Home / Khalkhin-Gol



Andy over at Siberian Lights has a nice little history of the Battle of Khalkhin-Gol. Khalkhin-Gol was the outcome of several years of competition between the Soviet Union and Japan over the border between their respective client states, Mongolia and Manchukuo. Long story short, the Japanese pushed and the Soviets gave them a nasty bloody nose, with the consequence that conquest of Siberia looked far less appealing to the Japanese than a move south.

Andy has a good summary, so I’ll confine myself to a couple of points about the battle that I became aware of during the my dissertation research. By the time that the Japanese started pushing in earnest, Stalin was right in the middle of his bloody purge of the Red Army. The purge centered around Field Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky, the Soviet commander who is as responsible as anyone for the (misunderstood) operational doctrine known as Blitzkrieg. Tukhachevsky was central to the collaboration between the Reichswehr and the Red Army from 1927-1933, during which the basic tenets of modern deep battle doctrine were worked out. By 1937, Tukhachevsky had become a threat to Stalin. The Field Marshal, his immediate circle, and an ever-widening wave of Red Army officers were executed for treason, with the proximate charge usually being collaboration with the Germans. By 1938, Georgy Zhukov was one of the last of Tukhachevsky’s circle to remain alive. I read in a biography that Zhukov fully believed that he was going to his death when he was summoned by the High Command in 1938; instead, he was dispatched to Siberia to handle the Japanese. It’s certainly possible that if the Japanese hadn’t been pushing, Zhukov would have joined the rest of the braintrust of the Red Army on the wrong end of a firing squad. Zhukov ended up crushing the Japanese, and later became a participant of some note in the Great Patriotic War.

Zhukov was able to crush the Japanese in part because the purge had fallen lightest on the Red Army in Siberia. A lower percentage of officers were shot there than anywhere else in the USSR. Because the Red Army retained much of its expertise in Siberia, and because Zhukov brought many of the best surviving staff officers with him, the Russians badly outmatched the Japanese in tactical and operational effectiveness. Unfortunately for the Soviet Union, this nucleus was not sufficient to restore the full combat effectiveness of the Red Army by June 1941, although a related group of Siberian returnees (officers who had been dispatched to the Gulag rather than executed during the purge) helped transform the Red Army into the most effective military organization in the world by 1944.

In August 1945, fresh from victory over the Germans, the Red Army once again fought the Japanese. With the benefit of experience and of a massive imbalance in the quality of equipment (although it should be noted that the Red Army was pretty well equipped in 1939), the Red Army destroyed the Japanese position in Manchukuo in a matter of days.

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  • We can only imagine the reaction of Jonah Goldberg, Boy Historian to the following:
    the collaboration between the Reichswehr and the Red Army from 1927-1933
    Aha! I knew it! If only I could have worked this in to my book somehow … < /Pantload>
    Seriously, though, thanks for this. You really have a great knack of getting to the essentials and telling a clean, quick story. And of balancing the human and technological components of warfare.
    Though “knack” probably sells you short. I always have loved Red Smith’s remark: “writing’s easy. I just sit at the typewriter until little drops of blood appear on my forehead.”

  • A quick note, in case American Neocon is reading, since I know he always likes to have jokes painfully and simplistically explained:
    I know that the Nazis didn’t come to power until 1933. I’m pretending that Goldberg doesn’t. See? That’s the joke!

  • Rob, what do you make of the rather contrarian theory that the Tukhachevsky purges had the salutary effect of ensuring Red Army loyalty to Stalin and thus prevented a military coup and separate peace in, say, 1942? Whether or not Hitler would have accepted such an offer, it was certainly a realistic fear for Stalin given his formative experiences in WWI and the Russian Civil War.

  • (misunderstood) operational doctrine known as Blitzkrieg.
    What’s the misunderstanding?

  • Rob

    While I do think that Stalin’s fears were in some sense “realistic”; he was kind of paranoid, but lots of people did have good reason to kill him; I take the rest less seriously. For one, if Tuk et al hadn’t been executed, the situation in 1942 wouldn’t have looked nearly as dire as it actually did. And even if a coup happened, I’m uncertain why it would have led to a separate peace; even the coup plotters against Hitler intended to keep fighting.
    I’ve talked about this in other places, but most of the misconceptions have to do with the relative roles of tank, artillery, and infantry. History Channel-esque descriptions of Blitzkrieg lend way too much credit to the tank and the airplane, and too little to good infantry work.

  • coozledad

    Kingsley Amis pointed out that as his communications unit was setting up in the wake of the German retreat, they encoutered a huge number of dead and dying pack and dray horses, many still hitched to wagons. I don’t know if this was only a feature of the waning days of the war, or if the van of the blitzkrieg itself moved at a horse’s pace.

  • Rob

    The Germans used horses for transport for the bulk of the war. This is one of the misconceptions; the pace of the German advance in 1940 was faster than the pace in the offensives of 1918, but not by much. Blitzkrieg was not conducted by tanks flying down roads at maximum speed; mechanization allowed for the movement of heavy firepower along with the infantry, and helped prevent the advance from stalling because of exhaustion.

  • drip

    Have I told you how much I love these little histories? I really do. Here is why: I just heard Sen. Jack Reed (RI) talk about his most recent trip to Iraq. One point he made about the long occupation in Iraq is that our Army is practicing CI and not qualifying and training its field artillery, its calvary, and its infantry to do the jobs they need to do. One point of your post is how the Red Army survived its screwed up government. Will ours be so lucky?

  • Mike

    That’s another way that the liberals are like communists: they both distrust the military.

  • Vance Maverick

    not qualifying and training its field artillery, its calvary, and its infantry
    How very, very apt a typo.

  • JW

    You contend the officers who survived the purge “..helped transform the Red Army into the most effective military organization in the world by 1944”.
    There is no question that after Stalin began to defer to his generals- pre-Stalingrad- the worm began to turn. Or that by 1944 the Soviet army was a gigantic coiled spring, and the end was nigh.
    But was the Soviet Army “the” most effective military organization at that point? They were the largest, to be sure, and God knows how events would have panned out had Stalin reached a separate peace with the Reich that year. Events in bloody Normandy would have been profoundly affected, of course (assuming the landings would have taken place at all). But the atomic bomb was only 18 months from its birth, too.
    Which leads to my quibble. I think a good case could be made that the U.S. possessed the most effective organization by ’44. Consider America’s far fung impact upon the global course of events- which included supplying the Soviets with the vital supplies that proved essential to their marching as far west as they had by January, ’44. Even Stalin acknowledged that fact (once, and once only). Consider, in conjunction with that fact, the success of the “one hand behind the back” drive in the Pacific with the air war in Europe and the massing of troops for the invasion of France, and a good case can be made that America’s military had assumed the role of the most effective military entity by that fateful year.

  • PTS

    I am with JW.
    By what standard was the Red Army the “most effective in the world” by 1945? Certainly, they get the award for “most improved.”
    I think that a battle in central Germany between the now-Lend Leaseless Red Army and the increasingly Pershing equipped Western Allies would have been a rout…of the Soviets.
    (P.S. Churchill had plans for just that contingency, the codename was: Operation Unthinkable.)

  • Jay C

    Interesting post, Rob: the battle(s) at Khalkin-Gol/Nomonhan is one of the more important-albeit-forgotten battles of WWII – maybe because it took place in such a remote location, outside the “usual” wartime timelines, between “exotic” foes (at least by the Western-centric standards of US WWII history) – but vital nonetheless.
    However, I do think Andy’s pat statements about the results of Khalkin-Gol leading “directly” to Pearl Harbor are, to say the least, debatable. I’m no expert, but I think it has been reasonably established that Japanese expansionism into the Pacific was an integral part of their Imperial “project”, whatever might happen in Mongolia. Khalkin-Gol might have blunted their ambitions westward (I had always read that the Nomonhan deployments by the Japanese were less as an attempt at “conquest” than as an exploitation of easier troop routes into China via Mongolia) – but I think it’s a stretch to claim that they weren’t looking eastward as well.

  • Rob

    JW and PTS,
    When we talk about effectiveness it gets really complicated, of course, and you make good points. But I would stand by (and, in fact, strongly defend) the argument that the Red Army was tactically and operationally superior to the US Army in 1944 and 1945. The Red Army fought the cream of the Wehrmacht during this period and performed better than the US Army did against the less formidable formations that the US Army faced in France. Tactically, the Red Army didn’t suffer from the “infantry won’t fight” syndrome that the Americans suffered from; it was commonplace for American generals to complain about the lack of enthusiasm of the infantry in the latter part of the war. Obviously the Red Army had a different system of discipline, one that wouldn’t have worked in the US Army, but it did, in fact, work. Operationally, there simply is no Western front comparison for Operation Bagration, which shattered the power of the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front.
    Now it’s true that the Red Army (and the Soviet war machine more generally) depended upon US industrial might for much of its success, but that only goes so far; the US Army might, through industrial production and larger manpower reserves, have outlasted the Red Army, but I very seriously doubt that it could have defeated the Red Army in the field. Again, this only goes so far; strategically and especially politically, I think you could rate the effectiveness of the US war machine (as opposed specifically to the US Army) as higher than that of its Soviet counterpart. And certainly US aerial and naval forces were vastly superior to their Soviet counterparts. But again, I would strongly favor the Soviets at the tactical and operational level.

  • Robert:

  • Hmmm…
    Technical problems–only the first two words of my posting appeared. Let me try again:

  • Rob

    Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. But whenever someone writes a post or a book about an heretofore obscure event, there’s a tendency to blow the significance out of proportion.

  • Rob

    The other thing is that I don’t think that the effectiveness of the Red Army was based on anything about the character of its fighting men, or warrior spirit, or even bureaucratic effectiveness. I think that the Red Army had a lot of good people in it because, in the 1920s and 1930s, it was a pretty solid career path for a Soviet citizen, and I think it became very very very good because it fought tooth and nail against the Wehrmacht (which was the most effective army in the world at the tactical and operational level into 1944) for three years; if the US Army had the experience of brutal fighting against the very best organization in the world, it probably would have become better than the Red Army.

  • The purges, as Robert suggests, totally decapitated the Soviet military and doomed the preparations for, and the early response to, the German invasion of 1941.
    As for the “massive imbalance in the quality of equipment,” as others pointed out much of it (including an amazing 376,000 trucks) was supplied by the U.S. under the Lend-Lease program, which continued into 1945.
    As for who had the most effective military by 1944, I agree with Robert. As the battle of Kursk demonstrated, the invasion of Normandy was a relatively small-scale operation compared to the 1,500-mile eastern front. Except for Montgomery’s Market Garden disaster, the Allied leadership in the west was notably lacking in aggressiveness compared to the Soviets (who were arguably reckless much of the time). And I don’t understand PTS’ reference to the Pershing tank, which suffered from serious technical problems until 1948 (when it was renamed the “Patton”) and was far inferior to the Soviet T-34–the best tank of the war.
    As for the “rout” of the Soviets in a wildly hypothetic confrontation in 1945? No way.

  • drip

    its calvary Ouch. Blush. And I love the little histories for the comments, which are enlightening.

  • PTS

    Geoghan and Rob:
    I think that a straight up comparison of the US Army and the Red Army doesn’t really make a lot of sense, since the RCTs in the US Army divisions had essentially last call on personnel. The US military made a conscious choice to distribute its talent in ways that was more holistic than other armies. Exactly what comparison is being made here?
    Are we talking about an RCT against a Red Army division where logistics, artillery, and air support are irrelevant? What would be the point of that analysis?
    And Russian operational expertise strikes me as exaggerated by the fact they had such a huge advantage in material. Do you consider Montgomery’s army in El Alamein more “effective” than Rommel’s “Afrika Korps”?
    The Red Army routinely bogged down on the offensive against miniscule poorly equipped German forces (like before and during the Battle of Berlin), often making major logistical miscues (like, for example, after Bagration).
    I mean, look at Kursk. The Soviets, despite numerical advantages in every major category, fighting on the defensive from prepared position, the Germans inflicted more casualties and come quite close to winning the battle.
    As for American leadership, I think you had a wide mix that compares pretty equally with the Soviet leadership. (P.S. Montgomery was a buffoon, so was MacArthur).
    As for American willingness and ability, I think the Mortain offensive by the Germans expresses an interesting point: a single American infantry division held off three (albeit understrength) German Panzer divisions.
    Certainly there are examples of Russian defensive intransigence (Stalingrad) that are pretty impressive, but you have examples of that on the American side as well: St.Vith, Guadalcanal, Bastogne etc. And the American performances in Okinawa and Iwo Jima I think indicate real staying power (though Buckner was not the most imaginative of Generals).
    Let me put it this way: it does not strike me as remotely implausible that admitted Soviet superiorities in numbers and in armor would have been decisively blunted by American-British airpower, mobility, and logisticall staying power.
    Whether this would have resulted in a decisive (probably Patton led) breakthrough or a battle of attrition, I don’t know. But it seems that the balance of reasons indicates an Allied victory.

  • John Casey

    I have just begun reading Chris Bellamy’s Absolute War, a study of Soviet Russia in WWII. One interesting/appalling fact: the 1937 purge of the army high command resulted in the execution of 3 of 5 Marshals of the Soviet Union, 3 of 5 Generals, all 10 Colonel-Generals, 50 of 57 Lieutenant Generals, 154 of 186 Major Generals, and 401 of 456 Colonels. It’s no wonder that senior Red Army leadership was a bit shaky at the outset of the German attack.

  • Matt Weiner

    Is the basic question here whether you’d rather have a 6-2-8 or an 8-4-7?
    [Does that mean anything to anyone? If not, ignore it.]

  • Renko

    Here’s a link to a interesting book, ‘Marching Orders’, by the military historian Bruce Lee. It offers fascinating insights on why Japan didn’t exploit Barbarossa against the Sovs.
    If the Japanese *had* attacked again in Mongolia during the summer of ’41 (effectively pinning down the Sov Siberian forces), Barbarossa would probably have succeeded in conquering all of the European/Caucasian USSR to the Urals by the summer of ’42 (Leningrad, excepted).
    The Nazi’s would still have eventually lost, given the massive aid the US supplied the Sovs through the Lend/Lease:
    Aircraft 14,795
    Tanks 7,056
    Jeeps 51,503
    Trucks 375,883
    Motorcycles 35,170
    Tractors 8,071
    Guns 8,218
    Machine guns 131,633
    Explosives 345,735 tons
    Building equipment valued $10,910,000
    Railroad freight cars 11,155
    Locomotives 1,981
    Cargo ships 90
    Submarine hunters 105
    Torpedo boats 197
    Ship engines 7,784
    Food supplies 4,478,000 tons
    Machines and equipment $1,078,965,000
    Non-ferrous metals 802,000 tons
    Petroleum products 2,670,000 tons
    Chemicals 842,000 tons
    Cotton 106,893,000 tons
    Leather 49,860 tons
    Tires 3,786,000
    Army boots 15,417,001 pairs
    Nazi Germany did not have enough bombers to defeat the Sovs across the Ural mountain range; nor did they have enough troops to exploit the success if ’42 had turned in their favor.

  • Rob

    I’m not sure that the discussion of the outcome of a 1945 US-Soviet confrontation actually gets us anywhere in terms of tactical or operational effectiveness.
    The Russian material advantages were substantially smaller, in 1944, than the Allied advantages in the West, yet the Russians still cleanly outperformed the Allies even as the Germans deployed their best forces to the East. And I’m sorry; it’s just ridiculous to try to compare Guadalcanal or any of the Pacific campaigns with Kursk or Stalingrad in operational terms. There’s an order of magnitude difference between the forces. And regarding Kursk, the US Army was almost beaten in the Battle of the Bulge by a force that was not only smaller than itself, but that was *substantially* weaker in manpower, equipment, and experience than the army that the Russians defeated at Kursk.
    And I’m not sure how the “logistical mistake” made by the Russians after Bagration is any different from the logistical pause that the Allies made in 1944.
    But you’re right, it does depend on what your comparing. The argument I’m making has to do with the tactical and operational effectiveness of the US Army vs. the Red Army. As such, the experience of the USMC isn’t really relevant. And you’re right; as a military organization the US Army had strategic and political advantages that allowed it to draw on greater resources than the Red Army. This doesn’t change the fact that the Red Army executed operations of greater scope and greater success against an opponent that was almost invariably tougher than that faced by the US Army.

  • stickler

    Original post is correct, in my opinion.
    1) The Soviets inflicted about 80% of the casualties German forces suffered in all of World War II. The units that the Allies faced in France were, mostly, third-rate reserve units. And the Luftwaffe had functionally ceased to exist by mid-1944 in the Western combat zones; the Americans/British had total command of the air.
    2) David Glantz suggests an unintended (and expensive) benefit to the purges: by 1944 the average age of Soviet generals was almost 20 years younger than their German counterparts. They were more flexible, daring, and willing to experiment than their older German counterparts.

  • Renko

    JW and PTS-
    With all due respect, Rob’s correct: the Sovs WERE the most effective Army by the end of the war.
    I would further argue that they had the most effective tactical (read: combat/fighter) airforce at that time, as well. T

  • Mike

    Is the basic question here whether you’d rather have a 6-2-8 or an 8-4-7?
    I’d call either one a misdeal.

  • CelticDragon10

    “Rob, what do you make of the rather contrarian theory that the Tukhachevsky purges had the salutary effect of ensuring Red Army loyalty to Stalin and thus prevented a military coup and separate peace in, say, 1942? ”
    There is some anecdotal evidence to the effect that Stalin was preparing to sue for peace in 1942 of his own accord via a diplomatic mission in Switzerland (I believe it was Switzerland, but that may be incorrect.)
    Anyways…Hello to all of you.:) Obviously, I,m still in Indianapolis…

  • CelticDragon10

    Regarding your comment that the US Army was almost beaten at the Ardennes (which is true…) it bears mentioning that the comparison with Kuursk becomes almost irrelevant when it is realized that Kursk was fought between the front line creme de la creme of both armies, while the Battle of the Bulge was initially fought between experienced Panzer Grenadiers and heavy armour on one side, and inexperienced REMF and light infantry on the other. When American armour and airpower become available, there was no real contest. I am unsure that the assertion you make regarding the qualitative superiority of the Soviet Army (in terms of organazation) is truly accurate and representative across the board, but I don’t have the ability to research that here at work. I’ll look into that.

  • Have I told you how much I love these little histories? I really do.
    Me too and the comments after. I, like, learn stuff and stuff.

  • Renko

    Whoops. Keyboard glitch.
    The US had unquestioned strategic air superiority (bombing) throughout the war and beyond, until the Sovs reverse-engineered the three B-29 Stratofortresses they had interned during the war.
    David and Stickler-the Sov general staff did have one HUGE incentive plan: they were shot for failure.
    PTS-I disagree about the ability of the Allies continental forces to stop the Sovs had they just kept on truckin’ to the Atlantic. The US supply lines (from the Western Hemisphere) were just too long. And the Sov military was larger and a far more effective, experienced, and cohesive machine than the Allies continental forces in ’45. Please don’t get me wrong, the Allied forces were effective, but the Sov European armies were a juggernaut, even after all the Berlin casualties.
    PTS-you stated that the Nazis nearly won Kursk. Could you supply any links or further materials that I could check out? IIRC, despite the massive Sov prepping the field, the wermacht completely failed in the north salient and almost succeeded in the south: one half of a pincer movement isn’t much of a success. Regardless, the Sovs had such overwhelming reserves that it wouldn’t have made any difference. Even had the wermacht succeeded, they were bled dry by then and would have been easily overrun by the Sov counterattack.

  • Renko

    Check out: ‘Why the Allies Won’, by the English military historian Richard Overy.
    He provides a detailed description of the battles at Stalingrad and Kursk, and how they were effectively the end of Nazi military machine.

  • lemuel pitkin

    Very interesting stuff.
    Coupla things:
    1.I’ve read that Zhukov gets more than his fair share of credit for Khalkhin-Gol, because of his later achievements. He was only in command of the ground forces there, and supposedly the general in overall command — can’t recall the name — was arguably more important. Yes, no?
    2. You are right to say that the purges, horrible as they were, did produce some positive results for the Soviet Union. First, they prevented any consolidation anywhere in society except the top party leadership (this was their purpose). Obviously this prevented any challenge to Stalin, but to some extent it was necessary given the dislocations of breakneck industrialization — any vested interests would have slowed down the process, maybe fatally. They also allowed a tremendous amount of talent to rise from the bottom, an aspect of Soviet life that doesn’t get nearly enough attention.
    3. One really can’t discuss this topic without mentioning Richard Sorge, possibly the greatest spy of the 20th century. The intelligence he provided under his cover as a German journalist in Japan was critical in confirming that the Japanese had given up on war with Russia and allowed Stalin to move forces from the Far East to the front with Germany. One of the great unsung heroes of the war.
    4. These history posts are great!

  • Rob

    A bit on the research part; most of the research in the last 10-15 years (which has relied on open Soviet archives) has strongly supported the high Soviet capability thesis. I haven’t been paying that close of attention for the last couple years, but the literature in the 1990s and early 2000s suggested that the earlier literature on effectiveness had severely understated Red Army capabilities.

  • In comparing the effectiveness of U.S. and Soviet forces in Europe, you can’t overlook motivation–and in particular the vast reservoir of hatred and the desire for revenge generated by Nazi atrocities during Operation Barabarossa and the occupation that followed.
    Lacking comparable motivation in their own troops in Europe, the U.S. military leadership relied increasingly on overwhelming displays of firepower and a huge advantage in sheer numbers. This reliance was wise for another reason: due to mediocre training and lack of motivation, 75% of U.S. combat troops “did not shoot to good effect in combat, and many did not shoot at all”*.
    Due to the way the war began for the U.S.–at Pearl Harbor–the Pacific theater was a different story altogether in terms of motivation.
    *Quote: Niall Furguson’s The War of the World (2006), p521

  • PTS

    I suspect that Rob and I are talking past each other one effectiveness. I guess I am skeptical of individuating the “US Army” as a unit of analysis in these debates.
    (I would say that I don’t find the comparisons between western and eastern operations in 1944 to be particularly analogous because of the Hitler variable and the terrain.)
    I am sorry, but I don’t see how the claim that the Western Allies were almost beaten during the Battle of the Bulge is even close to being true. German troops didn’t even cross the Meuse! Granted, the Germans sort of defeated 2 worn out divisions, 2 totally green divisions, and and airborne divisions, but I don’t see how that is much of any achievement.
    In fact, the 3rd Army’s response (and to a lesser extent, Bradley’s) was a textbook response to containing a breakthrough. And it should be noted that the Americans weren’t fighting from prepared positions that had been constructed for months.
    I also recommend Richard Overy’s book, as well as Keegan’s (really too bad about Keegan). Although, I found Overy’s claims about Soviet effectiveness to be a bit overblown in that book too.
    You have to realize that German casualties were much lighter than the Russians in the actual face of the fighting (the counter-offensives evened the score somewhat), but I believe that I was remembering from Erich von Manstein’s autobiography (Lost Victories) on Kursk. Manstein’s point was that the success of the southern pincer would have made the northern Soviet position untenable. I may be misremembering.

  • Marek

    _I_ get it. You usually get a lot more 6-2-8s than 8-4-7s, of course.

  • CelticDragon10

    Thanks for the link and suggestion! :)
    Thanks to you as well for the sources you reference. I have never been as well versed on the Eastern front as I should be, and I tend to dwell on the North African theatre. Anyways, I am reluctant to really disagree with you here, but a sence of unease lingers. I really have to wonder about the true effectiveness of an army where failure is tautamont to a death sentence at the hands of an NKVD officer. You get a sort of Darwinian effect, to be sure, where the very talented and the very lucky survive. However, you need more then luck and sheer innate tactical genius to be molded into an effective junior, and then mid level officer. There were waaayyy too many variables, many of which could get you killed IMHO, for a stable and effective military command climate to really take hold in the midst of Stalinist paranoia. Certainly, the imperative of national survival stopped the purges…but the memory lingered.

  • And speaking of powerful motivations, Stalin adopted the line of his old enemy, Trotsky, who told (approximately) Soviet soldiers: “If you charge the enemy, you may get shot. But it you run the other way, you will get shot.”
    [As recounted in Niall Ferguson’s book noted above.]

  • stickler

    Let’s all be careful of our sources here. I referenced Glantz, though I realize he can be a bit of a Red Army cheerleader.
    But, heavens to Mergatroid, please let’s all handle Niall Ferguson with care. He uses a lot of footnotes, carefully, to structure some occasionally-tendentious arguments. And his anti-Communism shades into something less than dispassionate academic analysis a little too often.
    Oh, and he also wrote a book suggesting that the USA should replace the British Empire and rule the world.

  • stickler

    Anyways, I am reluctant to really disagree with you here, but a sence of unease lingers. I really have to wonder about the true effectiveness of an army where failure is tautamont to a death sentence at the hands of an NKVD officer.
    This gets at the heart of the problem with counterfactual history along the lines of “what if Patton had gone on to Moscow/what if Zhukov had gone on to the Channel…” stuff.
    The NKVD death-threat worked very well when it was accompanied with the liberation of the Motherland from the Fascists. Against GI Joes? Well, we don’t know, but I suspect it might have been less effective.
    And the same thing was true in reverse. Americans had been told that Stalin was “Uncle Joe” for four years, and anyway the Red Army drove Studebaker trucks and ate Spam just like our Army did.
    Finally, the logistical limitations were real, and extremely serious. Hitler’s army didn’t wreck everything in the West, because of Speer and the speed of the post-Ardennes collapse. But in the East, when it came to infrastructure, the Germans either blew it up, or it was bombed by the RAF/USAAF, or the Russians wrecked it. That was the reality the Red Army faced from at least the Oder River to Berlin, and it imposed very real limits to what they could do militarily.
    The Red Army wasn’t going to be charging to the Channel in 1945, unless it could figure out how to do so without food or fuel.

  • Stickler writes: But, heavens to Mergatroid, please let’s all handle Niall Ferguson with care.
    Your criticisms of Ferguson are entirely fair. His biases are rather transparent, even crudely so, but the book I cited includes some useful new material from Soviet archives and elsewhere.

  • coozledad

    Lemuel: At what point did Stalin finally start listening to Sorge?
    It’s funny how megalomaniacs will refuse good intelligence.
    My book “Cowboy Stalinism: Purblindness from Uncle Joe to Holy Joe” will dwell on this with great detail and care.

  • ploeg

    The Red Army wasn’t going to be charging to the Channel in 1945, unless it could figure out how to do so without food or fuel.
    Neither was it going to be pushed back to the Urals. First, the western allies would have had to start their campaign against Russia from the center of Germany, about 900 km west of where the Wehrmacht started their campaign in 1941.
    Second, although it is unquestionable that Lend Lease was essential to the Russians when the Germans possessed the best chunk of European Russia (including their prime agricultural lands), Russia had these lands back by the middle of 1944. Further, the industrial capacity of eastern Germany that remained at the end of the war was not merely destroyed by the Russians, the Russians disassembled any industrial equipment that was not nailed down and sent it off to the east. The loss of Lend Lease in 1945 would therefore have been unfortunate, but the Russians would have made done with less, as they had to do in 1941.
    As for defections, it is dangerous to base your war plans upon the amenability of the enemy soldiers and population (as we have seen in Iraq). For as much as the average Russian liked the US, the Russians had been through a western invasion once before in the 1940s and were probably not in a mood to abet another one to see if they liked it better. A defector must also take into account the chances of success and the consequences of failure, and the success of the western allies would have been far from assured, as I have already discussed.

  • PTS

    I agree wholeheartedly that the Western Allies were not going to be fighting their way to Moscow. The Red Army was too big, with too many defensible river lines between the Elbe and Moscow. When I said that it would be rout, I only meant the battle in Central Germany. The Red Army did have an amazing regenerative capacity.
    I do think there are two plausible scenarios for an unconditional victory by the Western Allies over the Soviets:
    1) The use of the atomic bomb in tactical fashion on Soviet troops concentrations in Western Russia (maybe even Moscow, but that’s a pretty ugly counterfactual)
    2) Limited Allied military success resulting in general rebellion by Ukraine, Belarus, etc etc. The Red Army would be able to defend the rodina against the Western Allies, but would it be able to do so with a full-fledged Ukrainian rebellion going on in the rear? Maybe…maybe not. It would be an even bigger problem than defections, seems to me.

  • Jackdaw

    Back on the original post topic (if anyone is still reading this comment string), I have a copy of Nomonhan by Alvin Coox, which covers the campaign from primarily the Japanese point of view; is there a corresponding volume that discusses it from the Soviet/Mongolian perspective?

  • f. tuijn

    Japan needed oil, either from Siberia or from Sumatra. If it could have got it from Siberia it would have tried to avoid war with the US. In that, it would probably have failed.

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