Soviet–Japanese War

Last updated
Soviet-Japanese War
Part of the Pacific Theater of World War II
US-Soviet sailors on VJ Day.jpg
US and Soviet sailors and seamen celebrating together on VJ Day
DateAugust 9 – September 2, 1945
(3 weeks and 3 days)
Result Allied victory
Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg  Soviet Union
Flag of the People's Republic of Mongolia (1940-1945).svg  Mongolia

Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg  Japan

Commanders and leaders
Units involved

Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg Western Front

Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg Eastern Front

Flag of the Soviet Union (1936-1955).svg Northern Front

Soviet Union:
  • 1,577,225 men [3]
  • 26,137 artillery
  • 1,852 sup. artillery
  • 5,556 tanks and self-propelled artillery
  • 5,368 aircraft
  • 16,000 men
  • 993,000 men [lower-alpha 1]
  • 5,360 artillery
  • 1,155 tanks
  • 1,800 aircraft
  • 1,215 vehicles
  • 170,000 [1] -200,000 troops [4]
Casualties and losses
  • 12,031 killed
  • 24,425 wounded [5] [6]

Soviet claim:
  • 83,737 killed

The Soviet–Japanese War (Russian : Советско-японская война; Japanese : ソ連対日参戦, soren tai nichi sansen "Soviet Union entry into war against Japan") was a military conflict within World War II beginning soon after midnight on August 9, 1945, with the Soviet invasion of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. The Soviets and Mongolians terminated Japanese control of Manchukuo, Mengjiang (Inner Mongolia), northern Korea, Karafuto, and the Chishima Islands (Kuril Islands). The defeat of Japan's Kwantung Army helped in the Japanese surrender and the termination of World War II. [9] [10] The Soviet entry into the war was a significant factor in the Japanese government's decision to surrender unconditionally, as it made apparent the Soviet Union would no longer be willing to act as a third party in negotiating an end to hostilities on conditional terms. [1] [2] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16]

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although nearly three decades have passed since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia.

Japanese is an East Asian language spoken by about 128 million people, primarily in Japan, where it is the national language. It is a member of the Japonic language family, and its relation to other languages, such as Korean, is debated. Japanese has been grouped with language families such as Ainu, Austroasiatic, and the now-discredited Altaic, but none of these proposals has gained widespread acceptance.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.



At the Tehran Conference in November 1943, Joseph Stalin agreed that the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan once Germany was defeated. At the Yalta Conference in February 1945, Stalin agreed to Allied pleas to enter World War II's Pacific Theater within three months of the end of the war in Europe. On July 26, the US, UK and China made the Potsdam Declaration, an ultimatum calling for the Japanese surrender which if ignored would lead to their "prompt and utter destruction".

Tehran Conference convention

The Tehran Conference was a strategy meeting of Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill from 28 November to 1 December 1943, after the Anglo-Soviet Invasion of Iran. It was held in the Soviet Union's embassy in Tehran, Iran. It was the first of the World War II conferences of the "Big Three" Allied leaders. It closely followed the Cairo Conference which had taken place on 22–26 November 1943, and preceded the 1945 Yalta and Potsdam conferences. Although the three leaders arrived with differing objectives, the main outcome of the Tehran Conference was the Western Allies' commitment to open a second front against Nazi Germany. The conference also addressed the 'Big Three' Allies' relations with Turkey and Iran, operations in Yugoslavia and against Japan, and the envisaged post-war settlement. A separate protocol signed at the conference pledged the Big Three to recognize Iran's independence.

Joseph Stalin Soviet leader

Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was a Georgian revolutionary and Soviet politician who led the Soviet Union from the mid–1920s until 1953 as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922–1953) and Premier (1941–1953). Initially presiding over a collective leadership as first among equals, by the 1930s he was the country's de facto dictator. A communist ideologically committed to the Leninist interpretation of Marxism, Stalin formalised these ideas as Marxism–Leninism, while his own policies are known as Stalinism.

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, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres (6,200 mi) east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres (4,500 mi) north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

The commencement of the invasion fell between the American atomic bombings of Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9. Although Stalin had been told virtually nothing of the US and Britain's atomic bomb program by Allied governments, the date of the invasion was foreshadowed by the Yalta agreement, the date of the German surrender, and the fact that, on August 3, Marshal Vasilevsky reported to Stalin that, if necessary, he could attack on the morning of August 5. The timing was well planned and enabled the Soviet Union to enter the Pacific Theater on the side of the Allies, as previously agreed, before the war's end. [17] The invasion of the second largest Japanese island of Hokkaido, originally planned by the Soviets to be part of the territory taken, [18] was held off due to apprehension of the United States' new position as an atomic power. [19] [20] [21] [22]

Quebec Agreement Joint agreement between the United Kingdom and United States primarily for nuclear energy

The Quebec Agreement was an agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States outlining the terms for the coordinated development of the science and engineering related to nuclear energy, and, specifically nuclear weapons. It was signed by Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt on 19 August 1943, during World War II, at the First Quebec Conference in Quebec City, Canada.

Manhattan Project research and development project that produced the first atomic bombs

The Manhattan Project was a research and development undertaking during World War II that produced the first nuclear weapons. It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom and Canada. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer was the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory that designed the actual bombs. The Army component of the project was designated the Manhattan District; Manhattan gradually superseded the official codename, Development of Substitute Materials, for the entire project. Along the way, the project absorbed its earlier British counterpart, Tube Alloys. The Manhattan Project began modestly in 1939, but grew to employ more than 130,000 people and cost nearly US$2 billion. Over 90% of the cost was for building factories and to produce fissile material, with less than 10% for development and production of the weapons. Research and production took place at more than 30 sites across the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada.

German Instrument of Surrender 1945 historical document

The German Instrument of Surrender was the legal document which effected the extinction of Nazi Germany, and ended World War II in Europe. The definitive text was signed in Karlshorst, Berlin, on the night of 8 May 1945 by representatives of the three armed services of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) and the Allied Expeditionary Force together with the Supreme High Command of the Red Army, with further French and US representatives signing as witnesses. The signing took place 9 May 1945 at 00:16 local time.

At 11 pm Trans-Baikal time on August 8, 1945, Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov informed Japanese ambassador Naotake Satō that the Soviet Union had declared war on Japan, and that from August 9 the Soviet Government would consider itself to be at war with Japan. [23] At one minute past midnight Trans-Baikal time on August 9, 1945, the Soviets commenced their invasion simultaneously on three fronts to the east, west and north of Manchuria. The operation was subdivided into smaller operational and tactical parts:

Vyacheslav Molotov Soviet politician and Minister of Foreign Affairs

Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov was a Soviet politician and diplomat, an Old Bolshevik, and a leading figure in the Soviet government from the 1920s, when he rose to power as a protégé of Joseph Stalin. Molotov served as Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars (Premier) from 1930 to 1941, and as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1939 to 1949 and from 1953 to 1956. He served as First Deputy Premier from 1942 to 1957, when he was dismissed from the Presidium of the Central Committee by Nikita Khrushchev. Molotov was removed from all positions in 1961 after several years of obscurity.

Naotake Satō Japanese politician

Naotake Satō was a Japanese diplomat and politician. He was born in Osaka. He graduated from the Tokyo Higher Commercial School in 1904, attended the consul course of the same institute, and quit studying there in 1905.

and subsequently

Soviet assault on Maoka

The Soviet assault on Maoka was carried out at the port of Maoka, Southern Sakhalin during August 19-22, 1945, by the forces of the Soviet Northern Pacific Flotilla of the Pacific Fleet during the South Sakhalin Offensive of the Soviet–Japanese War at the end of World War II. It was the second amphibious assault on South Sakhalin, after the Soviet assault on Tōro on August 16.

Seishin Landing Operation

The Seishin Landing Operation was an amphibious assault on Northern Korea between August 13-17, 1945, carried out by the forces of the Soviet Northern Pacific Flotilla of the Pacific Fleet during the Soviet–Japanese War at the end of World War II.

Though the battle extended beyond the borders traditionally known as Manchuria – that is, the traditional lands of the Manchus – the coordinated and integrated invasions of Japan's northern territories has also been called the Battle of Manchuria. [24] Since 1983, the operation has sometimes been called Operation August Storm, after American Army historian Lieutenant-Colonel David Glantz used this title for a paper on the subject. [1] It has also been referred to by its Soviet name, the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation, but this name refers more to the Soviet invasion of Manchuria than to the whole war.

This offensive should not be confused with the Soviet–Japanese Border Wars (particularly the Battle of Khalkhin Gol/Nomonhan Incident of May–September 1939), that ended in Japan's defeat in 1939, and led to the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact. [25]

Background and buildup

The Russo-Japanese War of the early 20th century resulted in a Japanese victory and the Treaty of Portsmouth by which, in conjunction with other later events including the Mukden Incident and Japanese invasion of Manchuria in September 1931, Japan eventually gained control of Korea, Manchuria and South Sakhalin. In the late 1930s there were a number of Soviet-Japanese border incidents, the most significant being the Battle of Lake Khasan (Changkufeng Incident, July–August 1938) and the Battle of Khalkhin Gol (Nomonhan Incident, May–September 1939), which led to the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact [25] [26] of April 1941. The Neutrality Pact freed up forces from the border incidents and enabled the Soviets to concentrate on their war with Germany, and the Japanese to concentrate on their southern expansion into Asia and the Pacific Ocean.

With success at Stalingrad, and the eventual defeat of Germany becoming increasingly certain, the Soviet attitude to Japan changed, both publicly, with Stalin making speeches denouncing Japan, and "privately", with the Soviets building up forces and supplies in the Far East. At the Tehran Conference (November 1943), amongst other things, Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt agreed that the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan once Germany was defeated. Stalin faced a dilemma – he wanted to avoid a two-front war at almost any cost yet the Soviet leader also wanted to extract gains in the Far East as well as Europe. The only way Stalin could make Far Eastern gains without a two-front war would be for Germany to capitulate before Japan.

Due to the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact, the Soviets made it policy to intern Allied aircrews who landed in Soviet territory following operations against Japan, although airmen held in the Soviet Union under such circumstances were usually allowed to "escape" after some period of time. [27] Nevertheless, even before the defeat of Germany the Soviet buildup in the Far East steadily accelerated. By early 1945 it had become apparent to the Japanese that the Soviets were preparing to invade Manchuria, though they were unlikely to attack prior to Germany's defeat. In addition to their problems in the Pacific, the Japanese realised they needed to determine when and where a Soviet invasion would occur.

At the Yalta Conference (February 1945), amongst other things, Stalin secured from Roosevelt the promise of Stalin's Far Eastern territorial desires, in return agreeing to enter the Pacific War within two or three months of the defeat of Germany. By the middle of March 1945, things were not going well in the Pacific for the Japanese, and they withdrew their elite troops from Manchuria to support actions in the Pacific. Meanwhile, the Soviets continued their Far Eastern buildup. The Soviets had decided that they did not wish to renew the Neutrality Pact. The terms of the Neutrality Pact required that 12 months before its expiry, the Soviets must advise the Japanese of this, so on 5 April 1945 they informed the Japanese that they did not wish to renew the treaty. [28] This caused the Japanese considerable concern, [29] [30] but the Soviets went to great efforts to assure the Japanese that the treaty would still be in force for another twelve months, and that the Japanese had nothing to worry about. [31]

On 9 May 1945 (Moscow time), Germany surrendered, meaning that if the Soviets were to honour the Yalta agreement, they would need to enter war with Japan by 9 August 1945. The situation continued to deteriorate for the Japanese, and they were now the only Axis power left in the war. They were keen to remain at peace with the Soviets and extend the Neutrality Pact, [31] and they were also keen to achieve an end to the war. Since Yalta they had repeatedly approached, or tried to approach, the Soviets in order to extend the Neutrality Pact, and to enlist the Soviets in negotiating peace with the Allies. The Soviets did nothing to discourage these Japanese hopes, and drew the process out as long as possible (whilst continuing to prepare their invasion forces.) [31] One of the roles of the Cabinet of Admiral Baron Suzuki, which took office in April 1945, was to try to secure any peace terms short of unconditional surrender. [32] In late June, they approached the Soviets (the Neutrality Pact was still in place), inviting them to negotiate peace with the Allies in support of Japan, providing them with specific proposals and in return they offered the Soviets very attractive territorial concessions. Stalin expressed interest, and the Japanese awaited the Soviet response. The Soviets continued to avoid providing a response. The Potsdam Conference was held from 16 July to 2 August 1945. On 24 July the Soviet Union recalled all embassy staff and families from Japan. On 26 July the conference produced the Potsdam Declaration whereby Churchill, Harry S. Truman and Chiang Kai-shek (the Soviet Union was not officially at war with Japan) demanded the unconditional surrender of Japan. The Japanese continued to wait for the Soviet response, and avoided responding to the declaration. [31]

The Japanese had been monitoring Trans-Siberian Railway traffic and Soviet activity to the east of Manchuria and in conjunction with the Soviet delaying tactics, this suggested to them that the Soviets would not be ready to invade east Manchuria before the end of August. They did not have any real idea, and no confirming evidence, as to when or where any invasion would occur. [12] They had estimated that an attack was not likely in August 1945 or before Spring 1946; but Stakva had planned for a mid-August 1945 offensive and had concealed the buildup of a force of 90 divisions. Many had crossed Siberia in their vehicles to avoid straining the rail link. [33]

The Japanese were caught completely by surprise when the Soviets declared war an hour before midnight on 8 August 1945, and invaded simultaneously on three fronts just after midnight on 9 August.

Combatant forces

See Soviet invasion of Manchuria#Combatant forces for the tactical details of the combatant forces and of the invasion.


The Far East Command, [2] under Marshal of the Soviet Union Aleksandr Vasilevsky, had a plan for the conquest of Manchuria that was simple but huge in scale, [1] calling for a massive pincer movement over all of Manchuria. This pincer movement was to be performed by the Transbaikal Front from the west and by the 1st Far East Front from the east; the 2nd Far East Front was to attack the center of the pocket from the north. [2] The only Soviet equivalent of a theater command that operated during the war (apart from the short-lived 1941 "Directions" in the west), Far East Command, consisted of three Red Army fronts.

Western Front of Manchuria

The Transbaikal Front , under Marshal R. Y. Malinovsky, was to form the western half of the Soviet pincer movement, attacking across the Inner Mongolian desert and over the Greater Khingan mountains. [2] These forces had the objective to secure Mukden (present day Shenyang), then meet troops of the 1st Far East Front at the Changchun area in south central Manchuria, [1] and in doing so finish the double envelopment. [1]

Eastern Front of Manchuria

The 1st Far East Front , under Marshal K. A. Meretskov, was to form the eastern half of the pincer movement. This attack involved striking towards Mudanjiang (or Mutanchiang), [1] and once that city was captured, the force was to advance towards the cities of Jilin (or Kirin), Changchun and Harbin. [1] Its final objective was to link up with forces of the Trans-Baikal Front at Changchun and Jilin (or Kirin) thus closing the double envelopment movement.

As a secondary objective, the 1st Far East Front was to prevent Japanese forces from escaping to Korea, and then invade the Korean Peninsula up to the 38th parallel, [1] establishing in the process what later became North Korea.

Northern Front of Manchuria

The 2nd Far East Front , under General M. A. Purkayev, was in a supporting attack role. [1] Its objectives were the cities of Harbin and Tsitsihar, [2] and the prevention of an orderly withdrawal to the south by the Japanese forces. [1]

Once troops from the 1st Far East Front and Trans-Baikal Front captured the city of Changchun, the 2nd Far East Front were to attack the Liaotung Peninsula and seize Port Arthur (present day Lüshun). [1]

Each Front had "front units" attached directly to the Front instead of an army. [1] The forces totaled 89 divisions with 1.5 million men, 3,704 tanks, 1,852 self propelled guns, 85,819 vehicles and 3,721 aircraft. Approximately one-third of its strength was in combat support and services. [1] Its naval forces contained 12 major surface combatants, 78 submarines, numerous amphibious craft, and the Amur River flotilla, consisting of gunboats and numerous small craft. [1] The Soviet plan incorporated all the experience in maneuver warfare that the Soviets had acquired fighting the Germans, and also used new improved weapons, such as the RPD light machine gun, the new main battle tank T-44 and a small number of JS-3 heavy tanks. [1]


The Kwantung Army of the Imperial Japanese Army, under General Otozō Yamada, was the major part of the Japanese occupation forces in Manchuria and Korea, and consisted of two Area Armies (the First Area Army (northeastern Manchukuo) and the Third Area Army (southwestern Manchukuo)), and three independent armies (responsible for northern Manchuria, North Korea, Mengjiang, South Sakhalin and the Kurils). [1]

Each Area Army (Homen Gun, the equivalent of a Western "army") had headquarters units and units attached directly to the Area Army, in addition to the field armies (the equivalent of a Western corps). In addition to the Japanese, there was the forty-thousand-strong Manchukuo Defense Force, composed of eight under-strength, poorly equipped, poorly trained Manchukuoan divisions.

The Kwantung Army had less than eight hundred thousand (800,000) men in twenty-five divisions (including two tank divisions) and six Independent Mixed Brigades. These contained over 1,215 armored vehicles (mostly armored cars and light tanks), 6,700 artillery pieces (mostly light), and 1,800 aircraft (mostly trainers and obsolete types). The Imperial Japanese Navy did not contribute to the defense of Manchuria, the occupation of which it had always opposed on strategic grounds. Additionally, by the time of the invasion, the few remnants of its fleet were stationed and tasked with the defense of the Japanese home islands in the event of an invasion by Allied forces.

On economic grounds, Manchuria was worth defending since it had the bulk of usable industry and raw materials outside Japan and was still under Japanese control in 1945. The Japanese forces (Kwantung Army) were far below authorized strength; most of their heavy military equipment and all of their best military units had been transferred to the Pacific front over the previous three years to contend with the advance of American and Allied forces. By 1945, the Kwantung Army contained a large number of raw recruits and conscripts, with generally obsolete, light, or otherwise limited equipment. As a result, it had essentially been reduced to a light infantry counter-insurgency force with limited mobility or ability to fight a conventional land war against a coordinated enemy.

Compounding the problem, the Japanese military made many wrong assumptions and major mistakes, the two most significant being:

Due to the withdrawal of the Kwantung Army's elite forces for redeployment into the Pacific Theatre, new operational plans for the defence of Manchuria against a seemingly inevitable Soviet attack were made by the Japanese in the summer of 1945. These called for the redeployment of the majority of forces from the border areas; the borders were to be held lightly and delaying actions fought while the main force was to hold the southeastern corner in strength (so defending Korea from attack). [11]

Further, they had only observed Soviet activity on the Trans-Siberian Railway and along the east Manchurian front, and so were preparing for an invasion from the east. They believed that when an attack occurred from the west, the redeployed forces would be able to deal with it. [12] [11]

Although this redeployment had been initiated, it was not due to be completed until September, and hence the Kwantung Army were in the middle of redeployment when the Soviets launched their attack simultaneously on all three fronts.


The operation was carried out as a classic double pincer movement over an area the size of Western Europe. In the western pincer, the Red Army advanced over the deserts and mountains from Mongolia, far from their resupply railways. This confounded the Japanese military analysis of Soviet logistics, and the defenders were caught by surprise in unfortified positions. The Kwantung Army commanders were involved in a planning exercise at the time of the invasion, and were away from their forces for the first eighteen hours of conflict. Communication infrastructure was poor, and communication was lost with forward units very early on. The Kwantung Army had a formidable reputation as fierce and relentless fighters, and even though under-strength and unprepared, put up strong resistance at the town of Hailar which tied down some of the Soviet forces. At the same time, Soviet airborne units were used to seize airfields and city centers in advance of the land forces, and to ferry fuel to those units that had outrun their supply lines. The Soviet pincer from the east crossed the Ussuri and advanced around Khanka Lake and attacked towards Suifenhe, and although Japanese defenders fought hard and provided strong resistance, the Soviets proved overwhelming.

After a week of fighting, during which Soviet forces had penetrated deep into Manchukuo, Japan's Emperor Hirohito recorded the Gyokuon-hōsō which was broadcast on radio to the Japanese nation on August 15, 1945. The idea of surrender was incomprehensible to the Japanese people, and combined with Hirohito's use of formal and archaic language, the fact that he did not use the word "surrender", the poor quality of the broadcast, and poor lines of communication, there was some confusion amongst the Japanese about what the announcement meant. The Imperial Japanese Army Headquarters did not immediately communicate the cease-fire order to the Kwantung Army, and many elements of the Army either did not understand it, or ignored it. Hence, pockets of fierce resistance from the Kwantung Army continued, and the Soviets continued their advance, largely avoiding the pockets of resistance, reaching Mukden, Changchun and Qiqihar by August 20. On the Soviet right flank, the Soviet-Mongolian Cavalry-Mechanized Group had entered Inner Mongolia and quickly took Dolon Nur and Kalgan. The Emperor of Manchukuo (and former Emperor of China), Puyi, was captured by the Soviet Red Army. The cease-fire order was eventually communicated to the Kwantung Army, but not before the Soviets had made most of their territorial gains.

On August 18, several Soviet amphibious landings had been conducted ahead of the land advance: three in northern Korea, one in South Sakhalin, and one in the Chishima Islands. This meant that, in Korea at least, there were already Soviet soldiers waiting for the troops coming overland. In Karafuto and the Chishimas, it meant a sudden and undeniable establishment of Soviet sovereignty.

On August 10, the US government proposed to the Soviet government that they divide the occupation of Korea between them at the 38th parallel north. The Americans were surprised that the Soviet government accepted. Soviet troops were able to move freely by rail, and there was nothing to stop them occupying the whole of Korea. [34] Soviet forces began amphibious landings in northern Korea by August 14 and rapidly took over the north-east of the peninsula, and on August 16 they landed at Wonsan. [35] On August 24, the Red Army entered Pyongyang and established a military government over Korea north of the 38th parallel. American forces landed at Incheon on September 8 and took control of the south. [36] [37]

Importance and consequences

Ca. 1,831,000 Soviet personnel have been awarded the Medal "For the Victory over Japan" since 30 September 1945. Victory Against Japan OBVERSE.jpg
Ca. 1,831,000 Soviet personnel have been awarded the Medal "For the Victory over Japan" since 30 September 1945.

From the time of the first major Japanese military defeats in the Pacific in the summer of 1942, the non-military leaders of Japan had come to realise that the Japanese military campaign was economically unsustainable — as Japan did not have the industrial capacity to simultaneously fight the United States, China and the British Commonwealth and Empire — and there were a number of initiatives to negotiate a cessation of hostilities and the consolidation of Japanese territorial and economic gains. Hence, elements of the non-military leadership had first made the decision to surrender as early as 1943; the major issue was the terms and conditions of surrender, not the issue of surrender itself. For a variety of diverse reasons, none of the initiatives were successful, the two major reasons being the Soviet Union's deception and delaying tactics, and the attitudes of the "Big Six", the powerful Japanese military leaders. [13] (Refer to Surrender of Japan for more detail.)

The Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation, along with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, combined to break the Japanese political deadlock and force the Japanese leaders to accept the terms of surrender demanded by the Allies.

In the "Sixty Years after Hiroshima" issue of The Weekly Standard , American historian Richard B. Frank points out that there are a number of schools of thought with varying opinions of what caused the Japanese to surrender. He describes what he calls the "traditionalist" view, which asserts that the Japanese surrendered because the Americans dropped the atomic bombs. He goes on to summarise other points of view. [38] [ example needed ]

Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's research has led him to conclude that the atomic bombings were not the principal reason for Japan's capitulation. He argues that Japan's leaders were impacted more by the swift and devastating Soviet victories on the mainland in the week following Joseph Stalin's August 8 declaration of war because the Japanese strategy to protect the home islands was designed to fend off an Allied invasion from the south, and left virtually no spare troops to counter a Soviet threat from the north. Furthermore, the Japanese could no longer hope to achieve a negotiated peace with the Allies by using the Soviet Union as a mediator with the Soviet declaration of war. This, according to Hasegawa, amounted to a "strategic bankruptcy" for the Japanese and forced their message of surrender on August 15, 1945. [39] [16] Others with similar views include the Battlefield series documentary, [2] [11] among others, though all, including Hasegawa, state that the surrender was not due to any single factor or single event.

The Soviet invasion and occupation of the defunct Manchukuo marked the start of a traumatic period for the more than one million residents of the puppet state who were of Japanese descent. The situation for the Japanese military occupants was clear, but the Japanese colonists who had made Manchukuo their home, particularly those born in Manchukuo, were now stateless and homeless, and the (non-Japanese) Manchurians wanted to be rid of these foreigners. Many were killed, many others ended up in Siberian prisons for up to 20 years, and some made their way to the Japanese home islands, where they were also treated as foreigners. [32] [40] [41] [42]

Manchuria was "cleansed" by Soviet forces of any potential military resistance. With Soviet support for the spread of communism, [43] Manchuria provided the main base of operations for Mao Zedong's forces, who proved victorious in the following four years of the Chinese Civil War. These military successes in Manchuria and China by the Communist Chinese led to the Soviet Union giving up their rights to bases in China — promised by the Western Allies — because all of the land deemed by the Soviets to be Chinese (as distinct from what the Soviets considered to be Soviet land which had been occupied by the Japanese), was eventually turned over to the People's Republic of China. [43] Before leaving Manchuria, Soviet forces and bureaucracy dismantled almost all of the portable parts of the considerable Japanese-built industry in Manchuria and relocated it to "restore industry in war-torn Soviet territory". That which was not portable was either disabled or destroyed; the Soviets had no desire for Manchuria to be an economic rival, particularly to the underdeveloped Far Eastern Soviet Territories. [32] After the establishment of the People's Republic of China the bulk of the Soviet economic assistance went to Manchuria to help rebuilding the region's industry. [44]

As agreed at Yalta, the Soviet Union had intervened in the war with Japan within three months of the German surrender, and they were therefore entitled to annex the territories of South Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands and also to preeminent interests over Port Arthur and Dalian, with its strategic rail connections, via the China Changchun Railway, a company owned jointly by China and the Soviet Union that operated all the railways of the former Manchukuo. The territories on the Asian mainland were transferred to the full control of the People's Republic of China in 1955; the other possessions are still administered by the Soviet Union's successor state, Russia.

The division of Korea between Soviet and US occupations led to the creation of the separate states of North and South Korea. This was a precursor to the Korean War five years later.

See also


  1. Glantz credits the Japanese with 713,000 men in northern Korea and Manchuria, and 280,000 in southern Korea, South Sakhalin, and the Kuriles.
  2. 41,199 is the listed total of Japanese soldiers in Soviet custody on August 19, two days after the surrender of the Kwantung Army by order of Hirohito and four days after Hirohito announced the surrender of Japan. Post-war, 594,000 to 609,000 Japanese soldiers ended up in Soviet custody.

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Soviet–Japanese border conflicts war

The Soviet–Japanese border conflicts, also known as the Soviet-Japanese Border War, was an undeclared border conflict fought between the Soviet Union and Japan in Northeast Asia from 1932 to 1939.

The Japanese First Area Army was a field army of the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II, based in northern Manchukuo and active in combat against the Soviet Union in the closing stages of the war.

The Japanese 5th Army was an army of the Imperial Japanese Army based in Manchukuo from the Russo-Japanese War until the end of World War II. During World War II it was under the overall command of the Kwantung Army.

Thirtieth Army (Japan)

The Japanese 30th Army was an army of the Imperial Japanese Army during the final days of World War II.

The Japanese 4th Army was an army of the Imperial Japanese Army based in Manchukuo from the Russo-Japanese War until the end of World War II.

Forty-Fourth Army (Japan)

The Japanese 44th Army was an army of the Imperial Japanese Army during the final stages of World War II.

Third Army (Japan) military unit

The Japanese 3rd Army was an army of the Imperial Japanese Army based in Manchukuo as a garrison force under the overall command of the Kwantung Army during World War II, but its history dates to the Russo-Japanese War.

The Japanese 34th Army was an army of the Imperial Japanese Army during the final stages of World War II.

The Japanese Third Area Army was a field army of the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II, based in southern Manchukuo and active in combat against the Soviet Union in the very final stages of the war.

Japanese colonial empire

The Japanese colonial empire constituted the overseas colonies established by Imperial Japan in the Western Pacific and East Asia region from 1895. Victories over China and Russia expanded the Japanese sphere of influence, notably in Taiwan and Korea, and South Sakhalin became a colony of Japan as the Karafuto Prefecture in 1905.

Kwantung Army military unit

The Kwantung Army was an army group of the Imperial Japanese Army from 1906 to 1945.

Alexey Nikolayevich Krutikov Soviet general

Alexey Nikolayevich Krutikov was a Soviet military leader.

Soviet occupation of Manchuria

The Soviet occupation of Manchuria took place after the Red Army invaded the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo in August 1945 and would continue until the last of the Soviet forces left in May 1946.


Hokushin-ron was a pre-World War II political doctrine of the Empire of Japan which stated that Manchuria and Siberia were Japan's sphere of interest and that the potential value to Japan for economic and territorial expansion in those areas was greater than elsewhere. Its supporters were sometimes called the Strike North Group. It enjoyed wide support within the Imperial Japanese Army during the interwar period, but was abandoned in 1939 after military defeat on the Mongolian front at the Battles of Khalkhin Gol and the signing of Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact. It was superseded by the diametrically-opposite rival policy, Nanshin-ron, which regarded Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands as Japan's political and economic sphere of influence and aimed to acquire the resources of European colonies while neutralising the threat of Western military forces in the Pacific.

Battle of Mutanchiang

The Battle of Mutanchiang was a large-scale military engagement fought between the forces of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Empire of Japan from August 12 to 16, 1945, as part of the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in World War II. Due to the short nature of that campaign, this was one of the only set-piece battles that transpired before its conclusion. During the battle, elements of the Japanese Fifth Army attempted to delay the Soviet Fifth Army and First Red Banner Army long enough to allow the bulk of the Japanese forces to retreat to more defensible positions. Though casualties on both sides were heavy, the Red Army forces were able to break through the hastily organized Japanese defenses and capture the city ten days ahead of schedule. Nevertheless, the Japanese defenders at Mutanchiang achieved their goal of allowing the main forces to escape.

Kantokuen Planned WWII Japanese military campaign

KANTOKUEN was an operational plan created by the General Staff of the Imperial Japanese Army for an invasion and occupation of the far eastern region of the Soviet Union, capitalizing on the outbreak of the Soviet-German War in June 1941. Involving seven Japanese armies as well as a major portion of the empire's naval and air forces, it would have been the largest single combined arms operation in Japanese history, and one of the largest of all time.


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Further reading

All are in English:

Japanese Monographs

The "Japanese Monographs" and the "Japanese Studies on Manchuria" – The 187 Japan Monographs are a series of operational histories written by former officers of the Japanese army and navy under the direction of General Headquarters of the U.S. Far East Command.