Photograph of Ginza street in Mutanchiang, 1942

Wikimedia Commons

Mutanchiang (Mudanjiang; 129.624E 44.586N) is a city in southeastern Manchuria. It was a major objective of the Russian offensive in Manchuria.

The battle for Mutanchiang began on 12 August 1945, when 5 Army and 1 Red Banner Army of 1 Far Eastern Front struck the main line of resistance of 124 Division to the east and 126 Division to the northeast of the city. Mashan (130.473E 45.202N) was secured on the evening of 12 August 1945 with defeat of a sharp Japanese counterattack. The Russians, led by 75 Tank Brigade and 39 Rifle Division, rapidly advanced on Linkou (130.265E 45.280N), which fell on 0700 on 13 August 1945. The Russian advance had taken heavy losses, and 75 Tank Brigade was down to 19 tanks as it approached a crucial bridge at Hualin (129.672E 44.679N). Here the attack stalled and Russians were forced to fall back and wait for reinforcements, which were strung along the road clear back to the Russian frontier. However, at about this time, a train loaded with elements of 370 Regiment and the commander of 135 Division, Hitomi Yoichi. The bridge was already demolished and the train was destroyed by the Russian tank brigade. Hitomi barely escaped, while Japanese losses exceeded 900 men and considerable equipment.

Meanwhile, by nightfall on 13 August 1945, the front of 124 Division was broken west of Muleng (130.253E 44.518N) and the Russians had secured the road through the Laoyeh Ling Mountains to Mutanchiang. The bulk of 5 Army poured through the penetration while pushing the Japanese away from the road to the north and south. 124 Division was all but destroyed by the evening of 14 August, and Russian forces reached the outskirts of Mutanchiang on 15 August 1945. As with the Russian advance from the northeast, the Russian advance from the east was badly strung out along the roads back to the frontier. Mutanchiang was heavily fortified with trenches and pillboxes and defended by the remaining two divisions of 5 Army, 126 Division and 135 Division, which held out for two days. The Japanese drove off Russian armor with suicide squads (known as "smertniks" to the Russians) carrying 15 kg (33 lb) charges and declined to make a banzai charge. The Japanese put up particularly stubborn resistance at Ssutaoling Hill (129.743E 44.563N), which fell 226 Rifle Regiment only after repeated assaults and a 4-hour artillery barrage.

Because of the fierce resistance, 5 Army was ordered to bypass Mutanchiang late on 15 August 1945. However, by then the Japanese had ordered their own withdrawal, and 5 Army was retreating in considerable confusion. Word failed to reach 278 Regiment, which was isolated and conducted a last banzai charge before the commander and his chief of staff committed hara-kiri on the battlefield in the early hours of 17 August.

The battle cost the Soviets half their total losses in Manchuria, or about 18,000 casualties, and the Japanese suffered 20,000 casualties, of whom 9391 were killed in action. The Japanese were particularly impressed by the ability of the Russians to efficiently recover and rapidly repair battle damaged tanks.

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Glantz (2003)

Hastings (2007)

Japanese Monograph 45 (accessed 2013-7-27)

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