Aug 29, 2021
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Japan’s attack on the USSR, scheduled for August 29, 1941, did not take place – “the persimmon was not ripe”

“Even Hitler is mistaken in his assessment of the Soviet Union”

In the second half of July 1941, when Japan’s preparations for an attack on the USSR were in full swing, the first doubts arose among the Japanese generals about the success of the German blitzkrieg. On July 16, the following entry was made in the “Secret Diary of War” of the imperial headquarters: “There are no active actions on the German-Soviet front. Quiet”. Then on July 21st: “There is no certainty in the development of the situation on the Soviet-German front. It looks like Tokyo rain that does not stop for several days. “

Japanese strategists began to analyze more seriously the prospects of Germany in the war against the USSR. “The theater of military operations in Russia is huge and cannot be compared with Flanders. The flat character of the theater of war in Russia, although it makes it possible for Germany to advance quickly, on the other hand, it contributes to a correct retreat, which is what the USSR is counting on. In this case, it will not be so easy to liquidate the Soviet troops. Guerrilla warfare also significantly enhances the defenses of the USSR. “

As the planned date for making the final decision on the start of military operations against the USSR approached – August 10, the Japanese leadership tried to find out from the German government the timing of the end of the war. The Japanese ambassador to Berlin, General Hiroshi Oshima, testified after the war: “In July – early August it became known that the pace of the offensive of the German army had slowed down. Moscow and Leningrad were not captured on schedule. In this regard, I met with Ribbentrop to get clarification. He invited Field Marshal Keitel to a meeting, who said that the slowdown in the advance of the German army was due to the long length of communications, as a result of which the rear units were lagging behind. Therefore, the offensive is delayed by three weeks. “

This explanation only increased the doubts of the Japanese leadership. The increasing demands of the German leaders to Japan to open a “second front” in the east as soon as possible testified to the difficulties. They made it increasingly clear that Japan would not be able to reap the benefits of victory if nothing was done to achieve this.

However, the Japanese government continued to declare “the need for a long preparation.” In Tokyo, they feared a premature attack against the USSR. On July 29, 1941, the Secret War Diary wrote: “The Soviet-German front is still unchanged. Will the moment for an armed solution to the northern problem come this year? Did Hitler Make a Serious Mistake? The next 10 days of the war should determine history. “ This meant the time left before Japan made a decision to attack the Soviet Union.

The Japanese government began to pay great attention to the assessment of the internal political situation of the USSR. Even before the outbreak of the war, some Japanese experts on the Soviet Union expressed doubts about the Soviet Union’s swift surrender. Thus, one of the employees of the Japanese embassy in Moscow, Yoshitani, warned in September 1940: “It is completely absurd to think that Russia will fall apart from the inside when the war starts.”… On July 22, 1941, Japanese generals were forced to admit in the Secret War Diary: “Exactly a month has passed since the beginning of the war. Although the operations of the German army continue, the Stalinist regime, contrary to expectations, has proved to be strong. “

By the beginning of August, the 5th Intelligence Department of the General Staff of the Army (intelligence against the USSR. – A.K.) a document entitled “Assessment of the current situation in the Soviet Union” was prepared and presented to the leadership of the Ministry of War. Although the drafters of the document continued to believe in the ultimate victory of Germany, they could not ignore the reality. The main conclusion of the report was: “Even if the Red Army leaves Moscow this year, it will not surrender. Germany’s intention to end the decisive battle quickly will not materialize. Further development of the war will not be beneficial for the German side “

Commenting on this finding, Japanese researchers point out: “In early August, the 5th Intelligence Department came to the conclusion that during 1941 the German army would not be able to conquer the Soviet Union, and the prospects for Germany were not the best for the next year either. Everything indicated that the war was dragging on “… This intelligence report forced the Japanese leadership to more soberly assess the prospects for the German-Soviet war and Japan’s participation in it.

Hajime Sugiyama and Hideki Tojo

The army, meanwhile, continued to prepare for the implementation of the plan for the war against the USSR – “Kantokuen”. Chief of General Staff Hajime Sugiyama and Minister of War Hideki Tojo stated: “There is a high probability that the war will end with a quick German victory. It will be extremely difficult for the Soviets to continue the war. The statement that the German-Soviet war is dragging on is a hasty conclusion. “

The Japanese military did not want to miss the “golden opportunity” to fall down together with Germany on the USSR and crush it. Japan’s Minister of War Hideki Tojo said: “The attack should take place when the Soviet Union, like a ripe persimmon, is ready to fall to the ground …”

The commander of the Kwantung Army, General Yoshijiro Umezu, conveyed to the center: “Just now the rarest case presented itself, which happens once in a thousand years, for the implementation of the state policy towards the Soviet Union. It is necessary to grasp this … I repeat once again that the main thing is not to miss the moment … “

Tahiti Yoshimoto

Chief of Staff of the Kwantung Army, Lieutenant General Teiichi Yoshimoto urged the Chief of Operations Directorate of the General Staff Shinichi Tanaka: “The beginning of the German-Soviet war is an opportunity sent down to us from above to resolve the northern problem. We need to discard the theory of “ripe persimmon” and create a favorable moment ourselves … Even if the preparation is insufficient, speaking this fall, you can count on success. “

The Japanese command considered the weakening of Soviet troops in the Far East an important condition for entering the war against the USSR. This was the essence of the concept of “ripe persimmon” – the expectation of “the most favorable moment”.

According to the plan of the Japanese General Staff of the Army, hostilities against the USSR were to begin subject to the reduction of Soviet divisions in the Far East and Siberia from 30 to 15, and aviation, armored, artillery and other units by two-thirds. However, the scale of the transfer of Soviet troops to the European part of the USSR in the summer of 1941 did not meet the expectations of the Japanese command. According to the intelligence department of the Japanese General Staff on July 12, three weeks after the start of the German-Soviet war, only 17 percent of Soviet divisions were transferred from the Far East to the west, and about one third of mechanized units. At the same time, Japanese military intelligence reported that in return for the departing troops, the Red Army was replenished by conscription among the local population. Attention was drawn to the fact that mainly the troops of the Trans-Baikal Military District were being transferred to the west, and in the eastern and northern directions the grouping of Soviet troops practically remained the same.

The restraining effect on the decision to start a war against the USSR was exerted by the preservation of a large number of Soviet aviation in the Far East. By mid-July, the Japanese General Staff had information that only 30 Soviet air squadrons had been deployed to the west. Of particular concern was the presence of a significant number of bomber aircraft in the eastern regions of the USSR. It was believed that in the event of an attack by Japan on the Soviet Union, there would be a real danger of massive air strikes directly on Japanese territory. The Japanese General Staff had intelligence on the presence in 1941 in the Soviet Far East of 60 heavy bombers, 450 fighters, 60 attack aircraft, 80 long-range bombers, 330 light bombers and 200 naval aircraft. One of the documents of the rate of July 26, 1941 indicated: “In the event of a war with the USSR, as a result of several bombing strikes at night by ten, and in the daytime by twenty or thirty planes, Tokyo can be turned into ashes.”

The Japanese command remembered the defeat at Khalkhin Gol, when the imperial army experienced the military might of the Soviet Union on its own experience. German Ambassador to Tokyo Eugen Ott reported to Ribbentrop that Japan’s decision to enter the war against the USSR was influenced “Memories of the nomonkhan (Khalkingol) events, which are still alive in the memory of the Kwantung Army”

In Tokyo, they understood that it was one thing to stab a defeated enemy in the back, and quite another to engage in battle with a regular Soviet army prepared for modern warfare. Assessing the grouping of Soviet troops in the Far East, the newspaper “Khoti” emphasized in the issue of September 29, 1941: “These troops remain completely impeccable, both in terms of providing them with the latest weapons and in terms of excellent training.”… On September 4, 1941, another newspaper, Miyako, wrote: “It has not yet come to a fatal blow to the army of the Soviet Union. Therefore, the conclusion that the Soviet Union is strong cannot be considered groundless. “

Hitler’s promise to seize Moscow with a delay of only three weeks remained unfulfilled, which did not allow the Japanese leadership to start military operations against the Soviet Union on schedule. On August 28, on the eve of the planned start date of the war, a pessimistic entry was made in the Secret War Diary: “Even Hitler is wrong in his assessment of the Soviet Union. Therefore, what can we say about our intelligence department. The war in Germany will continue until the end of the year … What is the future of the empire? The outlook is bleak. Truly, you cannot guess the future … “

On September 3, at a meeting of the coordination council of the government and the imperial rate, the participants in the meeting concluded that, “Since Japan will not be able to deploy large-scale operations in the north until February, it is necessary to quickly carry out operations in the south during this time.”

Having experience of intervention in the Far East and Siberia in 1918-1922, when the Japanese troops unprepared for war in the Siberian winter suffered heavy losses, the Japanese army command in all its plans proceeded from the need to avoid hostilities against the USSR in winter. Japanese Ambassador to Berlin Oshima explained to the Hitlerite leadership: “This time of year (in autumn and winter. – A.K.) military action against the Soviet Union can only be undertaken on a small scale. It will probably not be too difficult to occupy the northern (Russian) part of Sakhalin Island. In view of the fact that the Soviet troops suffered heavy losses in the battles with the German troops, they can probably also be pushed back from the border. However, an attack on Vladivostok, as well as any advance in the direction of Lake Baikal at this time of the year, is impossible, and due to the circumstances, it will have to be postponed until spring. “

In the document “Program for the Implementation of the State Policy of the Empire”, adopted on September 6, 1941 at the Imperial Conference in the presence of Hirohito, it was decided to continue the seizure of the colonial possessions of the Western powers in the south, for which purpose to complete all military preparations by the end of October.

On September 14, 1941, the resident of the Soviet military intelligence in Tokyo, Richard Sorge, reported to Moscow: “According to a source of Invest (Hokumi Ozaki – A.K.), the Japanese government decided not to oppose the USSR this year, but the armed forces will be left in the MChG (Manchukuo. – A.K.) in case of performance in the spring of next year in case of defeat of the USSR by that time “… And that was accurate information.

The prepared Japanese attack on the USSR in the summer and autumn of 1941 did not take place not as a result of Japan’s observance of the Soviet-Japanese pact of neutrality, as Japanese propaganda claims, but as a result of the failure of the German plan for a “lightning war” and the preservation of the USSR’s defenses in the regions beyond the Urals.

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