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That's a screenshot from Battlefield Season 4 Episode 3. I added the location of Vladivostok.

In all my readings, I have never found a Japanese attack on Vladivostok during or right before WW2. You can see the city is very exposed and very near both Japan and Manchukuo, so I wonder why.

The skirmishes that culminated in the Battle of Khalkin Gol took place in 1938 and 1939. Why didn't Vladivostok come under attack from the Japanese Navy? Surely they didn't think much of the Soviet Navy since Tsumisha Strait.

The Soviet Invasion of Manchuria took place in 1945 Aug 9 to 25. Why didn't Vladivostok come under some form of attack at least from the air? Did the Soviets heavily fortify this city with AA guns or something along those lines?

  • 1
    Khalkin Gol was a rogue action by the Army, which always regarded fighting the Soviets as it's mission. The Navy doesn't particularly care and have no particular desire to help them
    – Semaphore
    Feb 18, 2018 at 9:07

4 Answers 4



There were battles, true, and the Japanese considered attacking the Soviet Union, but:

  • the battles (Lake Khasan and Khalkin Gol) did not start as part of a premeditated attempt to invade the SU but were border skirmishes that escalated.

  • the Kwantung Army had been operating in a semi-independent way for a long time; in fact a major part of Japanese held China had been conquered without government orders.

  • the Japanese government was still debating between "going North" (Soviet Union) or "going South" (Pacific).

  • Relationships between Japanese Army and Navy were, to put it mildly, dysfunctional. A victory a Khalkin Gol would help the "going North" side (which was the Army), and the Navy was in the "going South" side. Without government approval it would have been very strange for the Navy to act on its own to help the Army.


  • Between the start of hostilities (August 9) and Japan's surrender (August 15) less than a week happened. At that time, Japanese HQ did not only have to deal with the news of the Soviet invasion but also the effect of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

  • While the Japanese expected the the SU would attack them, they expected the attack to be a few months later.

  • The Japanese had a crippling lack of fuel to conduct operations.

  • Fighters were used either to defend against USA air raids or as kamikaze planes, bombers were converted to kamikaze planes. Anything that was available was being used or earmarked to defend against the invasion of Japan itself.

  • As you mentioned, the Soviet Union Pacific Fleet was not an impressive force. Certainly, the Japanese would have feared what it could do way less than the combined USA/UK fleet they were already fighting. Diverting resources from fighting your real threat to attack a nuisance is not sound strategy.

  • Traffic by sea was very difficult due to USA action, so supplying/reinforcing the Manchukuo garrison was nearly impossible. And the Soviet advance had been fast and had destroyed the Japanese Army fighting ability quickly. It was a lost cause.

  • The Japanese home islands were at risk of being invaded. Even if those could have been delivered and turned the tide (or at least stopped the invasion) at Manchuria, weakening the defenses of your main territory is a dangerous proposition.


Japan was faced with a choice in 1940: attack the Soviet Union in an escalation of the border clashes, or attack south to capture the Indonesian oil fields and Indochina rubber plantations (rubber for vehicle tires was definitely a strategic material) in response to the US and Britain cutting off fuel sales to Japan, which threatened their ability to wage war. And attack east to disable the US Pacific fleet, so it couldn't interfere.

This was the fateful decision to throw in with the Axis powers, but also sign a neutrality pact with the Soviet Union, which worked to the advantage of both countries... at that time. Japan had done poorly in the border clashes with Soviet forces (commanded by a fast rising Georgi Zhukov), and there weren't really any strategic materials to be had by taking eastern Russia, while the Soviets were reeling from the initial German attack and only too happy to free up most of the troops on the eastern front.

One of the key individuals in this situation was Soviet spy Richard Sorge. Masquerading as a German journalist, Sorge kept the Soviet Union appraised of Japan's intentions during the initial German invasion of the Soviet Union, allowing the Soviets to focus almost all of their troops against Germany when Sorge reported that Japan had no intention of attacking northward, and that the border clashes had been largely a matter of over zealous local commanders and not policy dictated from Tokyo.

Sorge was unmasked late in 1941, and executed by the Japanese in 1944.

In short, Japan didn't go with a war against the Soviet Union in the early 1940's, because it wasn't in their strategic interests to do so. It would definitely have been in Germany's interests, but not Japan's.

In 1945, when the Soviet Union attacked, Japan's military capability had been degraded considerably. Most of their navy was on the bottom of the ocean, and what little aviation gasoline they had was being reserved largely for kamikaze attacks on the US fleet, so they didn't have the naval or air assets to attack Vladivostok in August, 1945. On top of that, the considerable number of Japanese troops in Manchuria were not equipped to fight an armored opponent, especially not the Red Army and it's thousands of tanks, so the Kwantung Army simply didn't have the means to oppose the Soviet invasion, let alone counterattack.

  • I think "degraded considerably" is seriously overstating Japan's military capacity. The USSR didn't attack until after the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
    – jamesqf
    Feb 18, 2018 at 19:26
  • +1 for mentioning Richard Sorge.
    – DrZ214
    Feb 28, 2018 at 12:32

They didn't because of the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact. The Allies agreed (in Yalta ???) that the USSR should as soon as possible attack Japan, which they did in August 1945. By then the war was already lost for Japan.

Before that Japan got a bloody nose at the Battles of Khalkhin Gol in 1939. Japan decided to go south to Pearl Harbor as the result of that border conflict instead of going east into Siberia.

  • 2
    Before WWII, the pact was not signed (1941). And I would say that once the Soviet Union attacked Japan, Japan no longer felt bound to keep its part of the treaty...
    – SJuan76
    Feb 17, 2018 at 13:21
  • 2
    Of course they didn't. Their problem was they couldn't do much about it. the USSR campaign in Manchuria was much faster than the Blitzkrieg.
    – Jos
    Feb 18, 2018 at 0:03
  • +1 for mentioning Japan and the Soviets were never at war until the very end.
    – Schwern
    Aug 2, 2019 at 19:05

This is a case very similar to what happened in WW1. Germanu had showed no sign of fighting will against the Trans-Sibiria logistical network. This network had helped the Russians and their Siberian armies to crush Ottoman and Austrian resistance in WW1.

In the second world war the same thing happened and Japanese were under control of the Allies just like the Germans of WW1. Japan should have known that as long as this route was open, Germany would have been beaten. Since they were on Germany's side (at least it is said so by the history) they facilitated the defeat of Nazis and eventually their own armies. The Japanese state had been captured by the Allies when the Samurai government was destroyed and Japan came under Western influence.

If Japan had a will to win, it would have been enough to cut route between USA and Soviets.

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