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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.
Nomonhan, 1939 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 1979-2009, 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
“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
"A very valuable read for anyone with an interest in the Second World War."
— Strategy Page
“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
— Publisher’s Weekly
"This is a brilliant battle study highlighting the military and political decisions, actions, and blunders."
— Military Officer Magazine
“Knowing what the “little war” triggered — and 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
“This is a splendid book. Deeply researched and incisively argued…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.”
—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