Translator’s Note: The Soviet-Japanese war was of great political and military importance. On August 9th, at an emergency meeting of the Supreme Council for War Leadership, Japanese Prime Minister Suzuki said: ‘The entry of the Soviet Union into the war this morning puts us finally in a hopeless position and makes it impossible for the further continuation of the war.’ General MacArthur – Commander-in-Chief of the American Armed Forces in the Pacific, believed that ‘Victory over Japan can only be guaranteed if the Japanese ground forces are defeated.’ US Secretary of State E. Stettinius stated the following: ‘On the eve of the Crimean Conference, the American Chiefs of Staff convinced Roosevelt that Japan would only surrender in 1947 or later, and that its defeat could cost America a million soldiers. Dwight Eisenhower in his memoirs indicated that he addressed President Harry Truman: ‘I told him that since the available information indicates the inevitability of the imminent collapse of Japan, I strongly object to the entry of the Red Army into this war.’ If President Roosevelt had lived, I doubt the US Cold War would have developed, and the post-1945 world would have been a better place. Churchill wanted to launch an immediate attack upon the Soviet Red Army as the Nazi Germans surrendered – utilising the Nazi German Army – on the grounds that the US and Europe were already ‘fully militarily deployed’, but the Americans and the French were not keen and so the plan was dropped, at least in its most immediate form. As matters transpired, the inexperienced President Truman (a religious fundamentalist) joined forces with an out-of-power Winston Churchill – to lay the foundation of a prolific and highly corrosive anti-Soviet and anti-Communist propaganda offensive that sought to use a continuous ‘disinformation’ campaign designed to start a war with the Communist Bloc – as a means for the US military to ‘cleanse’ the world of Socialism! The Americans dropped two atomic bombs upon an already shattered Japan not so much to ‘end’ the war with Japan, (as Japan was already finished as a viable enemy), but to ‘scare’ and ‘intimidate’ the Soviet Union – as Molotov always alleged. The Soviet-Russian historian and political scientist – VA Nikonov – who is the grandson of the then People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the USSR – VM Molotov – wrote: ‘Until the end of his days, Molotov was sure that these bombs were not so much against Japan as against the Soviet Union: to intimidate, to demonstrate unlimited military capabilities in order to carry out nuclear blackmail and seek concessions.’ The Red Army had already beaten the Japanese Imperial Army twice in the past – once in 1938 and again in 1939 (on the Manchurian-Korean and Manchurian-Mongolian borders respectively). Of course, the Soviet Red Army was joined by the Army of the People’s Republic of Mongolia – the troops of which fought very bravely with their Socialist Allies. It is important to note that the Japanese troops either surrendered without a fight, or fought fanatically without end. For this reason, the Japanese resistance was patchy. Furthermore, the Chinese troops of the Manchurian State also fought bravely – often armed with the most basic of weapons. The Japanese Kwantung Army – although possessing over a million men – lacked the appropriate tanks and artillery to cope with their Soviet counter-parts. Some ‘elite’ Japanese Forces even rode into battle on horseback – as Cavalry formations – and were cut to pieces. The hand-to-hand fighting between the hardened Red Army soldiers and the Japanese and Manchurian Forces was often brutal and relentless. Although this campaign was over relatively quickly – the fighting was often intense and of a highly brutal nature. Russian and Japanese accounts talk of ‘volunteer’ Japanese units comprised of Japanese civilians (men and women) often armed only with sticks – attacking Soviet T-34 Tanks and being machine-gunned down. Chinese sources talk of hundreds of Japanese children left homeless and orphaned after this campaign – who were quietly taken in and adopted by Chinese families – to be brought-up as ‘Chinese’ people. This is the story of how the Soviet Red Army destroyed the Japanese colony of Manchukuo in Northeast China in a swift campaign that lasted from August 8th – September 2nd, 1945! ACW (26.11.2020)
At 00:10 on August 9th, the offensive was begun by the troops of the Trans-Baikal Front – at 1 am – by the troops of the 1st and 2nd Far Eastern fronts. The offensive began at Khabarovsk time, whilst on Moscow time the offensive began at 18:00 on August 8th. Crossing the State border into Japanese-controlled territory, forward and reconnaissance detachments of all three fronts began to cut-deeply into the territory of Manchuria without resistance – and at dawn the main armoured forces (supported by infantry) went on the offensive.
At this time the Kwantung Army Headquarters was alerted. The Japanese Commander of the Headquarters of the 5th Army (already by 1:00 hrs) received numerous reports – one of which read: ‘it is clear that the Soviet Union has begun a general offensive.’ Due to the fact that the Commander-in-Chief of the Kwantung Group of Forces – General Otozo Yamada – was in Dairen, the Chief of Staff – Lieutenant General G. Khata – took over Command. He immediately activated the order to conduct operations to repel the enemy, a plan developed in advance by the Imperial Headquarters, which was designed to augment the ‘Wartime Défense Plan’ and the ‘Law on the Défense of Manchukuo.’
Meanwhile, simultaneously with the advancement of the Red Army, 76 Il-4 aircraft of the 19th Bomber Aviation Corps of the 9th Air Army hit military targets in Changchun and Harbin. Starting from the morning of August 9th and continuing over the next days. The most important railway stations and junctions, airfields, columns of Japanese troops on highways and dirt roads in the areas of Harbin, Girin, Shenyang, Changchun, Hailar were subjected to attacks by Soviet bombers and attack aircraft. Traffic on many roads was paralyzed. Due to the actions of Soviet aviation in the first hours of the war, communication between the Headquarters and the Japanese Imperial Army in Manchuria was disrupted. As this was happening, the Soviet Pacific Fleet cut the communications linking Korea and Manchuria with Japan – and attacked Japanese naval bases in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula – Yuki, Racine and Seishin.
At 4:30 hrs on August 9th, the main forces of the Trans-Baikal Front went over to the offensive. They moved through the Mongolian deserts and steppes to the Great Khingan area. The Red Army encountered two Japanese infantry divisions and two infantry brigades, as well as ten cavalry and infantry divisions of the (puppet State) of Manchukuo and the ruler of the (puppet State) Mengjiang – Prince De Wang. In the deep areas of Changchun and Mukden, the main forces of the Japanese 3rd Front were located.
Traversing the Gobi Desert and destroying the border forces of the enemy, the Soviet-Mongolian mechanized cavalry group – Commanded by General IA Pliev – advanced to 55 km during the day, and forward detachments reached Nart Sume. The cavalry units of Prince De Wang and the infantry units of the Japanese army operated in this area. They were defeated and laid down their arms. On the Chifin front, the 17th Army was leading the offensive. During the day, it covered 50 km and the advance detachments reached the Tabun-Nur Lake. By the end of the day, units of the 6th Guards Tank Army advanced to a depth of 150 km – with forward detachments of which approaching the spurs of the Big Khingan. By that time, units of the 39th Army had also advanced 60 km deep into Manchuria, the main forces of which had bypassed the Halun-Arashan fortified region from the South. The 36th Army, having crossed the Argun River on the morning of August 9th moved to the city of Hailar.
The troops of the Trans-Baikal Front defeated the Kalgan, Solun and Hailar Japanese groupings, and reached the approaches to the most important industrial and administrative centres of Manchuria, whilst cutting-off the Kwantung Army from the Japanese troops in North China – and occupying Xinjing and Fengtian – and advancing towards Dairen and Ryozen.
The troops of the 1st Far Eastern Front – advancing towards the Trans-Baikal Front from Primorye – broke through the zone of border fortifications built by the Japanese, and repelled strong counterattacks by Japanese troops in the Mudanjiang area. Jilin and Harbin were occupied (together with the troops of the 2nd Far Eastern Front), in cooperation with the landings of the Soviet Pacific Fleet captured the ports of Yuki, Rasin, Seishin and Genzan, and then occupied the northern part of Korea (north of the 38th parallel), cutting off Japanese troops from their mother country.
The troops of the 2nd Far Eastern Front, in cooperation with the Amur military flotilla, crossed the Amur and Ussuri rivers, broke through the long-term Japanese defences in the Heihe and Fujin regions, overcame the Small Khingan mountain range and – together with the troops of the 1st Far Eastern Front – captured Harbin.
On August 12th, the Red Army broke through the Japanese front in all directions. On August 14th, 1945, Emperor Hirohito announced the Surrender of Japan, and on August 16th, 1945, the commander of the Kwantung Army – General Yamada Otozo – ordered his army to surrender. Some Japanese divisions refused to Surrender, however, and fighting continued for the next few days.
Red Army troops enter liberated Harbin on August 21st, 1945.
On August 14th, a powerful new assault began. Breaking the stubborn (and fanatical) resistance of the Japanese Imperial Army. Soviet troops advanced towards Mudanjiang. In six days of fighting, the troops of the 1st Far Eastern Front, breaking through the long-term defences of the enemy and reaching the Linkou-Mudanjiang-Najin line, were able to advance 120-150 kilometres into the depths of Manchuria. The Japanese Command made a proposal to conclude an Armistice. In practice, however, military operations on the Japanese side did not stop. It was only three days later, that the Kwantung Army received an order from its Command to completely surrender, a process which began on August 20th. As this Order did not immediately reach every unit, Japanese Forces in isolated or cut-off areas continued to resist to the last man.
On August 16th, after fierce battles waged with the enemy by units of the 1st Red Banner and 5th Armies, the city of Mudanjiang was liberated.
On August 19th, Japanese troops began to surrender almost everywhere, at the same time in Mukden, Soviet Airborne troops captured the Emperor of Manchukuo – Pu Yi – as he was preparing to flee to Japan (this capture is depicted in the film ’The Last Emperor’). By August 20th, Soviet troops reached the Manchurian Plain. From 18th to 27th of August, Soviet Airborne Assault Forces were landed in Harbin, Fengtian, Xinjin, Jilin, Ryojun, Dairen, Heijo and other cities, supported by Mobile Forward Detachments.
As a result, the million–strong Kwantung Army of Imperial Japan was completely defeated. According to Soviet data, its casualties amounted to 84,000, with about 600,000 taken prisoner. Irrecoverable losses of the Soviet Red Army amounted to 12,000. The entire Soviet liberation of Manchuria (Northeast China) lasted around eleven days of serious fighting (August 9th – August 20th). It took another seven days for Soviet Airborne troops to occupy and formally accept the surrender of all Japanese Forces throughout the region (a process completed by the 27th of August, 1945).
Simultaneous to the operation in Manchuria – the Soviet Red Army and Red Pacific Fleet was landing on the Korean Peninsula north of the 38th Parallel (as agreed with the United States) – commencing on August 8th, 1945 (local time), and August 9th in Russia. In his address to the Korean people on August 8th, the Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Red Army in the Far East – Marshal AM Vasilevsky – called upon the Korean people to rise up to fight against Japanese rule:
‘IMPERIALIST JAPAN WILL BE DESTROYED! Koreans! Rise to the holy war against your enslavers! Through your active struggle, you will win your right to a free and happy life. The banner of freedom and independence is rising over Seoul! Koreans in the rear – thwart Japan’s military measures by all means and means. Organize into guerrilla units. Beat the Japanese wherever you can! Koreans at the front – turn your weapons against the Japanese, beat the Japanese officers, go over to the side of the Red Army! Remember, Koreans, we have a common enemy – the Japanese! Know, we will help you as friends in the struggle for your liberation from Japanese oppression. DEATH TO THE JAPANESE INVADERS!’
The main hostilities on the continent lasted 12 days, until August 20th, however, individual clashes continued until September 10th, which became the day of the complete surrender and capture of the Kwantung Army. Soviet troops remained in North-eastern China until May 1946. The fighting on the islands ended completely on September 5, 1945.
By the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of September 2nd, 1945, “On declaring September 3rd the holiday of Victory Over Japan,” a public holiday was established, which remained so for two years.
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