August 8th 1945 – USSR declares war on Japan
Today marks the 71st Anniversary of the beginning of the Russian-Japanese war. The invasion liberated Manchuria, and Mongolia from the control of Imperial Japan. It proved to be decisive in forcing Japan’s eventual unconditional surrender.
In 1941, Japan and the USSR signed a neutrality pact. This prevented conflict between the USSR and the areas of Japanese occupied mainland Asia until the spring of 1946. This enabled the USSR to concentrate fully on defeating the Nazis on their western border. However, after the surrender of German forces and the end of the war in Europe in May 1945, attention turned East to the effort against the Japanese.
Prior to this, Japan had focused mainly on fighting the USA, and didn’t expect an attack from the Soviet Union until at least the following year, if at all. However, on August 5th the USSR informed Japan that the neutrality pact between them was not going to be renewed. The USSR declared war on Japan at midnight on August 8th 1945. They launched their invasion into Manchuria and Mongolia at midnight on August 9th.
The Soviet forces invaded by crossing the Greater Khingan mountain range, previously thought to be impassable. More than 1 million Russian soldiers were sent into Japanese occupied Manchuria, facing a Japanese force of around 700,000 men. The attack took the Japanese by complete surprise. The Soviet assault was so strong, it caused Japanese defensive lines to completely crumble.
Outcome of the war
This forced Japanese Emporer HiroHito to beg his war cabinet to reconsider their previous refusal to surrender unconditionally. the Japanese foreign ministry expressed a desire to end the war on August 10th. However, fighting continued until 2nd September, when the offensive in Manchuria formally ended, bringing the war to a close. The campaign did not come without a significant cost. By the time the war was over, the USSR lost around 12,000 soldiers, with a further 24,500 wounded. It is estimated that between 21,000 and 60,000 Japanese soldiers were also killed.
Lawrence Toye, currently studying at Liden & Denz Moscow