Battlefield Operational Functions And The Soviet Campaign Against
Japan In 1945
SUBJECT AREA - History
United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College
Master of Military Studies Thesis Paper
Andrew L. Hallman, Central Intelligence Agency
1st Mentor: Dr. McKenna
2nd Mentor: Dr. Strange
3rd Reader: Col. Comello
Battlefield Operational Functions
and the Soviet Campaign Against Japan in 1945
Title: Battlefield Operational Functions and the Soviet
Campaign Against Japan in 1945.
Author: Andrew L. Hallman, Central Intelligence Agency
Thesis: Analysis of a military force's capabilities in terms
of the six Battlefield Operational Functions is a useful tool
for explaining a campaign's outcome.
Background: Operation AUGUST STORM, the Soviets' victorious
attack on Japanese forces in Manchuria in August 1945 was a
decisive campaign. Japan was pushed from the Asian mainland
and the Soviet Union was established as an Asian power. The
collapse of the Kwantung Army shocked observers who had
expected a tougher fight for Manchuria. Our assessment of
the campaign shows that the Soviets were superior in all six
of the US Army's Battlefield Operational Functions: intelli-
gence, command and control, synchronization, movement and
maneuver, protection, and fires.
Recommendation: When combined with knowledge of a force's
doctrine and organization and the local geography, analysis
of a force's capabilities in terms of Battlefield Operational
Functions can serve as a useful planning and execution tool
for today's military professional.
The Soviet campaign against Japanese-held Manchuria,
Korea, southern Sakhalin Island, and the Kurile Islands in
1945 was a short, one-sided campaign in which the Red Army
decisively defeated the Japanese forces. Subsequently, Japan
was pushed out of mainland Asia, and the Soviets acquired
southern Sakhalin Island, the Kurile islands, and installed
a friendly regime in North Korea.
From a military perspective, the Soviet attack on
Manchuria illustrateded the development of combined arms op-
erations in World War II, and showed how the Red Army had
developed its doctrine, upgraded its equipment, and produced
a capable corps of senior officers. The Japanese performance
in this campaign reflected a lack of such developments. Fur-
thermore, the Kwantung Army's equipment shortfalls showed how
Japan's defense industries could not supply its needs, espe-
cially with their dependence on foreign sources of critical
Analysis of the campaign using the six battlefield oper-
ational functions, as defined by the US Army, helps to
explain why it was so one-sided in favor of the Soviets. Such
analysis shows that, by the end of World War II, the
importance of the number of soldiers in an army and the
dominance of the defense - adages proven repeatedly in war
since the mid-nineteenth century - were no longer synonymous
with military success. However, two other trends with their
roots in nineteenth century wars were clearly vital to the
Soviet success against Japan in Manchuria. These were the
role of the military-industrial base, and a professional of-
ficer corps that is able to adapt to the changing nature of
Combatants Strategic Goals
Soviet and Japanese strategic goals for the campaign in
Manchuria present an interesting contrast. Moscow's strategy
was clear, set according to realistic assessments of the
political and military situation in the theater, and looked
to the future. Tokyo's strategy for defending Manchuria was
simple, but unrealistic and not supported by Japan's national
strategy. Japan merely wanted to hold Manchuria, whereas the
Soviets developed a viable plan to seize the Japanese posses-
sions in Northeast Asia.
Soviet strategy regarding Japan changed in the late
1930's and early 1940's from one of wariness to one of oppor-
tunism, i.e., attack when Japan was so weakened as to be
judged incapable of strong resistance. Stalin committed the
Soviet Union to attacking Japan at the Yalta Conference in
February 1945. At that time, the United States and Britain
anticipated a long, bloody campaign on the Japanese mainland
in late 1945 and wanted Soviet support. Later, when the
1. Department of the Army. Japanese Monograph No. 155. Record of
Operations Against Soviet Russians on Northern and Western Fronts of
Manchuria, and in North Korea (August 1945). Japan, 1960. p. iii.
United States had produced nuclear weapons, the other allies
would have preferred to finish off the Japanese by themselves,
and keep the Soviets' role in East Asia to a minimum. The
Soviet leadership realized its people were tired of war, but
believed it had to seize the chance to increase their influ-
ence in post-war Asia. Other than wanting a role in the peace
settlement with Japan, Stalin wanted to retake southern
Sakhalin Island - lost in the 1905 war with Japan - and take
Japan's Kurile Islands. Also, the Soviets sought to gain
influence in post-war China by getting some trade concessions
with that country.2
Manchuria had been held by Tokyo since 19313, and was a
backwater as Japan's national strategy in the summer of 1945
concentrated on the defense of the home islands. The United
States seized Okinawa that summer, while Japan's holdings in
southeast Asia were being rapidly retaken by the allies.
Subsequently, Tokyo concentrated its dwindling military
resources on the home islands and failed to back their rhet-
oric concerning the defense of Manchuria with adequate men
2. Jones,F.C. Manchuria Since 1931. London, United Kingdom, 1949.
3. Jones, F.C. Manchuria Since 1931. p. 19.
and materiel. In fact, the Kwantung Army was stripped of many
of its best formations to support other fighting fronts in
the years leading up to 1945. Additionally, when the Soviets
attacked, Tokyo informed the Kwantung Army that their prior-
ity was the defense of Korea. Simply put, the Japanese
strategy regarding Manchuria was to engage the Soviets in a
war of attrition using delaying tactics, and try to gain a
favorable peace accord.4
4. Department of the Army. Japanese Monolog No. 154, Record of
Operations Against Soviet Russians. Eastern Front(August 1945). Japan,
1954 p. 7.
The forces that fought in Manchuria in August 1945 were
not evenly matched from the perspective of combat power.
Although, the Soviets held a wide advantage in weapon systems
such as aircraft, armored combat vehicles, and artillery, the
ratio of men was not so unfavorable for Japan, especially
considering that it held what appeared to be strong defensive
positions on rugged terrain. However, the Kwantung Army of
1945 was truly a hollow force. This army was directed by
Japan's Imperial General Headquarters to "create the
semblance of strength" in order to deceive Soviet
The size of the opposing armies in Manchuria is best
measured in terms of men and materiel, not number of units.
So many Japanese units were much less than authorized
strength, and Soviet formations were smaller than Japanese
units with the same name, e.g., corps, divisions, and
brigades. To illustrate, the Japanese 128th Infantry
Division had 14,000 men, or 9,000 less than its table of
5. Department of the Army. Japanese Monograph No. 155. p. iii.
organization requirement.6 The authorized strength of a
Soviet Rifle (Infantry) Division was 11,780 men, or half that
of its Japanese counterpart.7 Therefore, to say that five
Soviet armies opposed three Japanese armies in Manchuria is
not as important as the military capabilities of each force.
The Soviet armies opposing Manchuria in August 1945 were
a formidable force. According to Soviet sources used by the
most prominent U.S. historian of this campaign, the Soviet
Far East Command controlled 1,577,000 men in August 1945,
about one-third of whom were assigned to rear support
services. The same sources state that this command possessed
over 28,000 artillery weapons and 3,700 main battle tanks.8
Soviet equipment was mostly fairly new, such as T-34 tanks,
and largely built at plants constructed in the Urals region
Opposing this force, the Japanese had 1,215 total
armored vehicles and 6,700 artillery weapons, most of which
6. Department of the Army. Technical Memeorandum ORO-T-38. Soviet Armor
in Action Against the Japanese Kwantung Army, Augsu 1945. Chevy Chase,
MD, 1952 p.13.
7. Glantz, David M. Leavenworth Papers No. 7. August Storm: The Soviet
1945 Strategic Offensive in Manchuria. Ft. Leavenworth, KS, 1983. p.50.
8. Glantz, David M. Leavenworth Papers No. 7. p.42.
were obsolete compared to Soviet equipment.9 Japanese
armaments production, under pressure from bombing and reduced
supplies of raw materials, declined in the war, e.g., total
Japanese tank production fell from 1,165 in 1942 to 342 in
1944.10 Furthermore, the Japanese forces suffered from short-
ages of ammunition for many weapons, including artillery and
The Red Army enjoyed a big advantage in terms of air and
naval support in their campaign against Japan. The Soviets
had 3,700 combat aircraft in theater, opposed by the Japanese
2nd Air Army's 1,800 aircraft, most of which were obsolete
and/or training aircraft.11 Although Japanese aircraft are
reported to have inflicted some damage to Red Army vehicle
columns in the campaign, the Soviets enjoyed air superiority.
More important, the Soviet air units were controlled by
ground commanders, and air operations were coordinated with
Soviet ground actions.
9. Glantz, David M. Leavenworth Papers No. 7. p.28.
10. Department of the Army. Technical Memeorandum ORO-T-117 (A.D. Coox
and L. Naisawald) Survey of Allied Tank Casualties in World War Two.
Chevy Chase, MD, 1951. p. 77.
11. Glantz, David M. Leavenworth Papers No. 7. pp.28 & 42.
Soviet naval strength in the Far East consisted of 12
major surface combatants and 78 submarines, as well as
amphibious craft and the Amur River Flotilla's riverine ves-
sels used to assist the ground forces in the Amur and Sungari
River crossing operations.12 Soviet naval vessels operating
out of bases from Vladivostok north played a critical role in
support of the assaults on Korea, Sakhalin and the Kurile
Islands. The Japanese navy was no factor in this campaign,
and did nothing to stop at least six Soviet amphibious land-
ings - three in North Korea, two in southern Sakhalin Island,
and in the Kurile Islands.
The quality of military units is always a debatable
subject, but most observers agree that the Soviet formations
were superior in terms of training and combat experience to
their Japanese counterparts. Other than local, border-guard-
type units, the major Soviet units were shipped to Asia
directly from the war in Europe where they had gained
valuable combat experience against the Germans. For example,
the 6th Guards Tank Army had been a spearhead of the Red
Army's drive through the Ukraine to Czechoslavakia from 1943
12. The Marshall Cavendish Illustrated Encyclopedia of WWII. Volume
to May 1945. The Kwantung Army, on the other hand, had been
stripped of many of its best individuals and units to replen-
ish Japanese armies in other theaters. In 1945, the Kwantung
Army's ranks included many raw recruits of dubious caliber,
and the army had not gained any significant combat experience
13. Hayashi, Saburo. Kogun: The Japanese Army in the Pacific War
Quantico, VA, 159. pp.14-17.
Role of Geography
The physical geography of Manchuria was a major influence
on the combatants' campaign plans, their force structure and
alignment, as well as on the Soviets' rapid advances in the
last few days of the campaign. The remoteness of Sakhalin
and the Kurile Islands meant that the Soviets had to rely
heavily on naval support, and that the Japanes garrisons were
isolated and were not well-supported by the home islands.
Manchuria is essentially a geographic bowl, consisting
of a central plain with mountain barriers to the west, north,
and east (see map 1). The Greater Khingan mountains in
western Manchuria range to 6,000 feet, with few roads or rail
lines traversing the region. To the west of the southern
Greater Khingan mountains, arid desert landscape stretches to
the Soviet border. The northern Greater Khingan mountains
and the Lesser Khingan mountains of northern Manchuria range
to 5,500 feet, and include forested and swampy areas. The
Eastern Highlands form another natural barrier along Manchu-
ria's eastern border, ranging to 4,000 feet and generally are
heavily forested, with swamps around the Amur and Sungari
rivers in northeastern Manchuria. The central plain of Man-
churia is largely flat, open country with many roads, a
substantial population, industrial development and intensive
Manchuria's geography influenced Japanese defense plans.
The Kwantung Army's most comprehensive defense positions were
along the eastern and northern borders, whereas the western
defenses consisted of, for the most part, scattered strong
points. This alignment reflected the economic geography of
the Soviet border areas surrounding Manchuria. The only
significantly populated areas were in the east from Khabarovsk
south to Vladivostok. Therefore, Japan expected the main
Soviet effort to come against eastern and northeastern
Manchuria, and the Kwantung Army was subsequently oriented in
those directions (see map 2).
From the Soviet perspective, geography dictated that
their forces attacking into western Manchuria had to be
heavily motorized to more effectively traverse the long dis-
tances across the desert and the Greater Khingan mountains.
14. Jones, F.C. Manchuria Since 1931. pp. 1-12.
Opposite eastern Manchuria, the dense concentration of
forward and fortified Japanese defenses dictated that heavy
artillery and engineer support be assigned to infantry units
designated to assault such positions. Motorized Soviet units
would be assigned to exploit breakthroughs made by these
assault units in the east, as well as to spearhead columns in
the north and west that would bypass Japanese strongholds.
Other assets such as logistics and bridging units would be
apportioned according to the supported units' specific tasks.
For example, the 300th Rifle Division of the 2nd Red Banner
Army was given additional bridging support because of its
mission to cross very rugged hilly terrain.15
15. Glantz, David M. Leavenworth Papers No. 7 p. 154.
Synopsis of Operation AUGUST STORM
Operation AUGUST STORM began on 9 August 1945 with
simultaneous attacks by three Soviet Fronts into western,
northern, and eastern Manchuria. Subsequently, the Soviets
attacked southern Sakhalin Island -- held by Japan since 1905
-- and then attacked the Kurile Islands on l8 August.
The most potent of the three Soviet strikes into Manchu-
ria was that of the Trans-Baikal Front's five armies which
attacked from the west, crossing the deserts of Inner Mongo-
lia and the Greater Khingan mountains. This armor-heavy
force captured the major central Manchurian cities of Mukden,
Chang'chun, and Tsitsihar by 20 August - covering a distance
of about 600 miles in 11 days. These operations decided the
campaign. The 1st Far Eastern Front and 2nd Far Eastern Front
attacked into eatern and northern Manchuria, respectively,
and made advances of up to 200 miles, often against fierce
resistance, by the time large-scale, organized Japanese
The Japanese government decided on 16 August that the
campaign in Manchuria was lost and ordered the Kwantung Army
to seek a cease-fire.16 On this day the major city of
Mutanchiang fell to the Soviets after four days of heavy
combat.17 However, because of delays in getting messages
sent, discussing cease-fire terms with the Soviets, and the
fact that many Japanese units had lost communications with
higher headquarters, fighting continued for a few more days
in many areas.
The key outcome of the campaign was to cement the Soviet
Union's place as a Pacific power. For example, the acquisi-
tion of southern Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands gave Moscow
a base for a future nuclear weapon bastion in the sea of
Okhotsk. Also, Japan was kicked off the Asian mainland, and
the newly independent Korea was split into halves, setting
the stage for the Korean war. From the perspective of casu-
alties, Operation AUGUST STORM took a modest toll, especially
compared to Soviet and Japanese losses in other campaigns.
Estimates of killed vary, but were almost certainly well
16. Department of the Army. Japanese Monograph No. 154. Record of
Operations Age Soviet Russians. Eastern Front (August 1945). p. 21.
17. Glantz, David M. Leavenworth Papers No. 8. August Storm: Soviet
Tactical and operational Combat in Manchuria, 1945. Ft. Leavenworth, KS,
under 100,000 total, mostly Japanese, which reflected the
emphasis on maneuver as opposed to attrition in this
Battlefield Operational Functions
Battlefield Operations Functions is a term used for six
functions of military planning and execution. These
functions are intelligence, command and control, synchroniza-
tion, movement and maneuver, protection, and fires. Any
senior military staff should take these six functions into
account to ensure that planning and execution are complete,
coordinated, and complementary. Additionally, I believe that
analyzing a campaign or battle by comparing the antagonists'
performance in these functional areas provides a useful
explanation for the outcome of the conflict. The manner in
which the combatants fought out this campaign may offer some
insights to currently serving professionals.
Military intelligence refers to the process of collect-
ing and analyzing data on the enemy, and disseminating this
information in a useable form and timely manner so that it
may be used to enhance planning and execution of military
operations. Intelligence played a vital role in Operation
AUGUST STORM - the Soviet name for the campaign - and my
analysis suggests that the Soviets had superior intelligence
at both the strategic and operational/tactical levels vis-a-
vis their Japanese opponents.
Stalin benefitted from the services of Richard Sorge's
espionage ring throughout World War II. However, given that
it was up to Moscow to decide the times and places to attack
Manchuria, strategic intelligence was not critical to the
Soviets in Operation August Storm. Soviet strategic intelli-
gence in the Far East in August 1945 would have been mostly
concerned with whether the Japanese would surrender to the US
and other allies before the Soviet Union could earn a place
at the peace settlement.
At the operational level, an example of Soviet
intelligence was that the Soviet Far Eastern Command system-
atically briefed officers from units arriving from the
western Soviet Union on Japanese equipment, organization, and
tactics.18 This may seem like an obvious measure, but given
that these units were rushed into action, and had all manner
of issues - such as maintenance, training and logistics - to
be concerned with, it shows the priority assigned to intelli-
18. Glantz, David M. Leavenworth Papers No. 8. p.12.
gence in the Red Army. Additionally, Soviet operational
intelligence on Japanese defenses in Manchuria, such as for-
tifications, enabled the Red Army to task organize their
units in an appropriate fashion to fit the unit's capabilities
At the lower levels, the Soviet armies attacking Manchu-
ria gained intelligence through long-range reconaissance
forces, including aircraft. In the west, the Trans-Baikal
Front sent ground reconaissance units up to 150 miles in
front of the main body. Reports from these units gave Soviet
commanders time to decide how to deploy to defeat Japanese
At the strategic level, there is no published evidence
that Tokyo had any reliable information on Soviet intentions
concerning relations with Japan other than that of official
statements or contacts. They had no spies in the Kremlin.
High-level Japanese intelligence must be faulted in its esti-
mate of 14 June 1945, in which it stated that a Soviet attack
on Manchuria would not be made with a large force before
From an operational perspective, Japanese intelligence
failed their commanders badly by underestimating the size of
the Soviet forces surrounding Manchuria, especially from the
west. The Red Army's capability to cross the desert of Inner
Mongolia and the Greater Khingan mountains was also misjudged
by the Kwantung Army. Subsequently, strong Japanese forces
and fortifications were placed on only two avenues of
approach into western Manchuria, in the vicinity of the cit-
ies of Hailar and Wuchakou (see map 3). On 9 August 1945,
the Soviet Trans-Baikal front advanced into Manchuria on
seven major axes, rendering the Japanese 3rd Area Army's
defense plans useless.19
At the tactical level, it is more difficult to give a
good assessment of Japanese intelligence's performance. Nev-
ertheless, the Japanese 4th Army, assigned to defend northern
Manchuria, provides a good example. This unit's intelligence
collection plan consisted of observation by forward-deployed
ground troops, military police watch on local populaces, and
radio-listening posts.20 In the face of this, the
19. Glantz, David M. Leavenworth Papers No. 7, p.85.
20. Department of the Army. Japanese Monolog No. 155, Record of
Operations Against Soviet Russians on Northern and Western fronts of
Manchuria (August 1945). p. 177.
well-disciplined Red Army could curtail Japanese intelligence
collection by employing good security practices such as lim-
iting or concealing activity near the border and limiting
Command and Control
Command and control refers to the exercise of authority
of a properly designated commander of his assigned forces,
and includes the planning, direction, coordinating, and con-
trolling of military operations. Additionally, at the
operational and tactical levels, effective command and
control requires adequate communications between commanders,
and subordinate initiative based on standard operating proce-
dures and knowledge of the senior commander's intent. Soviet
command and control was clearly superior to that of the Jap-
anese in Operation AUGUST STORM. David Glantz is especially
harsh in his assessment of the Kwantung Army's senior leader-
ship's performance. According to Glantz,"..it was the higher
echelon leadership of the Kwantung Army who engineered the
army's overall mediocre performance."21
21. Glantz, David M. Leavenworth Papers No. 7, p.174.
At the operational/tactical level, perhaps the outstand-
ing feature of Soviet command and control in Operation AUGUST
STORM was subordinate commanders' exploitation of good
commander's intent. Major units were assigned very deep
objectives and given wide latitude in how they gained these
objectives, as long as they completed their assigned missions
and kept higher headquarters informed of their progress.
Furthermore, the Red Army used coded radio messages for
secure communications on the march.22 This procedure protect-
ed the Soviets from Japanese radio interception. For
example, the Trans-Baikal Front's 39th Army's reconaissance
units called their headquarters every four hours on their
march across Inner Mongolia and the Greater Khingan
Japanese plans for defending Manchuria were set through-
out the Kwantung Army in August 1945. But they were
unrealistic. On 10 August the Imperial General Headquarters
ordered General Yamada, the Kwantung Army commander, to
22. Rand Corporation (J. Despres, L. Dzirkals, T. Whaley). Report
R-1825-NA. Timely Lessons of History: The Manchurian Model for Soviet
Strategy. Santa Monica, CA, 1976. p.30.
23. Glantz, David M. Leavenworth Papers No. 7, p.137.
defeat the Russians everywhere.24 They forgot Frederick the
Great's well-known dictum that "he who defends everything
defends nothing". Furthermore, changes in these plans made
in the first couple of days of the campaign were not expedi-
tiously disseminated because of command and control problems.
The fact that Imperial General Headquarters had to make major
decisions slowed decision-making. Additionally, the Japanese
reaction to the Soviet attack is subject to question from an
operational/tactical view. Japanese commanders should have
withdrawn units from western and northern Manchuria more
quickly once news of Soviet bypass-type advances was
received. Bypassed units, usually located in fortifications
and with little mobility, were not much threat to the Soviets
in Operation August Storm.
Effective command and control needs viable communications
links, something that plagued the Kwantung Army throughout
the campaign. Even before fighting began this army
experienced technical problems with communications at the
highest levels. For example, the Manchurian Telegraph and
Telephone Company was embarked on a major project building
24. Hayashi, Saburo. Kogun. p. 174.
land-lines between major commands when the Soviets attacked.25
Another example of a command and control problem was
Kwantung Army commander General Yamada's absence from his
headquarters for the first 18 hours of the campaign. He was
away on a routine trip which his staff advised against26.
Japanese command and control was further weakened by several
major headquarters moving during the campaign, due to tacti-
cal reasons or to avoid Soviet bombing. For example, when
Kwantung Army headquarters moved from Chang-chun to Tunghua
on the second day of the campaign, it took the operations
section but left the intelligence section behind because of
communications shortfalls at the new location.27
Synchronization refers to the arrangement of military actions
in time, space, and purpose to produce maximum relative com-
bat power at a decisive time and place. Effective synchroni-
zation of action can overwhelm an opponent who may be
otherwise able to fend off piecemeal, uncoordinated attacks.
25. Department of the Army. Japanese Monograph No. 155, p.93.
26. Department of the Army. Japanese Monograph No. 154. p.3.
27. Department of the Army. Japanese Monograph No. 154. p.15.
There can be no doubt that the Red Army affected superior
synchronization of action, compared to the Japanese, in Oper-
ation August Storm.
At the strategic level, Stalin pushed his commanders to
move up the start date for attacking Manchuria. While the US
atomic bomb attacks and Stalin's desire to get in on the war
against Japan before it ended were the primary motivations
for this decision, the earlier-than-expected attack caught
the Kwantung Army in a less prepared state than it may have
been in, say, October, and helped maximize the Soviet advan-
tages in combat power.
From an operational perspective, the Soviet decision to
attack Manchuria on three sides was a masterful stroke. The
Japanese were never able to mount a viable response. Never-
theless, some Kwantung Army units in eastern and northern
Manchuria did a creditable job slowing the Soviet advance.
For example, the Japanese 132nd Independent Mixed Brigade
fought a series of delaying engagements while retreating in
northeast Manchuria, and were a viable, combat-capable unit
prepared to fight from fortifies positions at the campaign's
closure.28 However, Soviet columns in western Manchuria
seized key Japanese headquarters, communication lines, and
logistics facilities in central Manchuria within a few days
of war, making further Japanese resistance untenable.
The Red Army synchronized their efforts at the tactical
level, too. For example, the Soviets withheld artillery and
air support from some initial attacks, which went against
standard doctine, in order to allow light infantry to
surprise and neutralize some objectives.29 Also, the Soviet
Air Force engaged in both close air support and strategic
bombing in support of senior ground commanders. As an exam-
ple, the Japanese First Area Army's headquarters, as well as
communications and transportation targets in the city of Mu-
tanchiang were bombed on 9 August, in conjunction with the
Soviet First Far Eastern Front's ground attack against this
headquarter's subordinate units in eastern Manchuria.30
Japanese synchronization can be summed up as ineffectual
in Manchuria. While one can argue that Japanese units in
28. Department of the Army. Japanese Monograph No. 154, pp. 331-346.
29. Rand Corporation. Report R-1825-NA p.42.
30. Department of the Army. Japanese Monograph No. 154, pp. 4&9.
eastern Manchuria conducted a semblance of a delaying action,
the quick collapse of the northern and western defenses made
coordination of action for the whole Kwantung Army impossible.
Furthermore, where Japanese unites did hold, there was a lack
of support by or for adjacent units, largely due to the
Japanese tactics, which relied on fixed positions, as well as
a lack of counter-attacking forces and supporting fires.
Movement and Maneuver
Movement and maneuver refers to the directed movement
of military forces in order to avoid enemy strengths, attack
enemy weaknesses, and gain and maintain the initiative on the
battlefield. The Soviets again displayed a clear superiority
to the Japanese in this critical battlefield function, due as
much to audacity as to superior mobility, combat support, and
the obvious advantage in initiative that the aggressor force
possesses. This superiority was most evident in western
Manchuria, where the Soviets stunned the Japanese with their
ability to move the Trans-Baikal Front across a desert and
rugged mountain range. The Kwantung Army was never able to
recover in the west.
Operationally, the Red Army planned a campaign that
would rely on maneuver as much as firepower to defeat their
opponent. The Soviets sought to gain deep objectives and
bypass Japanese strongpoints where possible. Red Army
commanders expected the Japanese to defend doggedly, so fre-
quently bypassed, thus neutralizing, strongly defended
positions, and maybe shelling or bombing the positions before
accepting surrender at the end of the short campaign. For
example, the Japanese 107th Infantry Division was located at
Wuchakou, astride one of the key communications routes in
western Manchuria, on 9 August 1945. The Soviet 124th Rifle
Division fixed the 107th in place while other Soviet forces
had passed to the south by 13 August. The 107th's telephone
line and route of retreat was cut. Subsequently, the 107th
wandered around the mountains, occasionally harassing Soviet
units until surrendering on 30 August.31
Soviet maneuver and envelopment was not restricted to
land operations; the Red Army made amphibious assaults in
North Korea, Sakhalin Island and the Kurile Islands, and even
an airborne assault on Port Arthur (Darien). These amphibi-
31. Glantz, David M. Leavenworth papers No. 8. pp.141-148.
ous and airborne operations were facilitated by the Soviets'
air superiority and domination of the Sea of Japan.
The Japanese failure to use effective movement and
maneuver ensured that the Soviets would always have the ini-
tiative on the battlefield. At the operational level, the
Kwantung Army planned to fight a delaying action, which meant
that they would always be reacting to Soviet initiatives.
This was the case of the Japanese units in the area of Hailar
in northwest Manchuria, where the Soviets' 205th Tank Brigade
conducted a demanding march across difficult terrain and at-
tacked the garrison. The prepared defenses in front of
Hailar were quickly rendered untenable and the Japanese had
to hastily retreat, reacting to the Soviets all the way east
across the Greater Khingan mountains.32 The size of the
Manchurian theater gave the Soviets ample room to move, and
their superior mobility gave them the means to do so.
The concept of protection refers to the conservation of the
fighting potential of a force so that it can be applied at
32. Glantz, David M. Leavenworth papers No. 8. pp.160-165.
the decisive time and place. Protection also includes decep-
tion operations. Once again, Soviet superiority over the
Japanese was evident in this battlefield operational
At the strategic and operational levels, the Soviets'
protection was superb in that they concealed the size and
disposition of their forces from the Japanese, and were able
to achieve a high degree of surprise in their attack of 9
August. Soviet expertise at 'Maskirovka', or masking, is
well-renowned, and was put to good use as units arriving in
theater from the western Soviet Union were sent to their
assembly areas. These assembly areas were well away from the
border, and the Soviet border guards, directed by the secret
police, were alert to any transgressors. Also, Japanese
aircraft did not overfly Soviet territory. Official Japanese
estimates immediately prior to the Soviet attack indicated
that they thought there were two Soviet armies west of
Manchuria, two to the north, and three to the east. In
reality, there were five, three, and four armies,
33. Rand corporation. Report R-1825-NA. p.22.
The Japanese used the concept of protection only in the
sense that they retreated in many instances to conserve their
weaker force. The Japanese had no serious deception plan,
Fires is the use of all fires, both lethal and non-lethal,
that are available to a force in order to achieve a decisive
impact on the conduct of a campaign. To be effective,
commanders must be able to concentrate fires, shift fires
quickly, and, above all, use appropriate fires on different
targets. The Soviets enjoyed a wide advantage over their
Japanese opponents in terms of fires.
The Red Army learned in their war with Germany to employ
the principle of mass in fire support. Units assigned
particularly difficult or critical missions in the attack
against Japanese units were given massive fire support, up to
200 guns per kilometer of front in designated breakthrough
areas.34 As an example, the Soviets' 264th Rifle Division was
given the support of an ad hoc 'artillery destruction group'
34. Rand corporation. Report R-1825-NA. p. 43.
including 24 203mm howitzers for its attack across the Ussuri
river into northeastern Manchuria.35 Generally, the Soviets
assigned priority of fires, including air attacks, to
Japanese command and control facilities.36 Using a principle
learned at great cost by World War I armies, the Soviets often
withheld fire support to some attacks in tough terrain to
allow their light infantry forces to achieve surprise and
neutralize enemy outposts, especially in the tough, heavily-
defended terrain of eastern Manchuria.37
In spite of their overall success, fire support was a
problem for the Red Army in this campaign. Their artillery
force, mostly towed pieces, was not as mobile as their armor
and infantry, especially in the mountainous terrain of much
of the theater. Therefore, the artillery clogged the roads
and its ammunition requirements put a big strain on the
logistics system.38 Subsequently, the practice of using
artillery to reduce bypassed Japanese strongpoints may not
have been strictly an option, but a result of the artillery's
35. Glantz, David M. The Leavenworth Papers No. 8 p.60.
36. Rand corporation. Report R-1825-NA. p. 30.
37. Rand corporation. Report R-1825-NA. p. 42.
38. Rand corporation. Report R-1825-NA. p. 451
inability to keep pace with maneuver elements.
The Kwantung Army's use of fires was constrained by its
comparative lack of weapons, and its general shortage of
ammunition. For example, one source reports that the
Kwantung Army of August 1945 only had 500-600 rounds per
artillery piece and an astonishingly low 100 rounds per
rifle.39 Furthermore, the Japanese 2nd Air Army possessed
only 40 bombers.40
At the tactical level, Japanese fire support units tend-
ed to be positioned in prepared fortifications. One partic-
ularly telling example of the Japanese inadequacy in fires
occurred during the fierce fighting for the eastern Manchuri-
an city of Mutanchiang. On 13 August 1945, the Japanese 126th
and 135th Infantry Divisions prepared to defend the city with
a total of just 30 artillery weapons against two Soviet
armies advancing in a pincer.41 Another interesting point is
that a principal anti-tank weapon of the Japanese was the
37mm gun, whose projectile could not penetrate the Soviet
39. Department of the Army. Technical Memorandum ORO-T-38. Soviet Armor
in Action Against the Japanese Kwantung Army, August 1945. p. 14.
40. The Marshall Cavendish Illustrated Encyclopedia of WWII. p.2999.
41. Glantz, David M. The Leavenworth Papers No. 8. p.89.
T-34 tank. Given that the T-34 was a well-known equipment
item by 1945, one would have thought that the Japanese would
have been better prepared to deal with it.
The outcome and even the pace of Operation AUGUST STORM
was not surprising when one conducts a comparative analysis
of each side's capabilities in terms of battlefield operation-
al functions. This superiority was a result of the Soviets'
doctrine -- emphasizing such aspects as combined arms forces,
task-organization of units, and deep attack objectives --
combined with superior intelligence and command and control,
and fueled by a competent logistics system. Therefore, anal-
ysis of potential combatants by a comparison of battlefield
operational functions capabilities can help determine the
outcome of a conflict with some degree of reliability, as
well as identify weaknesses of any potential combatant.
The abysmal Japanese failure in Manchuria can be
ascribed in part as rooted in its failure to ensure
competence in the battlefield operational functions.
Furthermore, the basic premise that a sufficient number of
determined soldiers occupying well-prepared defensive
positions can hold out indefinitely against attackers was
invalidated in this campaign. This premise had some limited
validity in the defensively favorable geography of the Pacif-
ic Islands or southeast Asia, but was inappropriate for a
large, open theater such as Manchuria. To quote Dr. Joe
Strange, Professor of Strategic Studies at the Marine Corps
War College, the Japanese tried to fight "...a 20th century
military power with a 16th century Samurai mentality."42
I believe that the Soviet-Japanese conflict in Manchuria
is a relevant learning tool for today's professional military
because of the fact that our operational and tactical
doctrine for U.S. ground forces today is not significantly
different from that of the Soviets in 1945. We seek to use
maneuver and not attrition, backed by overwhelming fires, and
enhanced by superior intelligence, command and control, syn-
chronization, and protection to defeat our opponents.
Those analysts who believe that Operation DESERT STORM
was an aberration in warfare would do well to notice the
similarities between that operation and Operation AUGUST
STORM, and see these campaigns as the appropriate method to
conduct large-scale ground warfare against conventional
42. Strange, Joseph. Japan: Strategy and Strategic Process in World War
Two. Lecture at Quantico, VA, 1993.
opponents. Therefore, today's officers should know what
happened in Manchuria as a way to ensure that their units are
prepared to face whatever challenges face them in the future.
1. Department of the Army. Japanese Monograph No. 154.
Record of Operations Against Soviet Russians. Eastern Front
August 1945). Japan, 1954.
2. Department of the Army. Japanese Monograph No. 155.
Record of Operations Against Soviet Russians on Northern and
Western Fronts of Manchuria, and in North Korea (August
1945). Japan, 1960.
3. Department of the Army. Pamphlet No. 20-230.
Russian Combat Methods in World War Two. Washington, DC,
4. Department of the Army. Technical Memorandum ORO-T-
38. Soviet Armor in Action Against the Japanese Kwantung
Army, August 1945. Chevy Chase, MD, 1952.
5. Department of the Army. Technical Memorandum ORO-T-
117. (A.D. Coox and L. Naisawald) Survey of Allied Tank
Casualties in World War Two. Chevy Chase, MD, 1951.
6. Glantz, David M. Leavenworth Papers No. 7. August
Storm: The Soviet 1945 Strategy Offensive in Manchuria.
Combat Studies Institute, USA C&GSC, Ft. Leavenworth, KS,
7. Glantz, David M. Leavenworth Papers No. 8. August
Storm: Soviet Tactical and Operational Combat in Manchuria,
1945. Combat Studies Institute, USA C&GSC, Ft. Leavenworth,
8. Hayashi, Saburo. Kogun: The Japanese Army in the
Pacific War. Tr Alvin D. Coox. 3rd ed. Quantico, VA: Marine
Corps Association, 1959.
9. Jones, F.C. Manchuria Since 1931. London, United
Kingdom, Broadwater Press, 1949.
10. Rand Corporation (John Despres, Lilita Dzirkals,
Tom Whaley) Report. R-1825-NA. Timely Lessons of History:
The Manchurian Model for Soviet Strategy. Santa Monica, CA,
11. Strange, Joseph. Japan: Strategy and Strategic
Process in World War Two. Lecture to USMC Command and Staff
College, Quantico, VA. 15 October 1993.
12. The Marshall Cavendish Illustrated Encyclopedia of
World war Two, Volume 22. Orbis Publishing Ltd, London,
United Kingdom, 1972.
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