Appendices - Hirohito's War
O. Japanese – Soviet Conflict in Siberia, Mongolia and Manchuria
Soviet Invasion of Northwest Manchuria from Mongolia: On the western borders of Manchuria with Mongolia, the Soviet invasion began with a charge over the barren wastes and gentle hills of the Inner Mongolian plains, toward the Grand Khinghan Mountains 190 miles away, where the Japanese 107th Infantry were garrisoned within elaborate fortifications. as they set off, General Ivan Lyudnikov noted,
“soldiers, tanks and guns passed through the hills hidden in the thick and high grass, again appearing on the slopes. And then the sun rose. Figures of people, military machines, and the contours of the hills opened before us as if on morning maneuvers.”22
On the first day Soviet forces led by the 205th Tank Brigade of the 36th Army under the command of Lieutenant-General A.A. Luchinsky, brushed aside the limited opposition of small Japanese garrisons placed in isolated desert towns. The first sixty-five miles were covered in a single day. The only obstacles were the swamps along the Argun River and the sandy areas toward Khalkin Gol, the scene of Zhukov’s crushing victory against the Japanese at the Battle of Nomonhan . Luchinsky’s tracked vehicles sped so far ahead of the advancing forces—almost 20 miles at one point—that he was forced to order them to slow down. While the 94th Rifle Corps took the northern route to the Khinghan Mountains, the main body of the 39th Army headed toward the southern reaches.
There were two viable passes through the mountains and the Japanese focused their defenses on these points. When Luchinsky’s forces arrived on 12 August however, the Soviets did not use the Japanese playbook. Instead they forced their way through the mountains, which the Japanese commanders had deemed impassable. The double envelopment left the Japanese 107th Infantry pincered, neither able to advance or retreat. The largest Japanese border force at Qiqihar, where the Japanese Army had developed Unit 516, a chemical warfare defense unit, was duly battered into submission. By 14 August, both Solun and and Wangyeiao, the pillars of the Japanese Fortified region had been captured. a Soviet force, which had underestimated the 50 percent increase in fuel needed to traverse the mountainous passes that their sappers carved through the mountains, thankfully requisitioned the fuel depot at Solun.