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Churchill
05-19-2013, 12:54 PM
Hey everyone. I took a WWII history class in university last semester and had to write a term paper on a subject of my choice. I'm going to post it here and I'm interested to see what you think of it.



The Soviet Invasion of Manchuria:
A Mismatch of Strength and Tactics

"Churchill"
History 3387: World War II
"Dr. Professor"
4/6/2013

With the defeat of Nazi Germany in Europe on May 8th 1945, the attention of the Big Three powers, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States, turned towards the Pacific Ocean and Japan, the last of the Axis powers. As per their agreement with the UK and the USA, concluded in 1943, the USSR would invade Japanese controlled Manchuria three months after the defeat of Nazi Germany, an invasion that was bound to succeed due to differences in size, tactical doctrine, and supply of arms.

The Soviet Union and Japan had been at war many times in the past. The Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905 was a startling Russian loss and it announced the arrival of Japan on the world stage as a great power. The Soviet and Japanese border incidents regarding Manchuria and Mongolia lasted from 1932 to 1941. These attacks led to the Pact of Neutrality Between [the] Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Japan as well as the Declaration Regarding Mongolia, both signed on April 13, 1941. The Pact of Neutrality was similar to the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact in which neither party would go to war with each other, and the Declaration Regarding Mongolia was signed to protect the territorial boundaries of the Soviet-protected Mongolian Peopleís Republic and the Japanese-protected area of China known as Manchoukuo.1

The Soviet Union denounced the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact on the 5th of April 1945, one month before the end of the war in Europe. This denunciation was made at that time due to time constraints imposed on the Soviet government by the Pact of Neutrality. Article Three of The Pact of Neutrality stated that:

"The present Pact comes into force from the day of its ratification by both Contracting Parties [April 13, 1941] and remains valid for five years. In case neither of the Contracting Parties denounces the Pact one year before the expiration of the term, it will be considered automatically prolonged for the next five years."3

The deadline for denouncing the pact was on the 13th of April 1945, a date which didnít give enough time for the Soviets and Western Allies to defeat Nazi Germany. The Soviet declaration of war on Japan was given to Japanese Ambassador Sato by Foreign Commissar Molotov on August 8, 1945 at 2300 hours. Sixty one minutes after the official declaration of war, Soviet forces invaded Manchuria.4

The Soviet army in 1941 in the Far East was comprised of 30 divisions, of which the Japanese estimated the Soviets moved 15 infantry divisions, along with 1700 tanks and 1500 aircraft west to fight the Nazis during 1941-1942. By the time transfers to the western front had ceased in the later part of 1942, the strength of Soviet forces facing Japanese forces in Manchuria was 19 infantry divisions, 10 infantry brigades, which adds up to about 750,000 men, as well as 1000 tanks and 1000 aircraft. With the end of Nazi Germany near, the Soviet high command started the transfer of 30 divisions, nine brigades, and other units to the Far East. Japanese commanders expected the Soviets to attack when their operational strength reached 60 divisions, and therefore discarded the idea that the Soviets would attack with fewer.4 On August 9, when the invasion began, the Soviets had amassed a force of 11 combined-arms armies, one tank army, and three air armies. These forces consisted of 80 divisions comprising two tank and six cavalry divisions, four tank and mechanised corps, 40 separate tank and mechanised brigades, and six infantry brigades. In terms of manpower, just under 1.6 million men were ready to invade, of which just over one million were in combat roles. The Soviets had also amassed an overwhelming superiority in materiel as well: 26,000 artillery pieces and mortars, 3700 tanks and 1850 self-propelled guns, and 4800 combat aircraft.6 In command of the invading Soviet forces was Marshal Alexander M. Vasilevsky, with Colonel General S. P. Ivanov as his Chief of the General Staff. Under Vasilevsky were Marshal Rodion Ya. Malinovsky, commander of the Transbaikal Front, Marshal Kyril A. Meretskov, commander of the First Far East Front, and General of the Army Maxim A. Purkayev, commander of the Second Far East Front and the ex-commander of the Far East Front during most of the war on the Western Front.7

Facing this vast army were the Japanese, who reached peak strength of 1.1 million men in January 1942. Japanese tactical guidelines maintained that their forces should not go below 70 percent of Soviet strength. In July of 1944 the Japanese were at their weakest in Manchuria: seven divisions. This weakness had been corrected by the 9th of August 1945, with the formation and transfer of 24 Japanese divisions and 11 brigades in Manchuria as well as seven divisions in Korea. When combined with Manchukuoan and Inner Mongolian satellite troops, Japanese forces totaled just over 1 million men, of which between 600,000 and 780,000 were from the Kwantung Army in Manchuria. Supporting these forces were 1200 armored vehicles, 1800 aircraft, and 6700 artillery pieces and mortars.8
This Japanese force appears to be quite impressive, however there is another tale to be told of these forces. The majority of the Kwantung Armyís trained soldiers and front line equipment had been dispersed among other units of Japanís armies, and all that remained were newly created units and obsolete equipment. The best example of the lack of preparation and training of the units of the Kwantung Army is the fact that the most Ďveteraní of all of its remaining units was formed in the spring of 1944. Thirteen of the Kwantung Armyís 24 divisions in 1945 were formed after June of that year. At least one third of the units that were charged with defending Manchuria from a Soviet invasion were mobilised 10 days before the actual invasion, and the majority of the supposedly 23,000 man strong divisions were actually at about half of that strength.9 The majority of these divisions were under or ill-equipped: the Japanese Type 97 Chi-Ha tank weighed around 15 tons, compared to the 51 ton Soviet IS-2, no divisions were equipped with artillery heavier than 75mm, and all of the tactical fighter planes available were obsolete. The Japanese themselves were aware of the poor performance potential of this army, having rated its 24 divisions able to fight as if they were seven or eight, and the seven divisions in Korea were rated to fight as if they were two.10

The Soviet Invasion of Manchuria started on August 9th, 1945 at 0001 hours when the Transbaikal Front, stationed in Mongolia and containing around half of the total Soviet forces, invaded Manchuria from the west in a two-pronged attack. The northern attack drove towards Tsitsihar and Harbin to rendezvous with the Second Far East Front. The main force of the attack was the southern prong, led by the 6th Guards Tank Army, which attacked the cities of Mukden and Changchun, around 450 kilometres from its staging ground. The time allotted for this 450 km charge and for the capture of Mukden and Changchun was 10 days. On the 24th of August, only 15 days after the start of the operation, Port Arthur and Dalian were in the hands of Soviet forces. In those 15 days, Soviet forces had advanced 1100 kilometres and encountered no grave setbacks other than lack of fuel. The advances of the First and Second Far East Fronts encountered stiffer resistance, however they were able to capture their objectives with few casualties. The success of the three Soviet fronts led the Japanese north of the 38th parallel to surrender within a few days of the 25th of August, and forces below the 38th parallel surrendered to American forces on the 8th of September 1945.11

The Soviet high command may have arranged the bulk of its forces against Manchuria, but that wasnít the only axis of advance. Sakhalin Island was also an area of Soviet buildup and attack. Needless to say, Soviet forces completely outnumbered their Japanese opponents. This superiority in numbers and quality of the men and materiel makes it surprising to learn that on the 14th of August the 179th Regiment of the 79th Division was surrounded by the Japanese. The Sakhalin Campaign ended on the 25th of August. Other than Sakhalin Island, Soviet forces attacked the northern Kurile Islands. The Kurile Islands are the only area of operations between Soviet and Japanese forces where there was a relative parity of forces: both nations had around 8600 men, the Soviets had more artillery guns, but the Japanese had more machine guns. What may be the most surprising fact of the Kurile Islands campaign is that Soviet forces were outnumbered in the number of tanks they had: the Japanese had 60 light tanks whereas the Soviets had none! The Soviets however had over 200 anti-tank guns opposed to none for the Japanese. The final surrender of Kurile Island forces was completed on the 5th of September.12

Churchill
05-19-2013, 12:54 PM
On the 23rd of August 1945, Joseph Stalin announced the conclusion of the Manchurian Campaign and on the 2nd of September Japan formally surrendered to all its enemies. The Soviet Manchurian campaign cannot be measured by the amount of materiel prepared for it and the amount of casualties dealt by each side. Of the 3.2 million shells and 410 million small-arms cartridges stockpiled for the campaign about 360,000 shells and just over one million bullets were fired. The Soviet estimated the total number of Japanese casualties to be around 83,700 killed and just below 600,000 taken prisoner. Those 600,000 prisoners were taken to the Soviet Union to work as forced labor, however around 510,000 were repatriated between 1948 and 1950. Total losses for the Soviet Army are estimated to be around 8000 killed and 22,000 wounded.13

By mid-1945 the Japanese could not support their wartime economy. Imports of iron ore, coal, oil, and bauxite constituted the main supply of the Japanese war economy during the war. With the capture of the Dutch East Indies, Malaysia, the Philippines, and French Indochina in the first years of the war, supplies of these vital raw materials were supposed to be assured, but shipping and processing were not up to the task of supplying the Japanese economy with the amounts needed. These southern areas were important to the Japanese in the first year and a half of their capture due to losses in shipping. By 1944 deficiencies in steel production were so acute that heavy artillery and light tank production were being cut off, ammunition was no longer available for training purposes, and production of medium tanks and armored cars were drastically reduced.14 Aircraft production in 1945 was almost halted due to shortages of aluminum, and oil stocks were just as impressive as aluminum stocks: practically empty.15

Even if the Japanese army in Manchuria had been comprised of fully trained, full strength units with no supply problems, the Soviet invading armies would have successfully invaded. Soviet tactical doctrine placed a heavier emphasis on armored vehicles than Japanese tactical doctrine, with good reason: the German armies that invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 were based around the tank, and to counter this effective weapon the Soviets developed substantial tank forces of their own. The Japanese were never confronted with significant tank forces during their wars with the Chinese, Dutch, English, or French, and as a result never developed any armored vehicles beyond light and medium tanks, nor any anti-tank weapons, such as the Panzerfaust. This clear lack of anti-tank weapons and any form of heavy tank would have been the downfall of the Japanese armies in Manchuria when faced with Soviet tank and combined arms armies.

The Soviet invasion of Manchuria was one of history’s lesser known but highly successful invasions. The quantities of men and materiel transferred from western Russia to eastern Russia for the invasion, as well as the logistics behind the transfer and the infrastructure built, make it one of the most impressive military maneuvers in modern history. The invasion took place when the Japanese army was at its weakest in terms of men and materiel, however full strength units supplied with the best Japanese weapons would not have been able to withstand the attack due to improper tactical doctrines. Tanks, weapons that played a large role in the Western theater of war against Nazi Germany, were not major weapons in the Eastern theater. The invasion of Manchuria had more important consequences than the defeat of Japan: The Soviet invasion of Manchuria helped the Chinese Communists under Mao Zedong establish a political base to use against the Chinese Nationalists, with repercussions that are still being felt today.

1. "Soviet-Japanese Neutrality and Denunciation." http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/policy/1941/410413a.html#4.
2. "Soviet-Japanese Neutrality and Denunciation."
3. "Soviet-Japanese Neutrality and Denunciation."
4. Chen, C P. "Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation." World War II Database. http://ww2db.com/battle_spec.php?battle_id=167.
5. Garthoff, Raymond L. "The Soviet Manchurian Campaign, August 1945." Military Affairs 33, no. 2 (October 1969): 312. JSTOR. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1983926.
6. Garthoff, 313.
7. Garthoff, 314.
8. Garthoff, 313.
9. Garthoff, 313.
10. Garthoff, 314.
11. Garthoff, 316-324.
12. Garthoff, 326-29.
13. Garthoff, 331-332.
14. Cohen, Jerome B. "The Japanese War Economy: 1940-1945." Far Eastern Survey 15, no. 24 (December 4, 1946): 366. JSTOR. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3021956.
15. Cohen, 368-370.

References
Chen, C P. "Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation." World War II Database. http://ww2db.com/battle_spec.php?battle_id=167.
Cohen, Jerome B. "The Japanese War Economy: 1940-1945." Far Eastern Survey 15, no. 24 (December 4, 1946): 361-70. JSTOR. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3021956.
Garthoff, Raymond L. "The Soviet Manchurian Campaign, August 1945." Military Affairs 33, no. 2 (October 1969): 312-36. JSTOR. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1983926.
Kiyan, Alexander. "The offensive in the Far East." RKKA.ru. http://rkka.ru/maps/tv25.gif.
"Soviet-Japanese Neutrality and Denunciation." http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/policy/1941/410413a.html#4.

Sorry about the two posts, it was too long to put on one page...

Its a bit late for this paper, but what would you recommend to improve my writing?

J.A.W.
05-19-2013, 06:49 PM
No mention of Korea? Ramifications of which are still current..

No mention of Hitler's fateful decision to declare war on U.S.A.?

Which allowed the Soviet option by defeating Germany 1st..

& the Japanese failure to reciprocate by moving into Siberia in `42?

Churchill
05-19-2013, 10:10 PM
I was limited to 7 pages, otherwise I could have written much more.

J.A.W.
05-19-2013, 10:36 PM
Ok, then.. but was the intent to essay a narrow-focus military campaign, or was there scope for geo-political matters?

You might have had some fun exploring one of Winnie's piss-brained blunders, such as the Dodecanese shocker in `43..

Churchill
05-20-2013, 01:48 AM
The intent was to attempt to describe the invasion and the forces used to conduct it, as well as a limited discussion on why it was so successful. Some of it is edited to make it more university-paper-ish, so it doesn't cover everything that is mentioned in great detail (which was reflected in my grade XD ).

I probably would have picked something more fitting to my username, but this was a topic I knew little about and was interested in.

J.A.W.
05-20-2013, 02:15 AM
Ch..l

A point here. I think you'll find that tanks were just as useful in every theatre.
. esp' when the enemy did not have such an effective means of countering them..

The Japanese certainly used theirs effectively in Malaya..
While tanks deemed obsolescent in the west, such as M3s & Matildas were also quite successful in Burma & New Guinea..
As were Shermans for the Marines & US Army in the Phillipines..

T-34/85s were over-kill against the Kwantung forces sure, but nothing kills like over-kill, right..

Churchill
05-20-2013, 02:48 AM
True.

Rising Sun*
05-20-2013, 08:41 AM
Churchill, I think it is a very good essay on the topic it deals with (or with which it deals, for the pedants).

Clear, concise and to the point. Covers a lot of ground in a small space. Puts the military action in the geo-political context. Highly informative. Not a word wasted.

Good points about Japan's failure to develop tank doctrine and the reasons for it vis a vis the Soviets, which is obvious, but an obvious point which hadn't struck me until I read your paper.

The only criticism I'd offer, and it's a mild one, is that you don't mention that from the tactical aspect the Japanese were caught with their pants down in the early phase as they were engaged in major troop movements to new positions. Alas, I can't recall the details, but it put them at a somewhat greater disadvantage than they would have been if they'd completed those movements before being attacked.

On the statistics:

1. Did the Soviets fire only one million small arms rounds? Seems rather low.

2. I'm very rusty on detail again, but IIRC Japanese divisons numbered above 100 had about half the strength of those earlier divisions numbered below 100, so that the later divisions in Manchuria facing the Soviets were generally about half true divisional strength as well as being inexperienced, so they were at a double disadvantage. Did you account for this in your stats on Japanese divisional strengths or did you have actual numbers of troops present?

Anyway, I still think it is a very good paper and I'd give you a very good mark on it if I was your examiner.

Churchill
05-20-2013, 02:43 PM
The only criticism I'd offer, and it's a mild one, is that you don't mention that from the tactical aspect the Japanese were caught with their pants down in the early phase as they were engaged in major troop movements to new positions. Alas, I can't recall the details, but it put them at a somewhat greater disadvantage than they would have been if they'd completed those movements before being attacked.

On the statistics:

1. Did the Soviets fire only one million small arms rounds? Seems rather low.

2. I'm very rusty on detail again, but IIRC Japanese divisons numbered above 100 had about half the strength of those earlier divisions numbered below 100, so that the later divisions in Manchuria facing the Soviets were generally about half true divisional strength as well as being inexperienced, so they were at a double disadvantage. Did you account for this in your stats on Japanese divisional strengths or did you have actual numbers of troops present?

Anyway, I still think it is a very good paper and I'd give you a very good mark on it if I was your examiner.
You're right, I forgot to mention that. Oops XD

Here's what Garthoff says about rounds and shells: "from 1 December 1944 to 1 April 1945, more than 3.2 million shells and 410 mil- lion small-arms cartridges were transferred from European Russia to the Far East. And we know that the total ammunition expend- ed during the campaign, on all fronts, was only 361,079 shells and 1,023,697 bullets."

I wasn't aware that that was the case with sub- and above-100 number divisions, weird kind of thing to do though.

I wish my professor had thought the same way, I received a 'C' on it.

Rising Sun*
05-21-2013, 12:38 PM
I wasn't aware that that was the case with sub- and above-100 number divisions, weird kind of thing to do though.

Unlike other weird things like thinking that 'spirit' could overcome its enemies' vastly superior industrial, military, naval and air capacity?

And that the Western powers would allow Japan to hold what it grabbed if Japan could hold it long enough?

The foregoing being pretty much Japan's ill-considered strategy for its war from Pearl Harbor onwards.



I wish my professor had thought the same way, I received a 'C' on it.

I don't know what he / she was expecting, so maybe you deserved a C. But if it makes you feel any better, you can tell him / her that I think he / she is a dopey ***** who wouldn't know if a train was up him / her until the passengers got out.

That should get you an E on your next assignment. :)

tankgeezer
05-21-2013, 12:54 PM
Unlike other weird things like thinking that 'spirit' could overcome its enemies' vastly superior industrial, military, naval and air capacity?

And that the Western powers would allow Japan to hold what it grabbed if Japan could hold it long enough?

The foregoing being pretty much Japan's ill-considered strategy for its war from Pearl Harbor onwards.




I don't know what he / she was expecting, so maybe you deserved a C. But if it makes you feel any better, you can tell him / her that I think he / she is a dopey ***** who wouldn't know if a train was up him / her until the passengers got out.

That should get you an E on your next assignment. :)

Seconded.

Churchill
05-21-2013, 12:57 PM
Hah, thanks guys.

J.A.W.
05-21-2013, 06:43 PM
& Geo-policy-wise, Czar-Comrade Stalin was keen to comprehensively redeem the Russian military reputation as
THE Eurasian power after their humiliation of 40 years earlier by the arms of Nippon..

Churchill
05-21-2013, 09:45 PM
No kidding, revenge was a crushing defeat that was crushing.

J.A.W.
05-22-2013, 12:38 AM
Probably a fair call to remark that ol' uncle Joe was giving a bit of a..

"Look what we can do.. too"..

.. as a response to Dresden, Tokyo & the Nuke holocausts..

Churchill
05-22-2013, 12:55 AM
Sounds like something he would do.

royal744
07-19-2013, 12:03 AM
No kidding, revenge was a crushing defeat that was crushing.

Good paper. The only thing missing seems to be the importance of the engagements between the Soviets and the Japanese along the Manchukuo border along the Khalkin Gol River. These were not small engagements and they took place in July-August 1939. The importance, to me, is that even back then, the Soviets inflicted stinging defeats on the Japanese with use of far superior soviet armor against Japanese tank forces that were inferior qualitatively and tactically. Also, the Soviet air offensive showed the weakness of Japanese air tactics as well. Charitably put, the Japanese did not achieve a single one of their military goals and were crushed in the process. The Soviet General in charge of Khalkin Gol was Georgi Zhukov.

My point is that the Japanese had plenty of exposure to Soviet armor tactics 5-1/2 years before they returned and in the meantime, the Kwantung Army had learned very little useful information to prepare themselves for the Russian's return. Japanese tanks had 5 years to improve and match the soviet ones, but nothing of the sort happened. I'm not aware of the existence of a single heavy tank type in the Japanese arsenal, but one may have existed. Same for the use of massed artillery which Zhukov had used to devastating effect against the Japanese.

If the Japanese later said they were surprised at the power of the soviet onslaught in 1945, they were simply lying to cover their derrieres.

pdf27
07-19-2013, 12:52 AM
My point is that the Japanese had plenty of exposure to Soviet armor tactics 5-1/2 years before they returned and in the meantime, the Kwantung Army had learned very little useful information to prepare themselves for the Russian's return. Japanese tanks had 5 years to improve and match the soviet ones, but nothing of the sort happened. I'm not aware of the existence of a single heavy tank type in the Japanese arsenal, but one may have existed. Same for the use of massed artillery which Zhukov had used to devastating effect against the Japanese.

If the Japanese later said they were surprised at the power of the soviet onslaught in 1945, they were simply lying to cover their derrieres.
The Kwantung Army was hollowed out between 1939 and 1945, to cover troop losses elsewhere - principally China and Burma. That's one of the reason so many surrendered - the best and most fanatical had already been killed elsewhere.

Nickdfresh
07-19-2013, 03:19 PM
...Japanese tanks had 5 years to improve and match the soviet ones, but nothing of the sort happened. I'm not aware of the existence of a single heavy tank type in the Japanese arsenal, but one may have existed. Same for the use of massed artillery which Zhukov had used to devastating effect against the Japanese.
...

The Japanese Imperial Army was only just beginning to develop tanks (http://www.ww2incolor.com/forum/showthread.php/3883-Type-3-medium-tank-Chi-Nu?p=186463#post186463) roughly equivalent to the Sherman prior to the coming Downfall invasion. The did have some decent designs, but not much of an ability to produce them nor fuel them...

Rising Sun*
07-21-2013, 12:58 PM
The Japanese Imperial Army was only just beginning to develop tanks (http://www.ww2incolor.com/forum/showthread.php/3883-Type-3-medium-tank-Chi-Nu?p=186463#post186463) roughly equivalent to the Sherman prior to the coming Downfall invasion. The did have some decent designs, but not much of an ability to produce them nor fuel them...

True, but the tanks they did have generally served them very well in the advance phase of their war, as in Malaya / Singapore where they had no armoured opposition.

Light tanks were ideally suited to the jungle / related terrain country in which the Japanese used them, with great effect against Commonwealth infantry.

Then again, those tanks were not unstoppable, even in Malaya.

6625


A two pounder Anti-Tank Gun of the 4th Anti-Tank Regiment, 8th Australian Division, AIF, directed by VX38874 Sergeant (Sgt) Charles James Parsons, of Moonee Ponds, Vic, in action at a road block at Bakri on the Muar-Parit Sulong Road. In the background is a destroyed Japanese Type 95 Ha-Go Medium Tank. The Anti-Tank Gun was known as the rear gun because of its position in the defence layout of the area. Sgt Parsons was later awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for his and his crew's part in destroying six of the nine Japanese tanks during this engagement.
http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/011302/

Nickdfresh
07-21-2013, 04:48 PM
Six of nine tanks was quite a tally and that gun was worth it weight in gold. RS*, were the Commonwealth forces in Malaya under-served with antitank weapons as well as almost completely devoid of armor?

leccy
07-22-2013, 02:52 AM
Six of nine tanks was quite a tally and that gun was worth it weight in gold. RS*, were the Commonwealth forces in Malaya under-served with antitank weapons as well as almost completely devoid of armor?

I did read about the Australian and Indian Divisions have very little to no AT capability even being devoid of most of the allocation of Boys Rifles (which would probably have worked quite well against the weak Japanese armour. British Divisions I have not read much about equipment wise but the allocated armour never made it with only a few light tanks being received.

Quite a few units seem to have been partially trained and equipped with the usual (even today) of 'you will get the rest of your kit in theatre and plenty of time for training' (as you unload under fire just about).

Lack of ammunition (same as in France when AT guns only had training rounds when they were engaged by the Germans) was a problem for the smaller calibre AA weapons, wonder if the same could be true for the AT guns.

In the Middle East Commonwealth forces were issued Italian 47mm AT and Field guns as well as old 18pdrs as AT weapons (as well as german 50mm AT guns, not seen any mention of the 37mm though) during this period due to a lack of suitable guns and they were in action not just under threat.

Edited to add

Officially the Australians had 10 Boys rifles per Infantry Battalion in late 1941 (6 in AA platoon and 4 in Carrier Platoon), in the North Africa they got 2pdrs in an AT platoon in mid 1942..

Rising Sun*
07-22-2013, 12:13 PM
Six of nine tanks was quite a tally and that gun was worth it weight in gold. RS*, were the Commonwealth forces in Malaya under-served with antitank weapons as well as almost completely devoid of armor?

Don't know about the level of anti-tank weapons in the Commonwealth forces.

Leccy is much better informed than me on what the Australians should have had but, as he notes, that may not be the same as what they did have.

That is further complicated by the fact that what is commonly called the 8th Division, 2nd AIF (2nd Australian Imperial Force, the first being the AIF in WWI with both being all volunteer expeditionary forces) in Malaya / Singapore was only two of the three brigades of that Division. When a formation is split up like that it doesn't necessarily follow that every unit in it has what it's supposed to have, even if it was available to issue to it. For example, the remaining brigade of the 8th Division was split up among various islands closer to Australia while its headquarters remained in Australia which could mean that HQ elements didn't go into the field with the rest of the brigade. I don't know what a 2nd AIF brigade would have had at the time as HQ elements, but building on what a company and battalion HQ would have as HQ platoon and company respectively it could be that a significant element didn't go into the field.

As for tanks, we formed our 1st Armoured Division in 1941 with the intention of sending it to North Africa, where it would have had no impact if sent when formed as all it had was about half a dozen light Vickers tanks, and perhaps not much more effect in Malaya if sent there. But it wasn't as it was held in Australia and built up to meet the feared Japanese invasion.

The advantage of Japanese tanks in Malaya was in getting among the Commonwealth infantry to aid the Japanese infantry's infiltration and envelopment tactics and in bursting through road blocks or other infantry choke points. Commonwealth tanks might have stalled this in tank to tank engagements, but they probably would have been of more use in supporting Commonwealth troops against Japanese infantry as mobile pill boxes. Assuming the Japanese infantry weren't well equipped with effective anti-tank weapons, which I doubt as their intelligence before the invasion should have told them that there was no Commonwealth armour opposing them, although if they lacked specific anti-tank weapons they probably had artillery which, as with the Australians in my last post, could be employed against tanks.

But as we couldn't muster more than about half a dozen light tanks for our first armoured division, the absence of Australian armour in Malaya was probably inevitable. As for British armour, that's a separate question, but I doubt that diverting scarce British armour from North Africa would have been a wise or useful move in the total scheme of things as that undoubtedly fairly meagre armour almost certainly would not have affected the result in Malaya.

The real issue is the lack of British air cover, which if put in in the degree recommended by senior British military planners was the only thing which might, but by no means certainly would have, changed the result of the Malayan campaign.

J.A.W.
07-23-2013, 08:42 PM
While dozens of squadrons of Spitfires were sitting on British airfields, being squandered on pointless cross-channel
excursions of -ve military value..

leccy
07-24-2013, 02:44 AM
While dozens of squadrons of Spitfires were sitting on British airfields, being squandered on pointless cross-channel
excursions of -ve military value..

Really, were they.

Britain had a desperate need for aircraft in the Med it was not until 1942 that the Desert Airforce started getting parity with the Axis, the cross channel sweeps were an attempt to push German fighter cover back from the coast so meaning they had even less time over the UK as well as to interdict German forces.

Look at the paucity of aircraft available for Malta, Greece, Crete, West Africa, North Africa especially modern types and these were active campaigns not threatened areas.

Until June 1941 Britain was still trying to build up her home defences for a possible German Invasion then with the Axis attack on the Soviet Union the UK diverted several Squadrons to the Soviet Union of Hurricanes (still a frontline fighter) and Spitfires.

J.A.W.
07-24-2013, 10:55 PM
So, a sop to an ungrateful Stalin was reckoned to be of more value than a viable defence of Malaya?
& leaving hundreds of Spitfires still buggerising around in bloody Blighty?

Only 2 probable reasons.. incompetence &/or political expediency..

leccy
07-25-2013, 03:56 AM
So, a sop to an ungrateful Stalin was reckoned to be of more value than a viable defence of Malaya?
& leaving hundreds of Spitfires still buggerising around in bloody Blighty?

Only 2 probable reasons.. incompetence &/or political expediency..

And yet again failing to answer my counters, Britain did not have hundreds of Spitfires doing nothing, they did not have enough for the actual areas being fought over (Europe and Africa), Malaya and Singapore like Burma were huge areas and were vaguely threatened by Japan, its so easy to say they should have done this or that but come up with an actual plan of how it could be done.

Stalin may have been ungrateful but he still asked and since he was fighting the Axis (who were literally next door and not thousands of miles away) and so diverting Axis forces from threatening the UK Britain would do all it could, maybe sending all those tanks was bad as well and they should have been sent to North Africa or the Far East (although there would be a shortage of crews), they were enough to help keep the Soviets in the war at a crucial time.

You are using benefit of hindsight coupled with wishful decision making.

British Fighter Command strength from AIR 22 - 'Air Ministry: Periodical Returns, Intelligence Summaries and Bulletins'

6628
6629

RAF Strength-M.E.and Med Command,1941-45-AIR 22 (14/3/41 and 2/5/41
http://www.scribd.com/doc/87944517/raf-strength-m-e-and-med-command-1941-45-air-22

6630
6634

RAF Stength-Far East Command,1942-5- AIR 22 (3/1/42 india)
http://www.scribd.com/doc/87944628/RAF-Stength-Far-East-Command-1942-5-AIR-22

6631
6633

Commonwealth Middle East Air Strength Nov.41 (Combat planes only) Operation Crusader Nov-Dec 1941
6632

Those sort of cover the allocation of planes and what they were doing prior to the Japanese declaration of war, Britain was fighting in Africa and Europe at the time, the Far East was not under attack so tended to be left as a back water getting barely enough for internal security.

Sept 1941 Fighter Command strength including how many AA guns were available for home defence.

6635

Jan 1st 1942 Fighter Command strength just for completeness

6636

J.A.W.
07-26-2013, 12:02 AM
Apart from nuisance Jabo raids, the Germans hadn't spent much time over Britain since attacking the East..

The RAF wasted hundreds of Spitfires [& their pilots] in a pointless cross-channel campaign against a couple of crack Jagdwaffe units..

Your thoughtfully provided data does list 600+ Spitfires still operationally on hand in Sept `41, though..

It did seem to take quite a few 'bloody shambles' situations for the poor old Brits to pick up on hard learned lessons..

At least that was the assessment from both their Allies & Hitler..

& Is it true, that as a dedicated 'White Supremacist' Hitler was even prepared to take on the Japanese militarily to save 'White' face in Malaya, since the Brits were so busy cocking it up.. as usual?

When did Spitfires arrive in the Med'/Africa or Australia/Burma? Not in `41..

leccy
07-26-2013, 04:33 AM
Apart from nuisance Jabo raids, the Germans hadn't spent much time over Britain since attacking the East..

The RAF wasted hundreds of Spitfires [& their pilots] in a pointless cross-channel campaign against a couple of crack Jagdwaffe units..

Your thoughtfully provided data does list 600+ Spitfires still operationally on hand in Sept `41, though..

It did seem to take quite a few 'bloody shambles' situations for the poor old Brits to pick up on hard learned lessons..

At least that was the assessment from both their Allies & Hitler..

& Is it true, that as a dedicated 'White Supremacist' Hitler was even prepared to take on the Japanese militarily to save 'White' face in Malaya, since the Brits were so busy cocking it up.. as usual?

When did Spitfires arrive in the Med'/Africa or Australia/Burma? Not in `41..

Those Spitfires were spread over the whole of the UK and Ireland, the Hurricane was being retired as a frontline Fighter in Europe, as usual the British had more airframes than pilots and a portion of those Spitfires were older types and in training or conversion units as well as recce units.

You also notice Blenheim and Defiants still listed as active fighters in the UK (Blenheims were used as day fighters in Greece due to lack of anything else).

The cross channel raids had a purpose and to an extent achieved it, the Blitz on Britain lasted until May 1941 then Germany attacked the USSR, Britain diverted aircraft sorely needed in the Middle East, Med and Africa to help the Soviets.

The Far East was deemed threatened but it was not being fought over so was left pretty much on its own, more critically were shortages of equipment and training of the troops in the Far East, limited AT and AA weapons, shortages of ammunition for them (especially AA). Lack of armour and artillery.

But then all those items were also in short supply in active theatres, hindsight is easy to look at and say - they should have done this - but in 1941 Britain was short of everything and fighting hard in many places, it did not know what was going to happen, if the Luftwaffe was going to return in force especially as the Axis seemed to be ripping the Soviets apart and the British Commonwealth had suffered losses in the Western Desert, Africa, Crete, Greece of men and equipment.

Rising Sun*
07-27-2013, 12:25 PM
But then all those items were also in short supply in active theatres, hindsight is easy to look at and say - they should have done this - but in 1941 Britain was short of everything and fighting hard in many places, it did not know what was going to happen, if the Luftwaffe was going to return in force especially as the Axis seemed to be ripping the Soviets apart and the British Commonwealth had suffered losses in the Western Desert, Africa, Crete, Greece of men and equipment.

True, but if Churchill hadn't gone into Greece in a campaign which at least one Commonwealth commander knew was doomed from the outset, and which like Malaya Churchill insisted on going into without the air support his military advisers considered necessary, there would have been significantly:
1. More aircraft.
2. More troops.
3. More ships.
available for other enterprises.

It's interesting that the Greek campaign was in part a "maintain faith" exercise between Churchill and Greece which involved an Australian division largely wasted while a few months later he refused to maintain faith with Australia by delivering any of the promised resources to defend Australia from the Japanese advance resulting from his incompetent assessment of Singapore as a barrier to Japanese advancement.

leccy
07-27-2013, 02:52 PM
True, but if Churchill hadn't gone into Greece in a campaign which at least one Commonwealth commander knew was doomed from the outset, and which like Malaya Churchill insisted on going into without the air support his military advisers considered necessary, there would have been significantly:
1. More aircraft.
2. More troops.
3. More ships.
available for other enterprises.

It's interesting that the Greek campaign was in part a "maintain faith" exercise between Churchill and Greece which involved an Australian division largely wasted while a few months later he refused to maintain faith with Australia by delivering any of the promised resources to defend Australia from the Japanese advance resulting from his incompetent assessment of Singapore as a barrier to Japanese advancement.

I have always been of the opinion Churchill's motives were political

a. Bring Greece in on the Allied side
b. Show the world that Britain (and the Commonwealth) would assist anyone fighting the Axis and provide safe haven otherwise.
c. Keep Turkey out (along with the payments and material supplied to Turkey by the British and US).
d. Slim chance of success but showing the US that the British Commonwealth will fight on regardless.

Crete although another loss I can sort of understand with the at the time unknown consequence of gutting the Fallshirmjaeger and the slightly rebuilt German transport aircraft fleet so convincing the Germans that airborne assaults were too costly or useless.

This may have saved Malta and Gibraltar from Axis attention.

pdf27
07-28-2013, 10:22 AM
One thing to remember - Greece had a very large merchant shipping fleet, which we got as a result of going in to help them. Would we have still got it if we hadn't helped them and instead they had signed a Vichy-style armistice?

leccy
07-28-2013, 11:42 AM
I did read about that and was going to add it but could not find my source so left the Greek merchant fleet out.

As a kiddie I read about the Greek and Crete campaigns and what disasters they were, reading now though my early impressions of all British Commonwealth forces being killed or captured was wrong, the majority of troops escaped it seems although as at the French ports minus the majority of their heavy equipment and large amounts of supplies.

pdf27
07-28-2013, 01:24 PM
The big disaster was the missed opportunity in North Africa to kick the Italians out before the Afrika Corps could become established. Unfortunately, nobody realised what an opportunity we had missed until it had long gone - Rommel seems to have been the only person who thought what he went on to do was even possible! The Greece and Crete campaigns didn't actually lead to terribly big losses in either men or equipment, although the Navy did lose a fair number of ships in the evacuations.

leccy
07-28-2013, 05:09 PM
The big disaster was the missed opportunity in North Africa to kick the Italians out before the Afrika Corps could become established. Unfortunately, nobody realised what an opportunity we had missed until it had long gone - Rommel seems to have been the only person who thought what he went on to do was even possible! The Greece and Crete campaigns didn't actually lead to terribly big losses in either men or equipment, although the Navy did lose a fair number of ships in the evacuations.

Having read the supply and logistics situation in the Middle East the Commonwealth forces were at full stretch, they only got as far as they did with captured Italian Vehicles and stores. Not really sure if they could have done it now, but trying may have been a better idea in hindsight

The common theme for the fighting was the units had outrun the logistics capability,

At the moment I am reading Alan Morehead's 'The Desert War' trilogy

Pretty unbiased mostly and equally praises and berates the Italians, it does though point out just how stretched the Commonwealth forces were even if a correspondants view. It does express the opinions of the Greek and Crete excursions and how they were not favoured by Middle East Command.

pdf27
07-28-2013, 05:13 PM
Agreed they'd gone as far as they could have gone in one bound. Not so sure that given a little time to resupply (and the forces/shipping diverted to Greece) they couldn't have restarted the offensive much sooner than they did - and under much more unfavourable conditions for the Afrika Corps.

J.A.W.
07-28-2013, 11:38 PM
Even after the Axis had been squeezed out of Africa in `43, bloody Churchill then insisted on a repeat cock-up
'adventure' into the Greek Islands, sans air-support, against the advice of his[& Allied] professional military men
with entirely predictable, wasteful & embarrassing results..

leccy
07-29-2013, 04:19 AM
Even after the Axis had been squeezed out of Africa in `43, bloody Churchill then insisted on a repeat cock-up
'adventure' into the Greek Islands, sans air-support, against the advice of his[& Allied] professional military men
with entirely predictable, wasteful & embarrassing results..

Minor race to try and forestall the Germans after the Italians had surrendered, as much a failure on the Italian part as anything the British forces did, the allies did not know that the armistice was so secret that no Italian field forces had been told about it and it came as a shock to the units occupying Greece and Yugoslavia.

The Allies were already fighting in Italy, Churchill at this time was already looking at forestalling communist expansion (which was rampant and the partisans arguably more effective in the Balkans than the rest), it was a gamble and race with what could be scraped together and sent. It should have had more planning and or air support but it was an ad-hoc spur of the moment race.

Britain ended up sending more troops in 1944/45 to fight the communists in Greece in the civil war that erupted (starting in 1943 properly).

Rising Sun*
07-29-2013, 09:40 AM
As a kiddie I read about the Greek and Crete campaigns and what disasters they were, reading now though my early impressions of all British Commonwealth forces being killed or captured was wrong, the majority of troops escaped it seems although as at the French ports minus the majority of their heavy equipment and large amounts of supplies.

The main reason the Australian 6th Div got out in decent numbers was because their commander, Gen Blamey, knew it was a doomed campaign before it started. One of his first actions on landing in Greece was to identify evacuation points in the south, which duly assisted a moderately orderly evacuation of the defeated Australians.

Blamey's forward planning on this aspect has often been overshadowed by criticism of his conduct in taking his only surviving son, a relatively low ranking officer, out of Greece on a plane evacuating Blamey and senior staff officers.

Blamey wasn't a defeatist in doing a recce on evacuation points before the campaign began, but he was a realist in knowing his force had little chance of resisting the Germans. He made sound preparations accordingly.

Blamey was a complex character http://www.awm.gov.au/journal/j34/bridgerev.asp but, whatever his many faults, he was also a strong character who generally did well as a commander, but not necessarily a field commander when he tried to combine that function in Greece and Papua / New Guinea with his office as a higher commander, when serious threats to his personal advancement weren't in issue.

He could also be a very fair and loyal subordinate at senior levels. From memory, he was the only senior officer to see Wavell off at the airport when Wavell left the Middle East after being removed by Churchill, although Wavell and Blamey had often had a somewhat difficult relationship.

leccy
07-29-2013, 03:31 PM
From what I recall the Commonwealth forces only gave way from the first line as the Greeks who had been fighting hard with limited resources for months finally collapsed and opened up the flank.

J.A.W.
07-29-2013, 06:30 PM
& the irony is, both Winnie & uncle Joe hated local commies!

While both were nominally 'Allies'.. yet vigorously attempting to run espionage action against each other.. & Stalin's moles in British M.I. staying on for decades yet..

royal744
07-29-2013, 11:20 PM
& Geo-policy-wise, Czar-Comrade Stalin was keen to comprehensively redeem the Russian military reputation as
THE Eurasian power after their humiliation of 40 years earlier by the arms of Nippon..

General Zhukov inflicted very serious defeats on the Japanese during the late 30s or at the start of the 40s. The Japanese somehow failed to internalize the lessons it should have learned then and instead relaxed when their pact with the Soviet Union was signed. If you thought the Japanese were ruthless, the Soviets were an order of magnitude tougher. They were ruthless and armed with heaven weapons. The Japanese should have discerned that this was not Imperial Russia they were dealing with.

royal744
07-29-2013, 11:31 PM
I did read about that and was going to add it but could not find my source so left the Greek merchant fleet out.

As a kiddie I read about the Greek and Crete campaigns and what disasters they were, reading now though my early impressions of all British Commonwealth forces being killed or captured was wrong, the majority of troops escaped it seems although as at the French ports minus the majority of their heavy equipment and large amounts of supplies.

It was what it was, but Crete may have been one of those spongey affairs that could easily have gone the other way if the Brits had been a bit more tough, a bit more organized and a tad less disposed to pulling up stakes. The German para-troop losses were, by their admission, catastrophic. The losses were so great that further operations against Malta were foresworn as too costly. If the British defense of Maleme had been more strenuous they would have made German re-supply and reinforcement impossible. Once they lost control of that, the game was up. Too bad, A British win at that time would have been a badly-needed shot in the arm.

J.A.W.
07-30-2013, 01:20 AM
Not possible in the face of the Germans effective air superiority..

As for costly, it was the Royal Navy that really had to pay the price of no air cover, a lesson repeated from Norway, & still not learned though Crete to Malaya..

leccy
07-30-2013, 02:06 AM
It was what it was, but Crete may have been one of those spongey affairs that could easily have gone the other way if the Brits had been a bit more tough, a bit more organized and a tad less disposed to pulling up stakes. The German para-troop losses were, by their admission, catastrophic. The losses were so great that further operations against Malta were foresworn as too costly. If the British defense of Maleme had been more strenuous they would have made German re-supply and reinforcement impossible. Once they lost control of that, the game was up. Too bad, A British win at that time would have been a badly-needed shot in the arm.

Another of those poorly equipped campaigns, the British Government have always sent troops out on operations poorly equipped for the task at hand, many times the troops have made do and mend somehow to pull off the tasks (which of course has led the Government to cut back more every time saying obviously you had more than enough).

The Cretan's could have been more use if actually issued small arms (some had ancient weapons predating WW1 with only 8 rounds each) in each battalion. More AA defences so the available ones did not have to be spread out so much. More armour, more artillery.

The Commonwealth forces were desperately short of crew served weapons but fought hard (some units were made up with or heavily reinforced with non combat personnel culled from the rear echelon and of limited combat capability). The RN did their best but with no air cover (again) it was painful.

The Commonwealth and Creten/Greek defenders nearly won it was so close and a few small changes may have won the battle.

Couple the losses in Crete with the high losses in Holland to the air transport fleet and Paras it was the end of airborne assaults in any real sense in the Wehrmacht.

leccy
07-30-2013, 02:12 AM
Not possible in the face of the Germans effective air superiority..

As for costly, it was the Royal Navy that really had to pay the price of no air cover, a lesson repeated from Norway, & still not learned though Crete to Malaya..

Even with total air control the assault was almost finished as the sea borne parts of the operation failed at the first two attempts with loss of life and retreating back to the mainland.

The Allied forces came very close to actually winning despite no air cover.

J.A.W.
07-30-2013, 02:34 AM
1, In general, paratrooper operations, while glamourous, were fairly wasteful unless quickly supported by heavy arms..
2, & even if the Commonwealth forces had held on, just how would Crete have been re-supplied in the face of German air-superiority?

pdf27
07-30-2013, 03:01 AM
2, & even if the Commonwealth forces had held on, just how would Crete have been re-supplied in the face of German air-superiority?
They managed it at Malta (further from the British bases at Alexandria/Gibraltar, nearer to the main Axis airfields in Italy. Whether it was worth holding is another matter - Malta was valuable because it was astride the Afrika Corps supply routes, often sinking 2/3rds of an Axis convoy. Crete wasn't - so could have turned into a gigantic Tar-Baby for the Allies, since having held it in the face of German attack they probably couldn't just have withdrawn.

leccy
07-30-2013, 03:19 AM
1, In general, paratrooper operations, while glamourous, were fairly wasteful unless quickly supported by heavy arms..
2, & even if the Commonwealth forces had held on, just how would Crete have been re-supplied in the face of German air-superiority?

Same way Malta was in the face of heavier Axis air superiority. The Allied ships were lost because they were tied to hunting the link up sea borne force and to make up for lack of air cover (the AA cruisers were ordered to stay on station despite being almost out of AA ammunition).

If held then the airfields could have been used to provide support same as Malta, the British Commonwealth forces managed there,

Malta and Sicily about the same distance as Greece to Crete
Crete closer to allied held territory in North Africa (Egypt) than Malta (Tunisia, Libya)

Lol took so long to post my reply pdf beat me

Nickdfresh
07-30-2013, 07:11 AM
Not possible in the face of the Germans effective air superiority..

As for costly, it was the Royal Navy that really had to pay the price of no air cover, a lesson repeated from Norway, & still not learned though Crete to Malaya..

The Kriegsmarine also suffered severe losses...

J.A.W.
07-30-2013, 06:17 PM
& the Commonwealth forces in Crete were largely lacking in heavy weapons too..

One of my ANZAC uncles was very grateful to the R.N. for taking them off Crete.

As a kid I asked him what it was like to be shooting at men descending on parachutes..

Uncle Tony told me, that although the fighting was hard,
the ANZACs & the Luftwaffe paratroopers kept a fighting man's respect for each other, as in Africa, so unlike with civilians, or in the East there wasn't too much dirty stuff..