"THIS IS A BRILLIANT BATTLE STUDY HIGHLIGHTING THE MILITARY AND POLITICAL DECISIONS,
ACTIONS, AND BLUNDERS."— Military Officer Magazine, December 2012
Stuart Goldman convincingly argues that a little-known, but intense Soviet-Japanese conflict along the Manchurian-Mongolian frontier at Nomonhan influenced the outbreak of World War II and shaped the course of the war. The author draws on Japanese, Soviet, and western sources to put the seemingly obscure conflict—actually a small undeclared war— into its proper global geo-strategic perspective.
The book describes how the Soviets, in response to a border conflict provoked by Japan, launched an offensive in August 1939 that wiped out the Japanese forces at Nomonhan. At the same time, Stalin signed the German- Soviet Nonaggression Pact, allowing Hitler to invade Poland. The timing of these military and diplomatic strikes was not coincidental, according to the author. In forming an alliance with Hitler that left Tokyo diplomatically isolated, Stalin succeeded in avoiding a two-front war. He saw the pact with the Nazis as a way to pit Germany against Britain and France, leaving the Soviet Union on the sidelines to eventually pick up the spoils from the European conflict, while at the same time giving him a free hand to smash the Japanese at Nomonhan.
Goldman not only demonstrates the linkage between the Nomonhan conflict, the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, and the outbreak of World War II , but also shows how Nomonhan influenced Japan’s decision to go to war with the United States and thus change the course of history. The book details Gen. Georgy Zhukov’s brilliant victory at Nomonhan that led to his command of the Red Army in 1941 and his success in stopping the Germans at Moscow with reinforcements from the Soviet Far East. Such a strategy was possible, the author contends, only because of Japan’s decision not to attack the Soviet Far East but to seize the oil-rich Dutch East Indies and attack Pearl Harbor instead. Goldman credits Tsuji Masanobu, an influential Japanese officer who instigated the Nomonhan conflict and survived the debacle, with urging his superiors not to take on the Soviets again in 1941, but instead to go to war with the United States.
Stuart D. Goldman is a scholar in residence at the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research in Washington, D.C. From 1979 to 2009 he was the senior specialist in Russian and Eurasian political and military affairs at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress. A resident of Rockville, MD, he holds a PhD from Georgetown University.
Nomonhan, 1939: The Red Army's Victory That Shaped World War II by Naval Institute Press
PRAISE FOR NOMONHAN, 1939
“Nomonhan, 1939 is a particularly noteworthy book on this four-month battle. Goldman’s writing style is engaging and absorbing. As a historian, he brings a unique ability to inform and entertain; his topic is complex and vast but he deftly navigates the reader in a clear and logical way. The book has extensive endnotes and a comprehensive bibliography. This reviewer would recommend the book very strongly to anyone, historians and casual readers alike, who wish to comprehend the intricacies of the Far East in the months prior to Japan’s entry into World War II.”
—Michigan War Studies Review
"This is a thoroughly competent and succinctly written account of the battles between Soviet and Japanese forces at Nomonhan in 1939. Its thesis is clear: the outcome of the fighting at Nomonhan and the near-simultaneous negotiation of the Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact were intimately connected, and this connection, in turn, had great influence on the cause and course of the Second World War itself."
— War in History, 22 (2)
“For anyone interested in the military history of the last century, in general, or the background to the beginning of World War II, in particular, Goldman has produced a work which should be required reading. Based on a wide range of English, Russian and Japanese language primary and secondary source materials, the book is a very interesting and thought-provoking analysis of, as Goldman puts it, ‘the most important World War II battle most people have never heard of’ (p. 5). Rightly or wrongly, most people in the West, if they know the battle at all, identify it through the Russian or Mongolian version of its name—Khalkin Gol—rather than the Japanese version used in the title of the work—Nomonhan. Divided into seven chapters—and a number of sub-sections within each chapter—Goldman’s book not only demonstrates his mastery of the material to hand, but also great thought in what is an admirably balanced and even-handed account of a much too-long neglected battle in the history of events leading to the outbreak of World War II in 1939.”
— Europe-Asia Studies
"As a starting point for the study of Khalkhin-Gol there is no better book than Goldman’s. If you only read one book on the battle, this is it."
— The Russian Review
“Goldman should be commended for producing a well-written and well-balanced book. Nomonhan, 1939 not only depicts this Russo–Japanese conflict in a lucid and vivid manner, but also offers a greater contextualization of it than has any previous account. For these merits, it is highly recommended reading for anyone who is interested in the prewar Russo–Japanese rivalry and its global impact, and most notably for students and scholars who are looking for a succinct and reliable account of the dramatic events in Nomonhan.”
— Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs
"Nomonhan, 1939 is Stuart Goldman’s brilliant military and political history of ‘the first instance in the modern age of limited war between great powers.’… Students of military and political history will find this book to be a valuable resource for their understanding of the dynamics of military and political decisions that directly impacted World War II. And it makes for exciting reading.”
— New Maine Times Book Review
“Goldman provides a very thorough account from the side of Japan and the Soviet Union…”
— Choice, November 2012
"Although extensively researched and heavily footnoted, this is not a book merely or even primarily for scholars. Goldman writes very well indeed. The historical arguments are clearly presented, the battles described brilliantly and the personalities evoked through use of primary sources. Nomonhan, 1939 is, unexpectedly, something of a page-turner."
— Asian Review of Books, 24 October 2012
Goldman masterfully untangles the complicated diplomatic context and battlefield maneuverings in a tour de force that shows how global diplomacy and WWII were affected by the outcome of hostilities in an obscure backwater of little strategic importance."
— The Japan Times, 30 September 2012
“Goldman’s book provides food for thought while directing attention to an aspect of prewar diplomacy that is too often left out of the analysis of decision making by the many parties involved in shaping the coming war.”
— H-Diplo, part of H-Net, August 2012
“Goldman’s book is for those with an interest in armor tactics, and World War II campaigns tactically and geo-strategically. A refreshing read.”
“All in all, this volume has the potential to become the book of the year in history/military science. It is very well researched, logically argued and presents the topic in an organic way, looking at Soviet foreign and military policies’ western and eastern components not as disjoined parts but as the two sides of the same coin…A tour de force that should be a compulsory reading for historians, military leaders and that part of the general public that is interested in understanding the deeper undercurrents of the big global conflict that we call by the name World War II.”
— Journal of Eurasian Studies, April-June 2012
“This book is well researched, using both Japanese and Russian sources. Goldman does an excellent job tying together the various events such as the Nomonhan battle, the Soviet Nonaggression Pact with Germany and the start of World War II…This is a must read for all those with an interest in World War II and subsequent events.”
— The Past in Review
“Stuart D. Goldman has not only written a powerful account of the Red Army’s lopsided victory over Imperial Japan but also included the impact the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact had on the war, paving the way for Hitler to invade Poland a few days after hostilities at Nomonhan had ended.”
— WWII History, July 2012
— Publishers Weekly online review, May 7
"Nomonhan, 1939 is a book that highlights a critical, yet misunderstood, campaign that had decisive results. Any student of World War II should read Goldman’s book.”
— The Daily News, Galveston, TX
“Knowing what the “little war” triggered — and Dr. Goldman justifies his claims — makes reading the detail of his beautifully-crafted book even more compelling. And he gives context which is important to us today in understanding Asia. Great book!”
— Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, February 24, 2012
“This is a splendid book. Deeply researched and incisively argued, it chronicles the little-known military clash between the Soviet Union and Imperial Japan in the remote borderlands of Mongolia on the eve of World War II. Goldman argues convincingly that the decisive Soviet victory at Nomonhan was a major factor shaping the global geopolitical alignments which crystallized just before Nazi Germany launched the war in Europe, and that it may even have had a critical impact on the outcome of the world war that followed. Anyone seriously interested in the diplomacy and strategy of the combatants in World War II should read this book.”
—BRUCE PARROTT, professor and director of Russian and Eurasian studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and author of Politics and Technology in the Soviet Union
“There are momentous events in history which often get shunted aside by what follows. If the Spanish Civil War was a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the larger World War to follow, no less so was the battle of Nomonhan. Exploding across the Mongolian frontier far removed from the eyes and ears of Europeans, everyone involved in the harrowing battle had a reason not to spread the word. Yet it was here, along the Halha River dividing Manchuria and Mongolia, that leading players on the world stage to follow perfected how they would fight. Stuart Goldman tells a complicated story with verve and insight, weaving in the background necessary for understanding the grand narrative while keeping that tale moving forward at every turn. This is a masterful work.”
—BLAIR A. RUBLE, Director of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
“With Nomonhan, 1939, Stuart Goldman has crafted the best kind of history. He illuminates an overlooked arena of world events that had far-reaching consequences. Goldman's eye, while intellectual, is keen for context: each event is measured for importance, every character leaves his mark. The result is a flowing narrative that will leave you amazed at how one out-of-the-way battle changed World War II and the world.”
—DAVID L. ROBBINS, author of nine novels, including Broken Jewel and War of the Rats
“Nomonhan, 1939 is a must-read for military leaders and military historians alike to appreciate fully the global implications of this little known, undeclared war between the Soviet Union and Japan in 1939. Fascinating!”
—REAR ADM. JAY A. DELOACH, USN (RET.), director, Naval History & Heritage Command