350 miles it had covered since last October, beat off the desperate attacks. Last week the hour struck.

Hard-driving Vatutin himself was not there. Moscow said he was sick....

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