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Hutou

Hutou (Hutouzhen; 133.661E 45.979N) was a fortified town on the eastern Manchurian border, located on high ground at the confluence of the Ussuri and Sungacha Rivers. The Japanese began construction of a fortress here in 1933 and assigned a garrison, 4 Border Guards Brigade, numbering about 7000 men. These were organized into four infantry battalions, an artillery regiment with 24 guns, and an engineer battalion. The fortress was designated as a special fortress, one of only two in Manchuria, and had reinforced concrete walls and roofs up to 9' (3 meters) thick meant to resist a direct hit by a one-ton bomb. The fortifications, which included observation posts and sally ports for local counterattacks, were arranged to avoid any dead spaces. The total frontage was 5 miles (8 km) and the depth was 3.7 miles (6 km). Additional artillery units brought the total number of guns to 59 artillery pieces, 8 medium mortars, 18 antiaircraft guns, and ten antiaircraft machine guns. However, the fortress lacked adequate ventilation and was extremely damp.

Under the pressure of the American advance in the Pacific, the Japanese felt compelled to repeatedly draw on their units in Manchuria for replacements. The bulk of 4 Border Guards Brigade was used as cadre for organizing 122 Division in February 1945, and the remaining men from 4 Border Guards Briugade were used as cadre to form 15 Border Guards Brigade to man Hutou. However, 15 Border Guards Brigade never numbered more than 1400 men, and so was grossly below authorized strength in August 1945.

The Trans-Siberian Railroad came within 10.6 miles (17km) of Hutou, and in order to be able to interdict the railroad, in January 1942 the Japanese installed a 40cm (15.7") howitzer in great secrecy that could lob a one ton shell 13 miles. This was supplemented with a 24 cm (9.4") railroad gun with a range of 30 miles (50 km ) in 1943.

Because of the threat Hutou posed to communications between Khabarovsk and Vladivostok, the isolation became an important objective of the Russian 35 Army during the Manchurian offensive of August 1945. The Russians opened fire on the fortress at 0100 on 9 August 1945, pausing after four hours to deceive the Japanese that an infantry attack was imminent and catch the Japanese in the open when the barrage resumed an hour later. This was largely unsuccessful. The Japanese were slow to reply with their own artillery early in the battle, and even withdrew the rail gun. However, when the Japanese finally opened fire at 1100, their shelling was very accurate, finding targets in Russian forward positions and the town of Iman and temporarily shutting the bridge on the Trans-Siberian Railroad northeast of Iman. The Russian commander responded by sending in a strike of 49 Il-14 bombers escorted by 50 fighters that pounded the Japanese positions for two hours. During the strike, Russian infantry were able to secure a foothold across the Ussuri River in front of Hutou. 

The 40cm gun became an important target, and was silenced by a direct hit on 12 August after firing 74 rounds at the Russians.

The area was isolated the first day of the offensive, and the town fell on the evening of 10 August, in spite of two Japanese counterattacks. 35 Army then bypassed Hutou after detailing 1056 Rifle Regiment and 109 Fortified Region, supported by heavy artillery, to invest the fortress. The Russians then began systematically destroying the fortifications north of town, using special assault groups consisting of a rifle platoon supported by engineers, tanks, and flamethrower operators. The Russians took pains to preserve their manpower, relying on fire and maneuver. Gasoline was poured into every opening discovered by the infantry and ignited, in an effort to suffocate the Japanese within the fortress.

The central observation post, Rinkodai, became the scene of bitter fighting on 13 August but was securely in Russian hands by the next morning. Two days later, the Emperor made his surrender broadcast, but the Japanese in the fortress had no working radio, did not believe a delegation of captured Japanese sent to inform them of the capitulation, and beheaded one of the delegates. Organized resistance finally ceased on 19 August, but mopping up continued until 22 August.

Rail connections

Iman

Mishan


References

Glantz (1983 [accessed 2008-12-10]; 2003)


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