Tuesday 29 July 2014

World of Tanks: Today in History: Conflict at Lake Hasan

On July 29th, 1938, an armed conflict erupted between the USSR and Japan at Lake Hasan.

In 1932, Japanese forces occupied Manchuria (North-East China) and formed the Manchukuo puppet state. This triggered a round of border skirmishes. However, they were only a prelude to widespread military action.

As a pretence for the invasion of the USSR, Japan issued a territorial claim. The Japanese claimed a number of peaks in the region of Lake Hasan and Tumannaya (Tumen) river. On July 15th, 1938, the Japanese ambassador in Moscow, Mamoru Shigemitsu, handed a note to the Soviet government demanding the withdrawal of troops from the contested regions. In response, Soviet diplomats offered a map and documents of the Hunchun Treaty, signed between Russian and China in 1886, marking the Zaozernaya and Bezymyannaya peaks as Soviet territory.

However, Japanese military circles burned with the desire to test its northern neighbour. On July 20th, the ambassador made a repeat claim which was also declined. The Japanese government prepared three infantry divisions (15th, 19th, and 20th), one cavalry regiment, three machinegun battalions, individual tank units (up to a battalion in number), an AA artillery unit, three armoured trains, and 70 airplanes. 15 ships (1 cruiser and 14 minelayers) and 15 armoured boats were positioned at the entrance to the Tumen river. However, the only direct participant was the 19th infantry division, reinforced with machineguns and artillery.

The first blow was aimed at small numbers of Soviet border forces, which offered heroic resistance, but were unable to hold Zaozernaya and Bezymyannaya peaks after July 30th. The difficult terrain forced Soviet command to send its units into battle very gradually. The main opponent of the Japanese became the 39th infantry corps, composed of the 32nd and 40th infantry regiments, and the 2nd mechanized brigade, which had more than 300 T-26, BT-5 and BT-7 tanks, as well as SU-5 SPGs.

As a result of active battles lasting until August 11th, Soviet forces destroyed the Japanese 19th division and pushed them past the border. Peace talks confirmed that the proper state of the border was in accordance with existing documents provided by the Soviet side.

The Red Army lost 960 men, and a further 2752 were wounded, with 527 sick. The Japanese lost 650, with 2500 wounded, according to Soviet estimates.

A year after, a movie titled "Tractor Drivers" hit Soviet screens, featuring the song "Three Tankers" that was inspired by events in the Far East, which later became the unofficial anthem of the Soviet tank forces.

Furrowed clouds blow over the border
The harsh land is enveloped in silence
On the high shores of the Amur
Defenders of the Motherland stand

A robust shield from the enemy stands there
There it stands, brave and strong
Near our far eastern borders
An armoured shock battalion

They live, as this song tells
An inseparable friendly family
Three tankers, three joyous friends
A fighting vehicle crew
(Song fragment)

Original article available here.

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