Soviet attack hastened end of World War II

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On Aug. 8, 1945 -- a week before Japan's surrender in World War II -- 1.5 million Soviet troops launched a massive surprise attack against Japanese occupation forces in northern China and Korea, an area the size of Western Europe. Within days, Tokyo's million-man army in the region had collapsed in one of the greatest military defeats in history.

''It was a massive campaign and a crushing blow for Japan which was already in a bad way after fighting for almost four years in the Pacific War,'' said Nigel Steel, a World War II historian at the Imperial War Museum in London.

Historians say the now largely forgotten Red Army victory -- codenamed August Storm -- not only hastened the end of World War II but also set the stage for the Korean War and for the victory in 1949 of the Chinese communists in the civil war against the Nationalists.

Some Japanese historians believe it had a greater effect on the decision of the Japanese leadership to end the Pacific War than the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which came within days of the Soviet attack.

''The impact of atomic bombs (on Japanese army's decision to surrender) is being overestimated,'' says Arai Shinichi, historian and professor emeritus of Ibaragi University and Surugadai University.

More important in persuading Tokyo to surrender were the Soviet decision to enter the war in the Far East, the Red Army's lighting advance through Manchuria, and the collapse of Japanese efforts to enlist the Soviets as peace intermediaries, Arai said.

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