Appendices - Hirohito's War
O. Japanese – Soviet Conflict in Siberia, Mongolia and Manchuria
Invasion of Northeast Manchuria from Far Eastern Siberia: Unlike the advance in the west, the action in the east was immediate. soldiers of the Soviet 5th Army crossed the border in darkness at 1 a.m on 9 August. at first it was unclear to the Japanese whether they were being attacked. Many believed that the artillery fire was merely night maneuvers to which the Japanese had become inured in previous months. at 3.00 a.m. General Shiina told his officers at the Yeho Officers club that “an element of their [soviet] infantry seems to have broken through the borders”23 and ordered that the border garrison resist until the main force could “destroy the enemy’s fighting power by putting up stubborn resistance in depth in our main defensive positions.”24
Still it was not clear whether it was only a minor incursion as some Japanese commanders believed. There was no clarification as to whether the Soviets were formally at war with Japan until a Tass agency report was received at 4 a.m. on 9 August, three hours after hostilities had been initiated. Tass relayed the information that the Soviet Union had declared war on Japan at 5 p.m. on the previous day, 8 August. It provoked a ‘Pearl Harbor Moment’ among the Japanese leadership, who realized that it had been duped by the Soviets who had led them to believe that they were helping Japan’s peace negotiations in good faith. as the Japanese had done at Pearl Harbor, the Soviets launched a surprise attack before an official declaration of war. Foreign Ministry official, Kase Toshikazu, complained that the Soviet invasion of Manchuria was “the most unkind cut of all . . . we had asked for an olive branch and received a dagger thrust instead.”25 Still the communiqué sent in Hirohito’s name was dismissive of the threat: “However the scale of these attacks is not large.”26
By evening of 9 August elements of the 5th Army had penetrated some 12–28 miles into Manchuria along a 30-mile front. Already Soviet armor was threatening to cut rail, road and telegraph connections to Mutanchiang. a three-day target had been achieved in one. Fleeing Japanese troops arrived at the Muleng River only to find that their colleagues had already blown the bridge and, unable to ford the channels, they were forced to abandon their trucks and heavy equipment and skedaddle downstream of the advancing Soviet forces.
The Soviet progress was so rapid that the Japanese advance garrisons were unable to offer any delay and prevented the 135th, 126th and 124th Divisions from establishing a solid second defensive line. By nightfall of 10 August the Soviets had advanced 55 miles and the following day they achieved their eight-day targets in three. Behind them Japanese fortified regions at Pamientung and Linkou were enveloped. By day eight they had succumbed along with the northeastern coastal town of Chongjin situated inside the north Korean border. The fortified garrison of Hutou, north of the confluence of the Muleng River and Ussuri River (tributaries that fed into the Amur River) was also invested. again the garrison was cut off, leaving just a few soldiers able to make their escape westward toward Mishan and Poli. The remainder settled in for a prolonged siege. as on the Western front, Marshal Kirill Meretskov’s forces penetrated through terrain that had been deemed impassable. This time it was the 1st red Banner Army, which penetrated the mountainous border region.