EDITOR'S DESK
Promoting Friendship
  




BACKGROUND

Soviet Contribution

The USSR helps in defeat of Japan

By AN WEN

VICTORY PARADE: Soviet tanks roll through streets in Harbin to celebrate victory over the Japanese in 1945

The Soviet Union provided major assistance to China during the early and middle stages of China’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.

Before China and Japan plunged into a full-scale war, the Kuomintang government in China engaged mostly German military advisers. After Germany and Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact on November 25, 1936, the team of German advisers serving in China returned home. The Kuomintang government then appealed to the Soviet Union to send military experts and technical personnel to help with the endeavor to resist Japanese aggression.

Accepting China’s request, the Soviet Union began sending advisors to the country at the end of 1937. A Soviet military advisor system took shape and was soon expanded into an all-inclusive team consisting of experts specializing in the army, air force, engineering corps, and artillery and tank forces. These experts, serving at various levels of the military, greatly enhanced the combat capacity of the Chinese forces.

An aviation school was set up in Yining, in northwest China’s Xinjiang, in August 1939. By 1940, a total of 328 Chinese personnel had received aviation training at the school under the guidance of Soviet instructors. Before the school was established, more air force personnel, including 1,045 pilots, 81 navigators and 198 gunners and radio operators, as well as approximately 8,000 other aviation technicians, were trained in the Soviet Union. Statistics show that more than 90,000 Chinese military personnel received training in various military schools, training sessions and military units under the guidance of Soviet experts.

When Japanese forces invaded in September 1931, the Soviet consulate in northeast China offered semi-official and informal assistance to the Chinese troops. The Soviet Union shipped loads of arms from Khabarovsk for General Zhang Xueliang at his request.

In early 1937, the Soviets agreed to extend a loan of $50 million to China. On September 9 of that year, the two sides reached an agreement that the Soviets would provide tanks, aircraft guns, anti-tank guns, ammunition, weapon parts and other military equipment, and would send instructors so as to help China make the most of the gear.

BADGES OF HONOR: One of the Soviet veterans who fought in China recalls Sino-Russian wartime friendship at a reception held in the Chinese Embassy in Moscow to honor their efforts

They agreed to provide China with another loan of $50 million in early 1938, and later, an agreement was reached on a third loan amounting to $150 million. All these loans were to be paid back in kind.

The Soviet-German war that broke out in June 1941 brought the loan project to a halt. However, the three loans granted to China from 1938 to 1939 amounted to $250 million, of which some $173.18 million was actually used, representing some two thirds of the total.

The Soviet Union was a major loan provider to China starting from the Lugouqiao Incident in 1937-also known as the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, a battle marking the start of Japan’s full-scale invasion of China-to 1939, when the world plunged into an all-out war following the breakout of war in Europe. Most notably, the loans could be used to purchase weapons and other military necessities with an annual interest rate of only 3 percent.

The Soviets provided large quantities of weapons and military equipment to the Chinese army and air forces from July 1937, when China started a full-scale war of resistance against Japan, to June 22, 1941, when war between the Soviet Union and Germany broke out. Within just one year of the Sino-Soviet non-aggression pact coming into effect in August 1937, the Soviet Union equipped 20 Chinese divisions. For almost four years during combat with Japan, foreign assistance to China came mostly from the Soviets.

There were two main routes along which weapons and military equipment were shipped to China. They were transported either from Sevastopol, Vladivostok and other ports in the Soviet Union to Hong Kong, Haiphong in Viet Nam or Rangoon in Myanmar by sea and from there shipped to China’s hinterland via the Yunnan-Viet Nam Railway or Sichuan-Myanmar Highway, or from Alma-Ata (now Almaty in Kazakhstan) to Lanzhou via Urumqi. In addition, the Soviet Union operated an air route from Alma-Ata to Lanzhou under extremely difficult circumstances.

The Soviet Union committed a huge amount of resources to ensure the uninterrupted supply of military necessities to China. From October 1937 to February 1939, at least 5,640 freight trains were deployed to transport military materials to China. During the same period, more than 5,260 motor vehicles traveled some 18.5 million km along the Saryozek-Lanzhou Highway to deliver military materials. More than 4,000 Soviet personnel were engaged in this unremitting endeavor.

With all of this military assistance, the Soviet Union gave China a strong base of support in its war of resistance against Japanese aggression. By early 1938, China had established three flying brigades in its air force. The largest two were equipped with Soviet planes and weapons, while the third one used French, British, American and Italian planes. As well, China’s first mechanized division came into being thanks to the military equipment offered by the Soviet Union. China’s artillery forces were dealt a heavy blow following the major defeat of Kuomintang troops in Xuzhou in the spring of 1938, but were later restored with Soviet help.

This aid made a significant difference for the Chinese forces in their fight against Japanese aggression. The Chinese air force, equipped with Soviet planes, heroically fought side by side with Soviet volunteers in the vital campaigns defending Nanjing, Chongqing, Wuhan, Lanzhou, Xi’an and Chengdu. As soon as the first group of Soviet volunteers arrived in Nanjing on December 1, 1937, they launched a fierce air operation against the Japanese. In the campaigns defending Nanjing and Wuhan, they fought alongside the Chinese air force and repelled the Japanese invaders.

On February 23, 1938, the Russian volunteers launched an effective offensive against the Japanese air base in Taiwan, destroying 40 Japanese planes and sinking or damaging several warships. By 1940, Japan had lost 986 planes in mid-air or on the ground in China.

During the war, a total of 700 volunteers from the Soviet Union fought in China, and 236 lost their lives. A monument erected in Wuhan’s Liberation Park shows the Chinese people’s eternal commemoration and respect for these dauntless Soviet fighters.

From the autumn of 1937 to 1942, when the military experts and volunteers left China because they were needed in the war between the Soviet Union and Germany, more than 5,000 Soviet soldiers had fought in China.

Following victory on the European front of World War II in early May 1945, top leaders of the United States, Britain and China issued the Potsdam Proclamation, urging Japan to surrender. When the Japanese Government openly rejected the demand, the Allies decided to launch a decisive campaign. The United States dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9 respectively, inflicting enormous casualties. On August 8, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan.

Beginning in April 1945, the Soviet Union deployed a 1.5-million-strong army, 26,000 artillery pieces, 5,500 tanks and 5,000 planes along its border with northeast China. The Soviet forces led by the Far East Commander, Marshal A. M. Vasilevsky, initiated an offensive against Japanese troops on August 9. The Trans-Baikal Front, the First Far Eastern Front and the Second Far Eastern Front marched across the border and fiercely attacked the Japanese Kwantung Army from the east, west and north. In the meantime, the Pacific fleet of the Soviet navy landed in the north of the Korean Peninsula and on the Kuril Islands to sweep out Japanese forces.

After Japan formally proclaimed an unconditional surrender to the Allies on August 14, 1945, Soviet paratroops continued to land in major cities in northeast China and north Korea. They captured the puppet Emperor of the “Manchukuo,” what the Japanese called Manchuria, Aisin-Gioro Puyi-also known as the Last Emperor of China. Soviet forces also seized Qiqihar, Shenyang, Harbin, Changchun, Lushun, northern part of the Korean Peninsula, south Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. The offensive ended with the loss of 677,000 Japanese troops, of which 83,000 were killed and 594,000 surrendered. According to statistics released by the Soviet military, the number of casualties on the Soviet side was only 32,000.