Translator’s Note: In the James Bond ‘Skyfall’ (2012) the abandoned Japanese island of ‘Hashima’ (端島 – Duan Dao) situated nine miles West of Nagasaki Prefecture. As Japan tends to use ‘Chinese’ ideograms for place names – I give the actual pronunciation of these names in both ‘Japanese’ and ‘Chinese’ languages for the interest of the general reader (as they are not the same). In the ‘new’ James Bond – ‘No Time To Die’ (2021) – yet another island is featured supposedly situated North of Japan and yet controlled by the Soviets until 1991 (and used as a heavily armoured Soviet Submarine Base) – before being abandoned with the collapse of the USSR. The film states that Russian sovereignty of this island is ‘disputed’ by Japan, and is obviously an allusion to the current situation involving the Kuril Islands. Despite very convincing Soviet-era iconography painted as ideological posters throughout the interior of this Soviet Submarine base – the island is apparently ‘fictious’ with the exterior shots being made entirely upon location on ‘Kalsoy Island’ – one of the Faroe Islands of off the coast of Denmark! Due to the remoteness of this area, Daniel Craig never set foot within this location – and is said to be moving through CGI sets constructed at Pinewood Studios in London. However, Soviet control of the islands North of Japan is a very real historical fact – bought with much Soviet blood fighting the fascism of Imperial Japan. Although the Japanese viewed the ‘Ainu’ as racially inferior, the Soviet-control of these islands granted these people dignity and to attend Soviet educational establishments and excel – proving the redundancy of racist ideology! Those Japanese who opted to stay and live under Soviet control also experienced a progressive advancement in their Socialist understanding of the world! I have used exclusively Russian language historical sources – as I do not trust the continuous disinformation contained within general Western narratives. Although perhaps not on the scale of the American experience in the Pacific theatre – nevertheless – certain parallels can be drawn. The Japanese soldiers were both tough and brave – but definitely NOT depicted as ‘insane’. Although ‘one’ Kamikaze’ pilot is recorded – there are no reports of singular or mass suicides. Once it was obvious the war was over – thousands upon thousands of Japanese soldiers readily surrendered to the Soviet Red Army. As American accounts of fighting the Japanese are shot-through with racist rhetoric and stereotypical dogma – none of this ideological filth is expressed through the non-racist Soviet accounts. The Soviet 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). During late 1945 the Soviet-Japanese War began which saw the Soviet Red Army attack and ‘liberate’ Northeast China from Japanese occupation – 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. The campaign in China ended with the Soviet ‘liberation’ of Korea. These victories coincided with total successes in the ‘liberation’ of the islands laying between the USSR and Japan! ACW (6.10.2021)
Following an agreement with her allies during WWII (that is Britain and America) – the USSR agreed to ‘declare war’ upon Japan ‘three-months’ after the victory over Nazi Germany in Europe. This was the historical background to the Soviet-Japanese War of 1945 – which saw a Soviet Red Army fresh from its victory over Nazi Germany – take on the task of defeating the Imperial Japanese Forces which were still occupying China and Korea, as well as various disputed islands North of Japan! Although Japan as a country had been devastated by WWII (including two atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) – much of its military in the field remained at maximum strength and still possessed ample weaponry and ammunition. Furthermore, many (if not all) Japanese soldiers still possessed immense fighting-spirit and were still prepared to ‘die for the Emperor!’ Despite this reality, however, the Sakhalin and Kuril Islands were quickly ‘liberated’ by the Soviet Red Army at the same time as Soviet troops swept successfully through Northeast China (Manchuria). Following initial and fierce resistance – following the surrender of the Emperor of Japan – Japanese troop formations soon decided to cease all hostilities. Unlike many American accounts of the Pacific War (1941-1945) the Soviet accounts do not possess the ‘racist’ narratives often found in the former. The Soviet-Japanese War was one of ‘territory’ (through the ‘liberation’ of occupied and disputed territory) and ‘ideology’ (Socialism as opposed to fascism) and not a war premised upon proving notions of (false) hierarchical ‘race’ theories. The Socialist System of the USSR guaranteed that ALL Japanese and indigenous people living on these islands were treated with the utmost respect and humanitarian concern. Unlike the behaviour of many US troops – the Soviet Red Army troops DID NOT shoot the wounded Japanese soldiers or persecute the civilian populations – but rendered material, medical and spiritual assistance to them! After the war, the USSR did consider returning the Kuril Islands to Japan – but this was abandoned when Japan signed an independent treaty with America allowing US troops to stay on Japanese territory as a means to face a possible military threat from the USSR and Communist China. As giving back these islands would be tantamount to handing the US troops territory nearer the USSR – all negotiations were cancelled.
Eastern Front – South Sakhalin Operation (August 11th-August 25th – 1945)
Eastern Front – Kuril landing Operation (August 18th-September 1st – 1945)
The Island of Sakhalin lies around 985 miles North of Japan and is inhabited by ethnic Ainu, Oroks and Nivikhs – and a large population of ethnic Russians. Today, this area remains under Russian Administration – which is not disputed by Japan. As the island used to form part of the territory of China, its name Sakhalin derives from the Manchu name for the Amur River – or ‘Sakhalyan-Ulla’, which means “Rocks of the Black River” – this name was printed on maps signifying Chinese territory in error and was never changed. Within the Japanese language this island is known as ‘Karafuto’ (樺太 – Hua Ta) – from the ‘Ainu’ expression ‘kamuy-kara-puto-ya-mosir’ – which translates as ‘land of the god of the mouth’. Modern Japan also transliterates the Russian name of ‘Sakhalin’ into the name ‘Saccharin’ (サハリン). In 1875, Japan ceded its claims to Russia in exchange for the northern Kuril Islands. In 1905 – following the Russo-Japanese War – the island was divided, with the south controlled by Japan. Russia has held all of the island since seizing the Japanese portion—as well as all the Kuril Islands—in the final days of World War II in 1945. Japan no longer claims any of Sakhalin. As of 2019 the population was recorded as 489,638 people. The Soviet Red Army was tasked with ‘liberating’ South Sakhalin of Japanese military occupation and political control.
The fifty-six (56) Kuril Islands lie 810 miles Northeast of Japan but are subject to Russian Administration even today. The Japanese dispute this claim stating that the Southern-most islands should fall under direct rule from Mainland Japan. During the 17th century, Russian and Japanese explorers all landed on these islands and reported populations of ‘Ainu’ (the word ‘Kuru’ is Ainu for ‘human-being’)- a short and stout race of people (genetically unrelated to modern Japanese) whose men all grow long-beards. The culture of the ‘Ainu’ is also distinctly ‘non-Japanese’ in nature and was in many ways untouched by modern society. A Japanese name for these islands is ‘千島列島’ (Qian Dao Lie Dao). Although Japan claims these islands – the ‘Ainu’ people are often racially discriminated against by ethnic Japanese people. A similar situated exists with regards racial discrimination and the island of Okinawa – with is historically (and genetically) ‘Chinese’ in nature. Since the end of WWII, the Kuril Islands have formed part of the Sakhalin Region of the USSR (1945-1991) and Russia (1991-Present). The ownership of the Southern Kuril Islands archipelago – including Iturup, Kunashira, Shikotan and the Habomai group – is disputed by Japan – which places these Islands in Prefecture pf Hokkaido. As of 2021, the population of the Kuril Islands was 21,501 people.
Eastern Front – South Sakhalin Operation (August 11th-August 25th – 1945)
The South Sakhalin Operation was a military offensive operation of the armed forces of the USSR against the occupying troops of Imperial Japan during the Soviet-Japanese war (at the end of World War II) with the aim of Soviet Red Army capturing South Sakhalin from the Japanese. The operation ended with complete victory for the Soviet Red Army – and the entire island of Sakhalin coming entirely under USSR control.
Offensive Soviet Red Army Forces:
16th Army – Commanded by General L.G. Cheremisov) of the 2nd Far Eastern Front (Commanded by General of the Army M.A.Purkaev)
56th Rifle Corps
79th Infantry Division
2nd Rifle Brigade
Separate Rifle, Tank and Artillery Units (Exact Number Unknown)
113th Infantry Brigade
214th Tank Brigade
255th Mixed Aviation Division (106 aircraft)
Northern Pacific Fleet – Commanded by Vice Admiral V.A.Andreev – Pacific Fleet (Commanded by Admiral I.S.Yumashev)
30 Ships and Boats of the Flotilla
Naval Aviation of the Pacific Fleet (80 aircraft)
(Russian language sources state ‘Unknown’ for the exact number of Soviet Military Personnel involved – whereas English language sources [American] suggest a number of ‘100,000’ without convincing references. I suspect a Cold War attempt on behalf of the West to make the Soviet Red Army appear to be inept).
Defensive Forces of Imperial Japan:
88th Infantry Division of the 5th Front – Commanded by Lieutenant General T.Mineki
Koton Fortified Area (17 Pillboxes, 28 Artillery and 18 Mortar Positions and other Structures, Garrison – 5,400)
Border Guard (Incomplete or Under-Strength Units)
Detachments of Reservists (up to 10,000)
Northern (Soviet-controlled) area and Southern (Japanese-occupied) area of Sakhalin Island were connected by a single road passing through the central (elongated) valley of the Poronai River. Here, the Japanese built the ‘Kotonsky Fortified Area’ – with its left-flank resting along the rocky left-bank of the Poronai River – and its right flank protected by the swampy right-bank of the Poronai River. Thus, both the Poronai River Valley and the only route land-route to South Sakhalin were defended. The fortification represented a chain of closed concrete firing points, mutually covering one other with fire and connected by communication trenches (in the typical Japanese-style found throughout the Pacific theatre). It was built not directly along the border, but at a distance of several kilometres from it, which protected the defensive structures from the aimed fire of Soviet artillery (sacrificing space for time). The distance from the border to the chain of firing points was fortified by a support zone with well-equipped positions for (hidden) groups of well-placed infantry soldiers – very effective in mountainous conditions covering swampy areas. The forward defence unit was a fort near the village of Roshchino (named Honda and Khandasa in Japanese documents) and referred to as a ‘police post’. This was a concreted artillery and machine-gun structure, covered with a three-meter earthen rampart with embrasures and mine-wire obstacles.
The Soviet 56th Rifle Corps – under the command of Major General A.A. Dyakonov – delivered an attack on the Kotonsky Fortified Area in the valley of the Poronai River. The 56th Rifle Corps consisted of the 79th Rifle Division of Major General I.P. Baturov, the 2nd Rifle Brigade of Colonel A.M.Schekalov, the 214th Tank Brigade of Lieutenant Colonel A.T. Timirgaleev, the 678th and 178th Separate Tank Brigades and Battalions, a Separate Sakhalin Rifle Regiment, an Artillery Brigade (comprised also of Machine Gun, Howitzer and Mortar Regiments), the 82nd Separate Machine Gun and Rifle Company. Air Support for the 56th Rifle Corps was provided by the 255th Mixed Aviation Division (106 aircraft).
On the morning of August 9th, 1945, Soviet troops conducted reconnaissance in force in the Kotonsky direction. The operation began proper on the 11th August. The 79th Rifle Division, reinforced by the 214th Tank Brigade and Artillery – delivered the main blow in the direction of first contact points forward of the fortified area of Northern Kotonsky. Simultaneously, another Soviet Red Army Regiment advanced off-road toward the forward Japanese ‘police post’ stronghold – bypassing the main strip of the fortified area on the eastern side. The Advanced Detachment under the Command of Captain G.G. Svetetskiy of the 165th Infantry Regiment – at 11 a.m. on August 11th – started a battle for the main Honda (Khanda) fortified area, which marked the first line of ‘defence-in-depth’ of the consolidated Japanese forces. Soviet Red Army troops vigorously attacked these Japanese defences, and quickly captured four cylindrical pillboxes – firmly establishing themselves within the Japanese front-lines. The frontline Japanese troops comprising this garrison put up extremely stubborn resistance – knocking out several T-26 tanks with artillery fire. The stubbornly resisting enemy blew up the bridge over the river and thus blocked the way for Soviet tanks. The approaching main forces of the 165th Infantry Regiment entered the battle. During the night, Soviet Red Army Engineers and Pioneers constructed a temporary crossing over the river – built from logs and other improvised means – and at dawn the infantry and tanks attacked the Honda area. Captain Farafonov’s 6th Company bypassed the strongpoint and captured part of the supporting trench network situated to the rear. Then, Svetetsky brought the 5th Company into battle, thereby cutting off the enemy’s retreat. The T-34 tanks brought into battle crushed the forward obstacles, approached the post and suppressed the Japanese artillery with point-blank fire along the embrasures. All attempts of the Japanese soldiers to break out of the encirclement (quite often with ferocious ‘banzai’ charges) were unsuccessful. The fierce battle continued until the evening and ended with the complete defeat and capture of the remaining Japanese garrison.
On the night of August 11th-12th, the advance detachment of the 179th Infantry Regiment, led by the Battalion Commander Captain L.V. Smirnykh, marched along the swampy left bank of the Poronai River and, unexpectedly for the enemy, attacked the police post (Honda) stronghold. As a result of fierce hand-to-hand combat, the garrison was defeated. However, the main forces of the Soviet Red Army Regiment that arrived in the morning were unable to move further South due to heavy fire from a nearby fortified position. The Regiment Commander decided to blockade it with one Soviet Red Army Battalion, and for the rest of the forces to go through the swamps straight to the centre of the Kotonsky defences – the most important part of resistance for the Japanese fortified area. All night on August 13th, the fighters made their way through the bushes and swamps, sometimes waist-deep in water, carrying weapons and ammunition over their heads. This was led by the Soviet Red Army Battalion of Captain Smirnykh. By the evening of August 12th, the 165th Rifle Regiment approached the front edge of the main strip of the Kotonsky fortified area and, together with the 157th Rifle Regiment, following in the second echelon of the division, began the assault.
By the morning of August 13th, a company led by Senior Lieutenant Dorokhov (from the Smirnykh Battalion) left for the centre-area of the Kotonsky fortifications. At dawn, the Japanese launched a sortie, having previously opened strong mortar and machine-gun fire. Soviet Red Army soldiers responded with long machine-gun bursts. Dorokhov raised the Soviet Red Army soldiers to attack. Almost simultaneously, Captain Smirnykh and the main forces of the Battalion launched an attack on the opposite side of the Kotonsky fortifications. Having seized the road, he put up a screen and ordered the soldiers to break through to the entrenched positions of the Kotonsky fortifications, where the enemy’s reserves were holding-out and could approach at any moment. However, having met fierce resistance, the Battalion suffered its first losses in this operation. The Japanese managed to repel the first onslaught on 13th August. The Division Commander urgently sent artillery and tanks to reinforce the 179th Rifle Regiment. The battle for the Kotonsky fortified area (and surrounding environs) lasted two days. The actions of the Smirnykh Battalion decided the outcome of the entire battle. By the evening of August 15th, the Regiment had completely captured Kotonsky. In this battle on August 16th, Captain Smirnykh died – he was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. On Sakhalin, two settlements (Leonidovo and Smirnykh) and an urban district are named after him.
On August 14th, 1945, Emperor Hirohito announced the Unconditional 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, and fighting continued for the next few days. At dawn on August 16th, after an hour-long artillery and aviation preparation, Soviet Red Army troops began an assault the main zone of the Japanese defences simultaneously from the front and rear. By the end of August 17th, they dismembered the enemy troops into separate groups. By the evening of the next day, after capturing the main pass at Harami-Toge (Haramitori), the fortified area was finished. The remnants of the Japanese garrison surrendered. Thus, the entire Kotonsky fortification area was smashed and the Soviet Red Army broken through on the road to South Sakhalin. In these battles, the high combat skills and bravery shown by the Artillery Battery, Commanded by Senior Lieutenant P. Sidorov – were decisive. Acting within the battle formations of the infantry, the artillerymen – using ‘direct fire’ – destroyed the Japanese firing points and repelled the enemy’s counterattacks. Only on August 16th, the Artillery Battery had destroyed up to a company-strength of enemy infantry, six observation posts and suppressed four pillboxes. In total, in the battles to break through the Kotonsky fortified area, the 179th Infantry Division lost 261 soldiers and officers killed, 567 wounded and 2 missing. At the same time, 2,885 Japanese prisoners were taken.
Eastern Front – Kuril landing Operation (August 18th-September 1st – 1945)
Kuril Landing Operation (August 18th – September 1st, 1945) – this was a landing operation of the Soviet Red Army troops of the 2nd Far Eastern Front and the Pacific Fleet of the USSR against Imperial Japanese troops during World War II to capture the Kuril Islands. This part of the Soviet-Japanese War. The result of the operation was the occupation by Soviet troops of 56 islands of the Kuril ridge, with a total area of 10.5 thousand km², which later, in 1946, were integrated into the USSR.
Offensive Soviet Red Army Forces:
Kamchatka Defensive Area of the 2nd Far Eastern Front:
101st Infantry Division
128th Mixed Aviation Division (at least 130 Aircraft: 77 R-63 with 39 Trained Pilots, 5 V-25, 5 I-16, at least 18 A-20, 14 SB, “Catalina”, UTI- 4)
Howitzer Artillery Regiment;
a Separate Rifle Regiment;
Battalion of Marines;
Petropavlovskaya Naval Base:
60 Ships and Vessels;
Coastal Artillery Batteries
60th Kamchatka Sea Border Detachment:
2nd Separate Naval Bomber Border Aviation Regiment (10 MBR; for the period of the operation, the Regiment was transferred to the Operational Subordination of the Commander – 128th Mixed Aviation Division)
Defensive Forces of Imperial Japan:
Part of the Forces of the 5th front:
Parts of the Former 27th Army –
91st Infantry Division (on the islands of Shumshu, Paramushir and Onekotan);
89th Infantry Division (on the islands of Iturup, Kunashir, Small Kuril Ridge);
129th Independent Infantry Brigade (on Urup Island);
11th Tank Regiment (Shumshu and Paramushir);
31st Air Défense Regiment (Shumshu);
41st Separate Mixed Regiment (on the island of Matua)
Landings On the Northern Kurils
By the beginning of the Soviet-Japanese War (1945), more than 80,000 Japanese troops, over 200 guns, and 60 tanks were stationed on the Kuril Islands. The airfields were designed to hold 600 aircraft, but almost all of them were recalled to the Japanese islands to fight American troops. The garrisons of the islands north of Onekotan were subordinate to the Commander of the troops in the Northern Kuriles, Lieutenant General Fusaki Tsutsumi – and south of Onekotan to the Commander of the 5th front, Lieutenant General Kiichiro Higuchi (headquarters on the island of Hokkaido).
The most fortified was the Northernmost Island of the Shumshu archipelago, located just 6.5 miles (about 12 kilometres) from the southern coast of Kamchatka. The 73rd Infantry Brigade of the 91st Infantry Division, the 31st Air Défense Regiment, the Fortress Artillery Regiment, the 11th Tank Regiment (without one company), the garrison of the Kataoka Naval Base, the Airfield Team, and individual units were stationed there. The depth of engineering structures and anti-landing defence was 3-4 km, on the island there were 34 concrete artillery bunkers, 24 infantry bunkers, 310 closed machine-gun points and numerous underground shelters for troops and military property up to 50 metres deep. Most of the defensive structures were connected by underground passages integrated into a single defensive system. The Shumshu garrison consisted of 8,480 troops, 98 guns of all systems, 64 tanks and 6 aircraft with kamikaze pilots. All military facilities were carefully camouflaged and there were a large number of false fortifications. A significant part of these fortifications was not known to the Soviet Command, which meant it did not have accurate data on the island’s defence system, which was one of the reasons for the significant losses experienced by the attacking Soviet Red Army during the operation. The Shumshu garrison could be reinforced by troops from the neighbouring (and also heavily fortified) island of Paramushir (there were over 13,000 troops available). The successful actions of the Soviet Red Army troops on Sakhalin Island (see above) created favourable conditions for the occupation of the Kuril Islands. The plan of the operation was to seize the Northern Islands of the Great Kuril ridge, first of all the islands of Shumshu (Jap. Syumusyu-to) and Paramushir (Jap. Paramushiru), and subsequently – the island of Onekotan (Jap. Onnekotan-to). On August 15th, 1945, the Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet troops in the Far East, Marshal of the Soviet Union A.V. Vasilevsky gave the order to conduct the operation.
The plan of the Soviet Command was to suddenly land amphibious assault forces in the north-west of the island and deliver the main blow in the direction of the Kataoka Naval Base, seize the island and use it as a springboard for the subsequent clearing of enemy forces from other islands of the ridge. The starting point of the operation was Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. The Naval Landing Force was headed by the Commander of the Petropavlovsk Naval Base, Captain 1st Rank Dmitry Grigorievich Ponomarev, the Commander of the 101st Infantry Division was Lieutenant General P.I.Dyakov, the immediate leader of the operation was the Commander of the Kamchatka Defensive Area – Major General Alexey Romanovich Gnechko. The general leadership of the landing operation was nominally carried out by the commander of the Pacific Fleet – Admiral Ivan Stepanovich Yumashev – who had been in Vladivostok all this time. Initially, the operation was ordered to begin on August 17th, but due to the extremely insufficient time for its preparation, the beginning was postponed by one day. The decision was to carry out the Kuril operation: that is to proceed with the plan to carry-out the landing on the night of August 18th on the Northern part of Shumshu, between the Kokutan and Kotomari Capes; in the absence of enemy opposition, the first echelon was to land on Shumshu, the second echelon to land on Paramushir, at the Kashiva Naval Base. The landing was preceded by artillery preparation carried-out by a 130-mm Soviet Coastal Battery from Cape Lopatka (located at the Southern tip of Kamchatka) and by Soviet air strikes; direct support of the landing was entrusted to the Naval Artillery and Artillery Support Detachment and Aviation. The decision to land troops on the unequipped coast, where the Japanese had a weaker anti-amphibious defence, and not in the heavily fortified Naval Base of Kataoka, was fully justified, although this made it difficult to unload military equipment.
The landing forces as a whole were formed from the 101st Rifle Division of the Kamchatka defensive region, which was part of the 2nd Far Eastern Front: two reinforced Rifle Regiments, an Artillery Regiment, an Anti-Tank Destroyer Battalion, the 119th Separate Sapper Battalion, a Combined Battalion of the Marines (700 troops), Consolidated Company of the 60th Naval Border Detachment. In total – 8,824 troops, 95 guns, 110 mortars, 120 heavy and 372 light machine guns. Within Russian language sources these details slightly differ. One source suggests these landings were reduced to a Forward Detachment and two echelons of the main forces. Ship power: minelayer ” Okhotsk”, two patrol boats (“Dzerzhinsky” and “Kirov”), four minesweepers, two trawler boats used as a floating base, eight patrol boats, two torpedo boats, a submarine, hydrographic vessel “Polar”, 17 transport and 16 landing craft LCI (L), received from the USA under Lend-Lease, 2 self-propelled barges – 64 units in total. They were brought together into four detachments: a detachment of transports and landing craft (14 transports and 24 vessels of various types, including all 16-landing craft), a security detachment (8 boats), a trawling detachment (6 minesweepers and trawler boats) and a detachment of ships for artillery support (patrol ships “Kirov” and “Dzerzhinsky”, minelayer “Okhotsk”). The landing was to be supported by the 128th Mixed Aviation Division.
On the evening of August 16th, 1945, the fleet Commander gave the order to begin the landing operation. By 17 o’clock on August 17th, the ships with the landing party left Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky under the cover of fighter aircraft and a submarine. The night trip was carried out in fog. At 2.38 on August 18th, the Soviet Coastal Battery from Cape Lopatka opened fire. At 4.22, the landing of the Advance Detachment began. A Soviet Marine Battalion (minus a Company), together with Machine-Gun and Mortar Companies, Anti-Tank Rifles, a Sapper Company, a Chemical Reconnaissance Platoon, a foot reconnaissance platoon – all landed under the Command of the Deputy Commander of the 138th Infantry Regiment – Major Shutov. Insufficient reconnaissance was immediately evident – with the depth of water in the landing area turning-out to have large pitfalls, as the approach of the floating craft (close to the coast) was difficult. The water was too shallow for the deep-lying landing craft – too deep for disembarking Red Army soldiers. Overloaded landing craft were forced to stop far from the coast (up to 150-200 metres) and the Soviet Paratroopers (and their heavy equipment) were forced to leave the boats too early and get to the coast partially by swimming in the ocean surf. Some Soviet Paratroopers were drowned by the weight of their equipment (the depth of disembarkation being around 2 metres – with the water temperature not exceeding 4 degrees Celsius). Of the 22 radio sets carried by the Forward Detachment – after the completion of the landing – only one was in working order, with all the others damaged by water. (Indeed, the already landed (and fighting) Soviet Red Army forces only managed to re-establish communication with their Command around 11.00 hours). For about an hour, the Japanese did not notice the beginning of the landing at all, the Japanese fortifications and posts located in the area of the landing site were captured along with the Japanese sleeping in them. Only at about 5.30 am did the first skirmish break-out and at the same time – the garrison of the island was alerted. From about 6.00 am in the morning, the Japanese artillery covered the landing site under targeted fire and the landing ships began to suffer significant losses for the first-time. The Marines – who had already landed on the shore – attacked the positions of the Japanese batteries, but were repulsed: this failure significantly complicated the course of the battle for the island.
By 9 am on August 18th, the landing of the first echelon of the main landing forces was completed, (consisting of the 138th Infantry Regiment [3rd Artillery Divisions was included together with Anti-Tank Units – but at first only 4 45-mm guns were landed], and a Company of Anti-Tank Rifles), with the landing capturing two commanding heights. However, from 11 am – 12 pm, the resistance of the Japanese troops increased sharply. Powerful counterattacks began, supported by tanks. The battle took on an extremely fierce character, reaching hand-to-hand combat. In the first half of the day, the Japanese lost 7 tanks, disabled by grenades and anti-tank rifle fire. Many of the positions and the hill changed hands several times. Brave acts were recorded by Marine NA Vilkov and Sailor PI Ilicheva – both of whom covered the embrasures of the Japanese pillboxes with their bodies. It was in this battle that both sides suffered the overwhelming majority of losses. The Japanese Command strengthened its troops on Shumshu due to their transfer from Paramushir. The difficulties of the landing were aggravated by the failure of almost all radio sets, which meant that the Soviet High Command had virtually no control of the battle as it unfolded and that the Soviet Red Army had to fight on its own. In the afternoon, the Japanese launched a decisive attack, throwing 18 tanks into battle. At the cost of heavy losses, they moved forward, but could not push the Soviet landing force into the sea. The main part of the tank force was destroyed by grenades and anti-tank rifles, then Naval Artillery ire was directed at them. Of the 18 known tanks, 17 were destroyed or damaged (the Japanese admit the loss of 27 tanks), the Commander of a Tank Regiment was killed in the battle. The Japanese infantry was cut off from the tanks by fire and lay down, and then retreated. But this success came at a high price – about 200 Soviet Paratroopers died.
The Japanese fired heavy artillery onto the ships approaching the shore – followed by their targeting of the landing craft echelons – inflicting significant losses of ships and men. The following boats were destroyed or suffered significant losses of personnel – 4-5 (DS-1, DS-5, DS-9, DS-43, DS-47) to 7 landing craft (DS-1, DS -3, DS-5, DS-8, DS-9, DS-43, DS-47), 1 border boat PK-8 (5 crew members with the boat Commander killed and 6 wounded) and 2 small boats, damaged 7-8 landing craft (DS-2, DS-4, DS-7, DS-8, DS-10, DS-48, DS-49, DS-50) and 1 transport. There were significant losses in their crews. Japanese aviation also attacked the ships, but without much success (the patrol ship Kirov received minor damage from close explosions of bombs and 2 wounded crew members), while 2 aircraft were shot down by anti-aircraft fire. Nevertheless, under Japanese fire, Soviet ships continued to land personnel of the main landing force. The impossibility of reinforcing the landing with artillery had an extremely unfavourable effect on the course of the battle – there were no floating craft for unloading guns from ships and delivering them to the shore. The Japanese command also (on this and the next day) hastily transferred reinforcements from Paramushir to Shumshu.
At 18-00, the Soviet landing forces launched a decisive attack on the dominant height 171 with the support of massive fire from all ship’s guns. The battle again took on an extremely brutal character, three times the fighters broke into Japanese positions and twice the Japanese in counterattacks pushed them out. The fight was full of hand-to-hand combat. Nevertheless, by 20-00 the Soviet units finally pushed the Japanese troops from the heights and firmly entrenched upon it. With the onset of darkness, the battle continued, and according to the experience of the Great Patriotic War, the main stake was made on the actions of reinforced assault groups. It was then that the Soviet troops achieved significant success – the enemy could not conduct aimed fire, and assault groups captured several fortified positions under-cover of darkness. The most heavily fortified artillery and machine-gun bunkers, included in the assault groups, were simply blown up by the sappers (along with the garrisons inside), or skilfully produced explosions that filled their embrasures tightly. By evening, the 2nd Airborne echelon and the 373rd Rifle Regiment – were landed. Also at night, a temporary pier was built to receive new ships with ammunition and other crucial supplies. They managed to deliver 11 guns to the shore, a lot of ammunition and explosives. The actions of the Soviet Aviation that day were hampered by fog, as combat missions were made (almost 350 sorties), but only along the depth of the Japanese defence and along Paramushir. August 18th was the most violent day of the operation. Both sides suffered heavy losses. Soviet troops lost about 400 people killed, 123 missing, 716 wounded. In battles, 6 guns, 116 mortars, 106 anti-tank rifles, 294 machine guns, and a lot of small arms were lost (Many Soviet troops were drowned during the landing of the first assault squad under fire). The Japanese lost 139 people killed, 141 wounded, 139 prisoners were captured, 3 enemy batteries were captured, 10 guns and 27 tanks were destroyed (according to Soviet data, up to 40 tanks).
From August 19th, the offensive of the Airborne Units continued with great difficulties, but without such a degree of ferocity as the day before. Soviet troops switched to the tactics of consistently suppressing enemy firing points with massive artillery fire. Troop losses dropped sharply, but so did the pace of the offensive. At about 9-00 am the Commander of the Japanese troops on the Kuril Islands sent a an Imperial Japanese Army Messenger to the Commander of the Soviet Landing Forces – P.I.Dyakov – with a proposal to start negotiations for his surrender. The hostilities were suspended, but both sides hastily continued the transfer of new forces to Shumsha. At about 17-00, the Commander of the Japanese 73rd Infantry Brigade – Major General S. Iwao – arrived for negotiations with the Commander of the Soviet Kuril Occupation Troops – Major General A. Grechkin. There was an immediate tendency for the Japanese side to drag out the negotiations. On this day, a lone Japanese ‘Kamikaze’ aeroplane – launched from the Shumshu area – sank the KT-152 minesweeper boat. On August 20th – a Detachment of Soviet ships docked at the Kataoka Naval Base on Shumshu to accept the surrender of the Japanese garrison – but came under artillery fire from the islands of Shumshu and Paramushir. The Okhotsk minelayer received 2 direct hits with 75-mm shells (3 people were killed and 12 wounded), the steering control on the Kirov patrol ship was damaged by shrapnel (2 crew members were wounded). The ships returned fire and went to sea. In response, the Commander of the operation ordered to resume the offensive on Shumshu and bombard Shumsh and Paramushir (several raids were made by groups of 12 to 17 bombers, in total – 61 sorties). After a massive artillery barrage, the landing force advanced 5-6 kilometres, after which a new Japanese delegation hastily arrived, agreeing to surrender. From August 21st – August 22nd – the Japanese Command in every possible way delayed the negotiations and the surrender of the garrison on Shumshu. The headquarters of the Supreme High Command ordered a transfer of 2 Rifle Regiments from Kamchatka to occupy Shumsha by the morning of August 23rd and to begin the landing on Paramushir. One Soviet aircraft carried out a demonstrative bombardment of Japanese batteries on the island.
However, a new use of force was no longer required. At 14-00 on August 22nd, the Commander of the Japanese troops in the Northern Kuril Islands – Lieutenant General Fusaki Tsutsumi – accepted the terms of surrender, and ordered the withdrawal of troops to assembly points for surrender, surrendering himself. In total, 2 Generals, 525 officers and 11,700 soldiers were captured on Shumshu (taking into account the captured prisoners during the entire battle). Military property was taken – 40 cannons, 17 howitzers, 9 anti-aircraft guns, 214 light machine guns, 123 heavy machine guns, 30 anti-aircraft machine guns, 7420 rifles, several surviving tanks and 7 aircraft. Also on August 23rd, the powerful garrison of Paramushir Island surrendered without resistance: about 8,000 people (74th Infantry Brigade of the 91st Infantry Division, 18th and 19th Mortar Divisions, a Company of the 11th Tank Regiment), up to 50 guns and 17 tanks led by the commander of the 74th Infantry Brigade – Major General Iwao Sugino. The Battle for Shumshu was the only operation of the Soviet-Japanese War, in which the Soviet side suffered more casualties killed and wounded than the enemy: the total losses of Soviet troops amounted to 1,567 people. According to the initial data of the Soviet Headquarters, this number included 516 killed, 329 missing, 6 dead from injuries and accidents and 716 wounded. The losses of the Pacific Fleet amounted to 290 killed and missing, 384 wounded (including the crews of ships – 134 killed and missing, 213 wounded, a battalion of Marines in the battle for Shumshu – 156 killed and missing, 171 wounded). The losses of the Soviet Aviation amounted to 6 aircraft (including 3 non-combat losses). The Japanese lost 1,018 soldiers killed and wounded.
On August 24th, the Pacific Fleet began to engage the rest of the Kuril Islands. The islands from Paramushir to Onekotan, inclusive, were occupied by the ships of the Kamchatka Naval Base and the Kamchatka Defensive Region, which took part in the battle for Shumsha. The transportation was carried out in extremely unfavourable meteorological conditions – during stormy weather and frequent fogs. On August 24th, the 198th Rifle Regiment and the 7th Separate Battalion were landed on Paramushir. On August 25th, before the landed Soviet troops, the garrisons of the islands of Antsiferov (Japanese Sirinki to), Makanrushi (Japanese Makanrusi-to) and Onekotan surrendered without a fight. On August 25th, the surrender of the garrison of Matua Island (Japanese Matsuva) was accepted (3,795 troops, 60 guns, 124 machine guns, 25 anti-aircraft machine guns). On August 30th, the surrender of the Urup Island garrison was accepted, led by the Commander of the 129th Separate Infantry Brigade – Major General Susumi Niho (5,600 soldiers and officers). Some garrisons (for example, from the island of Simushir) were removed by the Japanese to Japan. In total, 30,442 Japanese were disarmed and captured on the northern islands of the Kuril ridge, including four Generals and 1,280 officers. In addition, there were 2,212 civilians on these islands, who were then repatriated to Hokkaido under the terms of surrender. As trophies, 19,114 rifles, 825 machine guns (light, easel, large-calibre, anti-aircraft guns), 248 guns (including 32 anti-aircraft guns), 180 mortars, 6 faulty aircraft, 70 tanks were taken (here are taken into account and destroyed in the battle on Shumshu), 119 trucks and 9 tractor tractors, 6 searchlight stations, 44 different warehouses, a large number of other military equipment, as well as 8 boats, 4 ferries, 2 transport and 12 self-propelled barges.
Landings on the Southern Kurils
On August 22nd, 1945, the Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Forces in the Far East – Marshal of the Soviet Union A.M. Vasilevsky – ordered the Command of the Pacific Fleet by the forces of the Northern Pacific Flotilla (Commanded by Vice-Admiral V.A.Andreev) together with the Command of the 2nd Far Eastern Front to occupy the Southern Kuril Islands. For this operation, the 355th Rifle Division (Commanded by Colonel S.G. Abbakumov) from the 87th Rifle Corps of the 16th Army, the 113th Rifle Brigade and an Artillery Regiment were allocated. The main landing points were Iturup and Kunashir, then the islands of the Lesser Kuril ridge. Detachments of ships with a landing objective were to leave the port of Otomari (now Korsakov) on Sakhalin. Captain 1st Rank I.S.Leonov was appointed the Commander of the landing operation for the occupation of the Southern Kuril Islands. The first objective was the occupied of the island of Urup (Jap. Uruppu) to be carried-out by a detachment of ships consisting of 2 Soviet minesweepers with 2 Rifle Companies on board (a total of 344 troops) which left Otomari on August 27st. After crossing in unfavourable weather conditions, on August 28th, the detachment arrived at the island and accepted the surrender of the main forces of the Japanese 129th Infantry Brigade, led by its Commander – Major General Niho Susumi – without a fight.
Also on August 28th, 2 Soviet minesweepers with a landing party (1079 troops) approached the island of Iturup (Japanese Etorfu). The main forces of the 89th Infantry Division (13,500 soldiers and officers), led by its Commander – Lieutenant General Kennosuke Ogawa (in some sources, Keito Ugawa) – surrendered without a fight. It is curious that in the morning of the same day a Soviet Airborne Assault Force was sent comprising 34 Marine-Paratroopers carried-on two Catalina aircraft – tasked with seizing the airfield on Iturup. However, due to bad weather, the aeroplanes splashed down in remote areas around the island, with the Mairine-Paratroopers not able to complete their task due to being off-target and lost. They established contact with the Amphibious Assault Force only on September 1st. On September 1st, several detachments of ships with a landing party arrived on the island of Kunashir (Japanese Kunasiri): first, 1 Minesweeper with a Rifle Company on board (147 troops), then 2 landing ships and 1 patrol ship with 402 Paratroopers and 2 guns on board, 2 transports, 2 minesweepers and a patrol ship with 2479 Paratroopers and 27 guns, 3 transports and a minesweeper with 1300 men and 14 guns. A Japanese garrison of 1,250 capitulated. Such a large force was allocated to Kunashir, since it was planned to create a naval base there, and landing forces were to operate from it to occupy the neighbouring islands.
Also on September 1st, the island of Shikotan (Japanese Sikotan) was occupied. The Minelayer “Gizhiga” and two Minesweepers delivered a Rifle Battalion (830 men, two guns). The Japanese garrison – the 4th Infantry Brigade and Field Artillery Division, numbering 4,800 soldiers and officers under the Command of Major General Sadashichi Doi (in some sources Gio Doi ) surrendered. Already at the beginning of September, Soviet sailors occupied the remaining islands of the Lesser Kuril ridge (Japanese Habomai) by amphibious assault: September 2nd – the garrison of Akiyuri Island (now Anuchin Island) (10 soldiers), on September 3rd – the garrisons of the Yuri Islands (now Yuri Island ) (41 soldiers, 1 officer), Sibotsu (now Zeleny Island) (420 soldiers and officers) and Taraku (now Polonsky Island) (92 soldiers and officers), September 4rd – garrison of Todo Islands, now Oskolki Islands (sub-archipelago Foxes) (over 100 people) – all surrender without a fight. In total, about 20,000 Japanese soldiers and officers surrendered to Soviet troops in the southern Kuriles. At the same time, there was no fighting. There were several minor incidents with violations of the terms of surrender (the evacuation of Japanese troops to Japan, the flight of the Japanese civilian population on ships, the destruction by the Japanese of their weapons and other property). After the battles on Shumshu, the Pacific Fleet did not suffer any combat losses in the Kuril Islands region.
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