Appendices - Hirohito's War
O. Japanese – Soviet Conflict in Siberia, Mongolia and Manchuria
The Occupation of the Kuril Islands: The sparsely populated tendrils of the Kuril Islands chain stretch out in a gentle curve from northern Hokkaido to the tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula. They comprise 56 mostly uninhabited islands. Historically their greatest claim to fame in the Pacific War was their covert hosting of the Japanese carrier fleet at Hitokappu Bay off the island of Iturup before its deployment to attack Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Starting with US bombing attacks on Japanese garrisons on the main islands of Shumshu and Paramushiro on 10 July 1943, the Kurils were the subject of periodic US raids until the end of the war. However, at Yalta it was agreed that the Soviets would occupy the Kurils along with Sakhalin Island, which had been Japanese possessions since the Treaty of Portsmouth after the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–5.
Even as Hirohito was surrendering, Soviet troops were preparing to make amphibious landings on the Kuril Islands. At 2.35 a.m. on 18 August, as a Soviet amphibious force approached Shumshu Island, their batteries on cape Lopataka (Kamchatka Peninsula), just an 8-mile stretch across the sea, opened fire on the intended landing areas. Thus warned Japanese coastal batteries opened fire on the soviet invasion forces at 5.30 a.m.—sinking thirteen troop boats.
In spite of the chaotic amphibious action, a rare experience for the Red Army in World War II, Soviet troops established a beachhead and moved inland to attack Japan’s main naval base at Kataoka. After two days of heavy fighting, including tank battles, in which 614 Japanese troops lost their lives, at 5.00 p.m. on 19 August, Lieutenant- General Aleksei Gnechko met his counterpart Major-General Suzino Iwao and accepted his surrender. By 29 August, the central and northern Kurils had been occupied by forward detachments of the Kamchatka Defensive region. The day before, the Soviet Pacific Fleet, under Vice-admiral alexander Andreev, with the support of the 113rd Rifle Brigade, began the seizure of the southern half of the Kuril chain. The 13,500 strong Japanese garrison on Iturup surrendered without a fight. The Lesser Kurils, in the final action of the Pacific War, were occupied on 3–5 September.
The Soviet annexation of the Kurils ensured a long running dispute as to ownership of the islands that continues to this day. Although Japan renounced its claims to Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands in the Treaty of San Francisco , it maintains that the four islands immediately adjacent to Hokkaido were not included. As a result, there is as yet no formal peace treaty to the Pacific War between Russia and Japan.