Battle of Halhin Gol

From Academic Kids

The Battle of Halhin Gol, sometimes spelled Khalkhin Gol or Khalkin Gol and alternately known as the Nomonhan Incident (ノモンハン事件) in Japan, was the decisive engagement of the undeclared Soviet-Japanese Border War (1939), or Japanese-Soviet War. It should not be confused with the conflict in 1945 when the USSR declared war in support of the other Allies of World War II and launched Operation August Storm.



After the occupation of Manchukuo and Korea, Japan turned its military interests to Soviet territories. The first major Soviet-Japanese border incident (Battle of Lake Khasan) happened in 1938 in Primorye.

In 1939, Manchuria was a client state of Japan, known as Manchukuo. The Japanese maintained that the border between Manchukuo and Mongolia was the Halha River (also known in Russian as the Halhin Gol, or the Khalkhin Gol), while the Mongolians and their Russian allies maintained that it ran some 16 kilometres (10 miles) east of the river, just east of Nomonhan village.


The incident began on May 11 1939 when a Mongolian cavalry unit of some 70-90 men entered the disputed area in search of grazing for their horses, and encountered Manchukuoan cavalry who drove them out of the disputed territory. Two days later the Mongolian force returned and the Manchukoans were unable to evict them.

At this point the Japanese Guandong Army became involved -- a reconnaissance unit under Lt. Col. Yaozo Azuma was sent to engage the Mongolians on 14 May, but they retreated west of the river with few losses. Joseph Stalin ordered STAVKA, the Red Army's high command, to develop a plan for a counterstrike against the Japanese. To lead the attack, Georgy Zhukov, a young officer of promise, was chosen.

The Mongolians and Soviets continued to build up forces in the area, and Azuma's Force returned a week later. This time the Japanese forces were surrounded by superior numbers of Soviet and Mongolian infantry and tanks, and over 28-29 May the Azuma force was destroyed, suffering 8 officers and 97 men killed and one officer and 33 men wounded, for a total of 63% casualties. The Guangdong Army decided that the area was not worth the expenditure of any more Japanese blood.

Throughout June, however, there were continuing 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 local Guandong Army commander, Lt. Gen. Michitaro Komatsubara, was given permission to "expel the invaders". The Japanese operation started on 1 July and was initially successful in crossing the Halha river. However, by the evening of 3 July the attack stalled and the Soviet forces, led by Zhukov, threw the Japanese back over the river. The front then stabilized with only minor actions for the summer.

The Battle

Finally, in mid-August, Zhukov decided it was time to break the stalemate. He deployed approximately 50,000 Russian and Mongolian troops of the 57th Special Corps to defend the east bank of the Halhin Gol River, then crossed the river on August 20 to attack the elite Japanese with three infantry divisions (70,000 men in all), massed artillery, a tank brigade, and the best planes of the Red Air Force.

Japanese doctrine at the time was for front-line troops to hold their positions with high rates of fire, and await relief actions from the rear. While very successful against the lightly armed Chinese forces, the Soviet tanks turned the tables on them entirely, and the front lines were cut off. Two complete divisions were surrounded while the other forces were scattered. On August 27, the Japanese attempted to break out of the encirclement, but failed. When the surrounded forces refused to surrender, Zhukov wiped them out with artillery and air attacks. The battle ended August 31 with the complete destruction of the Japanese forces.


Following the battle, the Red Army attacked what remained of the Japanese forces and drove them back into Manchukuo. On September 16, the Japanese asked for a cease-fire and later signed a treaty in which they agreed to abide by the existing border.

Of the 30,000 troops on the Japanese side, 8440 were killed and 8766 wounded. The Red Army committed 57,000 infantry, 498 tanks, and 346 armoured cars to the battle, and claimed total losses (killed and wounded) of 9284 men. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, new documents about the battle changed the numbers considerably. The actual number of losses in the battle was 23,926, of whom 6,831 killed, 1,143 reported missing and 15,952 wounded. While the Red Army did win the battle, it was not a one sided battle as previously believed.

Influence on World War II

Although this engagement is little-known in the West, it was to have profound implications for the future conduct of the World War II.

The incident convinced the Imperial General Staff in Tokyo that the policy of the "strike north" faction, which wanted to seize Siberia as far as Lake Baikal, for its resources, was untenable, as the Red Army was too strong. Instead the "strike south" faction, which wanted to seize the resources of South East Asia, especially the oil of the Dutch East Indies, gained the ascendancy and this policy was put into effect, leading directly to the attack on Pearl Harbor two and a half years later in December 1941.

It was the first victory for the famed Soviet general, Georgy Zhukov. The battle experience gained by the Siberian army, was put to good use when in December 1941 outside Moscow, under the command of Zhukov, Siberian divisions spearheaded the first successful Soviet counter-offensive against the German invasion of 1941. The decision to move the divisions from Siberia was aided by the Soviet's masterspy Richard Sorge who was able to alert the Soviet government that the Japanese were looking south and were unlikely to launch another attack against Siberia in the immediate future.

In addition, as a result of this battle, Japan was reluctant to attack the Soviet Union directly through the course of the war, preferring eventually to fight the United States. As neither side of this battle were open about their opinions to its result, Adolf Hitler had no idea when he openly declared war on the United States. He had hoped of gaining Japanese support against the Soviet Union with this act, unaware that his ally was unwilling to do so because of the previous encounter.

External links

ja:ノモンハン事件 zh:諾門罕戰役


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