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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Stalin's conversations with Anthony Eden and others, Oct 15, 1944. From Library of Congress, H H Arnold papers, box 225

DOD DIR. 5200.9

October 15, 1944


Present: Marshal I. V. Stalin

Mr. V. M. Molotov, People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs
General of Armies A. I. Antonov
Lieutenant General Shevchenko
Mr. Pavlov, Soviet interpreter

Mr. Anthony Eden, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke
General Sir Henry Hastings Ismay
Major General Jacob
General Burrows
Major A. H. Birse, Second Secretary of British Embassy

The American Ambassador, Mr. Harriman

Major General John R. Deane

Mr. Edward Page, Second Secretary of Embassy

Subject: The Far Eastern Theater

General Antonov stated that he wished to have a few words on the Soviet Far Eastern Theater. He explained that in the Far East the Soviet Union had a frontier to protect extending 3100 kilometers, excluding 1700 kilometers along the Mongolian People's Republic -- thus a total of 4800 kilometers. The Great Hingan Mountains covered the entrance into the center of Manchuria and the Lesser Hingan Mountains and the Chai-Boshanski Mountains protected the approaches to the east. There were few roads or mountain passes. The following possible operational directions existed:

  1. Through the Mongolian People's Republic toward Kalgan. The great distance between the Trans-Siberian Railroad and the rails in the Kalgan area amounting to 1400 kilometres must be taken into consideration. The Mongolian steppe country, which had no fuel or water was smooth, there were limited facilities to transport supplies, water, and fuel. Large armies could not be employed in this area
  2. The Solunskaya direction passing through the eastern section of Mongolia. The distance between the Trans-Siberian Railroad and the southern network amounted to 900 kilometers. The same transportation difficulties existed as above.
  3. The Hailar direction to Taitsikar on the Manchurian Railroad. Here the distance between the railroads amounted to 600 kilometers.
  4. Across the Amur River from Blagoveshchensk to Tsitsikar. Tne Amur River would have to be forced and then the Sakhalansk Japanese defense area where good permanent defenses had been constructed.
  5. The Maritime Province to Harbin, Hsinking and into the center of Manchuria. This was perhaps the most advantageous route but it was covered by mountains and Japanese fortified areas. However, the mountains were easier to force than the Hingans.

The Japanese had the following forces available at the present time in Manchuria and Korea: infantry divisions -- Japanese, 17, Manchurian 2; mixed and infantry brigades -- Japanese 1, Manchuria 33; cavalry brigades --Manchurian 7, Japanese 1; tank divisions -- Japanese 3; independent tank regiments -- Japanese 4.

However, in the case of war Japan would obviously increase its military groupings.

According to Soviet intelligence, the distribution of all of the Japanese forces was as follows: In China -- infantry divisions, 21; infantry brigades, 20; cavalry brigades, 1. (The Soviet Command is not sure regarding the disposition of one other tank division, i.e. whether it still remains in China or it has been moved to Manchuria.). In Japan proper -- infantry divisions, 11; infantry brigades, 8; independent tank regiments, 3. In Burma -- infantry divisions, 10. In the South Seas -- infantry divisions, 28.

The case of war against the Soviet Union, from where would Japan draw its reinforcements? The Soviet command figures that up to 10 of the 21 divisions and 20 brigades in China would be transferred to Manchuria and that up to 20 divisions would be dispatched to Japan Proper. Twenty to thirty days would be needed to transfer the divisions from China and thirty to forty days from Japan. At this point Stalin inquired exactly how 20 divisions could b withdrawn from Japan to Manchuria. General Antonov explained that the Japanese had 17 depot divisions in addition to 11 normal divisions in addition to 11 normal divisions in Japan proper, that they had sufficient equipment and trained men. Thus, he stated, in one and a half months the Manchurian groupments could reach 45 to 47 divisions. Taking into consideration the successful operations of the Allies in the Philippines, it was possible that the Japanese forces there might be withdrawn to China and thence to Manchuria.

General Antonov stated that the Soviet forces in the Far East were so limited that they were unable to take on active offensive operations at the present time. They could only carry on a reliable defense. Taking into account possible Japanese increases in Manchuria and in order to have equality with them or a small superiority over them, substantial transfer of troops would have to be made from the west. The maximum capacity of the Trans-Siberian Railroad amounts to 36 pairs of trains at day. Of these 5 were needed for the maintenance of the railroad and 5 for the national economy. This left 26 pairs for troops movements. Supplies must also be sent. To maintain equality with the Japanese or to attain a small superiority, it would be necessary to move about 1000 troop trains. This would require two and a half to three months' time.

At the present time the Soviets had 30 divisions in the Far East, i.e. the trans-Baikal and Manchurian frontier regions. To obtain the small superiority, 30 additional divisions would have to be moved.

Field Marshal Brooke interjected that the threat of the United States forces near Formosa would keep Japanese forces there and in China in order to prevent the Americans from seizing the Chinese coast. There airdromes would be built.

Marshal Stalin stated that it would be difficult for Japan to move forces from the Japanese islands to Manchuria as the islands were under constant threat by the American Navy. Troops could possibly be moved from South China once the Japanese saw the threat of a Russian out flanking movement.

General Antonov continued that if the Russian and Japanese forces were compared, that is 60 Soviet divisions to 47 Japanese divisions, it might be through that the Russians had a very great superiority. This was not true. A Russian division including 10,000 men, whereas the Japanese divisions in Manchuria and Korea counted 10,000 men. General Deane inquired whether the Soviet tactical air force in the Far East needed building up. General Antonov replied in time affirmative and added that the Soviet Far Eastern air force had many obsolete planes which must be replaced.

Field Marshal Brooke inquired whether the Trans-Siberian Railroad could support the envisaged increase of Soviet forces or whether these forces would to a certain extent depend upon sea transport from the United States. General Antonov replied that he believed that the Trans-Siberian Railroad would be able to take care of this increase. Mr. Harriman inquired whether this included supplies for the strategic air force. General Antonov replied that fuel would probably have to come in by sea. Mr. Harriman inquired whether, in case it should be decided to transfer 30 divisions to the Far Fast in several months, there would be any railroad capacity available for the build-up of such a strategic air force or whether the capacity would have to wait until the movement of the army and its supplies had been effected.

Marshal Stalin answered that during Kuropatkin's time Russia had maintained 25 divisions in the Far East. War was being waged with Japan. The Trans-Siberian Railroad had a capacity of six trains per day. Great endeavors were made to increase this capacity to seven trains but the railway was not up to the hopes placed in it. For that reason Kuropatkin had tried to store up great supplies in the Far East, but as soon as a surplus had been reached the Czar sued for an armistice. However, the situation was suite difference now. The Trans-Siberian was double tracked. Before the German war the Soviet Union maintained 35 to 40 divisions in the Par Fast and at that time supplies were accumulated for a period of four months since it was believed that even the double tracked system might not be able to maintain the 35 to 40 divisions. Marshal Stalin stated that he did not believe that the Trans-Siberian Railroad could maintain 60 divisions with fuel, food and other supplies. Many of the Far Eastern stocks had been necessarily moved to the western front so that now only about one month's stocks remained. That should be done at once to make up the insufficiency of goods in the Far East was to bring supplies by water -- fuel for the air forces and ground transport, foodstuffs, rails and other railway equipment for the Soviet Gavan--Komsomolsk railway. Marshal Stalin said that he believed that sufficient supplies could be accumulated in three months to maintain the Soviet forces for a period of one and a half to two months. This could be sufficient to deal a mortal blow against Japan, There was no similarity between 1904 and 1944. Russia was alone in 1904 and the Japanese were free to move wherever they wished. Russia was no longer alone - it was Japan which was isolated. Then the Russians had no aircraft factories in the Far East. Now they produced aircraft at Komsomolsk and Irkutsk. But the Russians needed food, fuel, rails and railway stock. It was true that the Trans-Siberian Railroad could not maintain 60 divisions, but if the Soviets were successful in accumulating stores and could finish the construction of the Soviet Gavan-Komsomolsk railway they could get alone.

Mr. Harriman stated that we were ready to start to build up stocks as soon as possible, without interfering with shipping commitments for the European war. Marshal J. Stalin replied: "Some shipping will have to be released to satisfy the requirements for fuel and food." Mr. Harriman said that he was much interested in discussing exactly which supplies the Russians needed and he felt sure that the United States was prepared to make a proposal when we knew what tonnage was involved. Marshal Stalin said, "That will have to be done." He continued that a blow should be delivered at Japan at the present time when she was tweak. He said that the war against Japan, with Russian participation, should not be long and that two months' stocks should be sufficient.

Mr. Eden inquired as to the Japanese attitude toward the building up of stocks by sea in the Bar last. Stalin replied that the Japanese were not interfering with shipments to Russia. They might endeavor to hinder future shipments but he doubted this.

Mr. Harriman said that it was his impression from what had been said that three months after the collapse of Germany the Soviet union would be prepared to take action against Japan. Stalin replied: "in three months yes. After the building nun of supplies, in several months." He continued that the Americans and Russians should begin discussions at once in order to concert plans. He added that there were also certain political aspects which would have to be taken into consideration. The Russians would have to know what they were fighting for. They had certain claims against Japan.

Mr. Harriman inquired as to how soon Stalin wished the United States to deliver four-engine bombers and train the crews. Stalin replied that he had heard that deliveries of heavy aircraft for the Ear Past presented great difficulties. if that were so, he would not press for them but if there were no difficulties in this respect he desired to receive the planes immediately, certainly before any operations against the Japanese but after the fuel had been received. Mr. Harriman stated that the American Chiefs of Staff were ready to undertake the training of Russian crews. Stalin inquired where this training was contemplated. Mr Harriman replied "in Russia". Stalin stated that it would be advisable to have as many trained aviators as possible in advance of operations. Mr Harriman said that he would be in Washington toward the end of the week and would immediately take up this question with the Chiefs of Staff. Stalin suggested that 20 instructors be sent to Russia via Alaska immediately for the training of Russian crews and that bombers be sent at the same tine. It would merely be necessary to inform the Russians ten days in advance of the despatch of these contingents. He said that the Russian youth were very adaptable and that experience with the one American four-engine bomber in Vladivostok had shown that the Russians could promptly learn how to use heavy bombers. He stated that they would utilize only experienced crews in these planes. Mr. Harriman said that with the decreased plane losses in Europe he felt that the United States would soon be able to make four-engine bombers available to the Soviet Union. Stalin was pleased to hear this remark and said that there would consequently be more time to teach the Soviet aviators. Mr. Harriman said that the training of the crews and the providing of the planes could commence as soon as an understanding were reached regarding their use.

Stalin said that mention had been made last night of an American base at Petropavlovsk and also in Kamchatka. Room would be included in these areas and airdromes would be enlarged. Mr. Harriman said that this was in addition to those in the Maritime Provinces, explaining that the Americans attributed great importance to supplementing the air attacks from the south. Stalin agreed.

Mr Harriman inquired whether Marshal Stalin believed that the stocks built up could be protected with the present forces against Japanese attack. Stalin said that he was anxious for the Japanese to start something -- then the Russian people would fight all the better, especially if they knew that they had been attacked. In the beginning perhaps there would be retreats but he had no doubt as to the final outcome. He said that fields must be prepared, stocks of fuel and other equipment made ready, and that one week or ten days before the attack on Japan the airplanes from America must arrive.

Mr. Harriman stated that as a railroad man there was one question he wished to ask. General Antonov had spoken about 36 pairs of trains a day. What was the average tonnage? General Antonov said that there were from 60 to 80 freight cars per train and that the average amounted to 600 to 700 tons per train.

Mr Harriman inquired as to how soon it could be arranged for General Deane to have a meeting with the Soviet authorities to go into the questions raised this evening. Marshal Stalin suggested this be done before the Prime Minister's departure. Mr. Eden said that he did not believe that the Prime Minister would wish to participate in the discussions which would be detailed in nature. He added that he saw no reason for British participation. Marshal Stalin then suggested that the discussions be initiated before Mr. Harriman's departure and agreed that a meeting be arranged for either tomorrow or Tuesday at which he would be present.



Copy for General Deane

Website note: The above texts are optically scanned, and may contain characteristic OCR errors. We will correct these if notified. [notify]. Note that Mr Churchill was absent from this meeting, as he was suffering from a stomach upset since lunch this day.

The above material has been researched by David Irving for the third volume of his Churchill biography, "Churchill's War", vol. iii: "The Sundered Dream."

Extracts from Anthony Eden's pencilled diary | Stalin's conversations with Allied leaders Oct 11-15, 1944

© Focal Point 2004 F Irving write to David Irving