Not the coming world war

The 11th Military History Carnival has been posted at Battlefield Biker. My pick this month is Siberian Light's post on the Battle of Khalkin-Gol (better known, to me at least, as the Nomonhan Incident), a big tank battle fought between the USSR and Japan in August 1939. I didn't know that it actually began as skirmishing between Mongolia and Manchukuo, puppet states of the Soviets and Japanese respectively. Though, of course, it needn't have: a 2nd Russo-Japanese War wouldn't have surprised many people in the 1930s, particularly given Japanese expansionism and anti-communism. Plenty did predict it, often leftists such as Tom Wintringham, who suggested in The Coming World War (1935) that a conflict between Japan and the USSR would probably spread into the next world war. It didn't ... but almost immediately, the German invasion of Poland did. Siberian Light notes that Khalkin Gol/Nomonhan did influence the course of the Second World War, as Japan's heavy defeat there was one factor in its decision to go south in December 1941 instead of north. Probably one of the more important forgotten battles of world history, then.

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2 thoughts on “Not the coming world war

  1. Thanks for the recommendation, Brett!

    Interesting to hear about Wintringham's views - I wasn't aware that many on the left were predicting a huge clash between the USSR and Japan, so I'll have to see if I can find out more.

    (Although, in retrospect, their views were pretty sensible - Japan and Russia/the USSR were two large, expansionist powers butting up against each other in an area where other major powers' influence was weak).

  2. Post author

    I probably should qualify my remarks a bit ... I guess I haven't come across a huge number of writers on the left discussing the possibility (and I've really only looked at fairly mainstream, British writing too). And of course my sources have a heavy aviation bias. But given all that, it's very noticeable that whereas most talked about the possibility of war in Europe or the Mediterranean, there was a subset interested in a Japan-USSR war, which sticks out like a sore thumb. (L. E. O. Charlton, War from the Air: Past, Present, Future (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1935) is another example -- he was a socialist, though it's not really evident from his writings.) Conservative writers didn't seem so interested in the possibility -- they (and here I mean writers of popular novels rather than serious strategic analyses) had Japan engaging in race war with the European powers, or a Bolshevik tide washing over Europe ...

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