"Battle of Khalkhin what?" This is the instinctive response most of you will give after reading the heading. It is understandable. The Battle of Khalkhin Gol does not find a mention in most history books.Why? Because it involved Russia. Most western historians tend underplay the contribution of Russia in defeating Nazi Germany.
And the Battle of Khalkhin Gol cast a long shadow on how the Russo-German War during WW2 panned out.
Khalkhin Gol is a river which demarcated the boundary line between Mongolia, Soviet Union and Japanese occupied Manchuria. The year was 1939. The Japanese army in Manchukuo had designs on Soviet territory and trespassed the border now and again. Stalin wanted to erase the threat for good so he sent his best commander Georgy Zhukov, the same man who later led the Red Army as it destroyed the Nazi German army.
Zhukov in the ensuing Battle of Khalkhin Gol gave the Japanese army a thorough thrashing. The Japanese remembered the thrashing and did not attack Russia from the east when Hitler's army was sweeping through the country in 1941. In December 1941, as the Germans inched towards Moscow, Stalin got a confirmation from his spy in Tokyo, Richard Sorge, that Japan was not going to attach the Soviet Union despite German requests.
This allowed him to strip his eastern troops and threw them against the advancing Germans. As we all know the Germans were pushed back steadily from Moscow.
The importance of the Battle of Khalkhin Gol is that if Zhukov had not given the Japanese a hiding in the battle, Japan might have been tempted to attack the Soviet Union in 1941 from the east. The result of the Battle of Moscow might have been different. Russia might have collapsed then under the assault from the west and east.....And may be Hitler might have won the Second World War.....
Russian tank men with their T-26 tank
The Soviet Polikarpov I 16 fighter plane at Khalkhin Gol. It was badly hammered by the German Messerschmidt later during Barbarossa. Notice in the image that the plane's wing is damaged.
Soviet POW get their shaved by Japanese barbers. All this appears very civilised in contrast to the upcoming Russo-German war of 1941.
Soviet POW have dinner as a Japanese guard looks on benignly
A Japanese officer watched as the Battle of Khalkhin Gol progresses
Japanese cavalrymen feed their horses
A Russian officer examines a captured Japanese 20mm anti-tank gun
Russian soldiers examine a downed Japanese Nakajima Ki 27 fighter plane. The Ki-27 was as much a relic as the Soviet I-16. The two were a good match against each other.
Red Army soldiers stand beside their BA 20 armored car to watch an air battle at Khalkhin Gol
The Japanese move forward. Khalkhin Gol. August, 1939
Japanese Yi-GO tanks roll on the Mongolian steppes
A Japanese machine gun fires
The Soviet flag flies at Khalkhin Gol
Soviet and Mongolian soldiers take position