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Far East Campaign Pt. 1 - The First Battle of Nomonhan
Dress Rehearsal for Disaster
by Paul Rohrbaugh

“In virtue of our treaty with Mongolia, we shall defend its frontiers as energetically as our own... patience has its limits.”
—Foreign Affairs Commissar, V.M. Molotov, May 31, 1939.

Background

In response to repeated Soviet incursions along the Halha River (also called the Khalkin Gol) near the village of Nomanhan the commander of the Japanese 23rd Infantry Division, General Komatsubara Mitchitaro, who was charged with security dispatched a detachment of his 64th Infantry Regiment to the area. Supported by tanks and local Manchukuoan cavalry he deemed the force more than adequate for chastising the local Soviet “bandits.”

Scenario FE-1 - The First Battle of Nomonhan.

Aftermath

"If I were Komatsubara, I would have slit my guts."
– Diary entry by Tsuji Masanobu, officer of the 164th Infantry Regiment.

The Japanese underestimated the size of the Soviet forces in the area and paid dearly for it. The Azuma Detachment initially pushed back the outlying garrison, but then ran into stiff opposition near the pontoon bridge the defenders had erected over the Halha River. As the 164th Infantry came up to oust the Soviets from their defenses, the Japanese were shocked to see masses of enemy tanks coming through the dust. The Soviet’s 11th Tank Brigade cut the Japanese to ribbons and sent the survivors reeling back to Hailar where the 23rd Infantry Division was garrisoned. The force suffered a staggering 63% killed or captured. To the east in Hsinkang, the Japanese Kwantung Area Army’s reaction was to once more underestimate their enemy, ordering General Komatsubara to try again in July with a much larger force, to assert Japanese dominance in the region. The price for that episode of impudence and oversight would be much higher, however.










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