Operation August Storm, or the Battle of Manchuria began on August 8, 1945, with the Soviet invasion of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo; the greater invasion would eventually include neighboring Mengjiang, as well as northern Korea, southern Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands. It marked the initial and only military action of the Soviet Union against the Empire of Japan; at the Yalta Conference, it had agreed to Allied pleas to terminate the neutrality pact with Japan and enter the Second World War's Pacific Theater within three months after the end of the war in Europe.
The invasion began on August 8, 1945, precisely three months after the German surrender on May 8. Notably, it began between the droppings of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9).
Japan's decision to surrender was made before the scale of the Soviet attack on Manchuria, Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands was known (See Downfall, pg 289), but had the war continued, the Soviets had plans to invade Hokkaidō well before the other Allied invasion of Kyushu.
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 is still collectively labeled as the Battle of Manchuria. Alternatively, it is also known by the Soviet codename for the invasion plans—Operation August Storm—or as the Battle of Manchukuo or the Battle of Northern China.
The Far Eastern Command, under Marshal A. M. Vasilevsky, conducted the massive attack. The only Soviet equivalent of a theater command that operated during the war, it consisted of three Red Army fronts:
- Transbaikal Front, under Marshal R. Y. Malinovsky (aimed at Mengjiang and western Manchukuo), including:
- 1st Far East Front, under Marshal K. A. Meretskov (aimed at eastern Manchukuo), including:
- 2d Red Banner Army.
- 15th Army.
- 16th Army.
- 10th Air Army.
- 2nd Far East Front, under General M. A. Purkayev (aimed at northern Manchukuo), including:
- 1st Red Banner Army.
- 5th Army.
- 25th Army.
- 35th Army.
- Chuguevsk Operational Group.
- Amur River Flotilla.
Each Front had ‘front units’ attached directly to the Front instead of an army . The forces totaled at least eighty divisions with 1.5 million men, over five thousand tanks (including 3,700 T-34s), over 28,000 artillery pieces and 4,300 aircraft (including 3,700 first line combat aircraft). Approximately one-third of its strength was in combat support and services. 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. It incorporated all the experience in maneuver warfare that the Soviets had acquired fighting the Germans.
The Kwantung Army of the Imperial Japanese Army under General Otsuzo Yamada, was the Japanese force opposing them. It was the major part of the Japanese occupation forces in Manchuria and Korea, and it consisted of two Area Armies and three independent armies:
- First Area Army (northeastern Manchukuo), including:
- 3rd Army.
- 5th Army.
- Third Area Army (southwestern Manchukuo), including:
- 30th Army.
- 44th Army.
- Independent units
- 4th Army (an independent field army responsible for northern Manchuria)
- 34th Army (an independent field army responsible for the areas between the Third and Seventeenth Area Armies)
- Kwangtung Defence Army (responsible for Mengjiang)
- Seventeenth Area Army (responsible for Korea; assigned to the Kwantung Army in the eleventh hour, to no avail)
Each Area Army (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 Chinese divisions. Korea, which would have been the next target for the Far Eastern Command, was garrisoned by the Seventeenth Area Army.
The Kwantung Army had over six hundred thousand 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, they only had 50 first line aircraft). The Imperial Japanese Navy contributed nothing to the defense of Manchuria, the occupation of which it had always opposed on strategic grounds.
On economic grounds, Manchuria was worth defending as it had the bulk of usable industry and raw materials outside of Japan and still under Japanese control in 1945. However, the Japanese forces were far below authorized strength, and most of their heavy military equipment and best military units had been transferred to the Pacific front over previous three years. As of 1945 the Japanese army in Manchuria contained a large number of raw recruits. The result was that the Kwantung Army had essentially been reduced to a light infantry counter-insurgency force with limited mobility and experience. In the event, Japanese forces were no match for the mechanized Red Army, with its vastly superior tanks, artillery, officers, and tactics.
Compounding the problem, the Japanese military made a number of mistakes. First, they assumed that any attack coming from the west would have to follow either the old railroad line to Hailar or head in to Solun from the eastern tip of Mongolia. The Soviets did attack from both those routes but their main attack went right through the supposedly impassible Greater Khingan range south of Solun and into the center of Manchuria. Second, the Japanese military intelligence failed to figure out how many troops the Soviets were actually transfering to the Siberian front. Their military intelligence predicted, based on erronious numbers, that an attack was most likely in October or in the spring of 1946.
New plans made by the Japanese in the summer of 1945 called for the borders to be held lightly and delaying actions fought while the main force would hold the south-eastern corner in strength (so defending Korea from attack). However the new plans were not implemented by the time the Soviets launched their attack.
The operation was carried out as a classic double pincer envelopment 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 Japanese were caught by complete surprise in unfortified positions. The Japanese commander was missing for the first eighteen hours of conflict, and communication was lost with forward units very early on. At the same time, airborne units were used to seize airfields and city centers in advance of the land forces; they were also used to ferry fuel to those units that had outrun their supply lines.
The fighting had lasted for only about a week when Japan's Emperor Hirohito read the Gyokuon-hōsō on August 15, and declared a ceasefire in the region the next day; Soviet forces were already penetrating deep into Manchukuo by that time. They continued their now largely unopposed advance into Manchukuo's territory, reaching Mukden, Changchun and Qiqihar by August 20. At the same time, Mengjiang was invaded by the Red Army and her Mongol allies, with Guihua soon taken. The so-called Emperor of Manchukuo (and the former Emperor of China), Puyi, was captured by the Soviet Red Army.
On August 18, several amphibious landings had been conducted ahead of the land advance: three in northern Korea, one in Sakhalin, and one in the Kuril Islands. This meant that, in Korea at least, there would already be Soviet soldiers waiting for the troops coming overland. In Sakhalin and the Kurils, it meant a sudden and undeniable establishment of Soviet sovereignty.
The land advance was stopped a good distance short of the Yalu River - the beginning of the Korean peninsula - when even aerial supply became impossible for the Soviet army. The forces already in Korea were able to establish a bit of control in the peninsula's north, but the ambition to take the entire peninsula was cut short when American forces landed at Incheon on September 8, six days after the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender.
Hokkaidō was never invaded as planned.
Importance and ConsequencesEdit
Operation August Storm, along with the two atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, combined to break the Japanese political deadlock and force Japan's surrender; they made it clear that Japan had no hope of holding out, even in the Home Islands.
Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's research has led him to conclude that the atomic bombings themselves were not the principal reason for capitulation. Instead, he contends, it was the swift and devastating Soviet victories on the mainland in the week following Stalin's August 8 declaration of war that forced the Japanese message of surrender on August 15 1945. Note that Hasegawa's position is unusual.
Soviet-occupied Manchuria would also provide the main base of operations for Mao Zedong's forces, who proved victorious in the following four years of civil war in China. In fact, military success in Manchuria prevented the Soviet Union from receiving bases in China—promised by the Western allies—because all land gained was turned over to the People's Republic of China after they gained power. Before leaving Manchuria, however, Soviet forces looted its considerable industrial plant and relocated it to war-torn Soviet territory.
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 the territories of Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands, and also to preeminent interests over Port Arthur and Dairen, with its strategic rail connections. The territories on the Asian mainland were transferred to the full control of the People's Republic of China in 1955, and the other possessions are still administered by the most powerful of the Soviet Union's successor states, Russia.
Though the north of the Korean peninsula was under Soviet control, the economic machine driving the invasion forces had given out before the entire peninsula could be seized. With the American landing at Incheon—some time before the Red Army could have remobilized and secured the entire nation—Korea was effectively divided. This was a precursor to the Korean War five years later.
- Operation Downfall
- Soviet-Japanese Border War (1939)
- Great Patriotic War
- Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945)
- Relevant military history
- Amur Military Flotilla
- Evacuation of Manchukuo
- Richard B. Frank, Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire (Penguin, 2001 ISBN 0-14-100146-1)
- Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan, Belknap Press. ISBN 0-674-01693-9.
- Template:Cite book
- US military analysis:
- Observations over Soviet Air Arm in August Storm Invasion:
- Soviet side information:
- Comment over Soviet Pacific Fleet during Russian-German Conflict and Japanese forces actions in this period
- Comment about Soviet Russian Pacific Fleet actions during August Storm Invasion
- General information over Soviet Invasion to Japanese land in Karafuto and Kuriles from August 1945, with some photos, only in Russian language.
- Soviet Battle maps:
- ↑ David M. Glantz, "The Soviet Invasion of Japan," Quarterly Journal of Military History, vol. 7, no. 3, Spring 1995, pp. 96-97, discusses new information indicating that Stalin was ready to land troops on Hokkaidō two months before the scheduled American landings in kyushu. (Information from The Smithsonian and the Enola Gay. The National Interest; 6/22/1995; Washburn, Wilcomb E. footnote 15)
- ↑ Frank, Downfall, p. 323–4, citing David Glantz, "Soviet Invasion of Japan".
- ↑ Hasegawa, Racing the Enemy, p. 298.