If Japan had attacked the USSR, would Germany have defeated the Soviets?


  • Japanese military leaders spent a great deal of time arguing over whether or not to break their Non-Aggression Treaty with the Soviets and invade the back half of the Soviet Union.  Several Army leaders saw the Soviets, and not the Americans, as the real threat to their control of East Asia (and probably harbored deep-seated ill-will since the Russo Japanese War)  In the end, those favoring the attack on the Western Powers won out and Japan never did attack the Soviet Union.  If they had joined the war against the Soviets in mid 1941, would it have made a decisive difference?


  • I voted no, because although it would’ve somewhat help the Germans it would not necessarily led to a victory. The reason I say this is because there is a seemilngly endless amount of sparsely populated, rugged terrain in between the Soviet Far east and ay part of Russia that would’ve been worth taking. So to sum it up:

    Best case: The Japanese invade, sweep across the east and help take moscow
    or
    Worst Case: Japanese divert too many troops that turn out to be not effective at all, allowing the Allies to take back the Pacific, and ultimately end the war quicker


  • The real questions have to do with things like,

    What if the Japanese never made the first agressive act of WWII?  How long before the US would have entered the war?

    What if the Japanese had waited until the summer of 1942 to bomb Pearl, etc.?

    What if Adm Nagumo had gone back for a serious second strike?

    So, I think this would be a more interesting topic if you asked “What if the Japanese had attacked Russia and not the US at Pearl and the PI, etc.?”

    Having said all that, I believe the Japanese had little to gain by antagonizing a second Asian power.  Also, the US was going to enter WWII sometime in 1942 anyway.  Japan (and Germany’s declaration of war on the US) just made the politics simpler.

  • '17 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    I think If Japan only attacked the Soviets in 41, Stalin would have to divert alot of his forces to fight and gave Germany an easier task in June. But realistically Japan could not even hope to get more than the immediate areas north of Manchukuo. Their is no way they had the resources to get to Moscow or anything like that. The loss of the Far east would have meant nothing to Stalin except that he would send reinforcements to push them back, but this was not in Japans interests because it didn’t translate into a solution for her crude oil shortage.

    It was also a war aim for either the Army or Navy and took Japan away from her natural sphere of influence which was to remove all the colonial powers from Asia and dominate China. Japan was not in the war to fight for German interests and the so called “alliance” was nothing but a slip of paper describing the fact that in all likelihood they would all eventually be fighting the same enemies so by inference they are on a “team”.


  • @Imperious:

    I think If Japan only attacked the Soviets in 41, Stalin would have to divert alot of his forces to fight and gave Germany an easier task in June. But realistically Japan could not even hope to get more than the immediate areas north of Manchukuo. Their is no way they had the resources to get to Moscow or anything like that. The loss of the Far east would have meant nothing to Stalin except that he would send reinforcements to push them back, but this was not in Japans interests because it didn’t translate into a solution for her crude oil shortage.

    It was also a war aim for either the Army or Navy and took Japan away from her natural sphere of influence which was to remove all the colonial powers from Asia and dominate China. Japan was not in the war to fight for German interests and the so called “alliance” was nothing but a slip of paper describing the fact that in all likelihood they would all eventually be fighting the same enemies so by inference they are on a “team”.

    I agree, if i were Stalin an Japan took over the Far East I would shrug my shoulders and ask what’s  for lunch

  • Moderator

    I think I would have to say that a Japanese invasion of the Soviet Far East would have more Benificial for the Axis Powers then the Attack on th USA and her possesions.  If Japan timed her invasion of Russia with the Germans Operation Barborossa, I do not think that Russia would Have been Able to Recover from that.  The Problem really lies within Japans Ability to Render China Useless as a War Machine.  IMHO Japan Should have secured Peace on the Chinese front Before attacking anybody else.

    Now the reality of it all Lies with Mother Russia.  What ever side she is On, WILL win the War.  History teaches us that the Land mass of that size, is VERY,VERY Difficult to control for any invading Power

    But……

    The Outcome of WWII in my opinion was/is largly based on Germany’s inability to knock the British out of the war.  Had Germany been able to do that, I don’t think it would really matter what Japan did after that point.

    The only problem with Speculating about this is Hind sight is always 20/20.  It is easy to say now, what the Axis Powers did wrong or where they went wrong with their War “Game Plan”.

    So i guess that depending on Japans Timing of a russian Invasion really won’t matter unless Japan did not have to fight China also.  Not to mention that Japanes Armour would have been tore apart facing the T-34 or any Russian tank for that Matter.

    Germany and Japan should have Been Better friends and Cooperate their Military Might.  What I mean is What if Japan had Never Attacked the US. But instead took that same Pearl Harbour Fleet and a SNLF with them and Instead attacked Egypt and the Suez Canal along with Rommel and his Afrika Corps.  Egypt would surely fall and allow the Axis Powers access to the Suez and Basically the entire Middle East and her Vast oil resources.  Since Pearl Harbour Never took place, Amerika would still only be a Material supplier and not a Man power supplier…

  • Moderator

    Now picture it……

    Japan Sail 3-4 0f her Fleet size Carriers and all the Supporting Cast including Ships like Kongo, and Yamashiro, and some Escort Carriers like Shoho, and take the Suez, Sail into the Mederteranian Sea, Link up with the Regina Marina, Together and Brake out into the Atlantic, Link up with the Kriegsmarine to Support Operation Sealion.  The Combined Force of the 3 Nations together fighting for the common goal of a British Defeat, would have been much more effecctive on the outcome of the war then a 2nd Russian front.  The remainig Imperial fleet could easily handle the British possesions in the Pacific.

    Now this only works if No one Attacks Russia or the USA…Yet :evil:

    I voted yes, but only if other Criteria is met first. Otherwise, Japan would be throwing away her Military might against a Vast, Harsh Landmass.


  • In a prolonged war a Japan/ USSR front in the Far East would cut the Soviets off from the Trans-Siberia railroad, a major route for Lend Lease material.


  • Go look into WHY the Japanese signed the Non-Aggression Pact in the first place and you will have the answer to your question.


  • No real value of Russia land in Pacific, not in context of war as whole.  Russia let Japan forces freeze in Siberia thousand miles from real risk to Russia.  Japan weak then South Pacific, Burma, Central Pacific, China.  Japan send troops to die in Siberia with no bullet fired by Russia and Japan lose force against India in Burma and South Pacific and against United States in Central Pacific.

    Japan attack Russia in Siberia, Japan fall before Germany in late 1944 or early 1945.


  • I can’t see Japan helping Germany much by opening another front againist the U.S.S.R.

    With Japan lacking modern tanks and transportation, the Japanese could not advance far into Siberia. The Germans had trouble suppling armies in western Russia, which actually had ‘roads’.

    Japan’s army would quickly have gaps punched into it and find it’s troops encircled and crushed by soviet tanks.

    The Soviets could then thank the Japanese for handing over much needed warm water ports.


  • On first thought, I’d say yes because:

    • in December, 1941 Moscow was saved by experienced “siberian” troops, which Stalin placed in Siberia for political reasons. Had Japan invaded Siberia in middle 1941, Stalin would have probably sent his troops on eastern front, because he trusted Germany for some reason (he actually didn’t believe Germany was invading for the first hours of invasion, see e.g. P Carrell). This would have given a bigger chance at taking Moscow, Leningrad and Caucasus.
    • the only time Russia was defeated in her long history, she was attacked from the east, and if cavalrymen from Mongolia succeded in doing that, I think Japanese generals would have done it as well. Just consider there is a big straight railroad that crosses all inhabitated Siberia, granting for supply and reinforcements from Manchuria.

    On the other side, though, even if Axis would have succeded at taking Moscow, it should have to fight an hard and spread guerrilla, because of the intense political faith of '40s Soviet citizens, and it is unclear which consequences it could bring.


  • NO NO NO a thousand times No!

    1.) Japan was already heavily committed in a land war in China
    2.) Battle of Khalkhin Gol in 1938 left the Japanese feeling reluctant to engage the Soviet Union in a land war
    3.) Japan did not have huge mechanized armies, The Japanese army was not the Wermacht. Fighting and staying supplied in Siberia is a logistical nightmare.
    4.) Japan was forced into a defensive posture within 6-7 months of the US finally joining the war, making offensive operations after this point limited and costly.
    5.) The Soviet Far east did not contain the resources Japan needed for the war, The Dutch East Indies and French Indo China did.

    If Japan made a serious attempt to invade the Soviet Union, via Siberia they would have lost the war very very quickly.


  • If Japan fixed the shortcomings in their logistics, the Japanese war machine would be better off fighting any enemy, but o/c they would not win anything against the US unless FDR gave US+UK possessions away for free.

    A joint attack with Germany against Russia could pay off with some luck. The trick is to bait the Russians to think that there is a big Japanese army marching slowly towards Moscow, which could have been, only this army would not need to go far, and have the Russians allocate as much as possible as far east as possible. Then Russia would be fighting a two front war which, in this hypothetical scenario would mean less luck for axis to win the war.


  • go to google maps. type in russia. press search. so the answer is no.


  • The context here is that one cannot assume that an attack on the Soviet Union would have brought either British or American intervention.  The Japanese would have chosen a war with Russia over attacking the Dutch, British and American possessions in Asia.  The British wanted the Soviet Union to fight on against Germany, but if it meant risking all of her far flung colonies in the East to declare war on Japan for such an attack, they would have hesitated to declare over a Russo-Japanese conflict.  On the US side Roosevelt couldn’t sell a war to the public over the Sino/Japanese war, even after the fall of Shanghai.  He couldn’t even sell an intervention in the European war even with the fall of France.  The anti-Soviet feelings in America were as high as the anti-interventionist feelings.  So, in this scenario, Japanese ambitions in China have to be more limited, but they can clearly hold their early takings.  Certainly they would have had to limit their war in China, but given the ineptitude of the Chinese military to mount major offensives…even in late 1944 when so much of the Japanese war material was already depleted, there is really not much risk of the Chinese gaining any territory.  If the bulk of the Japanese airforce was allocated to the war with Russia, not having to contend with the Americans or British or Dutch, many of their non-mechanized shortcomings could have been made up.  For Japan, the decision to bring the United States into the war seems like a decision that could have no other end but defeat.  Jeffrey Parrett points out in his book, that within a month of the attack on Pearly Harbor, American factories were producing more airplanes in a month than the Japanese were in an entire year.  So the Russian option was one that would have prevented US intervention.  Even the crippling American embargo only followed on the heals of the Japanese takeover of bases in French Indo China, which of course were for the purpose preparing for war against the Western powers.  Of course, while it did contain some resources, and really more than the Axis and Allies board game lays out, the Soviet Far East could not provide the resources of the Dutch East Indies and the interior of China.  Several of you have rightly pointed out the distances involved and the logistical nightmare a wider war in Russia would have been.  At the same time, some of you have also point out that the shock troops that drove the Germans back after the failure of Operation Typhoon were in fact some of these Eastern forces that had made their way back to Moscow because of the lack of Japanese threat in the East.


  • Remember the oil embargo of 1937?  Japan attacked the U.S. and U.K. out of desperation for oil, and steel.  They were on the verge of collapse.  There was no way they could invade the Soviet Union.  It just couldn’t be done.  The East Indies were invaded for their oil, and Pearle was hit to take out the U.S. fleet and bring the US to the negotiation table.  Had there been no embargo, there would have been no Pearle Harbor.

    If Japan had the oil, would it have invaded the Soviet Union?  The Axis Nations were originally Hitler’s anti-Comintern Pact, signed between Germany and Japan on November 25, 1936.  It was basically an alliance against the Soviet Union.  Still, the answer is no, not after their defeat against the Soviets in the battle of Khalkhin-Gol in 1939.  Germany formed an alliance with the USSR against Poland 1 day after the Japanese lost the battle, and after Hitler had offered for Poland to join the anti-Comintern Pact in exchange for Danzig.

    Why should the Japanese have trusted Hitler and gone to his aid after being stabbed in the back, and when they had no vital national interest in invading the Soviet Union?
    Why should Japanese soldiers fight a war they couldn’t win, for a cause they didn’t believe in, only to have the Bolsheviks march into Tokyo, and rape, pillage, and burn the city to the ground, with millions of Japanese being sent to the Gulags, never to be seen again?

    The Japanese didn’t surrender after being nuked twice, but they did surrender after the Soviets invaded Manchuria.  Why?  Because there are indeed fates worse than death.


  • Had the Japanese attacked only British and Dutch territories in the Pacific, would the U.S responded mil itary action?

    I believe the Philippines were to vast an area to avoid had the Japanese attacked the East Indies. But it’s a decent question to ponder.


  • @ABWorsham:

    Had the Japanese attacked only British and Dutch territories in the Pacific, would the U.S responded mil itary action?

    I believe the Philippines were to vast an area to avoid had the Japanese attacked the East Indies. But it’s a decent question to ponder.

    Alas, another result of American Imperialism.  Turning the Philippines into a colony eventually drew the US into Asian politics and war with Japan.  Had the US allowed the Philippines to be free after the Spanish-American War, Japan would have gobbled them up, and that would be the end of that.  Would we have cared about Japanese expansionism?  No, not at all.


  • Ithkral is right on every point.  Japan did try to advance in to the Soviet Union in 1939 in a border dispute in Mongolia.  The Kwangtung army was massecred, by, you name it, Georgi Zhukov.  Stalin sent him there to dispel the Japanese past the Khalka River.  The defeat was such a set back it completely altered Japanese motive to even engage the Russians again.  The result of this battle turned japanese war planning toward the US and the eventual attack on Pearl Harbor.


  • @RogertheShrubber:

    Ithkral is right on every point.  Japan did try to advance in to the Soviet Union in 1939 in a border dispute in Mongolia.  The Kwangtung army was massecred, by, you name it, Georgi Zhukov.  Stalin sent him there to dispel the Japanese past the Khalka River.  The defeat was such a set back it completely altered Japanese motive to even engage the Russians again.  The result of this battle turned japanese war planning toward the US and the eventual attack on Pearl Harbor.

    I don’t quite agree.  Had the Japanese won what really amounted to a proxy war, I don’t think they would have entered a total war with a nation who’s population was four times theirs, vastly larger in physical size, and vastly out ranking them in terms of natural resources.  Besides, communists aren’t known for their niceness (not that Tojo was a picnic, but I digress).

    Japan wanted China to be their India, a large colony they could exploit for wealth.  They fought in Mongolia for the same reasons the British fought in Afghanistan.  They wanted a secure boarder for the crown jewel of their empire.

    War with the Soviet Union and the United States would have been equally stupid.  The only difference was that the Soviets were not in the way when the Japanese needed oil, where as the US was, both geographically (the Philippines) economically, (the embargo), militarily (the fleet at Pearle Harbor), and politically (threat of intervention).


  • However i am not sure I quite agree with you.  Had the Japanese defeated Stalin’s Far East divisions at Nomonhan, Zhukov would not have won Stalin’s confidennce, probably would not have been given overall command in late 41 let alone any, changing the leadership in the Russian and German front.  A Japanese victory at Nomonhan along with possible German success in the Barbarossa campaign possibly would have been enough for Japan to engage Russia after pleas from Hitler to Japan’s war ministry to enter the war.  Gen Eugene Ott, the German ambassador in Japan did urge the Japanese to enter the war against Russia on the behalf of Hitler '41. He pleaded, “Avenge the defeat at Nomonhan and seize the Soviet Far East, but do it now.  If you wait till I defeat Stalin I won’t need you anymore.”  Top Japanese Army leaders believe it or not did favor that route, but Naval commanders voted against it, due to the embarrassment and the possibility of aquireing defenseless French and Dutch colonies in the Pacific.  As soon as the decision was made to strike the US, the top soviet spy in tokyo cabled Moscow that the Japanese were moving into the southern Pacific.  At this moment Stalin was able to move Fifteen Divisions, three cavalry divisions, 1,700 tanks, and 1,500 aircraft to the European theater.  It was these powerful reinforcements and Zhukov that turned the tide against Germany.  So I wouldn’t go so far as to say if the Japs did win the “proxy” war, Japan would not have helped a “Threatening Hitler” if he was about to take Moscow.


  • If Zhukov had lost, Stalin probably would have “purged” him.

    You make an excellent argument.  I was not aware of the Japanese Army’s desire to take the Far East.  It certainly does make sense as well that the German halt in Russia would somewhat coincide with the strike against Pearle Harbor.  You are well learned for a shrubber. +1 Karma.  🙂 In that case I must concede the argument that had Japan at least threatened the USSR, it could have turned the tide in the war.

    However, if what you say is correct about the Japanese Army’s desire to invade the Far East, it only supports my point that the embargo of '37 is what drew the Japanese to attack Pearle Harbor, not the Battle of Khalkhin-Gol.  The Japanese Empire needed oil to run, and the only way to get it was in the South Pacific, and the only way to attack the South Pacific was to eliminate the threat of the American Fleet at Pearle.


  • Isn’t History fun!  Your points are without a doubt valid.  The embargo pretty much diminished Japan’s Imperialistic goals forcing them to run the gambit in military action against the United States.  I think what needs to be taken from the Nomonhan Incident is what it shaped for the future.  Win or lose Japan probably would not invade like you said, because their interest was oil.  Nomonhan was, after all, only a border dispute that started out as skirmishes with Mongolian mounted cavalry. But it grew to an escalated engagement with many History shaping individuals like Zhukov and Masanobu Tsuji (Who was the architect of the engagement, and would later lead  campaigns in Malay-Singapore, lead the Bataan Death marches in the Philippines, but would later lose horribly in Guadalcanal).  I think the focus is on the battle itself and the future reprocussions it would have.  Thats why in my original post I posted a “no” answer because before '41 that decision was already decided.  As far as the Imperial Army’s preference in taking the Soviet Far East after Hitler’s plea is unclear to me as well.  I know it is in fact true, but I am going to have to go back and do some more researching and I will be sure to get back to you when I have the facts.  What my inclination is that some of Japan’s high commanders were concerned that if Hitler did take Russia without Japan, he would no longer need Japan and would no longer provide Political or Militaristic support in nature, leaving Japan by itself in its Imperial interests and goals.  I think the idea of helping Hitler and reaping some of the spoils, they felt he would still be their aid and ally in the end (Which probably would not be the case, I would assume Hitler would drop Japan as an ally either way after he completed Lebensraum.)  But like i said i will get back to the forum with facts behind the Imperial Army’s motives and why they actually supported such an idea.


  • Yes, I love history.  I actually took two history courses this semester: Western Civ II and Am. Hist. II.  Mostly b/c the teacher is great.  I spoke with her, and she has agreed to help me start an Axis and Allies Club!!! 😄

    Another interesting note is that the embargo was almost lifted in 1940.  The Japanese had actually offered to withdraw from China, with the exception of Manchuria, which would act as a buffer state against Russian (which had long before the Revolution wanted to make China its “India” as well).  In exchange, the US would lift the embargo.  FDR was about to accept the deal, but a cabinet member (forgive me, I can’t recall his name) was against it.  I forget the exact details.  I’ll have to come back w/ some research as well.

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