The Soviet-Japanese War
The Soviet-Japanese war of 1945. The Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation
Causes of war.
The USSR entered the war against Japan on the night of August 9, 1945. It was done in fulfillment of the allied commitments made to the United States and Great Britain, as well as in order to ensure the security of the Soviet Far Eastern borders. It was a logical continuation of the Great Patriotic War.
Despite the ongoing failures of Japan in the fight against Anglo-American forces in 1942-1944, it still had a powerful military force. The Imperial army had up to 6 million men, 10,000 aircraft, and 500 warships. After the defeat of Germany, the Japanese did not consider themselves defeated. The Americans, in their turn, believed that the war would end no earlier than the end of 1946, and the loss of allied troops during the landing on the Japanese Islands would amount to 1 million men.
The Japanese Kwantung army deployed in occupied Manchuria guaranteed unhindered supply of Japan with strategic raw materials from China and Korea and also diverted some Soviet forces from the European theater during the most critical days of the Great Patriotic War. Japan was a long-time adversary of Russia. Russia was defeated in the Russian-Japanese war of 1904-1905. It lost the territory of southern Sakhalin and the rights to lease the ports of Dalny and Port Arthur.
The Japanese government wanted to close all access to the open ocean to the Soviet Union during the 1930s. After the seizure of the North-Eastern Chinese provinces, Japan took the path of the direct military provocations against the USSR – in the area of the lake Hasan (1938) and the river Khalkhin-Gol (1939). Simultaneously with the preparation of a strike on the Anglo-American forces in the Pacific, the Japanese Command was developing a plan of operations against the Red Army under the code name “Kantokuen”. This plan was constantly updated taking into account the situation on the Soviet-German front during 1941-1943. Japan never dared to attack the USSR, but it repeatedly committed provocations on the Soviet borders, detained or sank Soviet vessels in the open sea. This hindered the supply of the Soviet Union with military equipment from the United States under Lend-Lease.
The USSR could not remain indifferent to the situation on its far Eastern borders, especially since Japan was an ally of Nazi Germany in World War II. The Soviet government, for obvious reasons, did not give an official response to requests from the United States and Great Britain for future entry into the war against Japan until 1943. Only at the Tehran Conference did Stalin verbally agree to join the fight against Japanese troops after the end of the war in Europe. At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, he clarified that this would happen in two to three months after the capitulation of Germany.
The Soviet leadership also stated that the prerequisite for the Soviet entry into the war against Japan was the return of the territory of southern Sakhalin and transfer the Kuril Islands to the USSR, maintain the status quo of Outer Mongolia (the Mongolian People's Republic), and lease of the former Russian Navy base in Port Arthur.
The Soviet Government denounced the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Treaty of April 13, 1941 on April 5, 1945. The Potsdam Declaration was adopted at the talks of the leaders of the Big Three in Potsdam on July 26, 1945. It was a de facto ultimatum to the Government of Japan demanding its capitulation. The practical issues of USSR's participation in the war in the Far East were discussed in detail at the same time.
The American atomic bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9) marked the beginning of the nuclear age. This decision, which claimed the lives of up to 300 thousand Japanese, was made by the American leadership primarily in order to show the world (and, above all, the USSR) its power and military-technical superiority at the final stage of the war. As for Japan, despite the atomic bombings, it continued the war.
Preparation for the offensive.
The aim of the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation was the defeat of the Japanese Kwantung army, liberation of North-Eastern China (Manchuria), North Korea, and ending of the World War II together with the Allies. The operation was carried out on a huge front in a desert, mountain or taiga environment. The Japanese Command had constructed 17 fortified districts along the Soviet borders.
To carry out the operation, the Soviet Command redeployed more than 400 thousand soldiers, 2 thousand tanks and other equipment from the West to the Far East. There were three fronts created: the Trans-Baikal front (Commander Marshal R. Malinovsky), the 1st Far Eastern front (Commander Marshal K. Meretskov), and the 2nd Far Eastern front (Commander General of the Army M. Purkaev). The overall command of the Soviet forces was carried out by Marshal A. Vasilevsky. The Red Army was assisted by Mongolian troops under the command of Marshal X. Choibalsan. In total, the Soviets concentrated against Japan 1.6 million men and 5.3 thousand tanks. The Japanese army in Manchuria (Commander General O. Yamada) had about 1 million men and 1.2 thousand tanks. It was still a serious force for the defense battle.
On August 8, 1945, the Soviet Government delivered a statement to the Japanese Ambassador in Moscow stating that due to Japan's refusal to stop military actions against the United States, Great Britain, and China, the Soviet Union considered itself at war with Japan from August 9, 1945. The Red Army went on the offensive on the morning of August 9.
The offensive of covertly concentrated Soviet troops was carried out at a high speed. Especially quick were the troops of the Trans-Baikal front. By August 12, they had crossed the pass of Great Khingan and headed for Mukden. Shock units of the 1st Far Eastern front were advancing towards the Trans-Baikal front. The average daily rate of advance of the Soviet troops was up to 80 km.
During the offensive, the ground forces closely cooperated with the ships of the Pacific Fleet. With their help, a number of successful amphibious operations were carried out in the ports of North Korea. Especially fierce and bloody fights unfolded for the port of Seisin. They continued here for several days, but the courage of the Soviet Marines decided the outcome. The Japanese Command was not able to evacuate any significant contingents of their troops to the Japanese territory. The American expeditionary force in their turn began landing in South Korea. On August 18, it was decided to delineate the area of responsibility of the armed forces of the USSR and the United States in Korea along the 38th parallel.
The resistance of the Kwantung army was broken. In this situation, the Japanese Government decided to capitulate on the terms of the Potsdam Declaration and notified the Governments of the United States, the USSR and England on August 14. However, many units of the Imperial army continued to fight against the Red Army. Then the Soviet General staff had to give the explanation that the Soviet troops would continue to advance until the Japanese forces opposing them laid down their weapons.
The defeat of the Kwantung army was practically completed by August 20. The mass surrender of Japanese troops began. The great importance in the rapid seizure of the most important strategic points on Chinese territory played Soviet airborne landings in Harbin, Changchun, Mukden as well as in the seaports on the Pacific coast – Dairen (Dalny) and Port Arthur.
Combat actions in southern Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands.
In connection with the success in Manchuria, the 2nd Far Eastern front with part of its forces started the offensive on the island of Sakhalin. Soviet soldiers stormed numerous reinforced concrete structures of the enemy. The heavy battle lasted for several days. The Japanese forces in southern Sakhalin had discontinued organized resistance and surrendered by noon of August 25.
The final stage of the war was the Kuril landing operation, conducted by the Pacific Fleet's Marines and sailors. It began on the night of August 16-17 with the landing of Soviet troops on the island of Shumshu – the northernmost in the Kuril ridge. All sites suitable for landing were targeted by Japanese artillery fire. The fight lasted for several days, but the Japanese could not withstand the onslaught and retreated. This was followed by the surrender of the garrisons of the other Islands. During the period from August 18 to September 4, all of them were cleared of the enemy. Up to 50 thousand Japanese soldiers and officers were taken prisoners.
The actions of the Soviet troops in the Manchurian Operation were distinguished by military audacity and boldness. It is considered one of the most outstanding operations of the Second World War. Within two weeks, the million-strong Kwantung army was completely destroyed. 84 thousand Japanese soldiers were killed and about 600 thousand were taken prisoner. Irretrievable losses of Soviet troops amounted to 12 thousand people.
Japan capitulated on September 2. The Soviet Government declared September 3 the Day of Victory over militaristic Japan. This day was a non-working day in the Soviet Union in 1945 and 1946. Soon the Soviet troops, in accordance with an agreement with the Chinese government, began to leave the territories they had liberated.