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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 34 August 15, 2015

Seventy Years Ago: WW II on Japanese Front, and Hiroshima

Saturday 15 August 2015, by Anil Rajimwale

Though the Second World War (WW II) technically ended on May 9, 1945 with the Nazi German surrender to the Soviet Red Army, the war in the Far East, particularly against fascist Japan, continued till September 1945.

The Soviet Union had been preparing for the offensive in the Far East even before the end of the War in the German and Italian theatres in May 1945. When it became clear that the German end was near, the Soviets began to transfer their troops across Siberia on a huge scale since January 1945 itself. It was a massive operation, unparalleled in history.

The Japanese had occupied the major part of South-East Asia, including Indo-China (with Vietnam as its integral part), Malaya, Burma, etc. But the major theatre of the War in the Far East was Manchuria in north-east China. The Japanese troops had occupied major Chinese areas since 1936. During the WW II they captured much more of that country. The Chinese were carrying on anti-fascist, anti-Japanese struggles and had successfully created a broad anti-Japanese Front (wherein the Communist Party of China played a pivotal role and in which the Kuomintang participated).

Massive Soviet Arms Transfer to Far-east

In Manchuria was stationed the most powerful and elite Kwantung Army of Japan, consisting of more than 600,000 troops. It was the most feared, ultra-modern and disciplined Army. There were many fronts in Manchuria.

It took many months to transfer fresh armies from the western parts of Soviet Russia and the European theatre to the Far-East. They were transferred by railways, airways and ships. It was the biggest transfer of armies in history. Hundreds of thousands of troops were carried across Siberia along a 9000 to 12,000 km distance. This was unparalleled in the WW II. For example, at least three field armies and two tank armies were carried across, as also other units.

The Western historians try to underestimate and underplay the battles fought on the Far East by the Soviet Red Army.

Marshal A.M. Vasilevsky was given the command of the Soviet Army in the Far-East. During the Yalta (1943) and Teheran (1945) conferences of the leaders of the Allied countries including the Soviet Union, it was decided that the USSR and its armies would enter the War against the Japanese on a big scale. The Americans admitted officially that the Japanese troops could not be defeated without the active and leading participation of the Soviet Red Army. As such the USSR officially declared war on Japan immediately after the end of the WW II in Europe.

The Manchurian troops of Japan were being led by the highly experienced Generals Yamada and Hata. Their troops had grown on various Manchurian fronts to nearly a million. Besides, there were other Japanese troops on other fronts in China, Korea, Mongolia and other places in the Far East. They transferred their troops from these fronts in South-East Asia to the main theatres of the War.

On the Soviet side, Marshals Meretskov and Malinovsky were some of the other outstanding Soviet Army Generals.

The Soviet troops totalled around 1.5 million, tanks more than 5000, and thousands of aircraft also took part. The Japanese had comparable strength.

Therefore it is wrong to suggest that the Japanese were weaker. It is also wrong to suggest that they really surrendered due to the (infamous) dropping of atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a most inhuman, dastardly and totally unnecessary act even from the military point of view.

Massive Offensive

A massive offensive was launched in the first week of August 1945 on the Japanese fronts in Manchuria and elsewhere. Troops of the Trans-Baikal (many fronts), Manchurian (many fronts), Mongolian, Korean, Chinese and other fronts launched concerted attacks at various sectors. It was a tough war, and took many days to repel the Japanese troops and to break their resistance.

Ultimately, the massive Kwantung Army was broken into two by the middle of August. The Japanese were on the retreat.

There was crisis in the governmental in Japan. The Cabinet of Premier Suzuki resigned in mid-August, but the War continued. The Kwantung Army and other armies tried to put up a stiff resistance. The Soviet forces liberated northern Korea from the Japanese. Vietnam was under the rigid control of the Japanese troops. They had to retreat under Soviet assaults.

Ultimately, the Commander-in-Chief of the Kwantung Army, General Yamada, surrendered on August 17-18 (1945). But the Japanese forces continued to fight on many fronts, and as such the WW II kept on dragging. The Soviet troops entered Harbin, Mukden, Port Arthur, Dalny, Changchun and other strategic areas.

The Japanese forces and their commanders were caught by surprise in many places. Among the prisoners of war was the Manchurian Emperor Henry Pu Yi, a historical figure made famous by a Hollywood film on him. He was a representative of the Tsing dynasty, who had been made a puppet Emperor by his Japanese masters in 1933. His permanent advisor was the Japanese General, Yoshioka. Pu Yi was preparing to fly away with his Japanese entourage when the Soviet Army men captured him.

General Hata was captured unexpectedly during the Soviet assault. He had to work out the details of surrender of the Japanese troops. August 19 onwards the Japanese troops and commanders began to surrender en masse. About 148 Generals and nearly 600,000 troops surrendered.

The elite and famous Kwantung Army was destroyed. The Japanese Foreign Minister and Chief of Staff of the Japanese troops signed the act of unconditional surrender on September 2 (1945).

On the same day President Ho Chi Minh announced the establishment of free Vietnam.

Japanese Defeat and Liberation Movement in South-East Asia

The Japanese defeat at the hands of the Soviet Red Army speeded up the freedom movement of a number of countries in Asia. Indonesia was liberated in August, Vietnam announced freedom in September; Korea, Malaya, Burma and other countries also got freedom during the subsequent months and years.

The military offensive of the Soviet troops in Manchuria was of decisive importance to the liberation of China. With the defeat of the powerful Japanese forces in Manchuria, the way was opened for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to successfully launch attacks in the province and all over China and to ultimately win the struggle in 1949. Without the battles in Manchuria, the CPC, the PLA and other forces would have found it hard to go ahead. This was clearly stated by Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) himself at that time.

Hiroshima, Nagasaki and WW II

As is well known, the US dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9 (1945) respectively. It was the most dastardly and deplorable act committed on humanity.

The American military strategists even today try to justify the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan by stating that it was only after this act that Japan surrendered. This is totally wrong and unjustified. This step was unnecessary. Otherwise too, even from the military point of view, it is deplorable.

Nazi Germany had already surrendered, and it was a far greater threat and stronger power than Japan. Germany had been defeated without recourse to the atom bomb. The combined Allied forces could have relatively easily defeated Japan. That is precisely what the Allied forces had decided. And the Soviet Union was given the main responsibility to defeat Japan.

The main strength of Japan was located in Asia, particularly in Manchuria and other theatres of the War. The battle was to be conducted there and not in Japan. Besides, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not military targets at all. It was a purely civilian destruction there, a mass killing of hundreds of thousands for no reason at all. Nothing can justify it ever.

There was only one reason why the US dropped the bombs. The US wanted to flex its atomic muscle and frighten other powers and countries. It wanted thus to establish its domination in the already post-WW II world.

It was for this purpose that the horrendous act was committed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The US wanted to belittle the victory over the German, Italian and Japanese fascism.

The author is a Marxist ideologue.