FROM THE HISTORY OF RUSSIA’S PACIFIC FLEET

AT  WAR  WITH  JAPAN

Landing
     At dawn of August 9, 1945, theUSSR, and with it naturally the Russian Pacific Fleet, entered into a stateof war with Japan. By outbreak of hostilities, the Fleet’s warships, aviation, coastal units and marines were in full readiness for upcoming sea, airand land battles. When the war began, the Pacific Fleet had 2 cruisers,1 battleship, 12 destroyers, 19 coast guards, 10 mine layers, 52 mine sweepers,49 submarine hunters, 204 torpedo boats, 78 submarines and 1,618 aircraft(including 1,382 combat planes). At the outset of hostilities, the Amurflotilla, a component of the Pacific Fleet, had 8 monitors, 11 gunboats,52 armored launches, 12 minesweepers and some other warships.
       The Soviet Unionentered the war with Japan in accord with the resolution of the CrimeanConference of heads of governments of the USSR, the United States and GreatBritain,held in February 1945. At the Potsdam Conference of heads of statesheld inJuly 1945, the U. S. and British Governments confirmed their interestin Russia’s entrance into the war with Japan.
       In the course ofcombat operations, the Pacific Fleet (Commander: Admiral I. S. Yumashev)was to sever Japanese sea communications between Manchuria, North Koreaand Japan, assist Russian troops of the 1-st Far Eastern Front in theircoastal offensive and defend in cooperation with the 2-nd Far Eastern Frontthe coastline of the Soviet Far East. In this case, the defense of TatarStrait coastline was assigned to the Pacific Fleet’s Northern Pacific Flotilla(Commander: Vice Admiral V. A. Andreev) and the 16th ground army. The Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskinaval base (Commander: Captain D.G. Ponomarev) and troops of KamchatkaDefense District were to defend the Kamchatka coastline. The Amur Flotilla(Commander: Rear-Admiral N. V. Antonov) was to provide protection for troopsin crossing the Amur and Ussuri Rivers and to assist Russian troops intheir offensive in the direction of River Sungari.
      Marshal of the SovietUnion  A. M. Vasilevsky led all ground, air and naval operations,and Commander in Chief of Russia’s Navy coordinated Pacific Fleet activitieswith those of ground troops.
      Soviet armed forces, including ground troops, aviation and navy, were to conduct combat operations inManchuria, Korea, Southern Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands, i.e. on a frontextending to over 6,000 kilometers. By that time, the Japanese had built17 fortified districts and over 4,500 permanent emplacements along theUSSR border. ByAugust 1945, the Japanese Kwantung Army numbered nearly750,000 officers andmen. It had 1,155 tanks and self-propelled guns, 1,800warplanes, 30 battleships and gunboats. From August 10, 1945, troops ofthe 17th (Korean) Front andthe 5th Japanese air army were placed underthe command of the Kwantung Army.The entire group deployed by the Japanesein Manchuria, Inner Mongolia andKorea numbered over 1 million officersand men. Soviet forces had 1.7 timesmore manpower, 4.5 times more tanks,and 2.8 times more warplanes than theJapanese. On the sea theater, Russiannaval forces, unlike Japan, had no aircraftcarriers and battleships. Butchances that those vessels would appear in Russianwaters were improbable,given that Russian air domination was complete.
       It was the PacificFleet’s aviation that opened hostilities by delivering massive blows againstthe Japanese ports of Yuki, Rashin and Seishin, which served the Japaneseas naval bases in North Korea. As a result of Soviet air strikes, Japan’ssea communications were cut already during the first days of the war.
       At this point, theauthor of these lines, being a participant himself in the war with Japan,would like to emphasize that Soviet air superiority was virtually absolute.In any case, if individual Japanese planes did take off from their airdromes,Russian fighters almost instantly shot them down. Superiority of Sovietaviators was ensured by three basic factors: quantity (the USSR had manymore warplanes; quality (Soviet fighters, attack planes and bombers possessedmuch higher tactical and technical characteristics; and, finally, Russianpilots, who had acquired enormous combat experience in battles with theGerman “Luftwaffe”, proved to have much higher flying skills.
      Soon after the crushingraids of Soviet aviators on Japanese bases, Pacific Fleet Commander AdmiralI. S. Yumashev, by agreement with Marshal A. M. Vasilevsky, decided tomake landings in Yuki, Rashin and Seishin. On the eve of the operation,naval bombers and attack planes continued to attack those ports. At thesame time, they were attacked from the sea by torpedo boats led by divisioncommanders CaptainK. V. Kazachinsky, Captain S. P. Kostritsky and Lieutenant-CaptainM. G. Malik. The sea and air attacks seriously weakened the defenses ofYuki, Rashin and Seishin. The Japanese lost as many as twenty transportsand other vessels.
       Mikhail Yanko, pilot of the 37th attack air regiment, distinguished himself in those battles.His attack plane was set on fire by an enemy shell after he had successfullyattacked a transport vessel in Rashin. Yanko directed his machine all inflames atone of the Japanese port constructions and died in action togetherwith hiscomrade-in-arms, gunner I. M. Babkin.
      The purpose of the Seishin landing operation, achieved during the first days of the war, was to capture the Japanese naval base there so as to deprive the enemy of the possibility of using it for transporting reinforcements, equipment, ammunition fromJapan, and evacuating wounded troops and material values to Japan proper.At that time, Seishin was fortified district with 4,000 officers and men,protected from the sea by coastal artillery. The Pacific Fleet’s intentionwas to make a sudden landing to capture the port’s moorage line and reconnoiter enemy forces. It was planned to subsequently land the main forces, occupy the city and hold it till arrival of 25th Soviet army troops advancingalong the coastline.
       The main landingforce included the 355th Separate Marine Battalion under Major M. Barabolko(1st echelon), the 13th Marine Brigade under Major-General V. Trushin (2ndechelon) and the 335th infantry division (3rd echelon). Destroyer “Voikov”, mine-layer “Argun”, eight coast guards, seven minesweepers, twenty-four coast guards and torpedo boats, twelve landing vessels and seven transports. The air protection and landing support group had 188 bombers and 73 fighters, i.e. almost seven air regiments. Major-General V. P. Trushin was in command of the entire operation, and Captain A. F Studenichnikov led the landingparty.
       After the PacificFleet airforce had finished bombing enemy defense structures in Seishin,at 7 A.M. August 13 six torpedo boats led by Lieutenant-Captain Markovskywith a scout detachment under Senior Lieutenant V. N. Leonov and a companyof submachinegunners under Senior Lieutenant I. M. Yarotsky from InletNovik (Russky Island) sailed to Seishin to land in the city on the sameday. As the vanguard of this landing party advanced along the streets ofSeishin, Japanese resistance became fiercer and fiercer. The sailors overcameobstacle after obstacle, engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand fighting tononetheless slowly, but steadily advance. In the morning of August 14,fighters of the first echelon landed in Seishin, and on August 15 thoseof the second echelon. There was no need to land the third echelon, sincethe six thousand sailors who had entered Seishin were sufficient to capturethe city. On August 16 afternoon, the sailors in cooperation with unitsof the 393-rd infantry division of the 25th Soviet army had captured thecity.
     The success of the landing waslargely possible thanks to the effective support provided by warships andnaval aviation. Destroyer “Voikov”, minelayer “Argun” and other warships opened fire against the enemy sixty-five times. The coast guard “Metel” under Lieutenant-Captain L. N. Baliakin provided fire support to the landing party to shoot down an enemy plane. Then “Metel’s” artillery destroyedan enemy armored train, a train carrying combat equipment, put out of actiona Japanese coastal battery, and destroyed eight enemy concrete fortifications and emplacements.
     In the Battle of Seishin, theenemy lost over 3,000 officers and men and a large quantity of materieland armaments. The landing party could capture the city and port in justthree days owing to their mass heroism and martial skills, due to the skilfulleadership of their commanders at all levels, and due to their excellentcombat equipment.  L. N. Baliakin, V. N. Leonov,  I. M. Yarotsky,M. P. Barabolko, V. G. Moiseenko, M. N. Tsukanova, K. P. Biriulya, andM. I Kochetkov distinguished themselves in action in the Battle of Seishinand were awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union (V. N. Leonov asecond time). Hundreds of officers, petty officers and sailors were awardedorders and medals.
       After taking Seishin, Pacific navymen under A. F. Studenchikov liberated two more major enemystrongholds, the ports of Odetsin (former Etetin) and Wonsan (former Genzan),where 6,238 Japanese officers and men were taken prisoner.
Almost simultaneously with landing operations and fighting in North Korea, Russian troops liberated Southern Sakhalin from Japaneseforces. On August 10, 1945, the Northern Pacific Flotilla (Commander Vice-Admiral V. A. Andreev) was ordered to capture the southern part of Sakhalin Island in cooperation with troops of the 16th army (Commander Lieutenant-General L. G. Cheremisov), Second Far East Front, to capture the southern partofSakhalin Island, occupied by Japan as a result of the Russo-JapaneseWar of1904-1905.
      Combat operations beganonAugust 11, 1945 in the direction of Poronaisk. Russian ground troopsadvancedalong Poronai River. To the right and left of the river valley,there weremountain ridges all covered with forest.  Realizing theimportance ofthe Poronaisk direction, the Japanese built to the northof Koton (now Pobedino)a powerful fortified district (FD). It extendedtwelve kilometers along thefront and was thirty kilometers deep. In thisarea, along the only road thatcrossed the island from north to south,there were 17 permanent emplacements,31artillery and 108 machinegun bunkers,28 artillery and 18 mortar positionsand 150 shelters. The Karafuto JapaneseDivision defended the FD. Togetherwith support units it numbered up to20,000 officers and men. The Japanesehad 10,000 reservists ready to resistRussian forces. Severe fighting withheavy losses continued for over aweek. Only on August 18, did Russian troopssucceed in breaking the enemy’sdefense. In this case, landings by Pacificnavymen deep behind enemy frontlineswere of significant help to Soviet groundforces.
      On August 16, the coastguard “Zarnitsa”, four minesweepers, two transports, six gunboats and nineteentorpedo boats landed in Port Toro (now Shakhtersk) the 365th Separate MarineBattalion and one battalion of the 113th infantry brigade. The meninstantlyengaged the enemy in fierce battle and by morning of next day hadcapturedfour populated areas and the port city of Esutoru (now Uglegorsk).
      On August 20, a combinedmarine battalion and the 113th infantry brigade landed in Port Maoka (nowKholmsk). They were preceded by a group of scouts, landed secretively bysubmarine -118, in the Maoka area ro successfully complete their task.However, Japanese resistance was desperate, and the landing party had tofight particularly fiercely and valiantly. Enemy fire set one of the coastguards on fire. But Lieutenant-Captain A. Alexandrov, its commander, despitebeing wounded in the head and arms,and his subordinates showed examplesof valor and stamina to fulfil theirtask. By 2 P. M. that day the landingparty had taken the city and port. TheJapanese, having lost over 300 officersand men dead and 600 taken prisoner,retreated inland.
    On August 25, one more party of Pacific navymen consisting of 1,600 men landed in Otomari (now Korsakov). The Japanese garrison of 3,400 men laid down their arms with almost no resistance andsurrendered.
      The Sungari offensiveoperation developed no less successfully for the Russian Army. In thatoperation, the Amur Flotilla assisted the troops of the 2nd Far EasternFront in routingthe Japanese Kwantung Army. On August 9, 1945, the SovietArmy began its offensive. Having crossed Rivers Amur and Ussuri with thehelp of the Amur Flotilla,troops of two Soviet armies and those from aninfantry corps captured tworiver bridgeheads. At the same time, with supportof monitors, a party waslanded in Fuyuan to quickly take the city. TheFirst Brigade of river gunboatsfrom the
Amur Flotilla, having swept the fairways, entered theestuary of River Sungari to support the landed army troops with artilleryfire. On August 10, Soviet forces captured the Sungari Fortified Districtand the Tuntsiang defense center. The crew of the monitor “Sun Yatsen”especially distinguished itself there. When Soviet forces took the Futsingfortifieddistrict, the monitor acted jointly with a detachment of armoredlaunchesto destroy with precise artillery fire five permanent emplacements,a munitionsdepot and six mortar batteries. At the same time, the “SunYatsen”transferred across the river landing parties to support their landoperationswith its artillery.
     On August 18 troops of the 15tharmy captured the Sun’u Fortified District and Sun’u City to take20,000Japanese officers and men prisoner. On August 19, Soviet ground troopsand Amur Flotilla sailors captured Sansing. On August 20 in Harbin, alreadyoccupied by Soviet paratroopers, the 1st and 2nd Amur Flotilla Brigadesacceptedthe capitulation of Japan’s Sungari Flotilla.
      Again, in August 1945,paratroopers formed from crews of warships and coastal units of the PacificFleet werelanded in Port Arthur (Liaoshun) and Dairen (Dalian). On August25, seventeenKatalina seaplanes, which had flown in five hours from Sukhodolairport nearVladivostok with landing parties of Pacific navymen on board,landed in PortArthur Inlet. The same day, Japanese garrisons in Port Arthurand Dairen laiddown their arms, and Russian Pacific navymen solemnly hoistedthe Soviet navalensign over Port Arthur fortress.
      The rout of Japanese forces in Manchuria and Sakhalin created favorable conditions for liberation from the enemy of the Kurile Islands. The key Japanese position was on Shumshu Island, whose defense consisted of permanent emplacements protected byfield and AA artillery. A garrison of over 8,000 men reinforced by sixtytanks defended the islands of Shumshu and Paramushir. All the coastal sectionsconvenient for landings were covered with permanent emplacements and bunkersinterconnected with underground passages and trenches. All the warehouses,power stations and hospitals were underground up to 50 m deep. On August18, two coast guards, the mine layer “Okhotsk”, 4 minesweepers, 17 transportsand 16 special landing vessels with nearly 9,000 sailors, soldiers andofficers on board, approached Shumshu and Paramushir to start the landingoperation. The enemy offered fierce resistance. Sanguinary battles tookplace in Shumshuand Paramushir with varying success till August 23. Bythe end of the day,the Japanese garrison surrendered. In those battles,Pacific navymen NikolaiVilkov and Piotr Iljichev performed immortal exploits.On height 171, whichbecame the epicenter of the fighting  in Shumshu,they covered with theirbodies the gunports of enemy permanent emplacements.The minesweeper “Okhotsk” fought heroically in those battles to take onthe main blow of enemy batteries. Its steering gear and central lightingsystem were put out of action, andfifteen crewmembers were killed. Inthose critical moments, the crew displayedexceptional courage to eliminateall damages and fulfil its task with honor.
      By the end of August,all the northern Kuriles had been liberated from the enemy, including UrupIsland. The Northern Pacific Flotilla occupied the rest of the islandsto the south of Urup. Up to sixty thousand Japanese officers and men weretaken prisoner in the Kuriles.  The landing operation in the Kurileswas the last in World War Two.
     On September 2, 1945 Japan signed an act of unconditional surrender on board the U.S. battleship Missouriin Tokyo Bay. World War Two was over, and Russia’s Pacific Fleet had made a major and unforgettable contribution to the victory in the war.
 

Photos: Pacific Fleet members, Heroes of the Soviet Union, who distinguished themselves in the war with Japan in 1945, (from lefttoright): M. BARABOLKO, N. VILKOVP. ILJICHEV , V. LEONOV (twice hero), M. MALIKand  M. YANKO ; hero warships: minesweeper “Okhotsk” , monitor “SunYatsen (right) ;  landing of Pacific navymen in Seishin; hoisting of Sovietnaval ensign over Port Arthur fortress.
 

A.V. BORODIN, Leading Editor, Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography of the Peoples of the Far East, Far East Division, Russian Academy of Sciences, Colonel (Retired), Pacific Fleet Veteran.

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