Battles of Khalkhin Gol

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Battles of Khalkhyn Gol/Nomonhan
Part of the Soviet–Japanese border conflicts
Japanese soldiers creeping in front of wrecked Soviet tanks.jpg
Japanese infantrymen near wrecked Soviet armored vehicles, July 1939
Date11 May – 16 September 1939
47°43′49″N118°35′24″E / 47.73028°N 118.59000°E / 47.73028; 118.59000

Soviet and Mongolian victory

  • Ceasefire agreement signed
Status quo ante bellum; enforcement of border claims in accordance with the Soviet and Mongolian interpretation
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union
Flag of the People's Republic of Mongolia (1930-1940).svg  Mongolia

Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg  Japan

Commanders and leaders

61,860–73,961 [nb 1]
498–550 tanks
385–450 armored cars [4] [5]
900+ aircraft (participated)


  • Peak strength: 580 [6]
500 [7] –634 [2] artillery pieces
4,000 trucks [8]
1,921 horses and camels (Mongol only) [9]

30,000 [10] [11] 38,000 [12]
73 tanks [5]
64 tankettes
400+ aircraft (participated)

  • Peak strength: 200 [6]
~300 artillery pieces [2]
1,000 trucks [13]
2,708 horses [14]
Casualties and losses
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg 27,880 [nb 2]
Flag of the People's Republic of Mongolia (1930-1940).svg 556 [16] –990 [2]
208 aircraft [17]
253 tanks destroyed [18]
133 armored cars destroyed
96 mortars and artillery
49 tractors and prime movers
652 trucks and other motor vehicles [15] [16]
significant animal casualties [19]
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army (1868-1945).svg 16,343
Flag of Manchukuo.svg 2,895 [nb 3]
160 aircraft [17]
29 tanks destroyed or crippled [5]
Many tankettes destroyed
72 artillery pieces (field guns only) [21]
2,330 horses killed, injured, or sick [14]
significant motor vehicle losses [22]
Mongolia location map 2.svg
Red pog.svg
Khalkhyn Gol/Nomonhan
Location within Mongolia
China Inner Mongolia location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Khalkhyn Gol/Nomonhan
Khalkhyn Gol/Nomonhan (Inner Mongolia)

The Battles of Khalkhyn Gol were the decisive engagements of the undeclared Soviet–Japanese border conflicts fought among the Soviet Union, Mongolia, Japan and Manchukuo in 1939. The conflict was named after the river Khalkhyn Gol, which passes through the battlefield. In Japan, the decisive battle of the conflict is known as the Nomonhan Incident(ノモンハン事件,Nomonhan jiken) after Nomonhan, a nearby village on the border between Mongolia and Manchuria. The battles resulted in the defeat of the Japanese Sixth Army.

The Soviet–Japanese border conflicts was a series of battles and skirmishes between the forces of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Empire of Japan, as well as their respective client states of Mongolia and Manchukuo. Lasting from 1932 to 1939, most of the conflicts were small border skirmishes until May 1939, with the notable exception of the Battle of Lake Khasan. The border conflicts were resolved in a series of engagements at Khalkin-Gol, where the Soviets and Mongolians inflicted a decisive defeat on the Japanese. This resulted in the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact. It should not be confused with the conflict in August 1945 when the Soviet Union declared war in support of the other Allies of World War II and launched the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Mongolian Peoples Republic 1924–1992 republic in Northeastern Asia

The Mongolian People's Republic was a unitary sovereign socialist state which existed between 1924 and 1992, coterminous with the present-day country of Mongolia in East Asia. It was ruled by the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party and maintained close links with the Soviet Union throughout its history. Geographically, it was bordered by China to its south and the Soviet Union to its north. Until 1944, it also bordered the Tuvan People's Republic, another Soviet satellite state recognized only by Mongolia and the Soviet Union.


After the Japanese occupation of Manchuria in 1931, Japan turned its military interests to Soviet territories that bordered those areas. The first major Soviet-Japanese border incident, the Battle of Lake Khasan, occurred in 1938 in Primorye. Clashes between Japanese and Soviet forces frequently occurred along the border of Manchuria.

Japanese invasion of Manchuria part of the Second Sino-Japanese War

The Japanese invasion of Manchuria began on 18 September 1931, when the Kwantung Army of the Empire of Japan invaded Manchuria immediately following the Mukden Incident. After the war, the Japanese established the puppet state of Manchukuo. Their occupation lasted until the Soviet Union and Mongolia launched the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation in 1945.

Battle of Lake Khasan battle

The Battle of Lake Khasan, also known as the Changkufeng Incident in China and Japan, was an attempted military incursion by Manchukuo, a Japanese puppet state, into the territory claimed and controlled by the Soviet Union. This incursion was founded in the belief of the Japanese side, that the Soviet Union misinterpreted the demarcation of the boundary based on the Treaty of Peking between Imperial Russia and Qing China and that the demarcation markers were tampered with. Japanese forces occupied the disputed area but withdrew after heavy fighting and a diplomatic settlement.

Primorsky Krai First-level administrative division of Russia

Primorsky Krai (Russian: Примо́рский край, tr.Primorsky kray, IPA: [prʲɪˈmorskʲɪj kraj] is a federal subject of Russia, located in the Far East region of the country and is a part of the Far Eastern Federal District. The city of Vladivostok is the administrative center of the krai, as well as the largest city in the Russian Far East. The krai has the largest economy among the federal subjects in the Russian Far East, and a population of 1,956,497 as of the 2010 Census.

In 1939, Manchuria was a puppet state of Japan known as Manchukuo, and Mongolia was a communist state allied with the Soviet Union, known as the Mongolian People's Republic. The Japanese maintained that the border between Manchukuo and Mongolia was the Khalkhyn Gol (English "Khalkha River") which flows into Lake Buir. In contrast, the Mongolians and their Soviet allies maintained that the border ran some 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) east of the river, just east of Nomonhan village. [23]

A puppet state, puppet regime, or puppet government is a state that is de jure independent but is de facto completely dependent upon an outside power. It is nominally sovereign but effectively controlled by a foreign or otherwise alien power, for reasons such as financial interests, economic or military support.

Manchukuo former Japan puppet state in China

Manchukuo was a puppet state of the Empire of Japan in Northeast China and Inner Mongolia from 1932 until 1945. It was founded as a republic, but in 1934 it became a constitutional monarchy. It had limited international recognition and was under the de facto control of Japan.

Communist state State that aims to achieve socialism and then communism

A Communist state is a state that is administered and governed by a single party, guided by Marxist–Leninist philosophy.

The principal occupying army of Manchukuo was the Kwantung Army of Japan, consisting of some of the best Japanese units in 1939. However, the western region of Manchukuo was garrisoned by the relatively newly formed 23rd Infantry Division at Hailar under General Michitarō Komatsubara and included several Manchukuoan army and border guard units all under the direct command of the Sixth Army. The 23rd was the newest and least experienced division in the entire Kwantung Army. In addition to this, the 23rd Division was equipped with outdated equipment. Japanese army experts rated the combat capability of the 23rd Division as "below medium", comparable to a garrison division on occupation duty in China. [24]

Kwantung Army military unit

The Kwantung Army was an army group of the Imperial Japanese Army in the first half of the 20th century. It became the largest and most prestigious command in the IJA. Many of its personnel, such as Chiefs of staff Seishirō Itagaki and Hideki Tōjō, were promoted to high positions in both the military and civil government in the Empire of Japan and it was largely responsible for the creation of the Japanese-dominated Empire of Manchuria. In August 1945, the army group, around 713,000 men at the time, was defeated by and surrendered to Soviet troops as a result of the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation.

The 23rd Division was an infantry division in the Imperial Japanese Army. Its call-sign was the Sunrise Division. The 23rd Division was formed in Kumamoto on 4 April 1938, in the same day as 15th, 17th, 21st and 22nd divisions, as part of the military buildup following the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The first divisional commander was Michitarō Komatsubara.

Hailar District District in Inner Mongolia, Peoples Republic of China

Hailar District, formerly a county-level city, is an urban district that serves as the seat of the prefecture-level city Hulunbuir in northeastern Inner Mongolia, China. Hulunbuir, due to its massive size, is a city in administrative terms only, being mainly grassland and rural.

The Soviet forces consisted of the 57th Special Corps, deployed from the Trans-Baikal Military District. They were responsible for defending the border between Siberia and Manchuria. The Mongolian troops mainly consisted of cavalry brigades and light artillery units, and proved to be effective and agile, but lacked armor and manpower in sufficient numbers.

Cavalry soldiers or warriors fighting from horseback

Cavalry or horsemen are soldiers or warriors who fight mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the most mobile of the combat arms. An individual soldier in the cavalry is known by a number of designations such as cavalryman, horseman, dragoon, or trooper. The designation of cavalry was not usually given to any military forces that used other animals, such as camels, mules or elephants. Infantry who moved on horseback, but dismounted to fight on foot, were known in the 17th and early 18th centuries as dragoons, a class of mounted infantry which later evolved into cavalry proper while retaining their historic title.

Artillery class of weapons which fires munitions beyond the range and power of personal weapons

Artillery is a class of heavy military ranged weapons built to launch munitions far beyond the range and power of infantry's small arms. Early artillery development focused on the ability to breach defensive walls and fortifications during sieges, and led to heavy, fairly immobile siege engines. As technology improved, lighter, more mobile field artillery cannons developed for battlefield use. This development continues today; modern self-propelled artillery vehicles are highly mobile weapons of great versatility providing the large share of an army's total firepower.

In 1939, the Japanese Cabinet sent instructions to the Kwantung Army to strengthen and fortify Manchukuo's borders with Mongolia and the Soviet Union. Additionally, the Kwantung Army, which had long been stationed in Manchuria far from the Japanese Home Islands, had become largely autonomous and tended to act without approval from, or even against the direction of, the Japanese government. [25]


May: Skirmishes

Mongolian cavalry in the Khalkhin Gol (1939) Battle of Khalkhin Gol-Mongolian cavalry.jpg
Mongolian cavalry in the Khalkhin Gol (1939)
Mongolian troops fight against the Japanese counterattack on the western beach of the river Khalkhin Gol, 1939. MNRA soldiers 1939.jpg
Mongolian troops fight against the Japanese counterattack on the western beach of the river Khalkhin Gol, 1939.
Japanese soldiers cross the Khalkhyn Gol Japanese soldiers cross Khalkhyn Gol river 1939.jpg
Japanese soldiers cross the Khalkhyn Gol

The incident began on 11 May 1939. A Mongolian cavalry unit of some 70–90 men had entered the disputed area in search of grazing for their horses. On that day, Manchukuoan cavalry attacked the Mongolians and drove them back across the river Khalkhin Gol. On 13 May, the Mongolian force returned in greater numbers and the Manchukoans were unable to dislodge them.

On 14 May, Lt. Col. Yaozo Azuma led the reconnaissance regiment of the 23rd Infantry Division, supported by the 64th Infantry Regiment of the same division, under Colonel Takemitsu Yamagata, into the territory and the Mongolians withdrew. Soviet and Mongolian troops returned to the disputed region, however, and Azuma's force again moved to evict them, but the Soviet-Mongolian forces surrounded Azuma's force on 28 May and destroyed it. [26] The Azuma force suffered eight officers and 97 men killed and one officer and 33 men wounded, for 63% total casualties.

The commander of the Soviet forces and the Far East Front was Comandarm Grigori Shtern from May 1938. [12]

June: Escalation

Both sides increased their forces in the area. Soon, Japan had 30,000 men in the theater. The Soviets dispatched a new corps commander, Comcor Georgy Zhukov, who arrived on 5 June and brought more motorized and armored forces (I Army Group) to the combat zone. [27] Accompanying Zhukov was Comcor Yakov Smushkevich with his aviation unit. J. Lkhagvasuren, Corps Commissar of the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Army, was appointed Zhukov's deputy.

On 27 June, the Japanese Army Air Force's 2nd Air Brigade struck the Soviet air base at Tamsak-Bulak in Mongolia. The Japanese won this engagement, but the strike had been ordered by the Kwantung Army without getting permission from Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) headquarters in Tokyo. In an effort to prevent the incident from escalating, [28] Tokyo promptly ordered the JAAF not to conduct any more air strikes against Soviet airbases. [29]

Destroyed Soviet BA-10 armored car SovietArmouredVehicle.jpg
Destroyed Soviet BA-10 armored car
A destroyed Soviet biplane fighter (presumably a I-15 or a I-153) Khalkhin Gol Destroyed Soviet plane 1939.jpg
A destroyed Soviet biplane fighter (presumably a I-15 or a I-153)
Japanese soldiers cheering alongside with captured Soviet vehicles Battle of Khalkhin Gol-Japanese soldiers and captured Soviet AFVs.jpg
Japanese soldiers cheering alongside with captured Soviet vehicles
Japanese soldiers with captured Soviet equipment Battle of Khalkhin Gol-Japanese soldiers.jpg
Japanese soldiers with captured Soviet equipment
Crew of a BT-5 cavalry tank surrendering to the Japanese Battle of Khalkhin Gol-Soviet tank surrendered.jpg
Crew of a BT-5 cavalry tank surrendering to the Japanese

Throughout June, there were reports of Soviet and Mongolian activity on both sides of the river near Nomonhan and small-scale attacks on isolated Manchukoan units. At the end of the month, the commander of the 23rd Japanese Infantry Division, Lt. Gen. Komatsubara, was given permission to "expel the invaders".

July: Japanese assault

The Japanese plan was for a two-pronged assault. The first attack would be made by three regiments plus part of a fourth: the 71st and the 72nd Infantry Regiment (23rd Division), a battalion of the 64th Infantry Regiment and the 26th Infantry Regiment under Colonel Shinichiro Sumi (7th Infantry Division). This force would advance across the Khalkin Gol, destroy Soviet forces on Baintsagan Hill on the west bank, then make a left turn and advance south to the Kawatama Bridge. The second prong of the attack would be the task of the IJA 1st Tank Corps (1st TC) (Yasuoka Detachment), consisting of the 3rd and 4th Tank Regiments, plus a part of the 64th Infantry Regiment, a battalion from the 28th Infantry Regiment, detached from the 7th Infantry, 24th Engineer Regiment, and a battalion from the 13th Field-Artillery Regiment, all under the overall command of Lieutenant General Yasuoka Masaomi. [30] This force would attack Soviet troops on the east bank of the Khalkhyn Gol and north of the Holsten River. The two Japanese thrusts were to join together on the wings.

The commander of the 149th Rifle Regiment before the offensive Khalkhin Gol Befor offensive 1939.jpg
The commander of the 149th Rifle Regiment before the offensive

The northern task force succeeded in crossing the Khalkhyn Gol, driving the Soviets from Baintsagan Hill, and advancing south along the west bank. However, Zhukov, perceiving the threat, launched a counterattack with 450 tanks and armored cars. The tanks consisted of primarily BTs with a handful of T-26s, while the armored cars were BA-10s and BA-3/6s, which were similar in armor (6–15 mm (0.24–0.59 in)) and armament (main: 45 mm (2 in) gun 20K mod, secondary: two 7.62 mm (0.30 in) machine guns) to the Soviet light tanks. The Soviet armored force, despite being unsupported by infantry, attacked the Japanese on three sides and nearly encircled them. The Japanese force, further handicapped by having only one pontoon bridge across the river for supplies, was forced to withdraw, recrossing the river on 5 July. Meanwhile, the 1st Tank Corps of the Yasuoka Detachment (the southern task force) attacked on the night of 2 July, moving in the darkness to avoid the Soviet artillery on the high ground of the river's west bank. A pitched battle ensued in which the Yasuoka Detachment lost over half its armor, but still could not break through the Soviet forces on the east bank and reach the Kawatama Bridge. [33] [34] After a Soviet counterattack on 9 July threw the battered, depleted Yasuoka Detachment back, it was dissolved and Yasuoka was relieved. [35] Overall, the Japanese lost 42 tanks in these encounters, primarily to 45 mm gunfire, which outranged the Japanese weapons. [36] In return, on 3 July alone, the Soviet-Mongolian side lost a total of 77 tanks and 45 armored cars out of a total of 133 and 59 committed to the fight, respectively. [37]

Japanese pilots pictured on a Toyota KC starter truck Khalkhin Gol Japanese pilots 1939.jpg
Japanese pilots pictured on a Toyota KC starter truck

The two armies continued to spar with each other over the next two weeks along a four-kilometre (2.5 mi) front running along the east bank of the Khalkhyn Gol to its junction with the Holsten River. [38] Zhukov, whose army was 748 km (465 mi) away from its base of supply, assembled a fleet of 2,600 trucks to supply his troops, while the Japanese suffered severe supply problems due to a lack of similar motor transport. [29] On 23 July, the Japanese launched another large-scale assault, sending the 64th and 72nd Infantry Regiments against Soviet forces defending the Kawatama Bridge. Japanese artillery supported the attack with a massive barrage that consumed more than half of their ammunition stores over a period of two days. [39] The attack made some progress but failed to break through Soviet lines and reach the bridge. The Japanese disengaged from the attack on 25 July due to mounting casualties and depleted artillery stores. By this point they had suffered over 5,000 casualties between late May and 25 July, with Soviet losses being much higher but more easily replaced. [29] [40] The battle drifted into a stalemate.

August: Soviet counterattack

BT-5 Tanks in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol Khalkhin Gol Soviet tanks 1939.jpg
BT-5 Tanks in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol
BT-7 tank with infantry mounted to bring them into combat Bt7 6.jpg
BT-7 tank with infantry mounted to bring them into combat

With war apparently imminent in Europe, Zhukov planned a major offensive on 20 August to clear the Japanese from the Khalkhin Gol region and end the fighting. [41] Zhukov, using a fleet of at least 4,000 trucks (IJA officers with hindsight dispute this, saying he instead used 10,000 to 20,000 motor vehicles) transporting supplies from the nearest base in Chita (600 kilometres (370 mi) away) [8] assembled a powerful armored force of three tank brigades (the 4th, 6th and 11th), and two mechanized brigades (the 7th and 8th, which were armored-car units with attached infantry support). This force was allocated to the Soviet left and right wings. The entire Soviet force consisted of three rifle divisions, two tank divisions and two more tank brigades (in all, some 498 BT-5 and BT-7 tanks), [42] two motorized infantry divisions, and over 550 fighters and bombers. [43] The Mongolians committed two cavalry divisions. [44] [45] [46]

In comparison, at the point of contact, the Kwantung Army had only General Komatsubara's 23rd Infantry Division, which with various attached forces was equivalent to two light-infantry divisions. Its headquarters had been at Hailar, over 150 km (93 mi) from the fighting. Japanese intelligence, despite demonstrating an ability to track the build-up of Zhukov's force accurately, failed to precipitate an appropriate response from below. [47] Thus, when the Soviets finally did launch their offensive, Komatsubara was caught off guard. [47] [48] To test the Japanese defences prior to their main assault on 20 August, the Soviets launched three aggressive probing assaults, one on 3 August and the others on 7/8 August. All three were disastrously thrown back, with around 1,000 combined dead and several tanks knocked out on the Soviet side compared to just 85 Japanese casualties. [49] Moreover, the Japanese counter-attacked and routed elements of the Mongolian 8th Cavalry Division, seizing a hilly sector of the battlefront. [50] Despite the fact that no more major fighting would take place until 20 August, Japanese casualties continued to mount at a rate of 40 wounded per day. [51] Kwantung Army staff officers were becoming increasingly worried over the disorganized state of the 6th Army's headquarters and supply elements. In addition, the growing casualty count meant that the already green 23rd Division would have to take, train, and assimilate new replacements "on the job". [51] By contrast, Tokyo's oft-stated desire that it would not escalate the fighting at Khalkhin-Gol proved immensely relieving to the Soviets, who were free to hand-pick select units from across their entire military to be concentrated for a local offensive without fear of Japanese retaliation elsewhere. [52]

Zhukov decided it was time to break the stalemate. [43] At 05:45 on 20 August 1939, Soviet artillery and 557 aircraft [43] attacked Japanese positions, the first fighter-bomber offensive in Soviet Air Force history. [53] Approximately 50,000 Soviet and Mongolian soldiers of the 57th Special Corps defended the east bank of the Khalkhyn Gol. Three infantry divisions and a tank brigade crossed the river, supported by massed artillery and the Soviet Air Force. Once the Japanese were pinned down by the attack of Soviet center units, Soviet armored units swept around the flanks and attacked the Japanese in the rear, achieving a classic double envelopment. When the Soviet wings linked up at Nomonhan village on 25 August, the Japanese 23rd Infantry Division was trapped. [29] [54] [55] On 26 August, a Japanese counterattack to relieve the 23rd Division failed. On 27 August, the 23rd Division attempted to break out of the encirclement, but also failed. When the surrounded forces refused to surrender, they were again hit with artillery and air attacks. By 31 August, Japanese forces on the Mongolian side of the border were destroyed, leaving remnants of the 23rd Division on the Manchurian side. The Soviets had achieved their objective. [56]

Captured Japanese soldiers Khalkhin Gol Captured Japanese soldiers 1939.jpg
Captured Japanese soldiers
Captured Type 95 scout car Battle of Khalkhin Gol-Captured Type 95 scout car.jpg
Captured Type 95 scout car

Komatsubara refused to accept the outcome and prepared a counteroffensive. This was canceled when a cease-fire was signed in Moscow.[ dubious ] While Zhukov defeated the Japanese forces on "Soviet territory", Joseph Stalin had made a deal with Nazi Germany. [43] After the Soviet success at Nomonhan, Stalin decided to proceed with the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, which was announced on 24 August.

The Soviet Union and Japan agreed to a cease-fire on 15 September, which took effect the following day at 1:10 pm. [29] [57] [58] Free from a threat in the Far East, Stalin proceeded with the Soviet invasion of Poland on 17 September. [59]


Japanese tank Type 95 Ha-Go captured by Soviet troops after battle of Khalkhin Gol Ha-Go Khalkin-Gol.JPG
Japanese tank Type 95 Ha-Go captured by Soviet troops after battle of Khalkhin Gol
Captured Japanese guns Khalkhin Gol Captured Japanese guns 1939.jpg
Captured Japanese guns

Japanese records report 8,440 killed, 8,766 wounded, 162 aircraft lost in combat, and 42 tanks lost (of which 29 were later repaired and redeployed). Roughly 3,000 Manchukuoan and Japanese troops were taken prisoner during the battles. Due to a military doctrine that prohibited surrender, the Japanese listed most of these men as killed in action, for the benefit of their families. [60] Some sources put the Japanese casualties at 45,000 or more killed, with Soviet casualties of at least 17,000. [29] However, these estimates for Japanese casualties are considered inaccurate as they exceed the total strength of the Japanese forces involved in the battle (estimated at 28,000–38,000 troops, despite Soviet claims that they were facing 75,000). [61] According to the records of the Bureau 6A hospital, the Japanese casualties amounted to 7,696 killed, 8,647 wounded, 1,021 missing, and 2,350 sick, for a total of 19,714 personnel losses, including 2,895 Manchukuoan casualties. The Kwantung Army headquarters and their records give a slightly different figure of 8,629 killed and 9,087 injured. The Soviets initially claimed to have inflicted 29,085 casualties on the Japanese, but later increased this to 61,000 for the official histories. [2]

The Soviets initially claimed 9,284 total casualties, which was almost certainly reduced for propaganda purposes. In recent years, with the opening of the Soviet archives, a more accurate assessment of Soviet casualties has emerged from the work of Grigoriy Krivosheev, citing 7,974 killed and 15,251 wounded. [62] In the newer, 2001 edition, the Soviet losses are given as 9,703 killed and missing (6,472 killed and died of wounds during evacuation, 1,152 died of wounds in hospitals, 8 died of disease, 2,028 missing, 43 non-combat dead), 15,952 wounded and sick, and a further 2,225 hospitalizations due to disease, a total of 27,880 casualties. [63] In addition to their personnel losses, the Soviets lost a large amount of materiel including 253 tanks, 250 aircraft (including 208 in combat), 96 artillery pieces, and 133 armored cars. Of the Soviet tank losses, 75–80% were destroyed by anti-tank guns, 15–20% by field artillery, 5–10% by infantry-thrown incendiary bombs, 2–3% by aircraft, and 2–3% by hand grenades and mines. [16] The large number of Soviet armor casualties are reflected in the manpower losses for Soviet tank crews. A total of 1,559 Soviet "Tank Troops" were killed or wounded during the battles. [64]

Mongolian casualties were 556–990, with at least 11 armored cars destroyed and 1,921 horses/camels lost. [65]

Nomonhan was the first use of airpower on a massive scale in a high-intensity battle to obtain a specific military objective. [66] The combatants remained at peace until August 1945, when the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and invaded Manchukuo and other territory after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Nakajima Ki-27b of Kenji Shimada, commander of the 1st Chutai of the 11th Sentai, battle of Khalkhin Gol, June 1939 Ki-27 Shimada.jpg
Nakajima Ki-27b of Kenji Shimada, commander of the 1st Chutai of the 11th Sentai, battle of Khalkhin Gol, June 1939

Air combat

Soviet aircraft losses

I-16 fighter I-152 biplane fighter I-153 biplane fighter SB high-speed bomber TB-3 heavy bomber R-5 reconnaissance aircraftTotal:
Combat losses8760164401208
Non-Combat losses225681042
Total losses10965225211250
Ref [17]

Japanese aircraft losses

Ki-4 reconnaissance aircraft Ki-10 biplane fighter Ki-15 reconnaissance Ki-21 high speed bomber Ki-27 fighter Ki-30 light bomber Ki-36 utility aircraft Fiat BR.20 medium bomberTransport aircraftTotal
Aerial combat losses1173621130088
Write-offs due to combat damage1406334731674
Total combat losses1511369618616162
Combat damage74231124336202220
Ref [17]

Aircraft losses summary and notes

Combat losses include aircraft shot down during aerial combat, written off due to combat damage or destroyed on the ground.

Non-combat losses include aircraft that were lost due to accidents, as well as write-offs of warplanes due to the end of their service life. Thus Soviet combat losses amount to 163 fighters, 44 bombers, and a reconnaissance aircraft, with further 385 fighters and 51 bombers requiring repairs due to combat damage. VVS (Soviet Air Forces) personnel losses were 88 killed in aerial combat, 11 killed by anti-aircraft artillery, 65 missing, six killed in air-strikes and four died of wounds (174 total) and 113 wounded. The Japanese combat losses were 97 fighters, 25 bombers and 41 other (mostly reconnaissance), while 128 fighters, 54 bombers and 38 other required repairs due to combat damage. The Japanese air-force suffered 152 dead and 66 severely wounded.

Aircraft ordnance expenditures

USSR: Bomber sorties 2,015, fighter sorties 18,509; 7.62 mm machine gun rounds fired 1,065,323; 20 mm (0.8 in) cannon rounds expended 57,979; bombs dropped 78,360 (1,200 tons).

Japan: Fighter/bomber sorties 10,000 (estimated); 7.7 mm (0.3 in) machine gun rounds fired 1,600,000; bombs dropped 970 tons. [67]


Grigori Shtern, Khorloogiin Choibalsan and Georgy Zhukov at Khalkhin Gol SternGM.jpg
Grigori Shtern, Khorloogiin Choibalsan and Georgy Zhukov at Khalkhin Gol
Strike North Group plans Hokushin-ron-Map.svg
Strike North Group plans

While this engagement is little known in the West, it played an important part in subsequent Japanese conduct in World War II. The battle earned the Kwantung Army the displeasure of officials in Tokyo, not so much due to its defeat, but because it was initiated and escalated without direct authorization from the Japanese government. This defeat combined with the Chinese resistance in the Second Sino-Japanese War, [68] together with the signing of the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact (which deprived the Army of the basis of its war policy against the USSR), moved the Imperial General Staff in Tokyo away from the policy of the North Strike Group favored by the Army, which wanted to seize Siberia for its resources as far as Lake Baikal.

Instead, support shifted to the South Strike Group, favored by the Navy, which wanted to seize the resources of Southeast Asia, especially the petroleum and mineral-rich Dutch East Indies. Masanobu Tsuji, the Japanese colonel who had helped instigate the Nomonhan incident, was one of the strongest proponents of the attack on Pearl Harbor. General Ryukichi Tanaka, Chief of the Army Ministry's Military Service Bureau in 1941, testified after the war that "the most determined single protagonist in favor of war with the United States was Tsuji Masanobu". Tsuji later wrote that his experience of Soviet fire-power at Nomonhan convinced him not to attack the Soviet Union in 1941. [69] On 24 June 1941, two days after the war on the Eastern Front broke out, the Japanese army and navy leaders adopted a resolution "not intervening in German Soviet war for the time being". In August 1941, Japan and the Soviet Union reaffirmed their neutrality pact. [70] The United States and Britain had imposed an oil embargo on Japan, threatening to stop the Japanese war effort, but the European colonial powers were weakening and suffering early defeats in the war with Germany; only the US Pacific Fleet stood in the way of seizing the oil-rich Dutch East Indies. [69] Because of this, Japan's focus was ultimately directed to the south, leading to its decision to launch the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December of that year. Despite plans being carried out for a potential war against the USSR (particularly contingent on German advances towards Moscow), the Japanese would never launch an offensive against the Soviet Union. In 1941, the two countries signed agreements respecting the borders of Mongolia and Manchukuo [71] and pledging neutrality towards each other. [72] In the closing months of World War II, the Soviet Union would annul the Neutrality Pact and invade the Japanese territories in Manchuria, northern Korea, and the southern part of Sakhalin island.

Soviet assessment

The battle was the first victory for the soon-to-be-famous Soviet general Georgy Zhukov, earning him the first of his four Hero of the Soviet Union awards. The two other generals, Grigoriy Shtern and Yakov Smushkevich, had important roles and were also awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union. They would, however, both be executed in the 1941 Purges. Zhukov himself was promoted and transferred west to the Kiev district. The battle experience gained by Zhukov was put to good use in December 1941 at the Battle of Moscow. Zhukov was able to use this experience to launch the first successful Soviet counteroffensive against the German invasion of 1941. Many units of the Siberian and other trans-Ural armies were part of this attack, and the decision to move these divisions from Siberia was aided by the Soviet spy Richard Sorge in Tokyo, who alerted the Soviet government that the Japanese were looking south and were unlikely to launch another attack against Siberia in the immediate future. A year after defending Moscow against the advancing Germans, Zhukov planned and executed the Red Army's offensive at the Battle of Stalingrad, using a technique very similar to Khalkhin Gol, in which the Soviet forces held the enemy fixed in the center, built up an undetected mass force in the immediate rear area, and launched a pincer attack on the wings to trap the German army.

Following the battle, the Soviets generally found the results unsatisfactory, despite their victory. Though the Soviet forces in the Far East in 1939 were not plagued by fundamental issues to the same extent as those in Europe during the 1941 campaigns, their generals were still unimpressed by their army's performance. As noted by Pyotr Grigorenko, the Red Army went in with a very large advantage in technology, numbers, and firepower, yet still suffered huge losses, which he blamed on poor leadership. [12]

Although their victory and the subsequent negotiation of the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact secured the Far East for the duration of the Soviet-German War, the Red Army always remained cautious about the possibility of another, larger Japanese incursion as late as early 1944. In December 1943, when the American military mission proposed a logistics base be set up east of Lake Baikal, the Red Army authorities were according to Coox "shocked by the idea and literally turned white". [73] Due to this caution, the Red Army kept a large force in the Far East even during the bleakest days of the war in Europe. For example, on July 1, 1942, Soviet forces in the Far East consisted of 1,446,012 troops, 11,759 artillery pieces, 2,589 tanks and self-propelled guns, and 3,178 combat aircraft. [74] Despite this, the Soviet operations chief of the Far Eastern Front, General A. K. Kazakovtsev, was not confident in his army group's ability to stop an invasion if the Japanese committed to it (at least in 1941–1942), commenting: "If the Japanese enter the war on Hitler's side ... our cause is hopeless." [75]

Japanese assessment and reforms

The Japanese similarly considered the result not a failing of tactics, but one that simply highlighted a need to address the material disparity between themselves and their neighbours. [76] [77] They made several reforms as a result of this battle: Tank production was increased from 500 annually in 1939 to 1,200,[in what year?] a mechanized headquarters was established in early 1941, and the new Type 1 47 mm anti-tank gun was introduced as a response to the Soviet 45 mm. These cannons were mounted on Type 97 Chi-Ha tanks, resulting in the Type 97 Shinhoto Chi-Ha ("New Turret") variant, which became the IJA's standard medium tank by 1942. IGHQ also dispatched General Tomoyuki Yamashita to Germany in order to learn more about tank tactics, following the crushingly one-sided Battle of France and the signing of the Tripartite Pact. He returned with a report where he stressed the need for mechanization and more medium tanks. Accordingly, plans were put underway for the formation of 10 new armoured divisions in the near future. [78]

Despite all of the above, Japanese industry was not productive enough to keep up with either the United States or the Soviet Union, and Yamashita warned against going to war with them for this reason. His recommendations were not taken to heart, and Japanese militarists eventually successfully pushed for war with the United States. In spite of their recent experience and military improvements, the Japanese would generally continue to underestimate their adversaries, emphasizing the courage and determination of the individual soldier as a way to make up for their lack of numbers and smaller industrial base. To varying degrees, the basic problems that faced them at Khalkhin Gol would haunt them again when the Americans and British recovered from their defeats of late 1941 and early 1942 and turned to the conquest of the Japanese Empire. [29] [79]

Also, events exposed a severe lack of procedures for emergency staunching of bleeding. The original Japanese doctrine explicitly forbade first aid to fellow soldiers without prior orders from an officer, and first-aid training was lacking. As result, a large proportion of Japanese dead was due to hemorrhaging from untreated wounds. Furthermore, up to 30% of the total casualties were due to dysentery, which the Japanese believed was delivered by Soviet biological-warfare aerial bombs. To reduce susceptibility to diseases, future Japanese divisions would commonly include specialized Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Departments. [80] Finally, the Japanese food rations were found to be unsatisfactory, both in packing and in nutritional value. [81]


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj standing in front of a statue of Zhukov at a ceremony in Ulaanbaatar in August 2009, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the battle Dmitry Medvedev in Mongolia August 2009-3.jpg
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj standing in front of a statue of Zhukov at a ceremony in Ulaanbaatar in August 2009, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the battle

After the Second World War, at the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, fourteen Japanese were charged by delegates of the conquering Soviet Union, with having "initiated a war of aggression ... against the Mongolian People's Republic in the area of the Khalkhin-Gol River" and also with having waged a war "in violation of international law" against the USSR. [82] Kenji Doihara, Hiranuma Kiichirō, and Seishirō Itagaki were convicted on these charges.

The Mongolian town of Choibalsan, in the Dornod Province where the battle was fought, is the location of the "G. K. Zhukov Museum", dedicated to Zhukov and the 1939 battle. [83] Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, also has a "G. K. Zhukov Museum" with information about the battle. [84] The latter museum was opened on 19 August 1979 in the presence of Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal and Zhukov's three daughters. [85] During the 70th, 75th and 80th anniversaries of the battle in 2009, 2014 and 2019 respectively, the President of Russia has taken part in the celebrations alongside the President of Mongolia alongside Soviet and Mongolian veterans alike.

The Battles of Khalkhin Gol were depicted in the 2011 South Korean war film My Way . The film was inspired by the true tale of a Korean named Yang Kyoungjong who was captured by the Americans on D-Day. Yang Kyoungjong was conscripted in the Imperial Japanese Army, fought in the Battles of Khalkhin Gol against the Red Army, then was enlisted to the Red Army, fought against the Germans and, after being taken prisoner, he joined the Wehrmacht.

The Nomonhan Incident casts a shadow over the whole of Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle , although there is little detail about the main battle itself. Two characters who were in the Imperial Japanese Army during the war, relate their experiences in the Mongolian border area at a much later date to the protagonist, which seems to profoundly affect his later adventures.

The Battles of Khalkhin Gol are presented in the video game War Thunder with a map of the area (as well as a historical scenario) and the possibility for the players to pilot warplanes historically present during the battle on either side.

See also


  1. Includes at least 57,000 Soviet [1] and 4,860 MPR personnel. [2] Combined Soviet-MPR strength was possibly as high as 74,000. [3]
  2. 9,703 dead and missing, [15]
    15,952 wounded
    2,225 hospitalized due to disease
  3. Japanese military record:
    8,440 killed,
    8,766 wounded
    Soviet claim:
    60,000 killed and wounded,
    3,000 captured [20]
    See the "Aftermath" section.


  1. Kotelnikov p. 109 (2002)
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Khalkhin Gol Battle: the Revision of Statistics. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  3. Retrieved 15 Oct. 2015.
  4. "The Chief Culprit", by Viktor Suvorov,
  5. 1 2 3 Zaloga, p. 13.
  6. 1 2 V. Kondratiev, "Khalkhin Gol: War in the Air" retrieved 3 Jan. 2016
  7. "The Chief Culprit", by Viktor Suvorov, p.[ page needed ].
  8. 1 2 Coox, p. 580
  9. "The Khalkhin Gol Battle, 1939" Retrieved 3 Jan. 2016
  10. Bellamy and Lahnstein (1990) The New Soviet Defensive Policy: Khalkhin Gol 1939 as Case Study Archived 11 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine p. 24
  11. The cited source here describes Japanese forces after the assault on the Soviets as numbering 28,000 men, and includes Manchukuoan forces. For more information, see the "Aftermath" section.
  12. 1 2 3 "Áèîãðàôèÿ Ãðèãîðèé Øòåðí" . Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  13. Coox, p. 563
  14. 1 2 Coox, p. 1168
  15. 1 2 M. Kolomiets "Boi u reki Khalkhin-Gol" Frontovaya Illyustratsia (2002)
  16. 1 2 3 Soviet Losses in the Khalkhin Gol Battle. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  17. 1 2 3 4 Кондратьев В. Халхин-Гол: Война в воздухе. — М.: Библиотека журнала "Техники – Молодежи". Серия "Авиация", 2002. — 64 с. Тираж 1000 экз. ISBN   5-88573-009-1.
  18. According to "Soviet Losses in the Khalkhin Gol Battle", these losses break down as: 30 BT-7s, 27 BT-7RTs,2 BT-7As, 127 BT-5s, 30 BT-5RTs, 8 T-26s, 10 KhT-26S, 2 KhT-130S, and 17 T-37s. This does not include tanks that only sustained light to moderate damage, or ones lost due to mechanical failure.
  19. Coox, p. 576. During one Japanese counterattack alone on the 12/13th of August the MPR 8th cavalry division lost 100 horses captured
  20. Glantz, David M.; and House, Jonathan. When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler. Lawrence, KS: UP of Kansas, 1995. ISBN   0-7006-0899-0 p. 14.
  21. Coox, p. 987. Includes 28 120mm–150mm guns and 44 75mm guns.
  22. Coox, "Nomonhan: Japan against Russia" There are multiple accounts of Japanese trucks being knocked out by Soviet artillery and aviation, as well as losses due to mechanical failures or environmental hazards.
  23. Drea, Edward J. "Leavenworth Papers No. 2 Nomonhan: Japanese Soviet Tactical Combat, 1939 – MAPS" Archived 7 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine – Retrieved: 13 May 2007.
  24. Cox, p. 181
  25. Baabar (1999), pp. 384–86.
  26. Drea, Edward J. "Leavenworth Papers No. 2 Nomonhan: Japanese Soviet Tactical Combat, 1939 – BIG MAPS – Map 3" Archived 13 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine – Retrieved: 13 May 2007.
  27. Baabar (1999), pp. 386–87.
  28. Coox, p. 271
  29. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Timothy Neeno, M.A. Nomonhan: The Second Russo-Japanese War , 2005. – Retrieved: 12 May 2007.
  30. 1 2 Coox, p. 1119
  31. Coox, p. 349
  32. Coox, p. 350
  33. Combined Arms Research Library Archived 5 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  34. Drea, Edward J. "Leavenworth Papers No. 2 Nomonhan: Japanese Soviet Tactical Combat, 1939 – BIG MAPS – Map 4" Archived 13 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine – Retrieved: 13 May 2007.
  35. Combined Arms Research Library: Redeployment Archived 5 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  36. Zaloga, p. 13
  37. Khalkhin Gol Battle: Brief Description and Data Retrieved 20 Jan. 2017
  38. Combined Arms Research Library: Japanese Initiatives Archived 5 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  39. Combined Arms Research Library: Hills 742 and 754 Archived 5 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  40. Drea, Nomhoman, p. 7
  41. Coox, pp. 578–79
  42. Coox, pp. 579, 641 note 23
  43. 1 2 3 4 Coox, p. 590
  44. Combined Arms Research Library: The Soviet Offensive Archived 5 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  45. Drea, Edward J. "Leavenworth Papers No. 2 Nomonhan: Japanese Soviet Tactical Combat, 1939 – Big Maps – Map 6" Archived 13 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine – Retrieved: 13 May 2007.
  46. "Leavenworth Papers No. 2 Nomonhan: Japanese-Soviet Tactical Combat, 1939; MAPS". Archived from the original on 7 May 2011. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  47. 1 2 Coox, pg. 578
  48. Combined Arms Research Library:Japanese Intelligence Failures Archived 5 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  49. Coox, pp. 575–76
  50. Coox, p. 576
  51. 1 2 Coox, p. 577
  52. Coox, pp. 573–74
  53. Coox, p. 663
  54. Combined Arms Research Library: Outcome Archived 5 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  55. Combined Arms Research Library: Encirclement of the 2/28th Infantry Archived 5 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  56. Coox, p. 841
  57. Goldman pp. 163–64
  58. Nomonhan: Japan Against Russia, 1939, p. 911
  59. Steven J. Zaloga, Howard Gerrard, Poland 1939: the birth of Blitzkrieg, Osprey Publishing, 2002, ISBN   1-84176-408-6, p. 80
  60. Coox, p. 1176
  61. Drea, p. 9 [p.22 on the linked PDF]
  62. "Grif sekretnosti sniat': poteri Vooruzhennykh Sil SSSR v voynakh, boevykh deystviyakh i voennykh konfliktakh", pod oshchey redaktsiey G. F. Krivosheeva. (Moskva: Voennoe izd-vo, 1993, ISBN   5-203-01400-0). pp. 77–85.
  63. Россия и СССР в войнах ХХ века. Книга потерь. Москва, Вече, 2010 ISBN   978-5-9533-4672-6 pp. 158–59, 162
  64. General-Lieutenant G.F. Krivosheyev (1993). "Soviet Armed Forces Losses in Wars, Combat Operations and Military Conflicts" (PDF). Moscow Military Publishing House. p. 83. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  65. Khalkhin Gol Battle: Brief Description and Data Retrieved 20 Jan. 2017. pp. 5–6, 13.
  66. Nedialkov p. 144
  67. Nedialkov p. 141
  68. Beevor, Antony (2012). "16". The Second World War. Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
  69. 1 2 Goldman, Stuart (28 August 2012). "The Forgotten Soviet-Japanese War of 1939". The Diplomat .
  70. Snyder p. 166
  71. "Declaration Regarding Mongolia" Archived 11 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine , 14 April 1941. – Retrieved: 13 May 2007.
  72. "The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy". Archived from the original on 2 March 2015. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  73. Alvin D. Coox, "The Myth of the Kwantung Army", Marine Corps Gazette, 42, no. 7 (July 1958), p. 43
  74. Glantz, David. "The Soviet Strategic Offensive in Manchuria, 1945: 'August Storm'". Routledge, Aug 2, 2004. p. 8.
  75. Coox, Nomonhan, p. 1079
  76. 「"ノモンハン" は日本軍の一方的敗北ではない」三代史研究会『明治・大正・昭和30 の"真実"』文春新書、2003 年、p. 122
  77. 福井雄三『坂の上の雲に隠された歴史の真実 明治と昭和の歴史の虚像と実像』
  78. Zaloga, p. 14
  79. Combined Arms Research Library Archived 5 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  80. Nomonhan: Japan Against Russia. 1939. By Alvin D. Coox, p. 1167
  81. Nomonhan: Japan Against Russia, 1939. By Alvin D. Coox, p. 1019
  82. See counts 26 and 36 of the IMTFE indictment, available at
  83. "Cultological Culture" . Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  84. "Embassy of the Russian Federation in Mongolia". Archived from the original on 8 October 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2009.

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