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Nomonhan, 1939: The Red Army's Victory That Shaped World War II

Nomonhan, 1939: The Red Army's Victory That Shaped World War II [Kindle Edition]

Stuart D. Goldman
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Product Description


"For anyone interested in the military history of the last century, in general, or the background to the beginning of World War II, in particular, Goldman has produced a work which should be required reading. Based on a wide range of English, Russian and Japanese language primary and secondary source materials, the book is a very interesting and thought-provoking analysis of, as Goldman puts it, 'the most important World War II battle most people have never heard of' (p. 5). Rightly or wrongly, most people in the West, if they know the battle at all, identify it through the Russian or Mongolian version of its name--Khalkin Gol--rather than the Japanese version used in the title of the work--Nomonhan. Divided into seven chapters--and a number of sub-sections within each chapter--Goldman's book not only demonstrates his mastery of the material to hand, but also great thought in what is an admirably balanced and even-handed account of a much too-long neglected battle in the history of events leading to the outbreak of World War II in 1939.""-- Europe-Asia Studies"

Product Description

This is the story of a little-known Soviet-Japanese conflict that influenced the outbreak and shaped the course of the Second World War. In the summers of 1937, 1938, and 1939, Japan and the Soviet Union fought a series of border conflicts. The first was on the Amur River days before the outbreak of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War. In 1938, division-strength units fought a bloody 2-week battle at Changkufeng near the Korea-Manchuria-Soviet border. The Nomonhan conflict (May-September 1939) on the Manchurian-Mongolian frontier, was a small undeclared war, with over 100,000 troops, 500 tanks and aircraft, and 30,000-50,000 killed and wounded. In the climactic battle, August 20-31, the Japanese were annihilated. This coincided precisely with the conclusion of the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact (August 23, 1939) – the green light to Hitler's invasion of Poland and the outbreak of WW II one week later. These events are connected. This book relates these developments and weaves them together.

From May through July 1939, the conflict was provoked and escalated by the Japanese, whose assaults were repulsed by the Red Army. In August, Stalin unleashed a simultaneous military and diplomatic counter strike. Zhukov, the Soviet commander, launched an offensive that crushed the Japanese. At the same time, Stalin concluded an alliance with Hitler, Japan's nominal ally, leaving Tokyo diplomatically isolated and militarily humiliated.

The fact that these events coincided was no “coincidence.” Europe was sliding toward war as Hitler prepared to attack Poland. Stalin sought to avoid a two-front war against Germany and Japan. His ideal outcome would be for the fascist/militarist capitalists (Germany, Italy, and Japan) to fight the bourgeois/democratic capitalists (Britain, France, and perhaps the United States), leaving the Soviet Union on the sidelines while the capitalists exhausted themselves. The Nazi-Soviet Pact pitted Germany against Britain and France and allowed Stalin to deal decisively with an isolated Japan, which he did at Nomonhan.

Zhukov won his spurs at Nomonhan and won Stalin’s confidence to entrust him with the high command in 1941, when he halted the Germans at the gates of Moscow with reinforcements from the Soviet Far East. The Far Eastern reserves were deployed westward in the autumn of 1941 when Moscow learned that Japan would not attack the Soviet Far East, because it decided to expand southward to seize the oil-rich Dutch East Indies, which led them to attack Pearl Harbor.

The notorious Japanese officer, TSUJI Masanobu, who played a central role at Nomonhan, was an important figure in the decision to attack Pearl Harbor. In 1941, Col. Tsuji was a staff officer at Imperial General HQ. Because of the U.S. oil embargo on Japan, the Imperial Navy wanted to seize the Dutch East Indies. Only the U.S. Pacific Fleet stood in the way. Some army leaders, however, wanted to attack the U.S.S.R., avenging the defeat at Nomonhan while the Red Army was being smashed by the German blitzkreig. Tsuji, an influencial leader, backed the Navy position that led to Pearl Harbor. According to senior Japanese officials, Tsuji was the most influential Army advocate of war with the United States. Tsuji later wrote that his experience of Soviet fire-power at Nomonhan convinced him not to take on the Russians in 1941

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1137 KB
  • Print Length: 250 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1591143292
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (15 April 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #367,450 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where? What? 14 Dec 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Nomonhan is a little known military action fought by the Russian and Japanese Empires in the last months before the outbreak of World War II.

It was in fact only one of a number of battles and skirmishes (albeit by far the most important) that were fought by the two countries on the border of Russia and the Japanese occupied territory in Manchuria.

The author not only tells the story of the fighting that took place in this region, but also assesses the impact of the fighting and how this affected the decisions taken by Stalin and the Japanese government in the build up to World War II.

On the military side, the shortcomings of the Japanese armed forces in World War II can be plainly seen to have been in evidence in the way they conducted themselves before and during Nomonhan; the hot-headed Japanese officers and Gekokujo, the lack of sensible planning, the dismissive belief that the enemy was inferior, the inflexibility of Japanese operational plans - all were in evidence here.

This is a well written, interesting book and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone with an interest in World War II.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An excellent summary of the war itself, with the added bonus of a historical theory that links the Nazi-Soviet pact directly to the fighting at Khalkhin-gol. Far less comprehensive that Alvin Coox's book but a great introduction to the topic.
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The Battle of Nomonhan (aka Khalkin Gol) was a battle fought between Soviet Russia and Japan. It took place on the Mongolian-Manchurian border in 1939. At the time Mongolia was a Russian client state, and Manchuria was a Japanese client state. The importance of the battle - actually a series of battles culminating in a crushing victory by the Russians - was overshadowed by the outbreak of World War II.

The author has done an excellent job of recreating the background to what was originally a small border dispute, and setting it within the geopolitical framework of the time. It is his contention that the Battle, and its eventual outcome was important for the development of the tactics employed successfully by the Red Army against Germany. Massed armor and artillery, air support, logistics, deception, all were tried out at Nomonhan. And significantly, the commander was none other than General Georgy Zhukov, who was later to use these tactics successfully in the battles of Moscow and Stalingrad.

Few military historians would dispute this position, but the author has a second, and perhaps more contentious thesis - that the battle of Nomonhan was a significant factor, though not the prime factor, in Stalin's 1939 decision to sign a pact with Hitler's Germany.

Few, if any of the extant analyses of the diplomatic situation make any reference to Nomonhan. However, in my opinion, the author makes a good case, and I'm inclined to agree with him. The author himself makes it clear that it wasn't the prime reason, but the outcome of the battle did matter.

All in all an excellent book throwing light onto what has, until now, been an obscure piece of history to most in the west.
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By andrada
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It arrived on time and I think it is a good study of a forgotten historical fact which was crucial to what took p0lace in the followoing years. I did not read it yet but I think it is a remarkable book with explanatory texts.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine study of an important conflict 9 Sep 2013
Stuart Goldman is a scholar in residence at the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research in Washington, D.C. This is a fascinating study of the Soviet-Japanese conflict in 1938-39 along the border of Manchuria and Mongolia.

He notes that Stalin's policies had "such long-range consequences as the creation of an industrial base that made possible the defeat of Nazi armies in World War II."

Sir John Brenan of the Foreign Office noted, "The truth of the matter is that we acquired our dominant position in China as the result of our wars with that country in the nineteenth century and we can now only keep it by the same or similar methods."

The US military attaché in Moscow wrote after the 1938 Japanese-Soviet battle at Changkufeng, "any adverse effects on Red Army efficiency which may have been occasioned by the purges have now been overcome. ... The recent events around Lake Hassan have shown that the personnel of the Red Army is not only dependable, but that it can be called upon for extraordinary exploits of valor, that the material with which the Red Army is equipped is adequate and serviceable, if, indeed, it is not entitled to higher rating." The US military attaché in China, Colonel (later General) Joseph Stilwell, agreed: "the Russian troops appeared to advantage, and those who believe the Red Army is rotten would do well to reconsider their views."

Goldman writes, "By the time the Anglo-French military mission arrived [11 August], it was probably too late. Hitler had already set August 26 as the deadline for war with Poland." This refutes his earlier claim that "the conclusion of the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (August 23, 1939) ...
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