The USSR helps in
defeat of Japan
By AN WEN
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
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
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
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
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
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.