Appendices - Hirohito's War
O. Japanese – Soviet Conflict in Siberia, Mongolia and Manchuria
Deployment of Soviet Forces: Unknown to imperial Japan’s generals in Tokyo the Russian Army had been preparing for the launch of an invasion of Manchuria since the agreements made at Yalta. Although one Japanese spy alone “counted 195 military trains, which he estimated were laden with 64,000 troops, 120 tanks, about 2,800 trucks, 500 fighter aircraft, and over 1,000 guns of various calibers,”21 Imperial Army HQ in Tokyo did not believe that the soviet Union was preparing for war.
The strategic plan was simple enough. Some 1.5 million troops were assembled on the northern borders of Manchuria. While a minor thrust would come from the north (2nd Far East Army Group), on the northeastern border adjacent to Vladivostok a major attack would be launched by the 1st Far East Army Group at the same time that Soviet-Mongolian forces from the Trans-Baikal Military District would race across the desert wastes of inner Mongolia to attack Japanese positions from the west. all three axes would converge on the central plains of Manchuria around the northern city of Harbin and then drive south toward Mukden.
The invasion was planned by a Stalin favorite, Marshal Aleksandr Vasilevsky, an officer who had come to the fore at the Battle of Moscow. By the summer of 1945 Vasilevsky had the advantage of a virtually unlimited supply of troops, which could be released from the west. Maintaining a cloak of secrecy, 800,000 troops were transferred by rail to the Soviet’s Far East Front. a further advantage was that war matériel was plentiful. With 692 tanks and self-propelled guns, 2,945 mortars and 432 rocket launchers the Soviet forces were heavily armed for a devastating attack. in support they could count on the use of almost 1,000 aircraft. In all areas of aircraft and heavy armament, the Kwantung Army in Manchuria was outnumbered by 5 to 1.
If the strategic plan was relatively straightforward, the logistical and tactical elements were not. Logistics had been carefully prepared for the task ahead with due regard to the extreme variables in weather and terrain expected along the lines of attack. Pontoon bridges, a-3 boats and self-crafted rafts were prepared for river crossings on the northeast front. roads through the swamps on the Russian side of the border were covertly constructed at night and camouflaged in daylight hours. in the northwest the problem of water in the Mongolian deserts was addressed by the creation of water supply units. The 90th Water supply company was charged with collection and distribution. To overcome barbed wire defenses, infantrymen, in spite of the searing summer heat of the desert, were charged with carrying overcoats and cloak tents that could be thrown over barbed wire defenses. Teams of sappers were sent in advance to prepare roads made of logs and brush to cut through the Grand Khingan Mountains. Tactical planning was meticulous.
Infantry assault groups were carefully organized with a range of equipment. ‘Blockading subgroups’ contained two sapper groups while ‘security subgroups’ comprised two rifle platoons, a T-34 tank and artillery. Each subgroup also carried high explosives for demolishing bunkers. The crushing success of the Soviet invasion of Manchuria was in large part the result of the detailed logistical planning by Marshal Vasilevsky and his senior commanders.