Operation Mars was the operation codename for the Rzhev offensive operation part of the Rzhev-Vyazma strategic offensive operation (08.01-20.04.42) launched by Soviet forces against German forces during World War II. It took place between 25 November-20 December, 1942 in a salient in the vicinity of Moscow. The offensive was one in a series of particularly bloody engagements collectively known as the Battles of Rzhev, which occurred near Rzhev, Sychevka, Vyazma (Sychevsk-Vyazma offensive operation) between January 1942 and March 1943. The battles became known as the "Rzhev meat grinder" ("Ржевская мясорубка") for their huge losses, particularly on the Soviet side. Other operations that were executed as part of the strategic offensive were the Mozhaisk-Vyazma offensive operation (Operation Jupiter), Toropets–Kholm Offensive and the Vyazma airborne desant operation.
The offensive was a joint operation of the Soviet Western Front and Kalinin Front coordinated by Georgy Zhukov. For many years it was virtually unknown in the West, and just relegated to a footnote in Soviet military history.
The basic plan of the offensive was to eliminate the Rzhev salient by launching multiple, coordinated thrusts from all sides of the salient. After the destruction of the German 9th Army, the forces would regroup and link up with the 5th and 33rd Armies which were to attack along the Moscow-Viaz`ma highway. This latter part of the operation was codenamed Operation Jupiter.
When resistance around Viaz`ma was neutralized, the 9th and 10th tank corps and the 3rd Tank Army would then penetrate deeper into the rear of Army Group Centre.
However, the American historian David Glantz considers that the offensive was more important in STAVKA planning than the near-simultaneous Operation Uranus, and its minimisation into a mere holding attack supporting the Stalingrad operation was a propagandistic whitewash. He claims that the plan was to develop it into a breakout for Army Group...