Mongolian participation in the war against Japan
The Mongolian People’s Republic (MPR) declared ‘Holy War against Japan’ in the night of 9–10th August 1945 ‘to liberate and unite all Mongol tribes under one family-state.’ In his radio address to people in both the MPR and Inner Mongolia, premier Khorloogiin Choibаlsan underlined two objectives for Mongolian participation in the war: first, to liberate Barga and Inner Mongolia from imperialism and to develop a unified Mongolian national culture, language, tradition and religion; and second, to assist the Soviets in the war against Japan according to the Mutual Assistance Pact of 1936 signed between the MPR and Soviet Union.
The MPR and Soviet Union had already set up a joint headquarters on 16 July 1945. Marshal Choibаlsan was appointed as Commander in Chief, assisted by cavalry expert Soviet colonel-general I.A.Pliyev. On 9 August 1945, a Soviet-Mongolian cavalry-mechanized army of 42,000 men under the command of Pliyev and his Mongolian deputy general, Lhagvasuren, started its two-pronged offensive: one route from Baishint in Sukhbaatar province passing the Hingan range toward Dolonnuur and the other from Zamiin Ud across Chahar toward Kalgan (Mong.: Chuulalt Halgan, Ch.: Zhang Jia kou). Their key operational task was to secure the western flank of the main Soviet tank army, which aimed at Manchuria from eastern Mongolia.
The Mongolian-Soviet army encountered very little Japanese army resistance along the way, except some divisions of De Wang’s cavalry, which were easily disarmed; in fact, many of them voluntarily joined the MPR army. Between 19–21 August, one Mongolian and one Soviet brigade faced fierce resistance as they sought to seize the Kalgan passage. As many as 80 Mongolians and 201 Soviets were killed or wounded. Two days later, the joint army disarmed a Japanese division of the Mongolia Garrison Army in Jehe. The Mongolian Army wanted to continue south to Kalgan, seat of Prince De’s puppet Mongolian government. However, the Soviet commander was bound not only by the recently completed (Nationalist) Sino-Soviet Friendship Treaty but also by a secret political and military agreement between the Soviets and Chinese communists, specifically the 8th Army of the CCP, that Mongolian-Soviet forces would not move beyond the Great Wall. Having marched 1000 km in 16 days, the 20,000-strong Mongolian army, of four cavalry divisions reinforced by a mechanical brigade, a tank regiment, and an aviation division, would march no farther.
Mongolian soldiers marched with great enthusiasm to liberate their blood brothers and sisters in Inner Mongolia, as they had in 1913. Many Inner Mongolian banners welcomed them and were ready to join the MPR. High-ranking Mongolian government officials visited Shilingol and Hulunbuir to coordinate a unification process and the government sent four fact-finding missions to Hulunbuir and Chahar. De Wang’s family was captured but taken to Ulaanbaatar and treated with high respect. Throughout August 1945, Mongolian newspapers highlighted the unification of Outer and Inner Mongolians but this was not to be. For Stalin, Mongolian participation in the war was a good bargaining chip with the Chinese Nationalist Government to secure the MPR’s independence and his influence on it. After six weeks of negotiations, the Soviets and the Chinese, with support of the U.S., agreed that Outer Mongolia should be recognized as a national state within its existing boundaries, Inner Mongolia would remain part of China. Ten days later, on 24 August, the Mongolian army was marching through Inner Mongolia when Chiang Kai-shek announced his decision to recognize MPR’s independence.
The great powers’ agreement dramatically changed the character of the Mongolian army campaign. The original purpose, a war of liberation, lost its meaning and Choibalsan found himself in the uncomfortable position of abandoning his personal dream as well as the hopes of the Inner Mongolian people. Choibalsan had no choice but to accept the offer of the MPR’s independence. As a sign of good faith, Choibalsan visited Chahar to honour the Provisional Government of the People’s Republic of South Mongolia in September 1945. With disappointment, the Mongolian army withdrew from Inner Mongolia later that month and the Provisional Government was dissolved two months later as Inner Mongolia was absorbed into China.