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Soviet soldiers on the embankment of the Songhua River, Harbin, 1945.

On September 3, 1945, the Day of Victory over Japan was established by the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. The decree was adopted a day after the representatives of Japan signed the act of surrender at 9 am on September 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay, aboard the US Navy battleship ‘Missouri’. The Soviet Union put the final point in the WWII, defeating the Kwantung Army of imperialist Japan, fulfilling its allied obligations to the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition.

“Traditionally, the WWII is associated with Europe. It’s a Eurocentric perception. The Second World War is called ‘world war’ because it covered the entire globe. From the 1930s, when two aggressive regimes emerged, there were two hotbeds of tension globally. Nazi Germany, which sought to conquer Europe and invaded our country on June 22, 1941, was the first one. And the second aggressive regime that sought to dominate in Asia Pacific was the militaristic Japan,” Ruslan Kulepanov, employee of the Institute of history, archeology and ethnography of the peoples of the Far East, said.

“The preconditions for an armed conflict were formed in the second half of the 19th century. After modernizing and changing the political system in the mid-19th century, Japan stubbornly sought to dominate the Asia-Pacific region. The invasion of Korea, the Russo-Japanese war, the invasion of China was steps in the creation of a militarist regime that reached borders in the Russian Far East in 1931, when Japan occupied Manchuria and North China”, he said. In 1938, there was a first armed conflict between USSR and Japan on the Lake Khasan, in 1939 was a second – Battles of Khalkhin Gol. The occupation of Manchuria since 1931 can definitely be considered a part of the WWII, Ruslan Kulepanov stated.

On August 8, 1945, the Soviet Union proclaimed war on Japan, as the agreements of the allied countries at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences declared. By the way, unlike the United States of America and Great Britain, which until 1944 postponed the opening of a second front against Hitler, the Soviet Union exactly fulfilled all its obligations. According to the estimates of the Americans themselves, if the USSR evaded war with Japan, then the military confrontation between America and Japan could last until 1947, and the victims of the American people would be much greater. The entry of the USSR into the war helped save the lives of hundreds of thousands of allies and millions of Japanese. The command of the Western Allies estimated its own losses at 1.5 million troops, while up to 10 million Japanese people, both military and civilians, could die during the invasion of Japan.

“Our allies have been at war with Japan since December 1941, when the Japanese attacked the Pearl Harbor. It became obvious that this war was dragging on. The final victory was not even visible by the summer of 1945. Japan still retained some of its industrial potential and armed forces, despite being severely defeated by the Allies. From 1944, at the conference in Yalta and Potsdam, the allies raised the question that the help of the Soviet Union was necessary. Americans made a great contribution by destroying the Japanese navy and Japanese naval aviation. But they had no strength left to end this war, to put an end to it. And another feature of this conflict was that the Japanese, due to the peculiarities of their national character and the strength of military propaganda, refused to surrender despite the obvious defeat.”

The barbaric US atomic bombing of Japanese Hiroshima and Nagasaki had no military sense and only led to the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians. Truman’s attempt to intimidate the Soviet Union with a new weapon did not solve anything. The final victory in WWII was achieved by Soviet soldiers.

On August 9, 1945, the Soviet Union launches a large-scale offensive in the Far East against the Kwantung Army of Japan. Marshal Vasilevsky was in command of the Soviet troops. Aviation struck at military targets, areas of concentration of troops, communications centers and communications of the enemy in the border zone. From Transbaikalia to the Far East, the Soviet command organized a swift offensive of three fronts at once. The Japanese command wasn’t ready for such a scale. They didn’t expect that the Soviet troops would be able to cross the Greater Khingan ridge, carry out heavy equipment there, and go to the rear of the Kwantung Army, overcoming the line of defenses built along the border.

Our researchers point to such a term as ‘winner psychology.’ In 1945, on the wave of enthusiasm caused by the victory over Germany, Soviet soldiers acted in a way that the enemy did not expect at all. Often, a small unit, for example, scouts, faced with a full-fledged Japanese unit, would have to retreat, overbuild or wait for the arrival of reinforcements, according to the rules. But they went ahead and attacked. This is really the actions of a person who knows his strength, his might, believes in his weapon. The victory in Manchuria was swift, but let me quote one of the participants in the operation, General Beloborodov, who said: ‘A quick victory does not mean that the victory was easy,’” Ruslan Kulepanov said.

The Pacific Fleet, entering the Sea of Japan, cut the communications linking Korea and Manchuria with Japan, and struck enemy naval bases with aviation and naval artillery. A Soviet airborne assault force landed in northeastern China. The blow of the Soviet Union was so decisive and powerful that already ten days after the start of the military operation, Japanese soldiers began to surrender en masse. But the command of the imperial armed forces planned to contain the Soviet offensive until the end of 1945.

However, Soviet troops completely destroyed the Kwantung Army in 11 days. On August 14, the military-political leadership of Japan decided to lay down their arms. Northeastern China, North Korea, South Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands were under the control of the Soviet army. On southern Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands, the Japanese continued to resist until early September 1945.

“Very fierce battles took place in the fortified area, which is located on the other side of the Ussuri River in the Dalnerechensk region. There, the last centers of resistance were suppressed on 25 August. Tragic events unfolded there when hundreds of Japanese women and children were found in these fortifications after their assault, who refused to surrender. The women were armed with bayonets. Under the pressure of the fanatical officers of the Japanese army, they had to share the fate of the subject on an equal footing with the men and fight to the last,” he said.

“Soviet aviation dominated the air, inflicting very serious blows on the positions of the Japanese troops. The offensive of the tank forces was of great importance, because the Japanese didn’t have tanks comparable to Soviet. This swiftness was unusual for the Japanese leadership. The Soviet command fully realized its advantage. The bulk of the Japanese troops were already incapacitated. But the big problem was the actions of suicide bombers, snipers. The Japanese command used them when they no longer had the opportunity to lead their troops as organized units. They gave the order that the soldiers act alone and attack the rear units of the Soviet troops.”

The defeat of Japan by the Soviet Union also put an end to the inhuman oppression by the Japanese of the peoples who lived in the occupied territories in the Asia-Pacific region. Echoes of the attitude in the occupied lands of the Japanese towards the Chinese and Koreans still resonate with difficulties in diplomatic relations between modern China, Korea and Japan. The Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, Burma and the Pacific Islands also ended. The victory of the Soviet Union brought freedom and independence to the Asian peoples, who, after a very short time, formed independent states.

“There was numerous military crimes during this war, such as Nanjing Massacre. The Japanese press was publishing a really shocking episodes, for example, how two officers staged a competition who would kill the Chinese more, who would be the first to reach a hundred. Chinese soldiers and ordinary Chinese were buried alive, burned, and shot. The actions of the Japanese military police were not inferior but in some episodes were superior in brutality to the SS and Gestapo. While developing bacteriological weapons, Detachment 731 was massacring both of Russians and Chinese, Koreans and residents of Manchuria. The population of the occupied territories, so-called ‘comfort women’, were forcibly driven into soldier’s brothels.”

As a result of the unconditional victory of Soviet weapons in the Far East and in accordance with previously reached agreements with the allies, the USSR regained South Sakhalin, which was torn away by the Japanese in 1905, and the Kuril Islands ceded by Russia in 1875. By the way, the Americans demanded that one of the Kuril Islands be allocated for their air force base – Soviet leader Joseph Stalin deny this offer.

“Japan, of course, did not fully realize and did not survive the defeat to the extent that it happened with Germany. The surrender of Japan in August 1945 was convenient primarily for the United States. US leaders understanded, if this war continued, the Soviet Union would also lay claim to Hokkaido, and this would mean a split in Japan, the inclusion of a part of Japan in the socialist system,” Ruslan Kulepanov said.

The American occupation administration deliberately went to preserve the status of the Japanese emperor and preserve his power. Japan did not survive the fighting on its territory. It makes possible for certain representatives of radical political circles to assert that they did not experience a military defeat and that they themselves surrendered solely by order of the emperor. This position still gives a serious split in the Asian region today. The fact that the Yasukumi Shrine still exists, where the names of war criminals recited, and the policy of Japanese ruling elites’ representatives, who visit this temple, show us that some of Japanese supports the earlier policy.”

Decades after the end of WWII, Russia cherishes the memory of Japanese prisoners of war, whose lives have become hostages of the militarist elite of Japan. In the Far Eastern Primorsky Krai, memorials and obelisks are maintained in good condition in memory of the Japanese captured during the war.

So, the defeat of the Kwantung group was the largest defeat of the Japanese army in WWII. As a result, Soviet troops captured about 600,000 soldiers and officers, captured about 700 tanks and 860 aircraft. A territory with a population of over 40 million people was liberated from the Japanese invaders.

On September 2, 1945, Japan signed the Act of Unconditional Surrender. The Second World War was over.

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