Wednesday, March 25, 2009


In September 1939, whilst Germany began its invasion of Poland, a little known battle in Mongolia decided the outcome of WW2.

I doubt very many people, even historians, know of the battle of Nomonhan. It was fought between the Japanese and the Russians in a small corner or Mongolia and was the last of the battles they had been fighting for control of Northern China since the turn of the 20th century.

The Soviets won the battle, and that is its significance.

For the previous forty years, the Japanese had been building up their empire in the far east through the conquest of Korea and Manchuria. They had already beaten the Russians in 1904/5 and took advantage of the Chinese and Russian Revolutions to expand that empire.

Their aim was to control as much of China, Mongolia and Siberia as they could handle and use the area's mineral resources for its own industries.

After Stalin's purges of 1937, the Japanese thought that they had another chance to expand their empire into Mongolia, bring the country under its control and remove the Soviet-backed communist regime.

Fortunately for Britain and rest of the world they failed. Not only did the Soviets win the battle, they destroyed the Japanese forces sent against them. The result? Japanese planners gave up their attempts to conquer North Asia and switched their attention south and east to the colonies of the European nations and to the USA.

Without this defeat, it is unlikely that the Japanese would have attacked Pearl Harbour. The USA would then have stayed out of the war in Europe and Stalin would have faced a two front war which he would most likely have lost.

One small, unreported battle decided the fate of the world.

In our own lives, and in our writing, there are small things that we can overlook when trying to understand what has happened and why. They are our Nomonhans. Knowing about them and their influence can help us understand ourselves and our stories and characters.

1 comment:

Justus M. Bowman said...

A history lesson and a writing lesson. Interesting.