The 1939 Japanese defeat by the Soviets at the Battle of Noonan / Khalkhin Gol may have changed the course of history by convincing the Japanese to attack America instead of the Soviet Union.


This article by Stuart Goldman from the Diplomat makes the following points:

  • This conflict was referred to as the Nomonhan Incident by the Japanese, and the Battles of Khalkhin Gol by the Russians (Soviets).
  • The Japanese Kwantung Army’s  MasanobTsuji provoked the battle with the Soviets.
  • It was fought along the Manchurian-Mongolian border.
  • Over 100,000 troops, 1,000 tanks and aircraft were involved.
  • 30,000-50,000 men were killed or wounded.
  • The Japanese were comprehensively beaten.
  • The battle coincided with the conclusion of the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact (August 1939) 
  • This pact resulted in Hitler’s invasion of Poland and the outbreak of World War II in Europe.
  • Georgy Zhukov (later to lead the Red Army to victory over Nazi Germany) commanded the Soviet forces.
  • In late1941, the Red Army was in retreat from the Germans.
  • Japan wanted to expand its Empire and secure raw materials such as oil and had to decide whether to attack the Soviets or America.
  • The Navy backed attacking Pearl Harbour.
  • Most of the Army wanted to attack Russia.
  • However, the charismatic Tsuji backed attacking Pearl harbour and then seizing the oil-rich Dutch East Indies.
  • The decision to attack Pearl Harbour resulted in Hitler declaring war on the USA