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Kwantung Army

After the Japanese defeat of Russia in the 1905 Russo-Japanese War, Japan became the dominant foreign power in Manchuria. The Kwantung Army (or Guandong Army Group), the Japanese Army unit stationed in Manchuria, was created to maintain Japanese economic interests in the region. Kwantung means "east of Shanhaiguan," a pass, east of which was Manchuria. In 1927, Japanese troops were sent to China to obstruct attempts by the Kuomintang (KMT) to unify the country. In June 1928 officers in the Kwantung Army began an unauthorized campaign to secure Japanese interests and precipitate a war with China. Both the Japanese high command in Tokyo and the Chinese refused to mobilize.

The Kwantung Army was first formed as an expeditionary force to counter the Russian army in Manchuria. The pride of the Imperial Army, it was initially a division-sized force of approximately 10,000 troops. They had the best equipment and training available, and were charged with protecting Japanese lives and property in Manchuria. The Kwantung Army saw Manchuria and Mongolia as a "holy land, consecrated by the sacrifice of 100,000 brothers who shed their blood" to capture the land for Japan. By 1931, the year of the Mukden Incident, the Kwantung Army was protecting a vast economic network, 200,000 Japanese, and 1,000,000 Koreans.

The Japanese Kwantung Army used the Mukden Incident in September 1931 as the pretext to occupy Manchuria. On September 18, 1931, officers in Japan's Kwantung Army Group fabricated an incident by placing a bomb on the Southern Manchurian railway, then under Japanese control. Despite the Nine-Power Treaty and the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the army, blaming Chinese soldiers for the explosion, on Sept. 19, 1931, the Kwantung Army of the Empire of Japan invaded Manchuria in northeast China. With the Japanese Government powerless to intervene, the Kwantung Army mobilized, taking nearby Mukden (now Shenyang) then, in January 1932, attacking Shanghai, south of their territory in Shandong Province. A truce was reached in March 1932.

Japan's government and army established a puppet state called Manchukuo. In January 1933, Japan occupied the province of Jehol ("the key to Peiping"), in North China thus extending the boundaries of Manchukuo. By 1937 this incursion had escalated into the second Sino-Japanese war, which officially began with the Japanese invasion of China in July 1937 and lasted until the end of World War II.

Russia considered Manchukuo under Japanese control as a threat. The Japanese strength varied between 250,000 and 500,000 men at various times. Russia felt it necessary to keep about the same number of troops in east Siberia. The Imperial Japanese Army's take-over of Manchuria in 1931 brought Japanese and Soviet armed forces eyeball to eyeball along a 3,000-mile border. Numerous border skirmishes and disputes characterized the next several years as both sides reinforced their respective forces. In 1936 the Soviets signed a mutual assistance treaty with Outer Mongolia, and in January 1937 the Soviet High Command organized the 57th Special Rifle Corps consisting of the 36th Motorized Rifle Division, 6th Cavalry Brigade, 11th Tank Brigade, and 7th, 8th, and 9th Armored Car brigades. These units moved into Outer Mongolia in 1938.

A test of the Kwantung Armys was afforded in 1939 by the development of the Nomonhan incident, which began in May as a series of clashes between Soviet and Japanese forces guarding the border between Outer Mongolia and Manchuria. By June it had become a major engagement of divisional magnitude and in August a failure for the Japanese.

By August 1945 Japan and its partners fielded slightly more than 1,200,000 men in the Far East (including southern Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands). Subtracting Manchukuoan and Inner Mongolian forces and Japanese forces in South Korea, southern Sakhalin, and the Kuriles would leave the Kwantung Army a strength of about 700,000 men, a figure that agrees with the Japanese monograph totals.

Responsible for south central Manchuria and headquartered at Meihokou, 30th Army consisted of the 39th Infantry Division at Hailung, the 107th Infantry Divisionat Wuchakou, the 117th Infantry Division at Taonan, the 148th Infantry Division and 133d Independent Mixed Brigade at Changchun, and the 9th Tank Brigade at Ssuping-chien. The 44th Army at Liaoyuan, responsible for west central Manchuria, comprised the 63d Infantry Division at Tungliao, the 108th Infantry Division at Jehol, the 136th Infantry Division at Penchihu, and the 130th Independent Mixed Brigade and 1st Tank Brigade at Mukden. Under direct control of the Third Area Army werethe 138th Infantry Division at Fushun, the 79th Independent Mixed Brigade at Antung,and the 134th Independent Mixed Brigade at Lingliang.

The 3d Army at Yenchi, responsible for the southern portion of the area, comprised the 79th Infantry Division with headquarters at Tumen, the 112th Infantry Division at Hunchun, and the 127th Infantry Division farther to the interior of Manchuria at Pataiohotzu. Responsible for the area encompassing Hutou, Tungan, Linkou, Pamientung, and Muleng, the 5th Army at Yehho included the 124th Infantry Division with headquarters at Muleng, the 126th Infantry Division at Pamientung, and the 135th Infantry Division at Tungan. Units directly subordinate to the First Area Army were the 122d Infantry Division at Lake Chingpo, the 128th Infantry Division at Lotzokou, the 134th Infantry Division at Chiamussu, the 139th Infantry Division at Tunhua, and the 132d Independent Mixed Brigade at Tungning.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:23:22 ZULU