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WW2: Hypothetical, USSR invading Japan

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I've read through a couple of comments on YouTube (I know, bad place for any type of discussion) but I noticed a trend.  A trend that the USSR not only could have invaded Japan, but would have almost easily succeeded.  The 'debate' is placed in two different areas.  One being Japan attacked the USSR instead of the USA and the other is towards the end of WW2 the USSR sweeping down through Korea and then invading Japan.

Personally I just don't see it, the logistics, resources, equipment and such I don't think the USSR had.  Maybe I'm wrong.  I mean I look at Normandy and Operation Downfall and I'm not seeing the equipment and such for the USSR to achieve this invasion.  

So I thought I'd post it here with some more knowledgeable people.  

How realistic was it for the USSR to invade Japan?

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I know Cody mentioned the possibility of a Russian controlled Japan at the end of this video via invasion:

 

Although I think it's telling that my comment ended up as the 2nd highest rated one because I noted how unrealistic Cody's suggestion of a Soviet invasion of Japan was.

"Whoa whoa whoa, Japan had a massive fleet, with the largest Battleships and Carriers along with a strong air force.  There was no way the Russian navy could compete against the Japanese one, so I can't see how Russia can engage in a full scale invasion of Japan.  They could sweep across Korea and China, installing Communist governments, but the Japanese islands would be extremely secure.  And Paratroops need to be regularly supplied in order to be effective." -Sventex

"Airborne divisions?" -commenter

"I don't think the logistics on are the Soviet Union's side.  Operation Downfall would have involved 6 million soldiers, and predicted up to 1.7–4 million American casualties, and that was with Aerial Superiority, Naval Support and Armored support.  A paratroop force numbering in the millions was just unheard of in WW2, requiring an enormous amount of vulnerable transport planes.  Even if they built up such a force, those paratroops can't be supplied by sea with all IJN Battleships and Carriers patrolling it, so it'd have to be done by plane.  This would require a Soviet air force of unimaginable size, and a infrastructure to send all the spare parts, fuel and munitions to maintain that air force so far away from the industrial base of Russia." - Sventex

"Nah there are some chances for the soviet union, cause as soon as they get a foothold, they have pretty much won, just look how the red army CRUSHED the japanese on the mainland and in this timeline the soviet soldiers would have fought even stronger and more brutal cause other than in our timeline, not only germany but also Japan stabbed the Motherland.
So yeah soviet union would probably achieve Air supperiority because Soviet production >>>>>>>> Japanese production and at that moment stalin would just make suicide naval invasions and paradrops until they get a foothold
Still would mean the death of dozens of millions and if stalin fails his reign would be heavily destabilized"
- commenter

"The British Empire had a foothold on Gallipoli during WWI, but that campaign was an absolute disaster.  Even if Soviet production could produce a lot of aircraft, you would need the supplies and infrastructure to maintain them 9000km away from Moscow.  And there are severe limits to how many soldiers the Soviets could station on the Eastern end of Siberia while keeping them fed, clothed, watered and armed.  Not to mention that unless the Soviets produce all the naval ships unmolested in Vladivostok, all those naval transports, landing craft, subs and warships will have to sail all the way around the world to get to the Pacific.  And the last time Russia did that, it ended in the Battle of Tsushima, which effectively wiped out the Russian navy.  Yes, Russia can afford the losses, but it can't concentrate it's manpower in Siberia for obvious reasons." - Sventex

Edited by Sventex
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The question shouldn't be whether USSR would be able to invade, but how long would Japan be able to have enough strategic resources to keep fighting.

With China and Korea out of the way, and with access most likely cut to oil and various strategic resources, invading Japan would most likely be foolish. Would have been far easier to immobilize Japan's military and industry than go for a straight up engagement. 

Afaik the US was considering an invasion of Japan, with losses ranging from 250k to 1.7mil. And we are talking about an army, navy and airforce by that point quite experienced in the Pacific war.

Last, you have to consider the prominent Soviet military doctrine, Deep Battle. Large armies, mostly mechanized, mobilizing in quite extensive and grand scale maneuvers. In islands with distinct terrain and size, such strategies wouldn't be as successfull as they were in the Eastern Front. 

Just my 2 cents :Smile_honoring:.

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13 minutes ago, warheart1992 said:

The question shouldn't be whether USSR would be able to invade, but how long would Japan be able to have enough strategic resources to keep fighting.

With China and Korea out of the way, and with access most likely cut to oil and various strategic resources, invading Japan would most likely be foolish. Would have been far easier to immobilize Japan's military and industry than go for a straight up engagement. 

Afaik the US was considering an invasion of Japan, with losses ranging from 250k to 1.7mil. And we are talking about an army, navy and airforce by that point quite experienced in the Pacific war.

Last, you have to consider the prominent Soviet military doctrine, Deep Battle. Large armies, mostly mechanized, mobilizing in quite extensive and grand scale maneuvers. In islands with distinct terrain and size, such strategies wouldn't be as successfull as they were in the Eastern Front. 

Just my 2 cents :Smile_honoring:.

Actually the real question is how many men would they have been ready to lose. Remember the Japanese had plans to literally fight to the last man, woman, and child and the Soviet losses would have been horrendous.

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Just now, BrushWolf said:

Actually the real question is how many men would they have been ready to lose. Remember the Japanese had plans to literally fight to the last man, woman, and child and the Soviet losses would have been horrendous.

Yup, that too. If I am not wrong, according to the same study that came up with the US losses in a potential invasion, the figure was something like 10 million Japanese losses.

As for Soviet losses, WWII shows they were ready to withstand pretty large losses. That however while defending their country and families. An invasion would have been most likely different.

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There is also whether or not Russia would even HAVE a base in the Pacific to build up from.

In one of the alternate histories I’ve read; Japan decided ‘Go South’ and war with the US et all is too risky. They take the lessons of their previous fight with Russia to heart; prepare accordingly; and when Russia is distracted by Barbarossa; enact ‘Go North.’

After a suitably titanic fight, they cut off and crush the Maritime Province, then begin moving west to establish buffer zone territory.

Now the Russians, if not defeated by the Germans, would have to begin an buildup 9,000km from Moscow from scratch, and unmolested, if they were going to get back into a position to even consider invading Japan.

Edited by Estimated_Prophet

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22 minutes ago, warheart1992 said:

The question shouldn't be whether USSR would be able to invade, but how long would Japan be able to have enough strategic resources to keep fighting.

That brings up the question would the USSR have been able to enforce a blockade of Japan?  

Its an interesting question as you have two different types of militaries.  The USSR was a great land power, and Japan was a mighty naval power.

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3 minutes ago, Wowzery said:

That brings up the question would the USSR have been able to enforce a blockade of Japan?  

Its an interesting question as you have two different types of militaries.  The USSR was a great land power, and Japan was a mighty naval power.

This brings up even more questions :Smile-_tongue:.

If in this scenario the USSR had managed to expand to China and Korea, I am certain the Soviets would have alot of public support thanks to the Japanese occupation. That would leave India, South East Asia and a few islands for Japan to try to squeeze out of resources. And again if in this scenario the Soviets were on the side of the Allies and not on their own, then definitely embargoes on various resources would have been imposed as well.

 

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1 hour ago, warheart1992 said:

That would leave India, South East Asia and a few islands for Japan to try to squeeze out of resources.

Japan never managed to occupy the Indian subcontinent. The Japanese advance was stopped in Burma. So it'd just be SE Asia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and some tiny Pacific islands.

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3 hours ago, Wowzery said:

That brings up the question would the USSR have been able to enforce a blockade of Japan?  

Its an interesting question as you have two different types of militaries.  The USSR was a great land power, and Japan was a mighty naval power.

Without anyone else on their side?

This is how it plays out;
 

  1. The USSR declares war
  2. The Russian far eastern fleet sails out to blockade Japan
  3. A Japanese destroyer captain sneezes and sinks the entire Soviet Far East Fleet
  4. Vladivostok is blockaded by the Japanese

Alright, slight exaggeration. But even if the entire soviet navy was gathered to fight that of Japan, it wouldn't have stood a chance. What few assets the Russians had in the Far East would've never been able to come close to establishing any kind of blockade over Japan - most likely they would've only been blockaded in port. Keep in mind, at it's peak in WWII (1945), the Soviet Far East fleet had 2 CLs, a DL, and 10 DDs. 

 

It's possible Soviet submarines could've made an impact given how poor Japanese ASW abilities were, but that's only going to last so long as they have a port to operate out of.

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18 hours ago, Phoenix_jz said:

A Japanese destroyer captain sneezes and sinks the entire Soviet Far East Fleet

:cap_haloween:

Even if the Soviets had managed to build a bigger fleet it would have required a large port(s), faculties, and resources to operate that i'm not sure the USSR had in 1940-45.

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The US gave the Soviets about 300 landing craft starting in late 1944 and about half of those were actually delivered.  These were sailed from Alaska to the USSR with Russian crews and consisted mostly of LCM and LCI(L) type craft.

They were used once by the Soviets to invade Shumshu Island in the Kurile Island chain, the nearest Island to Soviet soil.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Shumshu

The first wave ashore at Shumshu was pretty much obliterated along with about half the landing craft.  Further waves were continuously pushed ashore.  The Red Army received no fire support from ships.  Eventually, the Red Army pushed enough troops ashore to overcome the defenders and take the island.  The Japanese as usual were wiped out, while the Russians suffered very heavy losses.

An invasion of Hokkaido, the northern island of the Japanese home islands would have been more difficult.  First, it is much further from Russia than Shumshu meaning that surviving landing craft will have to make a much longer trip to bring additional reinforcements and supplies.  The Japanese could, and would, reinforce their defending troops.  The Russians could expect little or no air support, no naval gunfire support, and would largely be limited to infantry supported by small amounts of field artillery, mortars, and a few tanks.

At best, the Russians might pull of an Anzio.  At worst they're pushed back into the sea.  The Soviet military in WW 2 simply lacks the means to make a large amphibious assault hundreds of miles from their own coast. 

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34 minutes ago, Wowzery said:

:cap_haloween:

Even if the Soviets had managed to build a bigger fleet it would have required a large port(s), faculties, and resources to operate that i'm not sure the USSR had in 1940-45.

Well, they were building 4 of the Sovetsky Soyuz-class battleships, each riviling the Yamato class Battleships in some aspects (though probably built with several defects).  Even with these ships however, getting them to the Pacific would take a massive effort of sailing halfway around the world and with Japan's impressive CV fleet, these ships would have been harassed by CV bombers and damaged somewhere in the Indian Ocean. The Sovetsky Soyuz, Sovetskaya Ukraina, Sovetskaya Rossiya and Sovetskaya Belorussiya would have nowhere to go to make repairs.  Moderate damage could be crippling.  This would be like the Bismarck situation, only worse.  Even if these Super-Battleships reached the Pacific, they'd be in range of Japan's land-based bombers, and even if they survived that, they'd have to confront an impressive Battleship line while badly damaged. Russia just couldn't provide air cover in such an operation.

It would be Tsushima Two, Electric Bugaloo.

Sovetsky Soyuz 1942

Sovietsky_Soyuz_1_June_1942.jpg

Edited by Sventex
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23 hours ago, warheart1992 said:

Yup, that too. If I am not wrong, according to the same study that came up with the US losses in a potential invasion, the figure was something like 10 million Japanese losses.

As for Soviet losses, WWII shows they were ready to withstand pretty large losses. That however while defending their country and families. An invasion would have been most likely different.

True.  I don't know whether the Japanese committed atrocities against East Europeans.  When the Germans invaded Russia, they decimated the populace, which led Stalin rally the Soviet people to both defend the Motherland and punish the Germans for their crimes.

It might be a bit harder to convince the Soviet Army to turn their guns against the Japanese, especially since the latter were extremely fanatical.  However, a military purge of the more timid would probably fix such discomfort.

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1 hour ago, Sventex said:

Well, they were building 4 of the Sovetsky Soyuz-class battleships, each riviling the Yamato class Battleships in some aspects (though probably built with several defects).  Even with these ships however, getting them to the Pacific would take a massive effort of sailing halfway around the world and with Japan's impressive CV fleet, these ships would have been harassed by CV bombers and damaged somewhere in the Indian Ocean. The Sovetsky Soyuz, Sovetskaya Ukraina, Sovetskaya Rossiya and Sovetskaya Belorussiya would have nowhere to go to make repairs.  Moderate damage could be crippling.  This would be like the Bismarck situation, only worse.  Even if these Super-Battleships reached the Pacific, they'd be in range of Japan's land-based bombers, and even if they survived that, they'd have to confront an impressive Battleship line while badly damaged. Russia just couldn't provide air cover in such an operation. 

It would be Tsushima Two, Electric Bugaloo.

Sovetsky Soyuz 1942

Sovietsky_Soyuz_1_June_1942.jpg

You do have a point.  The Soviet Navy didn't really have much naval tradition and experience to fall on.  In a way, I think they're pretty similar to the Kriegsmarine, though the Soviets did buy modern vessels from groups like the Italians and received older Allied ships from Lend-Lease.

The Japanese, despite not having the quantity, were said to have quality when it came to their ships.  Thus, the Soviet Navy would've been punched in the face if they engaged the Japanese fleet, even if they were just playing a defensive war for the home islands.

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6 minutes ago, Battlecruiser_Yavuz said:

True.  I don't know whether the Japanese committed atrocities against East Europeans.  When the Germans invaded Russia, they decimated the populace, which led Stalin rally the Soviet people to both defend the Motherland and punish the Germans for their crimes.

It might be a bit harder to convince the Soviet Army to turn their guns against the Japanese, especially since the latter were extremely fanatical.  However, a military purge of the more timid would probably fix such discomfort.

Until today the Koreans and Chinese are quite hostile towards the Japanese, partly due to their occupation of their countries.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanking_Massacre

This is just the tip of the iceberg. 

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Just now, warheart1992 said:

Until today the Koreans and Chinese are quite hostile towards the Japanese, partly due to their occupation of their countries.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanking_Massacre

This is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Of course and the Japanese were known to brutalize captured Allied prisoners, as evidenced from Singapore, Malaya and the Bataan Death March.  Besides having a sense of nationalistic superiority to the other nations, they also didn't sign international treaties that governed the protection of prisoners in times of war, I recall.

In regards to the Russians though, the Germans were more of a direct threat to their sovereignty.  I'm not sure the Russians felt the same about the Japanese, though they (of course) later invaded Manchuria after defeating the Nazis. 

The big question would be whether Stalin could mobilize his forces to actually try and take the Japanese home islands since it would require them to cross a wide amount of ocean to get there.

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Just now, Battlecruiser_Yavuz said:

The big question would be whether Stalin could mobilize his forces to actually try and take the Japanese home islands since it would require them to cross a wide amount of ocean to get there.

Oh yeah definitely agreed in that regard. The Soviet counteroffensive was fueled by the Soviet soldier wishing for revenge against the Germans. Of course this lead to various Soviet atrocities when they entered Germany.

As for whether the armed forces would be mobilized against Japan, an authoritarian regime wouldn't have much trouble threatening and forcing its way to an invasion. If that would be successful enough is a different matter entirely.

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Just now, warheart1992 said:

Oh yeah definitely agreed in that regard. The Soviet counteroffensive was fueled by the Soviet soldier wishing for revenge against the Germans. Of course this lead to various Soviet atrocities when they entered Germany.

As for whether the armed forces would be mobilized against Japan, an authoritarian regime wouldn't have much trouble threatening and forcing its way to an invasion. If that would be successful enough is a different matter entirely.

True.  If the Soviets had enough strong naval units, they possibly could push their way through the Imperial Japanese Navy (including their carriers and the Yamato-class battleships) to fight on land - something they're good at.

Of course, that hinges on the fact that they can even traverse the waters to invade the islands.  My money would still be on the Japanese since they proven themselves to have very good naval designs when compared to the pretty-mediocre WW2-era Soviet Navy.

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26 minutes ago, Battlecruiser_Yavuz said:

True.  If the Soviets had enough strong naval units, they possibly could push their way through the Imperial Japanese Navy (including their carriers and the Yamato-class battleships) to fight on land - something they're good at.

Of course, that hinges on the fact that they can even traverse the waters to invade the islands.  My money would still be on the Japanese since they proven themselves to have very good naval designs when compared to the pretty-mediocre WW2-era Soviet Navy.

By their track record as you said the Soviet Navy was pretty mediocre. In a direct naval engagement my money would be on the Japanese too. That said, the Japanese may have had issues procuringn strategic resources on the long run as I mentioned in a previous post.

As for the Soviet supremacy on land, their doctrines were focused on mass maneuvers and pretty grand strategies. By the end of the war they had achieved a level of mechanization that was almost unprecented, and with good reason. I have no idea how such tactics would work in an island environment with finite space and unique geography.

Edited by warheart1992

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4 minutes ago, warheart1992 said:

By their track record as you said the Soviet Navy was pretty mediocre. In a direct naval engagement my money would be on the Japanese too. That said, the Japanese may have had issues procuringn strategic resources on the long run as I mentioned in a previous post.

As for the Soviet supremacy on land, their doctrines were focused on mass maneuvers and pretty grand strategies. By the end of the war they had achieved a level of mechanization that was almost unprecented, and with good reason. I have no idea how such tactics would work in an island environment with finite space and unique geography.

True.  The Soviets would have to adapt to hilly terrains and less flat-land in general.  That and the Japanese are way more fanatical than the Germans, so there will be fights to the death all over the place.

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43 minutes ago, Battlecruiser_Yavuz said:

Of course and the Japanese were known to brutalize captured Allied prisoners, as evidenced from Singapore, Malaya and the Bataan Death March.  Besides having a sense of nationalistic superiority to the other nations, they also didn't sign international treaties that governed the protection of prisoners in times of war, I recall.

In regards to the Russians though, the Germans were more of a direct threat to their sovereignty.  I'm not sure the Russians felt the same about the Japanese, though they (of course) later invaded Manchuria after defeating the Nazis. 

The big question would be whether Stalin could mobilize his forces to actually try and take the Japanese home islands since it would require them to cross a wide amount of ocean to get there.

In the Japanese army you bullied the people below you and prisoners are below everyone.

The Japanese also would stick to the plan even when it was obvious that it was blown and in the case of Bataan they had planned on using US vehicles to transport the prisoners. So instead of making a POW camp near where the US prisoners were captured they just marched them.

There isn't a lot of sea to cross for the Russians to cross so the real question is would they have enough sea lift capability to pull it off and would even the Russians be willing to accept the level of casualties that they would receive in subduing Japan?

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Would the Soviets wipe the floor with the Japanese in Korea and China?  Yes, matter of fact, the Soviet invasion late in the war in Manchuria in late 1945 showed that.  The state of the IJA on the continent in 1945 was terrible.  However, an amphibious operation on the Japanese Home Islands?  Nah, that's not going to fly.

 

Without working in conjunction with the Americans, the Soviets would get massacred trying to invade the Japanese Home Islands even in late 1945.  Even if they had the transports magically show up.  They don't have the lift, they don't have the navy, they don't have the air support for it.

 

The Soviets may somehow land troops ashore with some transports, but then they will contend with the Japanese defense and counterattack.  The Japanese will know that the Soviet landings will lack air superiority, air support, naval gunfire support.  Not only that, will the Soviets have enough transports to keep sending in troops and supplies?

 

The Japanese were hoarding what they had left for the all-out, last stand of the Home Islands against an American invasion that had a HUMONGOUS navy, multitudes of naval gunfire and air support, and a military that was well versed in amphibious operations with the logistics to back it up.  Not only will the Americans land forces, but they got the know how and ability to continuously supply these forces in far flung regions of the world.  Even then, the US was expecting high casualties.  The Soviets will not have any of that in an invasion, and the Japanese I guarantee will make them pay dearly with crushing losses.

 

The Soviets were very well versed on land combat.  But amphibious operations, especially on a scale needed to put Japan away, they simply were not geared nor prepared for.  This invasion isn't a landing on a small island with a limited garrison.  These are the Home Islands.  Japan has the luxury of oceans around it as the first obstacle that has to be surmounted.  That alone makes it very difficult compared to simply rolling up into Germany.

 

A Soviet invasion into the Japanese Home Islands has a slightly better chance of success than a German invasion of the UK.

Edited by HazeGrayUnderway

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2 hours ago, warheart1992 said:

By their track record as you said the Soviet Navy was pretty mediocre. In a direct naval engagement my money would be on the Japanese too. That said, the Japanese may have had issues procuringn strategic resources on the long run as I mentioned in a previous post.

As for the Soviet supremacy on land, their doctrines were focused on mass maneuvers and pretty grand strategies. By the end of the war they had achieved a level of mechanization that was almost unprecented, and with good reason. I have no idea how such tactics would work in an island environment with finite space and unique geography.

That mechanization doesn’t mean much since they’ll never achieve naval superiority.  The disparity in the size of their respective navies puts leaves the Soviet Navy drastically weaker for the entirety of the 40s.  Not only that, those transports they’d using would either have to build in Vladivostok which is in bombing range of Japan, or they’d have to be shipped 9000km by rail, or sail halfway around the world to even be in Eastern Russia.  Even if Russia could get the transports in the correct theatre, the IJN isn’t just going to sit on their hands and let them commence an invasion.  Just how good were Soviet Naval bombers for the time?  Could they even reply to the Yamato if she was in the way with air cover?  Could they do anything to all those IJN subs?

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Just now, Sventex said:

That mechanization doesn’t mean much since they’ll never achieve naval superiority.  The disparity in the size of their respective navies puts leaves the Soviet Navy drastically weaker for the entirety of the 40s.  Not only that, those transports they’d using would either have to build in Vladivostok which is in bombing range of Japan, or they’d have to be shipped 9000km by rail, or sail halfway around the world to even be in Eastern Russia.  Even if Russia could get the transports in the correct theatre, the IJN isn’t just going to sit on their hands and let them commence an invasion.  Just how good were Soviet Naval bombers for the time?  Could they even reply to the Yamato if she was in the way with air cover?  Could they do anything to all those IJN subs?

It really depends on when the Russians made their assault. Early in the war they would stand no chance but by 1944 the IJN navy was in really rough shape.

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