The Soviet invasion of Manchuria, formally known as the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation (Манчжурская стратегическая наступательная операция, lit. Manchzhurskaya Strategicheskaya Nastupatelnaya Operatsiya) or simply the Manchurian Operation (Маньчжурская операция), began on 9 August 1945 with the Soviet invasion of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. It was the last campaign of the Second World War, and the largest of the 1945 Soviet–Japanese War, which resumed hostilities between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Empire of Japan after almost six years of peace. Soviet gains on the continent were Manchukuo, Mengjiang (Inner Mongolia) and northern Korea. The Soviet entry into the war and the defeat of the Kwantung Army was a significant factor in the Japanese government's decision to surrender unconditionally, as it made apparent the Soviet Union had no intention of acting as a third party in negotiating an end to hostilities on conditional terms.
|Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation|
|Part of the Soviet–Japanese War of World War II|
Soviet gains in North East Asia, August 1945
|Commanders and leaders|
27,086 artillery pieces
1,152 rocket launchers
5,556 tanks and self-propelled guns
1,215 armored vehicles
|Casualties and losses|
300+ tanks destroyed
2,576–3,704 guns and mortars, and 2,129–2,300 other vehicles captured[c]
As agreed with the Allies at the Tehran Conference in November 1943 and the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the Soviet Union entered World War II's Pacific Theater within three months of the end of the war in Europe. The invasion began on 9 August 1945, exactly three months after the German surrender on May 8 (9 May, 0:43 Moscow time).
Although the commencement of the invasion fell between the American atomic bombing of Hiroshima, on 6 August, and only hours before the Nagasaki bombing on 9 August, the timing of the invasion had been planned well in advance and was determined by the timing of the agreements at Tehran and Yalta, the long-term buildup of Soviet forces in the Far East since Tehran, and the date of the German surrender some three months earlier; on August 3, Marshal Vasilevsky reported to Premier Joseph Stalin that, if necessary, he could attack on the morning of 5 August.
At 11pm Trans-Baikal (UTC+10) time on 8 August 1945, Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov informed Japanese ambassador Naotake Satō that the Soviet Union had declared war on Japan, and that from 9 August the Soviet government would consider itself to be at war with Japan. At one minute past midnight Trans-Baikal time on 9 August 1945, the Soviets commenced their invasion simultaneously on three fronts to the east, west and north of Manchuria:
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. It has also been referred to as the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation.
The Far East Command, under Marshal of the Soviet Union Aleksandr Vasilevsky, had a plan to conquer Manchuria that was simple but huge in scale, calling for a massive pincer movement over all of Manchuria. This was to be performed by the Transbaikal Front from the west and by the 1st Far Eastern Front from the east; the 2nd Far Eastern Front was to attack the center of the pocket from the north. 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.
The Transbaikal Front was to form the western half of the Soviet pincer movement, attacking across the Inner Mongolian desert and over the Greater Khingan mountains. These forces had as their objectives firstly to secure Mukden (present day Shenyang), then to meet troops of the 1st Far Eastern Front at the Changchun area in south central Manchuria, and in doing so finish the double envelopment.
Amassing over one thousand tanks and self-propelled guns, the 6th Guards Tank Army was to serve as an armored spearhead, leading the Front's advance and capturing objectives 350 km (220 mi) inside Manchuria by the fifth day of the invasion.
The 1st Far Eastern Front was to form the eastern half of the pincer movement. This attack involved the 1st Red Banner Army, the 5th Army and the 10th Mechanized Corps striking towards Mudanjiang (or Mutanchiang). Once that city was captured, this force was to advance towards the cities of Jilin (or Kirin), Changchun and Harbin. Its final objective was to link up with the forces of the Transbaikal Front at Changchun and Jilin thus closing the double envelopment movement.
As a secondary objective, the 1st Far Eastern Front was to prevent Japanese forces from escaping to Korea, and then invade the Korean Peninsula up to the 38th parallel, establishing in the process what later became North Korea. This secondary objective was to be carried out by the 25th Army. Meanwhile, the 35th Army was tasked with capturing the cities of Boli (or Poli), Linkou and Mishan.
The 2nd Far Eastern Front was deployed in a supporting attack role. Its objectives were the cities of Harbin and Tsitsihar, and to prevent an orderly withdrawal to the south by the Japanese forces.
Once troops from the 1st Far Eastern Front and Transbaikal Front captured the city of Changchun, the 2nd Far Eastern Front was to attack the Liaotung Peninsula and seize Port Arthur (present day Lüshun).
|1st Far East
|2nd Far East|
|Multiple rocket launchers||1,171||583||516||72|
|Tanks and self-propelled guns||5,556[e]||2,416||1,860||1,280|
Each front had "front units" attached directly to the front instead of an army. 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. The Soviet plan incorporated all the experience in maneuver warfare that they had acquired in fighting the Germans.
The Kwantung Army of the Imperial Japanese Army, under General Otozo Yamada, was the major part of the Japanese occupation forces in Manchuria and Korea, and consisted of two Area Armies and three independent armies:
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, the Japanese were assisted by the forces of their puppet states of Manchukuo and Mengjiang. Manchkuo had an army of about 170,000 to 220,000 troops, while Mengjiang had around 10,000, with the majority of these puppet troops being of dubious quality. Korea, the next target for the Soviet Far East Command, was garrisoned by the Japanese Seventeenth Area Army.
The Kwantung Army had over 700,000 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). However, the Kwantung Army was far below its authorized strength; most of its heavy equipment and all of its best military units had transferred to the Pacific Theater over the previous three years to contend with the advance of American forces. Some Kwantung Army units had also re-deployed south against the Nationalist Chinese in Operation Ichigo in 1944. By 1945 the Kwantung Army contained a large number of raw recruits and conscripts, with generally obsolete, light, or otherwise limited equipment. Almost all of the tanks were early 1930s models such as the Type 95 Ha-Go and Type 89 I-Go, the anti-tank units only possessed Type 1 37 mm anti-tank guns that were ineffective against Soviet armor, and the infantry had very few machine-guns and no anti-materiel rifles or submachine guns. As a result, the Japanese forces in Manchuria and Korea had essentially been reduced to a light-infantry counter-insurgency force with limited mobility and limited ability to fight a conventional land war against a coordinated enemy. In fact, only six of the Kwantung Army's divisions existed prior to January 1945. Accordingly, the Japanese regarded none of the Kwantung Army's units as combat ready, with some units being declared less than 15% ready.
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 Soviet invasion, the few remnants of its fleet were stationed and tasked for the defense of the Japanese home islands in the event of an invasion by American forces.
Compounding their problems, the Japanese military made many wrong assumptions and major mistakes, most significantly:
Due to the withdrawal of the Kwantung Army's elite forces for redeploying into the Pacific theatre, the Japanese made new operational plans in the summer of 1945 for the defence of Manchuria against a seemingly inevitable Soviet attack. These called for redeploying most 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).
Further, the Japanese had observed Soviet activity only on the Trans-Siberian railway and along the east Manchurian front, and accordingly prepared 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.
Although the Japanese redeployment in Manchukuo had started, it was not due for completion until September 1945, and hence the Kwantung Army were in the midst of redeploying 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 the entire Western European theatre of World War II. In the western pincer, the Soviet 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 engaged in a planning exercise at the time of the invasion, and were away from their forces for the first eighteen hours of conflict.
Japanese communication infrastructure was poor, and the Japanese lost communication with forward units very early on. However, the Kwantung Army had a formidable reputation as fierce and relentless fighters, and even though understrength 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 seized airfields and city centers in advance of the land forces, and aircraft ferried 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 time 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 15 August 1945. It made no direct reference to a surrender of Japan, instead stating that the government had been instructed to accept the terms of the Potsdam Declaration fully. This created confusion in the minds of many listeners who were not sure if Japan had surrendered. The poor audio quality of the radio broadcast, as well as the formal courtly language in which the speech was composed, worsened the confusion.
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 20 August. The cease-fire order was eventually communicated to the Kwantung Army, but not before the Soviets had made most of their territorial gains.
On the Soviet right flank, the Soviet-Mongolian Cavalry-Mechanized Group entered Inner Mongolia and quickly took Dolon Nur and Kalgan. The Emperor of Manchukuo (and former Emperor of China), Puyi, was captured by the Red Army.
On August 18, several Soviet amphibious landings were conducted ahead of the land advance: three landings in northern Korea, one landing in South Sakhalin, and one landing in the Kuril Islands. This meant that, in Korea at least, there were already Soviet soldiers waiting for the troops coming overland. In South Sakhalin and the Kurils, it meant a sudden establishment of Soviet sovereignty.
The land advance was stopped a good distance short of the Yalu River, the start of the Korean Peninsula, when even aerial supply became unavailable. The forces already in Korea were able to establish control in the peninsula's northern area. In accordance with arrangements made earlier with the American government to divide the Korean Peninsula, Soviet forces stopped at the 38th parallel, leaving the Japanese still in control of the southern part of the peninsula. Later, on 8 September 1945, American forces landed at Incheon.
The invasion of Manchuria was a factor that contributed to the surrender of Japan and the end of World War II. In addition, the Soviet occupation of Manchuria, along with the northern portions of the Korean Peninsula, allowed for those regions to be transferred by the Soviet Union into the control of local communists. The control of these regions by communist governments backed by Soviet authorities would be a factor in the rise of the Chinese Communists and shape the political conflict of the Korean War.
Several thousand Japanese who were sent as colonizers to Manchukuo and Inner Mongolia were left behind in China. The majority of Japanese left behind in China were women, and these Japanese women mostly married Chinese men and became known as "stranded war wives" (zanryu fujin). Because they had children fathered by Chinese men, the Japanese women were not allowed to bring their Chinese families back with them to Japan, so most of them stayed. Japanese law only allowed children fathered by Japanese fathers to become Japanese citizens.
According to Soviet historian Vyacheslav Zimonin, many Japanese settlers committed mass suicide as the Red Army approached. Mothers were forced by Japanese military to kill their own children before killing or being killed themselves. The Japanese army often took part in the killings of its civilians. The commander of the 5th Japanese Army, General Shimizu, commented that "each nation lives and dies by its own laws." Wounded Japanese soldiers who were incapable of moving on their own were often left to die as the army retreated.
British and US reports indicate that the Soviet troops that occupied Manchuria (about 700,000) looted and terrorized the people of Mukden, and were not discouraged by Soviet authorities from "three days of rape and pillage". In Harbin, Chinese posted slogans such as "Down with Red Imperialism!" Soviet forces ignored protests from Chinese Communist Party leaders on the mass rape and looting.
The Soviets laid claim to Japanese enterprises in the region and took valuable materials and industrial equipment.
Konstantin Asmolov of the Center for Korean Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences dismisses Western accounts of Soviet violence against civilians in the Far East as exaggeration and rumor and contends that accusations of mass crimes by the Red Army inappropriately extrapolate isolated incidents regarding the nearly 2,000,000 Soviet troops in the Far East into mass crimes. According to him, such accusations are refuted by the documents of the time, from which it is clear that such crimes were far less of a problem than in Germany. Asmolov further asserts that the Soviets prosecuted their perpetrators while prosecution of German and Japanese "rapists and looters" in WWII was virtually unknown.
Japanese armies were guilty of appalling excesses, both in China and elsewhere, and had the Russians dealt harshly with only Japanese nationals in Manchuria this would have appeared as just retribution. But the indiscriminate looting and raping inflicted upon the unoffending Chinese by the Russians naturally aroused the keenest indignation.
The 103rd Rifle Division was an infantry division of the Red Army, formed three times. It was first formed in 1939. It was converted into a motorized division and fought in the Yelnya Offensive. After being converted back to a rifle division it was destroyed in the Battle of Vyazma. The division reformed in early 1942 but was destroyed during the Second Battle of Kharkov. It was reformed a third time in the Far East in summer 1942 and participated in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria.111th Tank Division (Soviet Union)
The 111th Tank Division was a Tank division of the Soviet Union's Red Army and after 1946, the Soviet Army. The division was formed in the summer of 1941 in the Soviet Far East from the tank regiment of a motorized division that had been reorganized into a motor rifle division, and had thus lost its tank regiment. The division never fought in combat and was in reserve during the Soviet invasion of Manchuria. Postwar, the division continued its garrison duty in the Far East. The 111th was renumbered as the 16th Tank Division (Second Formation) in 1955.12th Rifle Division (Soviet Union)
The 12th Rifle Division was an infantry division of the Red Army, formed twice. The division's first formation fought in the Russian Civil War and Polish–Soviet War. It was disbanded in 1921. The division formed again in 1923 at Omsk and spent World War II in Siberia. It participated in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria and was converted into a motor rifle division in 1957.17th Army (Soviet Union)
The 17th Army of the Red Army was a Soviet field army. Formed in 1940, the army served in the Soviet Far East during World War II and fought in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in August 1945. It was disbanded postwar in mid-1946.1st Red Banner Army
The 1st Red Banner Army (Russian: 1-я Краснознамённая армия) was a Red Army field army of World War II that served in the Soviet Far East.25th Army (Soviet Union)
The 25th Army was a Red Army field army of World War II that served in the Russian Far East.
Formed in June 1941, the 25th Army did not see combat until the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in August 1945, when it advanced into northern Korea. After World War II it was responsible for the Soviet Civil Administration in the northern Korean Peninsula, and helped establish a Communist state in North Korea under the rule of Kim Il-Sung. The army remained in North Korea until it was withdrawn in 1948, and was stationed in Primorsky Krai until its 1957 disbandment.2nd Far Eastern Front
The 2nd Far Eastern Front (Russian: 2-й Дальневосточный фронт) was a Front—a formation equivalent to a Western Army Group—of the Soviet Army. It was formed just prior to the Soviet invasion of Manchuria and was active from August 5, 1945, until October 1, 1945.2nd Red Banner Army
The 2nd Red Banner Army (Russian: 2-я Краснознамённая армия, romanized: 2-ya Krasnoznamennaya armiya) was a Soviet field army of World War II that served as part of the Far Eastern Front.
The army was formed at Khabarovsk in the Soviet Far East in 1938 as the 2nd Army. After the Far Eastern Front was split in September that year it became the 2nd Independent Red Banner Army. When the front was reformed in June 1940, the army was redesignated as the 2nd Red Banner Army, stationed in the Blagoveshchensk area. It spent the bulk of World War II guarding the border in that area, sending formations to the Eastern Front while undergoing several reorganizations. In August 1945, the army fought in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, capturing the Japanese fortified regions of Aihun and Sunwu adjacent to its sector of the border, and advancing into Manchuria to Qiqihar. The army was disbanded after the war in late 1945.34th Rifle Division (Soviet Union)
The 34th Rifle Division (Russian: 34-я стрелковая дивизия) was an infantry division of the Red Army, formed twice. The division was first formed in 1923. It fought in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in August 1945. Postwar, it became the 11th Machine Gun Artillery Division. The 34th was reformed from the 216th Rifle Division in 1955 but disbanded in 1956.363rd Rifle Division (Soviet Union)
The 363rd Rifle Division formed in August 1941, as a standard Red Army rifle division, in the Sverdlovsk Oblast. It may be considered a "sister" division to the 361st Rifle Division. After forming, it was assigned to the 30th Army, and played a role in the near-encirclement of the German 9th Army around Rzhev in the winter counteroffensive of 1941-42. In recognition of its tactical successes it was reorganized as the 22nd Guards Rifle Division in March 1942. A new 363rd was formed in November 1944, in the far east of the USSR. It saw very limited action during the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in August 1945, primarily in a pursuit and exploitation role.36th Army (Soviet Union)
The 36th Army was a military formation of the Red Army and the Soviet Ground Forces, formed twice.
Formed in mid-1941, the army spent much of World War II as part of the Transbaikal Military District guarding the Manchurian and Mongolian-Soviet borders. During the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in August 1945, the army advanced over the Greater Khingan mountains and overran the Japanese Hailar fortified region in fierce fighting. It was disbanded after the end of the war in mid-1948.
The army was reformed in 1976 from the 86th Army Corps, which had been itself established in 1968 as a result of rising Sino-Soviet tensions. It garrisoned the Transbaikal until being reduced to the 55th Army Corps in 1989 as the Cold War ended.36th Rifle Division (Soviet Union)
The 36th Rifle Division was a division of the Red Army and then the Soviet Army. The division was formed in 1919 as the 36th Rifle Division and fought in the Russian Civil War and the Sino-Soviet conflict of 1929. In 1937 it became the 36th Motorized Division. The division fought in the Battles of Khalkhin Gol. It was converted into a motor rifle division in 1940 and fought in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in World War II. Postwar, it became a rifle division again before its disbandment in 1956. The division spent almost its entire service in the Soviet Far East.388th Rifle Division (Soviet Union)
The 388th Rifle Division was raised in 1941 as an infantry division of the Red Army, and served twice during the Great Patriotic War in that role. The division followed a very similar combat path to that of the 386th Rifle Division in both of its formations. It was first formed on August 19 in the Transcaucasus Military District. From December 7 - 13 it was shipped from the Black Sea ports to Sevastopol, which was under siege by the German 11th Army. The division arrived about a week before the second Axis assault on the fortress began and played an important role in the defense but suffered heavy casualties in the process. The battered unit remained in the fortress through the winter and spring until the final offensive, Operation Störfang, began on June 2, 1942. It continued the struggle, in much diminished strength, through to the final Axis victory and was finally stricken from the Red Army order of battle on August 5. In the buildup to the Soviet invasion of Manchuria a new 388th was formed in the Far Eastern Front in late 1944. The new division earned several distinctions as it fought its way into central Manchuria, including a battle honor, and continued to serve into the postwar era.392nd District Training Centre
The 392nd Pacific Red Banner Order of Kutuzov District Training Center for junior specialists (Motorized troops) is a training formation of the Russian Ground Forces. It is located in the Khabarovsk area.
It traces its history from the 39th Pacific Red Banner Order of Kutuzov Rifle Division (Russian: 39-я Тихоокеанская Краснознаменная стрелковая дивизия) was an infantry division of the Soviet Union's Red Army, formed in 1922, which fought in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria against the Japanese in 1945, and became a motor rifle division in 1957. The division became a training unit in 1962, and became the 392nd District Training Centre in 1987. It then became part of the Russian Ground Forces.40th Rifle Division
The 40th Rifle Division was an infantry division of the Red Army during World War II. It gained the honorific "named for Sergo Ordzhonikidze" on 14 April 1937. It fought in the engagements at Lake Khasan. On 22 June 1941, it was part of the 39th Rifle Corps, 25th Army, in the Far East Military District. The division fought in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in 1945. In 1957, it was converted into a motorized rifle division. From 1957 to 1989 it was based at Smolyaninovo-1, Primorskiy Krai. In 1989 it was transferred to the Pacific Fleet as a coastal defence division. It was disbanded in 1996.5th Rifle Corps
The 5th Rifle Corps was a corps of the Soviet Union's Red Army, formed twice.
Formed in 1922, the corps was based at Bobruisk in Belarus for most of the interwar period. It fought in the Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939, with elements participating in the Battle of Grodno before linking up with German troops. As a result, the corps was stationed on the border when the Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, began on 22 June 1941. The corps was destroyed in the first week of the war in the Battle of Białystok–Minsk and officially disbanded in early July.
The corps was formed for a second time in mid-1942 in the Soviet Far East, and spent most of World War II guarding the border around Bikin, sending several formations to the Eastern Front while undergoing several reorganizations. In August 1945, the corps fought in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria as a separate unit directly controlled by the 2nd Far Eastern Front, capturing the Japanese fortified region adjacent to its sector of the border against light resistance, and advancing into Manchuria. The corps was disbanded after the war in late 1945.Far East Command
The Far East Command was a military regional division of the British military, United States military and Soviet Armed Forces
British Far East Command
Far East Command (United States) was a United States military command from 1947 until 1957
Far East Command (Soviet Union), a command created in 1945 specifically for the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, should not to be confused with the Far Eastern Military DistrictJapanese Fifth Area Army
The Japanese Fifth Area Army (第5方面軍, Dai-go hōmen gun) was a field army of the Imperial Japanese Army during the closing stages of World War II. It saw combat against the Soviet Union in Japan’s northern territories.Transbaikal Front
The Transbaikal Front (Russian: Забайкальский фронт) was a front formed on September 15, 1941 on base of the Transbaikal Military District. Initially, it included the 17th and 36th armies, but in August 1942 the 12th Air Army was added to the front, and, finally, in June–July 1945 the 39th and the 53rd armies, the 6th Guards Tank Army, and the Soviet Mongolian Cavalry Mechanized Group under Issa Pliyev.
From September 1941 to January 1945, the Transbaikal Front sent to the Soviet fronts in Europe about 300,000 personnel, 1,440 tanks, and 2,230 guns.
On November 1, 1941 the Front included the 17th Army with the 36th and 57th Motor Rifle Divisions and the 61st Tank Division, and four air divisions (two fighter, one bomber, and the 84th Mixed Aviation Division), the 36th Army with the 94th Rifle Division, the 210th Rifle Division, the 51st Cavalry Division, and the 31st and 32nd Fortified Regions, the 111th Tank Division, two independent tank battalions, and the 89th Assault Aviation Division. Front troops included the 209th Rifle Division.On May 1, 1945 the Front included the 17th Army with the 85th Rifle Corps (36th and 57th Motor Rifle Divisions), the 284th Rifle Division, another rifle unit, significant numbers of artillery units, the 61st Tank Division, the 36th Army with the 86th Rifle Corps (94th and 298th Rifle Divisions), the 209th, 210th, 278th Rifle Divisions, and 31st Fortified Region, and the 2nd Rifle Corps (103rd, 275th, 292nd Rifle Divisions) plus at front level the 293rd Rifle Division, 59th Cavalry Division, and other units.
Second Sino-Japanese War