Thursday, June 13, 2013

Battles Long Ago: Khalkhin-Gol 1939

Over at GFT, some military history;
The Imperial Japanese Army becomes the first outfit in WW2 to discover that if you give Grigory Zhukov enough men, time, and armor that he will eff you up.


  1. Nice! Not bad for a former horse-cavalry NCO. I thought his name was Georgy?

    Who or rather what branch is the guy in blue coveralls in pic # 10? Pilot? If so, why the cowboy hat?

  2. Yes, the guy in the blue coveralls is a pilot. The cowboy hat is standard Soviet issue for tropical and desert climates, it comes up to a weird looking point:

  3. My bad; Georgy is correct for the praenomen of the architect of Khalkhin-Gol.

    Here's an additional and sort of fascinatingly-weird bit of history; when Zhukov came back west with his tales of Nomonhan one of the things he was hopped up about was the problems with the BT-series tanks. Apparently they had real issues with flammability; the IJA suicide-bombers were way too successful largely due to poor design of the gasoline engines and cooling.

    Zhukov apparently mentioned this to Stalin and STAVKA, but got caught up in a personal feud with the then-Chief of Army Staff, a mook called Grigory Kulik, who was a real piece of work.

    Kulik was an out-and-out Luddite, harking for horse cavalry and the Good Old Days and was as responsible as anyone outside Stalin himself for the disaster of June 1941. The story of his wife is even more bizarre; the lovely Kira Simonich-Kulik supposedly caught the eye of Stalin himself but refused the dictator's proposition. Or maybe she tried cadging something off him. Or...who the hell knows, with Stalin.

    Anyway, supposedly on his orders she was then kidnapped off the street, tortured, and murdered in May, 1939. She was officially "missing" for 12 years until destalinization opened the old NKVD files to show that she had been shot in the head in one of the murder rooms in the basement of Lubyanka Prison, her body tossed into a truck with dozens of others and taken to a field outside Moscow where it was tossed into a trench and buried secretly.

    The old Soviet Union was a hell of a place...

  4. Stalin had her tortured and snuffed because she rejected his sexual advances??? Now "that" is sexual harassment in extremis.

    I see from the Wikipedia entry on Kulik though that they credit him with saving around 150,000 Poles at Katyn. Reportedly he argued to spare all their lives. Stalin and Beria bought his argument for the enlisted Polish soldiers but he was overruled on the officers.

    Those unfortunate Polish officers were mostly aristos, many had served with Pilsudski when he kicked the Red Army butt in 21. And where it was argued by Trotsky that Stalin was guilty of insubordination and dereliction of duty.

  5. Not sure what the "real" story on La Kulik was. I've also read that she made the mistake of going directly to Stalin to try and help one of her relatives.

    "When she was alone by the piano with Stalin (at her husband’s birthday party), she asked him to free her brother, a former Tsarist officer, from the camps. Stalin listened affably…. … Kira’s approach, presuming on her familiarity and prettiness, set a mantrap in his suspicious mind."

    She was also related to Czarist aristos and had some sort of family involved in the old Czarist secret police AND was married to a Jew that had been arrested for one of the usual reasons. So not sure if the whole business was about sexual jealousy or just garden-variety Stalinist paranoia.

    And I saw that Kulik seems to have done the one decent thing he's credited for in Poland. He sounds like a bloody disaster otherwise, but he did save a whole bunch of people there.