In July 1937, Japan launched a full-scale war on the Asian continent with the goal of capturing all of China and neighboring countries, including colonies of Western European states. The greatest help in the war against aggressors was rendered to China by the Soviet Union. In the first half of 1938, the USSR sent 477 aircraft to China, 82 tank, 725 cannons and howitzers, 3825 machine guns, 700 vehicles, a large number of ammunition. The Japanese government believed that the resolution of the "Chinese incident", as Tokyo called its aggression in China, was delayed due to the assistance provided to the neighbor in the south of the Soviet Union.
The desire to isolate the USSR from China, to thwart its help to the Chinese people, pushed the Japanese military circles to a conscious aggravation of Japanese-Soviet relations. In 1938, the number of Japanese provocations on the Soviet-Manchurian border increased dramatically. So, for example, if in 1937, 69 was marked by border violations by the Japanese military, in 1938, there were twice as many — 124. Informing the USSR Ambassador to Japan about the seriousness of the evolving situation, Deputy Commissar of Foreign Affairs of the USSR Boris Stomonyakov wrote to 25 on June 1938 of the year that “the line of Japanese military in Manchuria, designed to provoke border conflicts, continues to be carried out continuously and with greater arrogance”.
In March 1938, the headquarters of the Kwantung Army stationed in Manchuria sent a document entitled “State Defense Policy” to the center, in which, in the event of war with the USSR, it was proposed by the forces of the Kwantung and Korean armies (the Japanese army stationed in Korea) to deliver the main blow to the Soviet Primorye the purpose of his capture and cut-off of the Soviet forces of the Far Eastern Special Army from the forces of the Trans-Baikal Military District Then with successive strikes to carry out an offensive on the Amur and Trans-Baikal axes. At the same time, an invasion of the Mongolian People’s Republic was planned.
However, the center believed that the solution of the “northern problem”, as the future war against the USSR was called, should only come with the support of other powers, when Moscow would be involved in the war in the European part of the country.
At the same time, fearing exacerbation of relations with the Western powers because of China, the Japanese government took measures demonstrating Japan’s desire to direct its military efforts primarily against the Soviet Union as the “main enemy”. Following this policy in the summer of 1938, an attempt was made to extend to the scale of a serious armed conflict one of the border incidents in the area of Lake Hassan in Primorye.
However, the objectives of the conflict were not limited to the demonstration of Japanese intentions before the Western powers. The compilers of the Japanese "Stories wars in the Pacific ”note:“ Since 1938, Japanese-Soviet relations have steadily deteriorated. The fact is that from that time Soviet assistance to China increased ... It irritated Japan ... The army headquarters formed the idea to test the Soviet military power, find out the USSR’s readiness for war with Japan ... It was decided to test this by attacking Soviet troops by mobilizing the 19 division. The Korean army, which was directly subordinate to the imperial rate. The plan was to deliver a strong blow in order to prevent a possible Soviet action against Japan (on the side of China). ”
TRUTH AND Fiction
It can be considered that one of the main goals of the Hasan events was to “frighten” the Soviet leadership with the might of the Japanese army, to force it to reconsider its policy towards China, and not to allow the USSR to become involved in the Sino-Chinese war.
The timing was dictated by the situation on the Sino-Japanese front. In preparation for the Wuhan operation, it was important for the Japanese to make sure that the USSR did not intervene. The head of the operational department of the imperial headquarters, Colonel Inada, spoke about the Hasan events: “Even if an entire division is defeated, it is necessary to ascertain the readiness of the Soviets to oppose Japan.”
Despite these testimonies, there are quite a few in Japan who are trying to justify the Japanese army’s actions in the summer of 1938, placing responsibility for the start of the conflict on the Soviet Union. To "justify" their position, they invent all sorts of versions. According to one of them, the Khasan events were planned and provoked by Moscow. Allegedly, in the conditions of the “anti-Stalinist sentiment in the USSR” intensified at the end of the 30-ies, the Kremlin set out to distract people from internal problems, creating a situation of military danger in the country.
The authors of this version write: “At that time, the Japanese army intercepted Soviet coded telegrams and partially deciphered them. The General Staff has shown particular interest in two of them. In one, it was reported that less than half of the stockpiled ammunition remained in the border detachments of ammunition, and a request was made to replenish the necessary ammunition. In the second, it was ordered to immediately take the height of Chokokho (Zaozernaya). These were telegrams provoking the Japanese army in the hope that they would be decoded. The Japanese army succumbed to this provocation. She found it necessary, ahead of the Soviet troops, to occupy the height of Chokoho. Moreover, the Soviet border guards did not have ammunition. ”
According to another version, the conflict was organized by the Soviet side in order to provide indirect assistance to China in its resistance to Japanese aggression.
At a time when the Japanese government stubbornly rejected Moscow’s proposals to conclude a non-aggression pact, and the danger of a Soviet-Japanese armed conflict became a constant factor, the Soviet leadership was forced to take care to strengthen its defenses in the eastern regions of its country. The number of troops increased, in the Far East appeared tank and aviation parts, the Pacific Fleet strengthened. These measures were defensive in nature and did not exceed the level necessary to protect the borders. "Since the occupation of Manchuria was undertaken on the basis of the strategy of war against the USSR, the need to increase troops arose not for Japan, but, on the contrary, for the Soviet Union," pointed out a prominent Japanese military historian Akira Fujiwara.
Along with the strengthening of the grouping of the Soviet troops were equipped in engineering terms previously not fortified sections of the Soviet-Manchurian border. Zaozernaya and Bezymyannaya heights, located to the west of Lake Hassan, were one of such border areas.
EXPLORATION BY FIGHT
According to Japanese sources, 6 July 1938, at the top of Zaozernaya height, several Soviet equestrian sentries were seen, and then soldiers appeared and began to open the trenches. This was reported to the commander of the Japanese Korean Army, General Kuniaki Koiso. The commander did not at first attach special significance to the message, but he still sent a report to Tokyo.
In contrast to Koiso, in the operational management of the general staff showed considerable interest in the message. The General Staff officers had previously thought about how to test the strength of the Special Red Banner Far Eastern Army, especially after it was transformed into the Far Eastern Red Banner Front on July 1. It was also important for the Japanese command to verify information about the state of the Soviet forces in Primorye obtained from the defected 1938 on June 13 of the year to the Japanese by the head of the NKVD department for the Far Eastern region of 1938 rank commissar Heinrich Lyushkov. An idea was born in the General Staff: “Having attacked Soviet soldiers at the height of Chokoho, find out how the Soviet Union will react to it. Taking the opportunity to feel the power of the Soviets in the area. ”
When proposing to conduct reconnaissance in force on this particular section of the border, the officers of the General Staff took into account that it would be very difficult for the Soviet command to deploy troops stationed in 150 – 200 km from Zaozernaya height. It was taken into account that there was only one dirt road that led to the border hills. This hampered the rapid concentration of Soviet heavy equipment and artillery in the area. On the other hand, the Manchu-Korean road was separated from the Zaozernaya height only by 6 km. Senior Chief Officer Lt. Col. Toshio Nishimura testified after the war that these factors made it possible to count on the success of the Japanese strike.
Under the conditions of a large-scale war in China, the Japanese central command and political leadership of the country could not take the risk of starting a war with the USSR. In the summer of 1938, two thirds of Japan’s ground forces, namely the 23 divisions, were on the Chinese front. Against the USSR, there were nine divisions in Manchuria and Korea. Only two divisions remained in the metropolis. At the same time, the second department of the General Staff (intelligence) believed that in the event of war, the USSR would be able to deploy in the Far East from 31 to 58 rifle divisions, which greatly exceeded the Japanese capabilities.
And yet, in Tokyo, they decided to take a risk and, by carrying out a limited-scale operation, find out whether the USSR would strike a blow to the rear of the Japanese troops when they were occupied with mastering Wuhan. The idea of the operational management of the General Staff envisaged: “To conduct battles, but without expanding beyond the need of the scale of military operations. Avoid the use of aviation. Allocate one division for the operation from the Korean Army. Capturing the heights, no further action is taken. "
July 14 Chargé d'Affaires of Japan to the USSR Haruhiko Nishi, at the direction of Tokyo, demanded the immediate withdrawal of Soviet troops from the heights of Zaozernaya and Nameyannaya. On July 20, the same demand was put forward before the USSR Commissar for Foreign Affairs MM. Litvinov urgently returned to Moscow from a trip to Northern Europe, the Japanese ambassador to the USSR Mamoru Shigemitsu. He stressed that Japan would defend the Manchurian border, without stopping to use military force. The Soviet People's Commissar strongly rejected the demand of the Japanese government and indicated that the Soviet Union "would not allow encroachment on its territory." The Japanese ambassador was presented with a map attached to the Russian-Chinese Hunchun Treaty of 1886, according to which the border was determined on the heights of heights Zaozernaya and Nameyannaya. However, the ambassador continued to repeat the demands of his government.
Frustrated in battles with the Japanese Soviet tank. Photo from the book Choco-ho Kunihiko Akashizava. Xnumx
On July 20, Minister of Defense Seyciro Itagaki and Chief of the General Staff of Nomiya Kanyin requested the emperor's audience in order to obtain his approval as commander-in-chief for the use of troops and mobilization for the operation in the area of Lake Hassan. In the face of the war in China, in which the Japanese generals promised to win in three months, the emperor was already more cautious about proposals for the use of troops. During the audience, the emperor with annoyance threw to the Minister of War: "Henceforth, not a single soldier would take a step without my instruction." This, however, did not mean that the emperor was opposed to a limited operation. He only sought to keep the situation under control.
After an unsuccessful audience, the question of the start of hostilities remained open. In this situation, the headquarters instructed Colonel Inada to send a telegram to the Korean army with the following content: “For the time being, it is not necessary to count on the directive on the rate of commencing the use of troops ... Act as appropriate.” Japanese historians tend to believe that this encryption was deliberately composed so ambiguously. In fact, it enabled the commanders on the ground to act independently, which eventually happened.
The commander of the 19 Division, Lieutenant-General Kamedo Zuetaka, on July 21 pushed the 75 regiment, which had been prepared for the offensive, to the heights of Zaozernaya and Imenyannaya. Since the order from the center was delayed, he decided to speed things up. July 29, taking advantage of the fog, the general gave the order to capture the Nameless. Having overcome the resistance of the border detachment in 11 people, the Japanese seized the height. Although the support company from the 40 Infantry Division that had come to the rescue successfully counterattacked the enemy, clashes continued.
On July 30, the General Staff was given permission to the command of the Korean army to “use force in case of unlawful violation of the border.” Justifying his actions, Suetak 31 July reported to the center that the Soviet troops had once again violated the border and prepared for a preemptive strike. In Tokyo, the unauthorized actions of the 19 division did not condemn, although they warned against further expansion of the conflict.
As a result of the attempted offensive, the battalions of the 75 Infantry Regiment of the 19 Division, with the support of artillery, penetrated into the Soviet territory on 4 km and reached the settlements of Pakshekori and Novosilki, located north-east of Lake Hassan. This was already undisguised aggression, the seizure of the territory of a neighboring state.
Reporting on the actions of the 19 Division to the emperor, the Deputy Chief of General Staff Hayao Tada assured the monarch that the Japanese army would not further develop the offensive. In response, the emperor "expressed satisfaction."
The actions of the Japanese army violated the territorial integrity of the USSR. 1 August Stalin personally ordered the commander of the Far Eastern Front, Marshal Blucher, to dislodge the Japanese from the occupied territory as soon as possible. He said in a telephone conversation to the marshal: “Tell me, comrade Blucher, honestly, do you have a desire to really fight with the Japanese? If you do not have such a desire, tell directly, as befits a communist, and if there is a desire, I would think that you should go to the place immediately ... Comrade Blucher must show that he remained Blucher of the Perekop period ... "
Stalin's irritation can be understood - in the eyes of the whole world the Japanese committed a frank armed provocation against the USSR, invaded the country. However, these accusations against Blucher cannot be considered fully justified. Firstly, without an order from the center, Blucher could not use strategic forces, which was fraught with the danger of the start of war. From intelligence reports, he was aware that not only the Korean, but also the Kwantung Army was brought to readiness. Secondly, due to the peculiarities of the terrain, the commander of the Far Eastern Front could not quickly concentrate large forces on the narrow section between the border and Lake Hassan.
3 August, a resident of Soviet intelligence in Japan, Richard Sorge, reported to Moscow: “The Japanese General Staff is interested in a war with the USSR not now, but later. Active actions taken at the border by the Japanese to show the Soviet Union that Japan is still able to show its power. ” On the same day after the meeting of the Central Committee of the CPSU (b), Commissar of Defense, Klim Voroshilov sent a directive to the command of the Far Eastern Front, in which he demanded to concentrate in the conflict area the 39 Infantry Corps consisting of three rifle divisions and one mechanized brigade. The task was to restore the state border. On August 4, the People's Commissar issued an order to alert all troops of the Far Eastern Front and the Trans-Baikal Military District.
For two days in the area of hostilities, it was possible to concentrate 15 thousand people, 1014 machine guns, 237 guns, 285 tanks. In total, the 39 Infantry Corps numbered up to 32 thousand people, 609 guns and 345 tanks. To support the actions of ground forces, 250 aircraft were allocated (180 bombers and 70 fighters).
Receiving information about the concentration of such a strong grouping of Soviet troops, the Japanese government showed serious concern. On August 4, Ambassador Shigemitsu conveyed to Tokyo a proposal to Litvinov: to stop the hostilities on both sides and immediately begin to resolve the conflict. In response, the People's Commissar confirmed the demand of the USSR government to immediately withdraw Japanese troops from the border line. However, in Tokyo, they agreed to retreat, leaving behind the heights of Zaozernaya and Bezymyannaya, on which fortifications were hastily erected. It was clear that the Japanese were eager to begin negotiations in order to have time to gain a foothold in the captured heights.
A CRY FOR HELP
Fulfilling the directive of Moscow, commander Grigory Stern, appointed commander of the 39 Corps in August (he soon replaced the discharged Blücher as commander of the Far Eastern Front) ordered to transfer the 6 of August to a general offensive and simultaneously and with simultaneous strikes from the north and south to clamp and destroy enemy troops in the area between Tumen-Ula River and Lake Hassan. Started fierce fighting continued until August 9. For four days, Japanese troops were driven out of the occupied territory. On August 10, the Chief of Staff of the 19 Division, Colonel Yoshiaki Nakamura, was forced to telegraph to the Chief of Staff of the Korean Army: “Every day the combat capability of the division is reduced. The enemy suffered great damage. He uses all new methods of warfare, intensifies shelling. If this continues in the future, there is a danger that fighting will escalate into even fiercer battles. Within one or three days, it is necessary to decide on the further actions of the division ... Until now, the Japanese troops have already demonstrated their power to the enemy, and therefore, it is still possible that measures should be taken to resolve the conflict by diplomatic means. ” As Japanese historians point out, this was a "cry for help."
On the same day, on the orders of Tokyo, Ambassador Shigemitsu hastily arrived at the People's Commissariat of Foreign Affairs and again suggested that, ceasing hostilities, to begin negotiations. The Soviet government agreed, and at noon on August 11 hostilities ceased. By this time, all the frontier heights captured by the Japanese (Zaozernaya, Bezymyannaya, Praying, Machine-gun) were freed and occupied by Soviet troops.
By the number of killed and wounded, Hasan events reach the level of local war. According to a TASS report from 15 August 1938, the Japanese lost 600 people killed and 2500 wounded. The Japanese “Official History of the War in Great East Asia” gives slightly different numbers: 1440 dead and wounded, or 22,1% of the number of 6914 people directly involved in the battles. The losses in the 75 Infantry Regiment — 708 killed and wounded, which accounted for 51,2% of the composition of the regiment — were especially great. As Japanese authors point out, “usually with a loss in 30%, the military unit loses its combat capability, and 50% loss is a rout.”
Great were the losses of the Soviet troops. According to a study conducted in 90-s by Russian historians based on archival documents, parts of the Far Eastern Front have lost 4071 people (792 killed).
Many Japanese military historians, in their writings as a whole, give an objective assessment of the Hasan armed conflict. Thus, Professor Fujiwara, mentioned above, concludes: “The conflict at Chookho (Zaozernaya) began only as one of the border incidents. However, he was deliberately expanded to the imperial stakes. Of course, in the conditions of the growing Sino-Japanese war, the central command of the land forces could not have the intention to launch a big war with the USSR. However, before the start of the operation to capture Wuhan, it was decided to use the 19 division to provoke the Soviet command in order to find out if the USSR had any intention to intervene in the war in China ... At the cost of huge losses, it was still possible to achieve the goal. As shown by reconnaissance in force, the Soviet government had no plans to enter the Sino-Japanese war. ”
In conclusion, we should note that the Hasansky lesson, like the defeat of the Japanese after a year at Khalkhin-Gol, was seriously taken into account by the Japanese high command when deciding on the participation of Japan in the war with the Soviet Union on the side of Nazi Germany.