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Operation August Storm

"Soviet-Japanese War" redirects here. For similar conflicts, see Soviet-Japanese Border Wars. Operation August Storm Part of World War IIand Soviet-Japanese Border Wars
Soviet SU-76Massault guns entering Changchun, the capital of Manchukuo. Date August 9August 20, 1945Location Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Sakhalin, the Kuril Islands, and KoreaResult Decisive Soviet victory
Belligerents Soviet Union
Mongolia Japan
Mengjiang Commanders Aleksandr Vasilevsky
[1][2] Otozo Yamada # Strength Soviet Union
1,577,225 men,
26,137 artillery,
1,852 sup. artillery,
5,000 tanks,
5,368 aircraft
16,000 men Japan
1,217,000 men,
5,360 artillery,
1,155 tanks,
1,800 aircraft,
1,215 vehicles[1] Casualties and losses (Soviet estimate)
8,219 KIA,
22,264 WIA;
(Japanese estimate)
20,000+ KIA
50,000+ WIA (Soviet estimate)
83,737 KIA
640,276 POWs;
(Japanese estimate)
21,000 KIA
  Soviet-Japanese Border WarsLake KhasanKhalkhin Gol v • d • eEastern FrontBarbarossaBaltic SeaBlack SeaFinlandLeningrad and BalticsCrimea and CaucasusMoscow1st Rzhev-Vyazma2nd KharkovBlueStalingradVelikiye Luki2nd Rzhev-SychevkaKursk2nd SmolenskDnieper2nd KievBattle of NarvaKorsunHube's PocketBalticBagrationLvov-SandomierzLublin-BrestBalkans (Iassy-Kishinev)BudapestVistula-OderEast PrussiaEast PomeraniaSilesiaViennaBerlinPrague v • d • ePacific WarChinaPacific OceanSouth-East AsiaSouth West PacificJapan– Manchuria (1945)

Operation August Storm, or the Battle of Manchuria began on August 9, 1945, with the Soviet invasion of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo; the greater invasion would eventually include neighboring Mengjiang, as well as northern Korea, southern Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands. At the Yalta Conference, the Soviet Union had agreed to Allied pleas to terminate its neutrality pact with Japan and enter World War II's Pacific Theater within three months after the end of the war in Europe. It should not be confused with the Soviet-Japanese Border War that ended in Japan's defeat in 1939.

The invasion began at dawn on August 9, 1945, precisely three months after the German surrender on May 8 (May 9, 0:43 Moscow time). It began between the droppings of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9). However, it is clear that news of the atomic bombings played no role in the timing of the Soviet attack - although Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had not been told much detail of the Western Allies' atomic bomb program by Allied governments, he was nonetheless well aware of its existence and purpose by means of Soviet intelligence sources.

The Soviet Union formally declared war on the Empire of Japan on August 9, 1945[3] four months after the Soviets denounced the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact signed in 1941[4].


Naming conventions

Though the battle extended beyond the borders traditionally known as Manchuria—that is, the traditional lands of the Manchus—the coordinated and integrated invasions of Japan's northern territories is still collectively labeled as the Battle of Manchuria. Alternatively, it is also known by the Soviet codename for the invasion plans—Operation August Storm—or as the Harbin-Kirin Operation, Battle of Manchukuo or the Battle of Northern China.

Combatant forces


The Far Eastern Command, under Marshal of the Soviet Union Aleksandr Vasilevsky, had a plan for the conquest of Manchuria that was simple but huge in scale[1]. The plan called for a massive pincer movement over the entire Manchuria, this pincer movement would be performed by the Transbaikal Front from the west of Manchuria and by the 1st Far East Front from the east, meanwhile the 2nd Far East Front would attack the center of the pocket[2]. The only Soviet equivalent of a theater command that operated during the war (apart from the short-lived 1941 "Directions" in the west), it consisted of three Red Army fronts:

The Transbaikal Front would form the western half of the soviet pincer movement in Manchuria, attacking across the Inner Mongolian desert and over the Greater Khingan mountains[2], these forces would secure Mukden (present day Shenyang), meet troops of the 1st Far East Front at the Changchun area in south central Manchuria[1] and in doing so finish the double envelopment.[1]

Basic map showing Soviet invasion plan for Manchuria[2]

The 36th Army would also attack from the west and but would have as objective to meet forces of the 2nd Far East Front at Harbin and Tsitsihar.[2]

The 1st Far East Front would form the eastern half of the pincer movement attacking from east of Manchuria,[2]. It had as primary objective to link up with forces of the Transbaikal Front at Changchun thus closing the double envelopment movement and it had as secondary objective to prevent Japanese forces from escaping to Korea.[1]

The 2nd Far East Front was in a supporting attack role.[1] It had as objective the cities of Harbin and Tsitsihar[2] and had to prevent an orderly withdrawal to the south of the Japanese forces.[1]

Once troops from the 1st Far East Front and Transbaikal Front captured the city of Changchun they would strike together the Liaotung Peninsula and seize Port Arthur (present day Lüshun)[1].

Soviet Forces under the Far Eastern Command[1]Total Transbaikal Front 1st Far East Front 2nd Far East Front Men 1,577,725 654,040 586,589 337,096 Artillery pieces 27,086 9,668 11,430 5,988 Multiple rocket launchers 1,171 583 516 72 Tanks and self propelled guns 5,556 2,416 1,860 1,280 Aircraft 3,721 1,324 1,137 1,260
Soviet soldiers in Mongolia, before the invasion.

Each Front had "front units" attached directly to the Front instead of an army [5]. The forces totaled at least eighty divisions with 1.5 million men, over five thousand tanks and self propelled guns (including 3,700 T-34s), over 28,000 artillery pieces and 4,300 aircraft (including 3,700 first line combat aircraft). Approximately one-third of its strength was in combat support and services. Its naval forces contained 12 major surface combatants, 78 submarines, numerous amphibious craft, and the Amur river flotilla, consisting of gunboats and numerous small craft. It incorporated all the experience in maneuver warfare that the Soviets had acquired fighting the Germans.


The Kwantung Army of the Imperial Japanese Army under General Otsuzo Yamada, was the Japanese force opposing them. It was the major part of the Japanese occupation forces in Manchuria and Korea, and it consisted of two Area Armies and three independent armies [6]:

Each Area Army (the equivalent of a Western "army") had headquarters units and units attached directly to the Area Army, in addition to the field armies (the equivalent of a Western corps). In addition to the Japanese, there was the forty thousand strong Manchukuo Defense Force, composed of eight under-strength, poorly-equipped, poorly-trained Manchukuoan divisions. Korea, which would have been the next target for the Far Eastern Command, was garrisoned by the Seventeenth Area Army.

The Kwantung Army had over six hundred thousand men in twenty-five divisions (including two tank divisions) and six Independent Mixed Brigades. These contained over 1,215 armored vehicles (mostly armored cars and light tanks), 6,700 artillery pieces (mostly light), and 1,800 aircraft (mostly trainers and obsolete types; they only had 50 first line aircraft). The Imperial Japanese Navy contributed nothing to the defense of Manchuria, the occupation of which it had always opposed on strategic grounds.

On economic grounds, Manchuria was worth defending since it had the bulk of usable industry and raw materials outside of Japan and still under Japanese control in 1945. However, the Japanese forces were far below authorized strength, and most of their heavy military equipment and best military units had been transferred to the Pacific front over previous three years. As of 1945, the Japanese army in Manchuria contained a large number of raw recruits. The result was that the Kwantung Army had essentially been reduced to a light infantry counter-insurgency force with limited mobility and experience. In the event, Japanese forces were no match for the mechanized Red Army, with its vastly superior tanks, artillery, officers, and tactics.

Compounding the problem, the Japanese military made numerous mistakes. First, they assumed that any attack coming from the west would have to follow either the old railroad line to Hailar or head in to Solun from the eastern tip of Mongolia. The Soviets did attack from both those routes, but their main attack went through the supposedly impassable Greater Khingan range south of Solun and into the center of Manchuria. Second, the Japanese military intelligence failed to determine how many troops the Soviets were actually transferring to the Siberian front. Their military intelligence predicted, based on erroneous numbers, that an attack was most likely in October of 1945 or in the Spring of 1946.

New plans made by the Japanese in the summer of 1945 called for the borders to be held lightly and delaying actions fought while the main force would hold the southeastern corner in strength (so defending Korea from attack). However, the new plans were not implemented by the time the Soviets launched their attack.


Japanese soldier surrendering to Soviet soldiers. Defeated Japanese soldiers giving up their rifles.

The operation was carried out as a classic double pincer movement over an area the size of Western Europe. In the western pincer, the Red Army advanced over the deserts and mountains from Mongolia, far from their resupply railways. This confounded the Japanese military analysis of Soviet logistics, and the Japanese were caught by surprise in unfortified positions. The Japanese commander was missing for the first eighteen hours of conflict, and communication was lost with forward units very early on. At the same time, airborne units were used to seize airfields and city centers in advance of the land forces; they were also used to ferry fuel to those units that had outrun their supply lines.

The fighting had lasted for only about a week when Japan's Emperor Hirohito read the Gyokuon-hōsō on August 15 and declared a ceasefire in the region August 16; Soviet forces were already penetrating deep into Manchukuo by that time. They continued their largely unopposed advance into Manchukuo's territory, reaching Mukden, Changchun and Qiqihar by August 20. At the same time, Mengjiang was invaded by the Red Army and their Mongol allies, with Guihua quickly taken. The Emperor of Manchukuo (and the former Emperor of China), Puyi, was captured by the Soviet Red Army.

On August 18, several amphibious landings had been conducted ahead of the land advance: three in northern Korea, one in Sakhalin, and one in the Kuril Islands. This meant that, in Korea at least, there would already be Soviet soldiers waiting for the troops coming overland. In Sakhalin and the Kurils, it meant a sudden and undeniable establishment of Soviet sovereignty.

The land advance was stopped a good distance short of the Yalu River, the beginning of the Korean peninsula, when even the aerial supply lines became unavailable. The forces already in Korea were able to establish a bit of control in the peninsula's north, but the ambition to take the entire peninsula was cut short when American forces landed at Incheon on September 8, six days after the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender.

Hokkaidō was never invaded as planned.

Importance and consequences

Operation August Storm, along with the two atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, combined to break the Japanese political deadlock and force Japan's surrender; they made it clear that Japan had no hope of holding out, even in the Home Islands.

Japan's decision to surrender was made before the scale of the Soviet attack on Manchuria, Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands was known[7], but had the war continued, the Soviets had plans to invade Hokkaidō well before the other Allied invasion of Kyushu.[8][9]

Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's research has led him to conclude that the atomic bombings were not the principal reason for capitulation. Instead, he contends, it was the swift and devastating Soviet victories on the mainland in the week following Joseph Stalin's August 8 declaration of war that forced the Japanese message of surrender on August 15, 1945.[10] His claim, however, has been criticized because it ignores the fact that the Imperial Headquarters in Tokyo was unaware of how badly the fighting in Manchuria was going.[11]

Soviet-occupied Manchuria provided the main base of operations for Mao Zedong's forces, who proved victorious in the following four years of civil war in China. In fact, military success in Manchuria prevented the Soviet Union from receiving bases in China—promised by the Western Allies—because all land gained was turned over to the People's Republic of China after they gained power. Before leaving Manchuria, however, Soviet forces dismantled its considerable industrial plant and relocated it to war-torn Soviet territory.

As agreed at Yalta, the Soviet Union had intervened in the war with Japan within three months of the German surrender, and they were therefore entitled to the territories of Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands and also to preëminent interests over Port Arthur and Dairen, with its strategic rail connections. The territories on the Asian mainland were transferred to the full control of the People's Republic of China in 1955, and the other possessions are still administered by the most powerful of the Soviet Union's successor states, Russia.

Though the north of the Korean peninsula was under Soviet control, the economic machine driving the invasion forces had given out before the entire peninsula could be seized. With the American landing at Incheon—some time before the Red Army could have remobilized and secured the entire nation—Korea was effectively divided. This was a precursor to the Korean War five years later.

See also

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  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Glantz, David. "August Storm: The Soviet 1945 Strategic Offensive in Manchuria". Combat Studies Institute, Leavenworth Papers, February 1983, Fort Leavenworth Kansas
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Battlefield - Manchuria - The Forgotten Victory", Battlefield (documentary series), 2001, 98 minutes.
  3. ^ Soviet War Declaration On Japan August 8, 1945. (Avalon Project at Yale University)
  4. ^ Denunciation of the neutrality pact April 5, 1945. (Avalon Project at Yale University)
  5. ^ Leavenworth Papers No. 7 (August Storm: The Soviet 1945 Strategic Offensive in Manchuria)
  6. ^ Kwantung Army Order of Battle 30 July, 1945
  7. ^ Downfall, p. 289.
  8. ^ David M. Glantz, "The Soviet Invasion of Japan", Quarterly Journal of Military History, vol. 7, no. 3, Spring 1995, pp. 96–97, discusses new information indicating that Stalin was ready to land troops on Hokkaidō two months before the scheduled American landings in Kyushu. (Information from The Smithsonian and the Enola Gay. The National Interest; 6/22/1995; Washburn, Wilcomb E. footnote 15).
  9. ^ Frank, Downfall, p. 323–4, citing David Glantz, "Soviet Invasion of Japan".
  10. ^ Hasegawa, Racing the Enemy, p. 298.
  11. ^ Richard Frank. Downfall


  • Richard B. Frank, Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire (Penguin, 2001 ISBN 0-14-100146-1)
  • Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan, Belknap Press. ISBN 0-674-01693-9.
  • Glantz, David (2003). The Soviet Strategic Offensive in Manchuria, 1945 (Cass Series on Soviet (Russian) Military Experience, 7). Routledge. ISBN 0-7146-5279-2

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