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Stuart D. Goldman: Nomonhan, 1939

Discover the little-known conflict that resulted in a victory for the Soviet Union's Red Army and helped to shape the outcome of World War II. Sponsored by the U.S. Naval Institute

On the eve of global war in 1939, armies from the Soviet Union and Japan engaged in an intense, undeclared war along the border of Manchuria and Mongolia. In response to Japanese aggression, the Soviet Union launched a decisive offensive that culminated in the defeat of the Japanese near the village of Nomonhan in late August. Drawing on Japanese, Soviet, and Western sources, Stuart Goldman's Nomonhan, 1939 puts this seemingly obscure conflict into its proper global geo-strategic perspective.

While the Soviet Union's Red Army clashed with imperial Japanese forces in virtual obscurity, Stalin was busy concluding negotiations that culminated in the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact. The timing of these military and diplomatic strikes, according to the author, was not coincidental. Stalin’s alliance with Hitler left Tokyo diplomatically isolated, paved the way for the German invasion of Poland, and ensured that the Soviets would not become involved in a two-front war in 1939. For Stalin, the pact with the Nazis was 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 deal with 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 changed the course of history. 

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

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. 

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