At the edge of the world, The First Turn of the Wheel…
The Battle of Khalkin Gol (also called Nomonhan), sent shockwaves through world history. It was a testbed for future Soviet doctrine and a catalyst for the Japanese political upheaval that brought the United States into every theater of World War II.
A rebuilding Russian army (still reeling from Stalin’s purges) and its combined-arms doctrine faced off against Japan’s modern bushido; the Soviet tactics used successfully here would prove devastating in the war to come. The Russian victory here thwarted Japanese ag-gression from Manchuria and prevented the formation of a second front, allowing Soviet resources to focus on the Germans to the west. Japanese failure at Khalkin Gol denied them natural resourc-es in the Russian north and resulted in an internal policy shift that led to the Japanese storm of conquest in the southeast Asia; this “strike south” strategy necessitated a preemptive attack on Pearl Harbor, forced the United States and its industrial might into the war and eventually brought about the end of the German and Jap-anese Empires. The origins of later Second World War campaigns, the Korean War, the rise of the superpowers, and a half-century of cold war can be found at the Battle of Khalkin Gol.
W.C. Jandrew holds a Master of Arts in Military History and is a January 2021 contributor to the European Center of Military History (eucmh.com). He lives in suburban Maryland with his wife and dog.