Military

The Soviet Army Offensive: Manchuria, 1945
CSC 1986
SUBJECT AREA History
                      EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
         THE SOVIET ARMY OFFENSIVE: MANCHURIA, 1945
1.  Purpose:  To create interest among students of modern
warfare to study a relatively unknown Soviet campaign in
Manchuria, 1945.
2.  Thesis:  The Soviet offensive in Manchuria during August
1945 provides an excellent model of current Soviet Army
tactics for students of modern warfare.
3.  Data:  Modern Soviet Army tactics began their evolution
in Manchuria, 1938-1939.  Major border confrontations with
the Japanese Kwangtung Army reaffirmed developing offensive
tactics emphasizing the use of fire and maneuver with armor
and massive artillery support.  In his effort to ensure
Soviet supremacy in the Northern Pacific and North Asian
continent, Stalin agreed to enter the war against Japan soon
after Hitler's defeat.  The Soviet Army began an impressive
redeployment from Europe to the Far East under strict
security measures.  Meanwhile, Japan's strength in Manchuria
was slowly bled away by her war in the Pacific and concerns
for homeland defense.  Achieving tactical and strategic
surprise, the Soviets launched a classic double envelopment
along the Manchurian border on 9 August 1945.  Advancing
under the cover of darkness and pouring rain, the Soviets
advanced along three axes covering a frontage of more than
3000 miles.  Using armor-heavy forward detachments and
displaying flexibility, audacity and initiative at all
levels, the Soviets crushed what opposition the Japanese
afforded and achieved impressive advances along what the
Japanese considered to be untrafficable terrain.   The
Japanese Kwangtung Army faced severe shortages in all areas
and was in the middle of the redeployment of her defensive
forces when the Soviets attacked.  Japan's lack of armor and
anti-tank weapons, failure to correctly estimate the size of
the Soviet force build-up and predict the Russian avenues of
approach were all reminiscent of her defeat at Nomonhan in
1939.  The Soviet Army took excellent advantage of the
confusion surrounding the Kwangtung Army's surrender by
rapidly advancing and seizing key terrain before (and after)
the war's official termination.
4.  Conclusion:  The Soviet Army's development of a
combined-arms concept has its beginning on the battlefields
of Manchuria.  Faced with conventional and unconventional
military might in the NATO arena, military planners and
tacticians need to fully appreciate the full scale of the
Soviet Army's offensive ability.  The best model and classic
example of modern Soviet tactics (less nuclear weapons and
long range missiles) is available in the study of the
Manchurian invasion of August, 1945.
       THE SOVIET ARMY OFFENSIVE:  MANCHURIA, 1945
                         OUTLINE
Thesis Statement: The Soviet offensive in Manchuria during
August 1945, provides an excellent model of current Soviet
Army tactics for students of modern warfare.
A.  The Modern Soviet War Machine
    1. Soviet Army Tactics
    2. Relevance of the Manchurian offensive in today's
       battlefield
B.  The Nomonhan Incident
    1. Soviet-Japanese relations after 1931
    2. Japanese forces
    3. Soviet military tactics and deception
    4. Lessons learned
C.  Manchuria January - July 1945
    1. Soviet strategic objectives
    2. Soviet redeployment
    3. Japanese reorganization and deployment
    4. Japanese prediction of invasion
D.  Soviet offensive, 9 August 1945
    1. Double envelopment
    2. Discussion of Soviet force structure and tactics
       along axes of advance
    3. Reasons for Japanese failure
E.  War termination
    1. Japanese Emperor's surrender decree
    2. Confusion concerning surrender
    3. Losses at termination
    4. Lessons learned
     THE SOVIET ARMY OFFENSIVE: MANCHURIA 1945
     Facing the NATO Forces in Europe is an awesome array of
weaponry, firepower and an overwhelming number of combat
divisions.  While few western observers have witnessed this
massive war-machine in action,  much has been written
concerning the Soviet Army's swift offensive capability on
today's modern battlefield.  Many agree that the Soviet
offensive will be characterized by rapid movement into the
enemy rear which will be interrupted by relatively brief,
violent meeting engagements. The current Soviet tactical
concept calls for a powerful, deep-striking attack in depth
with rates of advance approximately 50 kilometers per day
under nuclear or nonnuclear battlefield conditions. [2:4-4]
Although planning on a high rate of advance, Soviet planners
realize they will have  to slow down when moving through
enemy defensive positions.  When engaging enemy defensive
positions, the Soviets will try to penetrate weak areas
along the flanks or rear or bypass the strongpoint.  As a
general rule, the Soviets will attack in two echelons with
the first echelon made of combined arms armies and the
second echelon formed by a tank Army.  When the terrain
permits the mobility, the Soviets will put their tank army
in the first echelon.  The first echelon is tasked to
penetrate the enemy defenses while the second echelon
exploits success, penetrates deep into the enemy's rear
areas, reduces bypassed enemy forces or simply commences a
new attack in a different direction.  [2:2-7]
     As a student of modern military warfare and Soviet Army
tactics, the Soviet offensive in Manchuria, August 1945,
provides the most recent model of modern Soviet tactics.  As
John Erickson states,
         "....the Soviet Manchurian campaign in 1945 most
     closely approaches in style and scope what the Soviet
     command presently envisages in the way of high-speed
     ground operations--the speed of the advance, high speed
     movement along several axes without undue attention
     being paid to open flanks, the logistics problems of
     maintaining strong armoured columns and the employment
     of airborne forces in the full 'depth' of the
     theatre....As  an  example  of  the  Soviet
     blitzkreig....the Far Eastern campaign is a much more
     realistic 'model' than the majority of the operations
     in the European theatre during the period 1941-45."
     [5:73]
     Twenty-seven years after the Russian defeat in the
Sino-Soviet War of 1904, the Japanese faced the Soviet Union
once again after the Japanese conquest of Manchuria in 1931.
Both armies confronted one another along the 3000 mile
Manchurian border.  After the Soviets signed a mutual
assistance treaty with Outer Mongolia in 1936, the Russians
commenced a force build-up and by January 1938, had moved a
rifle corps into Outer Mongolia [14-1].  That summer both
forces clashed in the Chang kufeng/Lake Khasan Incident
where the Japanese 19th Infantry Division fought two Soviet
Infantry Divisions in a territorial border dispute on the
east Manchurian border.  This violent border clash resulted
in more than 2500 casualties on both sides in a Period of
two weeks [14-3].
     After the ceasefire on 11 August 1938, both sides
maintained a wary presence on the border until 11 May 1939,
when another territorial boundary dispute arose near
Nomonhan, along the Khalkhin Gol River.   With each
succeeding engagement both sides continued to bolster their
respective forces and the skirmish blossomed into a major
confrontation.
     With a sizeable force already in Mongolia, the Soviet
Union assigned command of the Soviet forces to General
Georgi K. Zhukov on 2 June 1939. [15-156]  While the
escalating border clashes continued, General Zhukov began a
stealthful force build-up along the Khalkin-Gol River.  In
the 1904 Sino-Soviet War, Russia learned a bitter lesson
over its inability to maintain superior forces at the end of
a 4000 mile long logistics trail. [15-154]  With the Trans-
Siberian railroad incomplete, Russia was unable to reinforce
and resupply Czarist troops by land or sea. [15-154]  Zhukov
was determined to launch a crushing offensive against the
Japanese, but not before achieving a sizeable force ratio in
his distinct favor.   Facing 30,000 Japanese soldiers.
Zhukov built his forces up to 35 infantry battalions and
over 57,000 men under rigorous security and deception
measures. [4-9].  He achieved a force ratio of 4:1 in tanks
and 2:1 in aircraft.  [15-156]  Although the front was
located 400 miles from the nearest railroad, he ensured
everything was trucked in during darkness. By late June, the
Soviets established air superiority in air battles involving
200 to 300 aircraft. [15-157] When he attacked the Japanese
on 20 August 1939, he achieved complete tactical surprise
and by 3l August, had driven back the Japanese with classic
double envelopment  tactics  using  armor  and  heavy
concentrations of artillery.   When the cease-fire took
effect on l6 September 1939, the Japanese had suffered a
phenomenal 75% casualties with over 17,000 men killed or
wounded.  (13-15]  The Soviets reported 9,284 killed or
wounded at the battle's end.
     It is important to briefly examine the Japanese
military mind and their failure in underestimating the
Soviet Army.  Alvin D. Coox stated in The Anatomy of a Small
War, "....the Japanese Army ordinarily preferred surprise
assaults without supporting guns because fire power was
considered of secondary importance in close combat...."[1-
130]
     Japanese army tactical doctrine emphasized swift
victory by decisive infantry action.  This doctrine was
based on some of the intangibles of combat:  morale,
fighting spirit and leadership. (4-71]  The centuries old,
Samurai warrior tradition was of prime importance to
Japanese army tacticians.  They favored close-in combat in
which courage and relentless hand-to-hand fighting favored
the spirited Japanese soldier.
     The Soviet army's doctrine was believed to be
inflexible and rigid to the point of being unable to adapt
to the Japanese tactics of surprise and maneuver.  Due to
the long logistics train required to support the Soviet army
in the Far East, Japanese planners underestimated the
Soviets' ability to mass forces on the border.     The
Japanese firmly believed they could easily stop any Soviet
offensive and then effectively and decisively crush them
with aggressive counterattacks.  They were dead wrong in
both assumptions.  On the battlefield at Changkufeng and
Nomonhan, the Japanese faced an enemy far superior than
previously estimated.  In both incidents the Soviets used
larger numbers of combat forces, superior firepower and
maneuver.  The Soviets' doctrine emphasized a combined-arms
concept and a protracted war in which the Japanese were
doomed to defeat in any war of attrition. [14-90]
     The devastating effectiveness of Russian armor at
Nomonhan swayed Japanese sentiment to build up their tank
forces to ten divisions.  However, at the start of the
Pacific War, they had yet to activate a single tank
division.  As evidenced by the vicious defense of the
Japanese Army in the Pacific Islands during World War II,
the border clashes only reinforced the value of the
indomitable Samurai fighting spirit--fight to the death.
War-fighting concerns in other theaters of the world and
these rapidly escalating combat actions between the Soviets
and the Japanese in Manchuria lead to the signing of the
Neutrality Pact of 1941.
     The Russians learned the power of tank oriented
offensive operations, and "confirmed Soviet views about the
need for rapid exploitation of the implicitly transient
advantages accruing to the side which attacks first." [14-
65]
     Despite the relative security of the Neutrality Pact
with Japan and the war raging on her European doorstep, the
Soviet Union held forty divisions on it's Manchurian border
to counter the offensive threat posed by the Kwangtung Army.
[10-25]  Stalin was determined to eventually enter the war
against Japan to achieve several strategic objectives in the
Far East.  He wished to reestablish Russian influence, rail
and base rights in Manchuria, consolidate the Soviets'
position in Mongolia and ensure Soviet presence and
influence in the Northern Pacific.  By the eviction of the
Japanese, Stalin would pre-empt any western presence in the
North Asian contineent and seize the entire Sakhalin
peninsula and Kurile Islands from Japan [8-174].
     In April 1945, the Soviets abrogated the Neutrality
Pact and commenced a massive redeployment effort which
doubled the Soviet forces in the Far East to 80 divisions.
During the months of May-July 1945, more than 40 infantry,
tank and mechanized divisions plus artillery and combat
support units were transferred from the European theater to
the Far East.  [12-37]  This monumental effort required
maximum utilization of the Trans-Siberian railroad and
136,000 railroad car loads to move these assault units to
the Far Eastern border areas. [12-37]  During the peak troop
redeployments in June and July, an average of 22-30 trains
per day moved Russian units under strict secrecy. [15-159]
     Surprise was the essential element in the Soviet
offensive plan. [12-37]  The Russians successfully deployed
30 divisions to western Manchuria without Japanese
awareness. [10-1]  Deception and surprise was achieved by
heavy reliance upon night movement, utilization of assembly
areas far removed from the border and simple but strict
measures such as instructing senior Soviet officers to not
wear rank insignia and to use assumed names.[10-1]  The 6th
Guards Tank Army left all tanks, self-propelled artillery
and vehicles behind in Czechoslovakia and picked up new
equipment manufactured in Soviet Ural factories. [7-52]
This extraordinary effort resulted in the Soviet Union's
ability to field a force in the Far East comprised of 11
combined-arms armies, one tank army and three air armies.
Thus, without discovery by the Japanese at the start of war
with Japan, the Russian Army fielded 1,577,725 men, 26,137
guns and mortars, and 5,556 tanks and self-propelled
artillery pieces. [9-62]  The Air Force possessed 3,800
aircraft while the Soviet Navy (Pacific Fleet and Amur River
flotilla) had distinct superiority on the seas (600 fighting
ships as touted by Gorelov) and an additional 1500 A/C. [l2-
38]  This vast array of men and arms gave the Russians a
2.2:1 ratio advantage in men, 4.8:1 in artillery and tanks
and a 2:1 advantage in aircraft. [10-29]
     The threat which kept 40 Soviet divisions, including
two tank divisions, from the European front was the
Kwangtung Army.  In existence since 1919, the Kwangtung Army
was more than 1 million men strong in early 1941. [10-25]
Manchuria represented the breadbasket and military warehouse
for the Japanese armed forces.  However, as the Allied
effort in the Pacific war intensified, the Japanese Imperial
General Headquarters began to withdraw elite divisions from
the Kwantury Army to counter the Allied threat elsewhere.
By early 1943, the Japanese had approximately 600,000 troops
protecting Manchuria against an estimated 750,000 Soviet
troops deployed on its borders. [18-11]  Approaching the end
of 1944, this former vanguard of Japanese military prowess
found its strength reduced half again from its number in
December 1942. [18-118]  The Japanese Army was short in more
than manpower.  They were severely deficient in aircraft,
engineer support, communications and armor.  What few tanks
the Japanese did possess were armed with 57mm guns and were
grossly overmatched by the Soviet T-34's.
     The day of 7 March 1945, saw the complete annihilation
of Japanese forces on Iwo Jima and brought the Allies closer
to the Japanese homeland.   Japanese Imperial General
Headquarters (IGHQ) issued orders on 15 March 1945, which
withdrew all remaining elite divisions from Manchuria to the
homeland and included two divisions on the border.  This
also removed the Kwantung Army's 1st Tank Division, the last
armor division in Manchuria. [18-125)  The result left the
Kwantung Army a mere shadow of its former self (its most
seasoned division was formed only as late as the spring of
1944).  [9-63]
     This drain on the strength of the Kwangtung Army
required a drastic change in the defense plan against the
Soviet Union. The Japanese  formerly planned to defend along
the northern and eastern Manchurian border areas,  the
expected Russian avenue of approach.  They believed the
western approaches to be untrafficable to any sizeable
Soviet formation due to the vast Mongolian desert and the
natural  barrier  of  the  Grand  Khinghan  Mountains.
Accordingly, the Japanese had 17 fortified areas covering
the assumed approaches into Manchuria over a 1,000 kilometer
stretch in the northern and eastern border regions. [12-37]
     Due to the extreme reduction in strength and armaments,
the Kwangtung Army adopted a new operations plan in May
1945.  It called for a delaying action along the border,
withdrawal to subsequent prepared defensive lines and
finally to a stronghold area in southeastern Manchuria for a
final defensive action approximately 650 kilometers from the
northern and western borders. [10-34]
     The Kwangtung Army believed that the terrain, long
distances involved and determined Japanese resistance would
weaken the attacking Soviet forces by the time they reached
the final defensive positions and their advance would be
stopped and possibly subjected to a decisive counterattack.
In this plan only one-third of the Japanese Army would be
positioned on the border and the remainder deployed in
depth. [10-34]
     In order to prevent the Russians from discovering their
alarming weakness in Manchuria, the Kwangtung Army mobilized
reservists and new recruits to form new divisions and
brigades to maintain the appearance of a formidable fighting
force.  In early July 1945, the Kwangtung Army was expanded
from 11 infantry divisions to more than 24 divisions.
Unfortunately for the Kwangtung Army, more than one-fourth
of its entire combat force was mobilized only ten days prior
to the Soviet offensive (8 of 24 divisions and 7 of 9
brigades). [4-63]  One of two very weak tank brigades was
not formed until July 1945, and both brigades were far
removed  in south central Manchuria.  [9-63]
     The Japanese IGHQ and Kwangtung Army had not heeded the
lessons learned at Nomonhan.  In the Summer of 1945, their
army had no artillery larger than 75 mm, few tanks, no
rockets, nor any modern anti-tank weapons.  The newly formed
149th Infantry Division did not have a single piece of
artillery in its possession when war commenced!  [9-63]
Ammunition and weapons were in such short supply the
Japanese resorted to arming soldiers with bamboo spears.
[18-154]  Of the 24 divisions in the Kwangtung Army, the
Japanese themselves rated only seven or eight to be combat
effective.  [9-63]   In fact, eight of their infantry
divisions were rated at being only 15% combat effective
while all nine independent mixed brigades were rated at 15%
combat effectiveness or less. [18-161]
     By August 1945, the Kwantury Army had pieced together a
combat force of 1,155 tanks, 5,360 guns and 1,800 aircraft,
most obsolete.  Discounting Japanese forces in South
Sakhalin, Korea and the Kuriles,  the Soviets faced an
inexperienced army totalling little more than 710,000 men.
[10-29]
     In May 1945, the Japanese commenced their unit
redeployments and construction of fortifications and
barriers to conform with the new defense plan. [18-134]  The
Japanese problem and "Achilles heel" was simply that their
troop redeployments and military construction projects were
underway and incomplete when the Russians attacked on 9
August 1945.
     Although the Soviet movement of troops and material by
rail was readily apparent to the Japanese after February
1945, they grossly underestimated the rapidity of the Soviet
force buildup.  [18-138]  The Kwangtung Army's intelligence
noted absolutely no concentrations on the western border of
Manchuria (where more than 650,000 men were massing) and
expected only 8 infantry and 2 tank divisions with 1,000
supporting aircraft on the eastern Manchurian border (the
Russians launched the attack with 31 infantry divisions and
12 tank brigades). [20-100]  With significantly increased
Russian actrivity in July 1945, the IGHQ'S last estimate on
31 July 1945 still fell short of the mark:
     "....Russian attitude toward Japan will reach a crisis
     in this early autumn.  Recent Russian war preparations
     against Japan have made unexpected progress.  The
     Soviet Union will be ready to launch hostile action by
     the end of August.  Because of military considerations,
     it is highly probable that she will enter war against
     Japan in early autumn." [18-162]
     The Soviet's offensive plan in the Far East was bold
and skillfully planned.  A three axes attack was planned
along a border more than 4,400 kilometers long.  The entire
Soviet force was task organized down to the battalion level
to suit precise missions, terrain and anticipated enemy
defenses to ensure rapid movement through Japanese defenses.
Those forces required to move through the most difficult
terrain received more engineer support.  Forces expected to
encounter heavy defensive fortifications received more
artillery and all forward detachments were allotted tanks
and self-propelled artillery to provide mobility and
firepower to affect a high rate of advance.
     A double envelopment to quickly penetrate deep into
Manchuria, encircle the Japanese Kwantung Army and defeat it
in detail was the Soviet Army's mission.  This plan and
tactical tailoring of force structure reflected the Soviet
Army's maturation process over four years of intense combat
in Europe. [10-43]
     On 9 August 1945, the main attack took place on the
western Manchurian border with the Trans-Balkal Front (group
of armies).  Here the Soviets planned to defeat border
troops, bypass fortified regions and advance quickly across
a wide desert and the Grand Khinghan Mountains to secure
positions on the central Manchurian plain... all within ten
to fifteen days. Entire tank units were in the first echelon
of each formation to enhance speed and striking power.  This
represented the first time the Soviets used a tank army as
the spearhead in a major offensive. [7-53]
     Planned for an advance rate of 70 kilometers/day for
its tanks and 23 kilometers/day for its combined arms units,
the Russians faced two risky propositions as Glantz points
out in August Storm:  The Soviet 1945 Strategic Offensive in
Manchuria.  The Soviet's thrust in western Manchuria would
be significantly hindered if the Japanese defenders occupied
the key passes in the Grand Khinghan Mountains or if the
long supply train failed to keep pace with the rapid pace of
the tank and mechanized columns.
     This front represented 41.4% of the total forces
fielded by the Soviets:  654,040 men formed one tank army,
four combined-arms armies, one Soviet-Mongolian Cavalry-
Mechanized Group, and an air army.  More than 49,000
vehicles and 2,400 tanks/SP guns were assigned to move the
Russians along a front covering 2,300 kilometers. [10-44]
This front advanced in two echelons of armies with the first
echelon heavily-weighted with one tank army and four
combined-arms armies.
     The Trans-Baikal Front crossed the Manchurian border at
0010 on 9 August 1945 without artillery nor air preparation.
Finding little resistance from Japanese who believed that
large armor formations could not operate in this rugged
terrain, the 6th Guards Tank Army advanced in two columns
70-80 kilometers apart as the spearhead of the front's
offensive.   (Note that each tank corps advanced in 4-6
columns presenting a wall of armor 15-20 kilometers wide.)
[10-83]  By nightfall on 9 August, forward elements of the
tank army reached the foothills of the Grand Khingham
Mountains, 150 kilometers from the border. [10-83]  By 2300
on the 10th of August, the 5th Tank Corps reached the
highest point in the mountains and proceeded down toward the
central Manchurian plain.   (On a single mountain road, this
tank corps traveled over 40 kilometers of mountain pass in a
mere seven hours.) [10-97]  In three days, more than 350
kilometers had been covered over extremely demanding
terrain.  Due to the rapid Soviet advance and Japanese
defensive redeployments, two Japanese divisions in the area
never engaged the Soviets.  The bold and daring strike by
the Russians enabled them to obtain their objectives in the
central Manchurian plain on the fourth day of the
offensive--one full day ahead of schedule. However, at this
point their supply line was extended over 700 kilometers to
the rear and all units were severely low in fuel.  This
required the Trans-Baikal Front to halt its momentum on the
12th and 13th of August to resupply fuel by airlift with
only 400 aircraft.  [10-103]  On the 13th, the Soviets
resumed offensive operations being hindered only by weather
and desperate Japanese suicide attacks.
     On the Front's left flank the Japanese put up a fierce
and determined effort in the vicinity of Hailar.  Bypassed
and isolated by the Soviet's first echelon, it fought a
valiant but losing battle. Although only rated 15% combat
effective [18-161], the Japanese 80th Independent Mixed
Brigade required the might of two Soviet divisions and an
imposing arsenal of artillery to pound it into submission.
[11-176]  On 18 August the surviving 3,827 defenders
surrendered at Hailar and signified the end of organized
resistance by the Japanese in Manchuria.
     The second pincer of the double envelopment was formed
by the 1st Far Eastern Front. Its mission was to penetrate
the border area, bypass fortified areas, rout the enemy and
link-up with the Trans-Baikal Front deep in central
Manchuria. [10-73]  As this force faced the most heavily
fortified region of the Manchurian border, the "concrete
belt" [12-33], as well as extremely marshy terrain, this
front was heavy in artillery and engineers while lighter in
vehicular support.  Its composition consisted of 586,589 men
divided into four combined-arms armies, a mechanized corps,
an operational group, and one air army. [10-39]  Covering a
frontage of only 700 kilometers, it advanced in one echelon
to affect maximum confusion among the Japanese field
commanders while applying pressure along the entire zone of
action. [10-171]
     Commencing the attack without an artillery barrage at
0030, 9 August, under darkness and a torrential downpour
from severe thunderstorms, the Soviets launched their forces
along multiple axes over terrain the Kwangtung Army had
thought to be impassible by large forces.
     Before the surprised Japanese defenders could react,
the Russians had advanced 15-20 kilometers very quickly.
The Soviets overcame all obstacles, even building roads
through dense forests as their army advanced.  [10-113]
After breaking through enemy resistance by the end of 14
August, the 1st Far Eastern Front had advanced 120-150
kilometers over taiga and mountainous terrain.  Although not
as impressive an advance as had by the Trans-Baikal Front,
the 1st Far Eastern Front succeeded in tying down the
Kwangtung Army in Eastern Manchuria and distracting their
attention from the attack occurring in the west.  By 16
August the four combined arms armies had secured key cities
in the region which ensured the collapse of the Japanese
defenses in east Manchuria. [11-3]  The Soviets continued to
use tank-heavy forward detachments to quickly penetrate
through and bypass Japanese defensive positions.  Encircled
and cut off from any possible reinforcements, follow-on
forces methodically overwhelmed the defenders with massive
air and artillery support in close coordination with the
Russian infantry.
     Along the northern border of Manchuria, the Soviets
planned to advance on a wide front across the Amur and
Ussuri Rivers with the 2nd Far Eastern Front.  In addition
to the two major river crossings, 150 kilometers of spurs
descending from the Lesser Khinghan Mountains and vast
stretches of marshland on both sides of the rivers were
significant obstacles. [10-151]  The mission of this
supporting attack was to destroy Japanese forces in Northern
Manchuria and prevent their withdrawal to reinforce the
Southern defensive positions under assault by the Russian
main attacks. [10-78]
     As the supporting attack the 2nd Far Eastern Front
comprised only 21% of the Soviet forces in Manchuria.
Nevertheless, it was a formidable assembly consisting of 3
combined arms armies, 1 rifle corps, 1 operational group
(assigned to the Kurile Islands), 1 air army and 337,096
men.  [10-42]
     The Soviets tailored this front appropriately,
assigning only 1,280 tanks and SP's and less than 6,000 guns
and mortars.  [1-42]  The "Amur Red Banner Flotilla," an
amphibious force of 200 craft including monitors with 130mm
guns, provided landing support in crossing both rivers and
fire support during these major amphibious operations.  [6-
61]
     The 2nd Far Eastern Front faced determined resistance
along one of its three axes of advance. Combined with delays
encountered at the rivers crossings, the Soviet advance was
considerably hampered.  However, this Front successfully
accomplished its mission of destruction and prevented the
Japanese from withdrawal.
     The Kwangtung Army suffered a quick defeat as a result
of the Soviets' use of strategic and tactical surprise.  The
Japanese predicted a Soviet offensive in September and from
the more easily supported Soviet borders along north and
east Manchuria.  Under the worst weather conditions
possible, the Russians initiated an offensive under the
cover of darkness approaching from areas thought impassable
by large troop formations.  Using tank units in the leading
edge of their first echelons  and assault groups, the speed
of the Russian advance took full advantage of the incomplete
Japanese redeployment and generally weak defensive posture.
     Poor communications prevailed throughout the Kwangtung
Army.  The Kwangtung Army Headquarters possessed no means of
military communication.  Heavy reliance upon public
telephone lines proved to be detrimental when the phone
lines were disrupted at the beginning of the soviet
invasion. [20-12]  As a result, the Japanese headquarters
had little command and control available over the Kwangtung
Army.  A unilateral decision by the Japanese General in
command of western Manchuria to change the Kwangtung Army's
defensive plan in his sector added to the confusion. [20-5]
     While the Soviet air force served primarily in a
transport and reconnaissance role, the Japanese air force
struggled to participate in the defense of Manchuria.  With
most of their fighters deployed south to help counter U. S.
B-29 raids, the Japanese commenced reconnaissance flights
and very few attack missions on 9 August.  For unknown
reasons, war plans to interdict enemy rear areas in Mongolia
were never implemented.  The maximum effort displayed
occurred on 12 August with 184 sorties flown that day (only
27 guns, 42 trucks and 500 men were reported destroyed).
While severe weather affected both sides equally, the
Japanese air force never became a factor.  Under orders from
a confused Kwangtung Army headquarters the air force ceased
operations on 15 August.  [16-40]
     Although the vast majority of the Japanese units did
not engage the Russians in combat,  those that did
demonstrated a high state of morale and effectiveness
despite inferior firepower.  For example, the Kwangtung
Army's combat guide stated that for defense against tanks,
the policy was suicide attack, "The essence of anti-tank
combat lies in the suicide assault by the entire force; each
man must destroy at least one tank." [18-ii]  As mentioned
earlier, this "special" attack hindered the Soviet advance
in some areas.  That most Kwangtung Army units did not
become engaged is credited to the strategic and tactical
surprise achieved by the Soviet Union.
     Most significant in this analysis of Japanese defeat is
the sobering failure of the Japanese to remember the lessons
learned at Nomonhan.   To have once again severely
underestimated the Soviet Army and be subjected to another
devastating attack is the fault of Japanese IGHQ.  The
absence of armor and modern anti-tank weapons in Manchuria
was a result of Japanese IGHQ's prewar decision to weight
the production of aircraft over the procurement of tanks.
[4-90]   In January 1945, the Kwangtung Army was further
handicapped when IGHQ ordered home approximately one-third
of the Army's war materiel and large numbers of staff
officers for homeland defense.[17-71]
     The Japanese Emperor's decree to surrender was issued
over the radio on 14 August 1945 after the Japanese notified
Allied powers that Japan would accept the Potsdam offer for
surrender.  However Japanese IGHQ did not issue a formal
cease-fire order to the Kwangtung Army until August 17th.
[12-39]  The result was continued fighting in some areas,
surrender in other areas and confusion everywhere.
     The  continued  combat  impaired  already poor
communications between Japanese headquarters and field
units.  This delayed tramsmissions of cease-fire orders on
17 August 1945, during which time the Kwangtung Army was in
preparation for a counter attack in the southeast. [13-175]
This atmosphere of confusion and anxiety by the Japanese was
intensified by the Japanese warrior code of Bushido (fight
to the death). Existing Army/Navy regulations expressly
prohibited servicemen from surrendering.  Surrender was
considered shameful and dishonorable, subject to court-
martial and execution.  To absolve the traditional stigma of
surrender and remove legal liabilities, IGHQ published an
order which stated that the nation and government of Japan
would not regard servicemen "delivered" to the enemy as a
result of the cease-fire order as having surrendered under
the old law.  This had a tremendous psychological effect on
the Japanese soldiers...with no dishonor there was no reason
to commit suicide.   On 19 August,  the Kwangtung Army
transmitted this order to its field commands and the
Japanese capitulated everywhere. [16-115]
     The Soviets claimed the Kwangtung Army did not agree to
surrender until 19 August.  They used this claim as a
pretense to acquire more territory and ensure their hold and
future in the Northern Pacific region.  During the confusion
of the partially effected cease-fire, the Soviets took full
advantage of the motionless Kwangtung Army.  They dispatched
forward mobile detachments and landed airborne units in key
cities.  [10-106]   On 18 August the Soviets made an
amphibious landing on the Kurile Islands.  The 25th of
August witnessed the surrender of more than 18,000 Japanese
in South Sakhalin and on 5 September the Soviets captured
all of the Kurile Islands and took 63,840 POW's. [6-51]  The
official surrender to the Allied Powers occurred on 2
September 1945.
     As a result of the Russians' meticulous planning and
bold offensive plan, they took 594,000 Japanese prisoners
including 143 generals and 20,000 wounded.  The Kwangtung
Army suffered over 80,000 men and officers killed in combat
which lasted less than two weeks.  In contrast, the well-
prepared Soviet Army had 8,219 killed and 22,264 wounded.
[13-175]
     The lessons to be learned from this closing chapter to
World War II are many indeed.  Foremost in one's mind must
be the adaptability and boldness demonstrated by the Soviets
as well as the high degree of initiative shown by commanders
at all levels during the campaign.  The Soviet war machine
had matured.  It developed a combined-arms army concept
which relied on armored units at every unit level as the
spearhead of the offensive thrust and heavy concentrations
of artillery.  Tactical surprise, a key element to their
rapid success, was achieved despite the enormous volume of
supplies, equipment and men moved forward to the border
regions.  The Soviet planners were aucacious and imaginative
in their utilization of multiple axes of advance through the
worst terrain to maneuver hundreds of thousands of men and
machines.  They task-organized their forces to accomplish
their assigned missions in different terrain against varying
degrees of enemy opposition.  The Manchurian campaign was
characterized by its gigantic scale, use of large formations
and extensive employment of amphibious and airborne troops.
[7-7]  As Raymond Garthoff stated, "to mount such a campaign
after being bled for four years in Europe represented a
major achievement." [7-61]
     This achievement should be studied closely by present
day war-planners and tacticians to avoid the danger of
underestimating Soviet military capability.  The deception
techniques  and offensive combined-arms tactics begun by
General Zhukov at Nomonhan and refined by Marshal Vasilevsky
in the Far East offer a case study in which modern Soviet
Army tactics can be studied.  With the exception of new
weapons, notably long range missiles and nuclear weapons,
today's Soviet tactics are very similar to those used in
Manchuria.   Indeed,  the predecessor of the Soviet
Operational Maneuver Group (OMG) was the Front army and
mobile detachments of this very campaign.  Today's OMG is
designed to penetrate deep into rear areas, destroy command,
control and logistic centers, encircle and destroy enemy
forces and capture or destroy vital areas.  With the absence
of any peace-time Soviet or Warsaw Bloc exercise on such a
gigantic scale, "The 1945 attack on the Kwangtung Army with
its ten-day capitulation provides a classic of contemporary
Soviet military thinking." [15-160]
                      BIBLIOGRAPHY
1.  Coox, Alvin D.  The Anatomy of a Small War.  The
         Soviet-Japanese Struggle For Changkufeng/Khasan,
         1938.  Connecticut:  Greenwood Press, 1977.
2.  Department of the Army.  The Soviet Army Operations and
         Tactics, FM 100-2-1. Washington D.C.:  16 July
         1984.
3.  Detwiler, Donald S. and Burdick, Charles B., ed.  War
         in Asia and the Pacific 1937-1948.  Volume 8;
         China, Manchuria and Korea (Part I) New York:
         Garland Publishing, 1980.
4.  Drea, Edward J.  Nomonhan:  Japanese-Soviet Tactical
         Combat, l939.  Fort Leavenworth:  Combat Studies
         Institute, January 1981.
5.  Erickson, John.  Soviet Military Power.  London:  Royal
         United Services Institute, 1971.
6.  Garthoff, Raymond L.  "Soviet Operations in the War
         With Japan; August, 1945."  United States Naval
         Institute Proceedings, 92 (May 1966), pp. 50-63.
7.  Garthoff, Raymond L.  "Marshal Malinovsky's Manchurian
         Campaign."  Military Review.  46 (October 1966),
         pp. 50-61.
8.  Garthoff, Raymond L.  Soviet Military Policy; A
         Historical Analysis. New York:  Frederick A.
         Praeger  Publishers, 1966.
9.  Garthoff, Raymond L.  Sino-Soviet Military Relations
         New York:  Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, 1966.
10. Glantz, David M., LTC, USA.  August Storm:   The Soviet
         1945 Strategic Offensive in Manchuria.  Fort
         Leavenworth:  Combat Studies Institute, February
         1983.
11. Glantz, David M., LTC, USA.  August Storm:  Soviet
         Tactical and Operational Combat in Manchuria,
         1945.  Fort  Leavenworth:   Combat Studies
         Institute, February 1983.
12. Gorelov G., Col., USSR.  "Rout of the Kwangtung Army"
         Soviet Military Review.  8 (August 1970), pp. 36-
         39
13. Hayashi, Saburo and Coox, Alvin D.  Kogun, The Japanese
         Army in the Pacific War.  Virginia:  Marine Corps
         Association, 1959.
14. Myers, Albert C.  "Khalkin Gol:  Stalin's Battle to
         Stabilize the Soviet Far East."  Military Review.
         63 (April 1983), pp. 60-65.
15. Salisbury, Harrison E.  War Between Russia and China.
         New York:  W. W. Norton and Company, 1969.
16. U. S.  Forces Far East, Military History Section,
         Japanese Monograph #151.  Air Operations Against
         Soviet Russia.  Tokyo, 1952.
17. U. S. Forces Far East, Military History Section,
         Japanese Monograph #21.   Homeland Operations
         Record Volume IV, Fifth Area Army.  Tokyo, 1952.
18. U. S. Forces Far East, Military History Section,
         Japanese Monograph #138.  Japanese Preparations
         for Operations in Manchuria; Jan 43-Aug 45.
         Tokyo, 1953.
19. U. S. Forces Far East, Military History Section,
         Japanese Monograph #119.  Outline of Operations
         Prior to Termination of War and Activities
         Connecected With the Cessation of Hostilities.
         Tokyo, 1952.
20. U. S. Forces Far East, Military History Section,
         Japanese Monograph #155.  Record of Operations
         Against Soviet Russia.  Tokyo, 1954.



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list