Andrei Antonovich Grechko (Russian: Андре́й Анто́нович Гре́чко; 17 October [O.S. 4 October] 1903 – 26 April 1976) was a Soviet general, Marshal of the Soviet Union and Minister of Defense.
Born in a small town near Rostov-on-Don on 17 October 1903, the son of Ukrainian peasants, he joined the Red Army in 1919, where he was a part of the "Budyonny Cavalry". After the Russian Civil War, Grechko was enrolled into the 6th Cavalry College in the city of Taganrog, which he graduated in 1926. He joined the Communist Party in 1928, and graduated from the Frunze Military Academy in 1936. He next attended the Soviet General Staff Academy, graduating in 1941, just a few weeks before the beginning of Operation Barbarossa.
Grechko's first command during World War II was of the 34th Cavalry Division, which put up a valiant fight around Kremenchug (near Kiev) in Ukraine. On 15 January 1942, Grechko was put in command of the 5th Cavalry Corps. Starting 15 April 1942 and lasting until 16 October 1943, Grechko was placed in command of 12th Army, 47th Army, 18th Army, and 56th Army. All of these units were part of the North Caucasus Front, and Grechko led them all with distinction.
In October 1943, Grechko was promoted to Deputy Commander-in-Chief of 1st Ukrainian Front. Then, on 14 December 1943, he was made the Commanding General of 1st Guards Army, a position he held until the end of the war.
The First Guards Army was a part of the 4th Ukrainian Front, which was led by Col.-Gen. Ivan Yefimovich Petrov. Grechko led the 1st Guards in a number of offensive operations, predominantly in Hungary and into Austria.
After the war, Grechko was the Commanding General of the Kiev Military District, until 1953. Between 1953 and 1957, Grechko was the Commander-in-Chief of Soviet Forces in East Germany. On 11 March 1955, Grechko, along with five other high-ranking colleagues, all of whom had gained recognition during World War II, was promoted to the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union. From 1957-1960, Grechko was the Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces, and from 1960–1967, he was the Commander-in-Chief of the Warsaw Pact Forces). On 12 April 1967, Grechko was made the Minister of Defense, taking over shortly after Marshal Rodion Malinovsky died. Grechko served in this capacity until his death in 1976. During the 1970s, Grechko served as the chairman of the editorial commission that produced the official Soviet history of the Second World War.
Grechko was an active member in the Communist Party, and was a member of the Politburo. As Minister of Defense, Grechko helped modernize the Soviet Army, and was greatly responsible for maintaining the military strength of the Soviet state. As Defense minister, Grechko's most notable idea was his assumption that a Third World War would always go nuclear at some point, and as such he planned that if World War III did begin, to launch all-out nuclear strikes against the NATO nations the moment that the war began. For Grechko, nuclear weapons would be weapons of first resort in a world war, not weapons of last resort. The urn containing his ashes is buried by the Kremlin Wall Necropolis.
Honours and awards
- Hero of the Soviet Union, twice (1 February 1958, 16 October 1973)
- Six Orders of Lenin (December 1942, 1945, 1 February 1958, October 1963, 22 February 1968, 16 October 1973)
- Order of the Red Banner, three times (1941, 1944, 1950)
- Order of Suvorov, 1st class, twice (1944, 1945), 2nd class (February 1943)
- Order of Kutuzov, 1st class, twice (1943, 1944)
- Order of Bogdan Khmelnitsky, 1st class (January 1944)
- Honorary weapon with gold National Emblem of the Soviet Union (22 February 1968)
- Jubilee Medal "In Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary since the Birth of Vladimir Il'ich Lenin"
- Medal "For the Defence of the Caucasus"
- Medal "For the Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941–1945"
- Jubilee Medal "Twenty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945"
- Jubilee Medal "Thirty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945"
- Jubilee Medal "XX Years of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army"
- Jubilee Medal "30 Years of the Soviet Army and Navy"
- Jubilee Medal "40 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR"
- Jubilee Medal "50 Years of the Armed Forces of the USSR"
- Hero of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (5 October 1969)
- Virtuti Militari, 1st class (Poland)
- Cross of Grunwald, 1st class (Poland)
- Order of Klement Gottwald (Czechoslovak Socialist Republic)