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.
In Sep 1939 he was with forces occupying Poland. Contrary to what some have written, there is no record of his leading an infantry regiment in Finland nor of being operations officer on a corps staff. The Germans were driving into Russia when on 3 July 1941. only days after he had been assigned to the GS in Moscow as one of Shaposhnikov's proteges from the GS Academy, the 37-year- old colonel was ordered to Kharkov as commander of the 34th Cav Div. Quickly proving himself and promoted. General Major Grechko moved up on 18 Jan 1942 to head the 5th Cav Corps, which was in action E of Dnepropetrovsk (HFS). Continuing to stand out in desperate fighting on the southern front, he commanded the 12th Army from April to Sep 1942, then the 47th Army for a month before leading the 18lh Army Oct 42-Jan 1943. Promoted to General Lieutenant, he headed the 56th Army until Oct 1943, lighting near his birthplace. The young general then was in the 2d Ukrainian Front for two months as Konev’s deputy, Khruschev serving on the military council and Brezhnev being the 18th Army's political officer. Friendship with these two successors to Stalin had a favorable influence on Grechko’s subsequent rise to the top of his profession.
In Dec1943 he took over the elite 1st Guards Army and was promoted about this time. General Colonel Grechko led this army until the end of the war. He took part in the liberation of Kiev and the rest of the Ukraine, the fighting in the Carpathians, and the occupation of Prague on 9 May 1945. (HFS.)
He commanded the Kiev MD 1945-53, when Khrushchev was political boss of the Ukraine. After Stalin's death on 5 Mar 1953 Grechko w<as the first since 1948 to be promoted to General of the Army (No. 33). On 26 May 53 he became CinC of Soviet Troops in Germany and in a few weeks he crushed the Berlin uprising that had started after Stalin’s death. In 1955 he became a MSU (No. 24) at the age of 52. Recalled to Moscow in 1957 after Zhukov was ousted and Malinovsky was appointed MOD, Marshal Grechko was made CinC of Soviet Ground Forces. Holding the post until 1960, he was 1st Deputy MOD and CinC. Warsaw Pact Armed Forces until becoming MOD on 12 Apr 1967. The next year he directed the invasion of Czechoslovakia. He then "presided over transformation of the Soviet Armed Forces, bringing superpower status to the USSR" (HFS). Twice a HSU (1958, 1973) he died in office on 26 Apr 76 at the age of 72 and is buried in the Kremlin Wall.
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.