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Summary

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.

©2012 Stuart D. Goldman (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about Nomonhan, 1939

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Interesting

The story is fascinating and gives a good amount of detail. The narrator is a bit annoying his pronunciation is very strange which can be annoying at times. But if you can get over that you see the WW2 cast in an interesting light, and subsequent Russo Japanese relations.

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Profile Image for William R. Todd-Mancillas (Name includes hyphen and camptalized M)
  • William R. Todd-Mancillas (Name includes hyphen and camptalized M)
  • 03-08-14

Nomonhan: Why Japan Demurred

Where does Nomonhan, 1939 rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Very high.

What did you like best about this story?

The surprising descriptions of how well the Russians fought. I thought the Russian armies of pre-WW2 were universally mediocre. Obviously not. The Russians sure checked an arrogant Japanese offensive that might well have presaged a different WW2 outcome.

Which character – as performed by John FitzGibbon – was your favorite?

None. All good.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I am accustomed to multiple sittings, but I listen to the same excellent audiobooks over and over again.

Any additional comments?

Very interesting selection. Highly recommended.

1 person found this helpful

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  • lloyd
  • 18-06-13

ALONZO

Well written, brings to light a page in history little known in the West. One would have to suggest this campaign may well have been a reason for Japan not entering the war against Russia, this in spite of Hitlers frequent requests. Once again highlights the preparedness of the Russian military to sacrifice all in defence of the Motherland. It has been suggested it kept Zukov out of Stalins way during the great purges of the late thirties. Well done the author and narrator

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  • S. Schwankert
  • 26-01-21

Excellent geopolitical and historical context

This is an excellent, concise book about a little-known and complex geopolitical conflict that took place just before what most people consider the beginning of World War II, certainly that war’s European theater.

The book shows that the Soviet Union’s Red Army was far better prepared to fight in 1939 than German, y Japan, and perhaps the Soviet Union realized, and that Japan’s Imperial Army overestimated its own readiness. Given the ultimate size of the conflict, based on the number of troops involved and killed, and equipment deployed and destroyed, neither side seems to have had a specific goal except to prevent the other from violating an obscure border between territory each was occupying. Japan was not attempting to invade Mongolia; the Red Army was not trying to drive Japan out of northeastern China. As a border clash, it was terribly bloody and costly.

Goldman does an excellent job of providing sufficient but not excessive context of the machinations of all of the powers involved — not just Japan and the Soviet Union, but also Britain, France, and Germany — to understand how important the outcome at Nomonhan is to the outcome and understanding of the entire war. The resolution of Nomonhan also led to a lack of aggression between Japan and the Soviet Union until the war’s very end, allowing the Red Army to focus on fighting Germany, and Japan turning its attention to the United States and the rest of Asia. Marshal Georgy Zhukov plays a bit too much of a minor role in Goldman’s telling, although Nomonhan was where he cut his teeth and learned how to fight larger battles.

John FitzGibbon’s narration of the audiobook is slightly strange. His accent changes from chapter to chapter, which is distracting but does not ultimately detract from the text. Recommended.

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  • Dennis
  • 15-04-17

Wow

A must read for World War Two buffs.
John Fitzgibbon is a top notch reader!

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  • Keaton
  • 18-07-16

Fascinating view of World Events

The author presents a very interesting thesis on how a little-known battle had a seismic effect on greater world events. I really liked that the story goes back and forth from zoomed in battlefield action to the greater political effects around the world. This book focuses on Japan and the USSR, however Britain, Germany, and the USA are all included as the author connects the opening of The Second World War to a back water in eastern Mongolia.

Highly recommended for any ww2 buff looking to learn something new

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  • Alexey Serov
  • 20-07-16

Decent

Any additional comments?

It fully deserves 3 stars and this is actually a high praise for English language literature dealing with Russian or Soviet history. It gives a glimpse into not well known incident among many that lead to WWII.