Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Dr. Alvin Coox - Part 2

At the local library I picked up the requested "Coox’s Nomonhan" in 4 volumes (Pocketbook edition), published in 1994. These are books I saw at the bookstores upon my return from San Diego. The library books were stamped “donated.”

Young Dr. Coox had worked since the 1960s at the Allied GHQ in Tokyo, as a strategy analyst/researcher and military historian of WW2. He published many books, Japan - the Final Agony (1970), Tojo (1975), The Pacific War Revisited (1983), just to name a few. The book he must be proud of should be Nomonhan, Japan against Russia (Stamford U) which won the Samuel E. Morrison Prize, whose name I knew as an author of the famous “Struggle for Guadalcanal”.  Rear Admiral Morrison (1887-1976) won the Pulitzer Prize and received an honorable doctorate.  Dr. Coox, during his 15 year stay in Japan, interviewed 400 Japanese Nomonhan survivors on the list obtained from the Japanese Bureau of Veteran Affairs. He got in touch with the Nomonhan Society, consisting of survivors and bereaved family members. In the book preface, Dr. Coox expressed appreciation for all the help/cooperation received to compile the book. I’m sure Hisako Coox aided in smooth communication. The preface was written at the end of 1993, the time I was contemplating my retirement to return to Japan.

Dr. Coox was aware that the Russian casualty figures he used in his study were censured by the Russian Government and did not necessarily reflect the true figures as compared to the Japanese counterpart figures.  Under the 1990s Gorbachevian Glasnost, corrected figures first appeared, if not completely transparent, at the International Academic Study Symposiums of the Nomonhan/Khalkha River Battles held in Tokyo in 1991 by a Russian participant Colonel Valtanov and Gen. Lt. Krivosheyev in 1993 and 2010 (See the table below).  In anticipation, Dr. Coox had asked his friend Professor Hata to audit his figures in the Japanese translation (per Prof. Hata’s postscript dated, Sept. 1989 - 50th anniversary year of the Battle as the managing editor).

I’m glad to find the name of Nomonhan in the Lonely Planet Mongolia Travel Guide across the Khalkhgol.  It is where the east-most Mongolian Aimag (province) named “Dormod” penetrates into Hulun Lake, China, the largest lake in the inner Mongolia Autonomous region. Khalkhgol had existed as a vague border since Qin Dynasty/Russia days, causing skirmishes between the Japanese Kwantung Army and Russian Guards in the mid 1930s. The region is nothing but an open spread of grassland and shrubs as huge as Kyushu Island. Choibalsan, the capital of the region, is over 300 km west, which is 600 km east of Ulaanbaatar, the state capital.

Russian Commander Zhukov, obtaining Stalin’s approval for reinforcement, prepared against a possible Japanese invasion.  He faithfully followed Chinese Master Sun Tzu’s Art of War to seek revenge for the defeated Battles of Tsushima Strait and the disgraced Baltic Fleet. He drew all-out logistics, sending thousands of trucks, hundreds of tanks, soldiers, food and ammunition swiftly, on the Trans-Siberian Railway and hauling them down to no-man’s land named Nomonhan. It is the Japanse Kwantung Army opportunistic and overconfident staff who didn’t even try to know their enemy, and lacked essential reconnaissance.  Russians took geographic advantage, snipers targeted water supplies, used tactics such as piano wires to tangle Japanese tanks. The Japanese soldiers were given no time to rest and sleep after a long trek.  I can painfully visualize the battle scenes where the Japanese were encircled with nowhere to hide in the grasslands by hundreds of Russian tanks and annihilated by flamethrowers. I read that the front retreat requests were rejected by Kwangtung headquarters and the front commanders were ordered to “take their tonsils out”, i.e. commit harakiri.

I wonder what made Dr. Coox so interested in Nomonhan. I suspect he tried to determine the cause of the Japanese turning their reckless march southward as a direct result of the disastrous and not well publicized Nomonhan battles. Interviewing Japanese Nomonhan survivors, Dr. Coox had to be full of compassion. He may have been disappointed that the Nomonhan defeat didn’t ring the alarm for the Japanese at large. I heard that the Nomonhan Society contributed Dr. Coox’s books to the Yasukuni Shrine Museum and Library where the souls of all war heroes are enshrined, their sacrifices never to be forgotten.

Lastly, I also read a book Nomonhan Has Not Been Forgotten written by an elderly Oita, Kyushu writer named Noriko Koyama.  She voluntarily joined a small party of the 2006 Government sponsored dispatch to Mongolia to recover remains of soldiers and conduct memorial services in Nomonhan. Due to limited manpower and time available, the excavated  were just a fraction of remains.  Thousands still remain uncovered. The book was written in 2006 and she subtitled it for the “67th Memorial". This year is “77th” Memorial.  I’ll join her in her echo of “Nomonhan must not been forgotten”.

No comments: