On graduation, Shtemenko was reassigned to the General Staff, despite his request to command a mechanized unit. Shtemenko then worked in the Office of Operations as a senior assistant to the section chief in 1940, moving up to deputy chief by August 1941. When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, he was appointed a section chief. General Alexi Antonov made Shtemenko his deputy in April 1941. He succeeded Antonov as chief of the Operations Directorate in May 1943, a post he held until April 1946.
Shtemenko successfully organized the operations of the Transcausus Front (army group) in 1942 and subsequently for the Black Sea and Northern Fronts. As chief, he was involved in planning for all fronts, and he played a key role in the planning for Operation bagration against German Army Group Center and in the campaign against Berlin. By war's end, he was a colonel general.
In his subsequent two-volume work The Soviet General Staff at War, Shtemenko stressed the need for creativity in the direction of war. A genuine admirer of Josef Stalin, Shtemenko frequently praised the Soviet leader's role in the war. In November 1948, Shtemenko was promoted to general of the army. He then served as Soviet deputy prime minister, and in September 1952, he became a candidate member of the Central Committee. Two months later, however, he was replaced by General Vasily Sokolovsky and assigned to Germany as chief of staff of the occupation forces. Shtemenko was demoted in 1953 after Stalin's death but promoted again in 1956 after three years of obscurity when Marshal Georgii Zhukov, who refers to Shtemenko in his reminiscences as an "outstanding strategist," returned to prominence. Shtemenko was demoted again in 1957 and then was again promoted to general of the army in February 1968. Within six months of that promotion, he was appointed chief of staff of Warsaw Pact forces. He planned the Soviet bloc invasion of Czechoslovakia that year. Shtemenko retired in 1975 and died in Moscow on 23 April 1976.
Claude R. Sasso
Erickson, John. The Road to Berlin. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1983.; Shtemenko, Sergei M. General'nyi Shtab v Godov Voiny, 1941–1945 [The Soviet General Staff at war, 1941–1945]. 2 vols. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1970.; Zhukov, G. K. Reminiscences and Reflections. 2 vols. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1974.