When Zhukov Thrashed The Japanese In 1939: BATTLE OF KHALKHIN GOL

"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.....

Zhukov Khalkhin Gol
Zhukov with his commanders during the Battle of Khalkhin Gol

The perfect commander: Zhukov with his men at Khalkhin Gol

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

 Japanese POW

 Mongolian troops at Khalkhin Gol

 The Soviet flag flies at Khalkhin Gol

Soviet and Mongolian soldiers take position

Suggested Reading

This book explains the neglected story of Japan's ill-fated attack on Soviet Russia in 1939. After their ignominious defeat at the hands of the Russians the Japanese avoided further conflict with them at all costs. A very detailed study (with good battle descriptions), which also connects Japan's reluctance to attack the Soviets with the momentous Russian decision to thwart Hitler's drive on Moscow in 1941 by using the recently victorious eastern Russian army as a last ditch reserve. This was made possible when Stalin finally realized that he had nothing to fear from Japan after their drubbing by his men in 1939.

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Quotes about war....

"War grows out of the desire of the individual to gain advantage at the expense of his fellow man."
--Napoleon Hill

"We have failed to grasp the fact that mankind is becoming a single unit, and that for a unit to fight against itself is suicide."
--Havelock Ellis

'Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed."
--Mao Tse-Tung (1893 - 1976)

"I'm fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in."
--George McGovern

"The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic."
--Joseph Stalin

It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.
--Voltaire, War

In war, truth is the first casualty.
-- Aeschylus

"The ability and inclination to use physical strength is no indication of bravery or tenacity to life. The greatest cowards are often the greatest bullies. Nothing is cheaper and more common than physical bravery."
--Clarence Darrow, Resist Not Evil

"The victor will never be asked if he told the truth."
--Adolf Hitler

"To walk through the ruined cities of Germany is to feel an actual doubt about the continuity of civilization."
--George Orwell

"Patriots always talk of dying for their country and never of killing for their country."
--Bertrand Russell

Men are at war with each other because each man is at war with himself.
--Francis Meehan

Snippets From History

German Soldiers in Russia: Part 1

Hubert Menzel was a major in the General Operations Department of the OKH (the Oberkommando des Heers, the German Army headquarters), and for him the idea of invading the Soviet Union in 1941 had the smack of cold, clear logic to it: 'We knew that in two years' time, that is by the end of 1942, beginning of 1943, the English would be ready, the Americans would be ready, the Russians would be ready too, and then we would have to deal with all three of them at the same time.... We had to try to remove the greatest threat from the East.... At the time it seemed possible.'

Battle for Berlin, 1945

'We started to fire at the masses,' says one former German machine gunner. 'They weren't human beings for us. It was a wall of attacking beasts who were trying to kill us. You yourself were no longer human.'


Berlin after it fell to the Russians, 1945

"Vladlen Anchishkin, a Soviet battery commander on the 1st Ukrainian Front, sums up the horror of the whole event, when he tells how he took personal revenge on German soldiers: 'I can admit it now, I was in such a state, I was in such a frenzy. I said, 'Bring them here for an interrogation' and I had a knife, and I cut him. I cut a lot of them. I thought, 'You wanted to kill me, now it's your turn.'
Read More


Dramatic Pictures: Battle For Stalingrad
"...Effective command no longer possible... further defense senseless. Collapse inevitable. Army requests immediate permission to surrender in order to save lives of remaining troops."
General Paulus' radio message to Hitler on January 24, 1943

"...Capitulation is impossible. The 6th Army will do its historic duty at Stalingrad until the last man, the last bullet..."

Hitler's response to General Friedrich Paulus' request to withdraw from the city


Points To Ponder....

The fall of France was shocking. It reduced France to virtually a non-player in the Second World War. The efforts of Charles de Gualle were more symbolic than material. But the martial instincts of the French must never be doubted. Under Napoleon they were a formidable military power. The French definitely have more iron in their blood then say, the Italians [I do not mean it in a derogatory sense. War never makes sense]


Bias Of Western Historians

Soviet resistance made possible a successful Allied invasion of France, and ensured the final Allied victory over Germany.

It can hardly be called mere 'resistance'! If it hadn't been for the Russians, Hitler would have made mincemeat of British forces in Africa and landed on British shores in no time. Hitler attacked Russia first because it had more land and resources than Britain. It is as simple as that.

Eastern Front: Bias Of Western Historians