The Kuril Islands dispute during WW2 (from 1939 to 1945)

Context: Originally inhibited by the Ainu people, the Kuril Archipelago is a chain of islands between Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula and Japan’s Island of Hokkaido. 

WW2 chronology :

April 13, 1941– After the outbreak of the WW2, Japan and Russia signed a Neutrality Pact in Moscow which would encompass mutual respect for each other’s territory and neutrality in the event of an attack by one or more power (puppet state of Manchukuo in Chinese province Manchuria for Japan and Mongolia for Russia). Every five years the neutrality pact would be reviewed and renewed if neither signatory gave notice of cancellation during the fifth year.

November 22, 1941– The Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku ordered the meeting of the Imperial Japanese Navy Strike force for the attack on Pearl Harbor in Etorofu Island’s Hitokappu Bay. The territory was chosen for its sparse population, lack of foreigners, and constant fog coverage. 

November 26, 1941– The Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku ordered the move to Hawaii. The Japanese fleet included six aircraft carriers, 2 battleships, 3 cruisers and 11 destroyers. 

July 10, 1943– First bombardment against the Shumshu and Paramushir Japanese bases by American forces occurred.

November 27, 1943 – Joint Cairo Declarationsigned by the United States, Great Britain, and the Republic of China which reaffirmed the principle of no territorial expansion. It did not include Soviet Union or Japan. Moreover, Japanese sovereignty of the disputed islands was peacefully and mutually established by the 1855 Treaty of Shimoda.  

1944 – Japan garrison increased from 8,000 in 1943 to 41,000 in 1944. Japan also maintained more than 400 aircrafts in Kurils and Hokkaido area in anticipation of a possible American invasion via Alaska.

February 11, 1945 – Roosevelt, Churchill, and Josef Stalin signed the secret Yalta Agreement. The Yalta Declarationlooked at a joint plan of action against Japan. It states that the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan and receive the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin’s southern half in exchange. The US later states that it had not agreed for the Kuril Islands to be handed over to the Soviets. 

The significance of the Yalta Agreement cannot be overstated. However, it was a statement between three leaders in 1945; it has no legal binding on Japan.

April 5, 1945– The Soviet Union announced the denunciation of the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact of 1941 that was to stay in force until April 1946. 

July 26, 1945 – Postdam Declarationcalled for the surrender of all Japanese armed force during WW2. It limited Japan territorial sovereignty to the four main islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku.

August 6, 1945– The United States struck Hiroshima with the first atomic bomb. 

August 8, 1945 – The Soviet Union issued an announcement that accepted the proposition of the Potsdam Declaration and formally declared war with Japan, effective the following day. 

August 9, 1945 – The Soviet Army kicked off a military campaign in the Far East. The United States dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

August 15, 1945 – Japanese Empire unconditionally surrendered to the allies. It announced the acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration, through which the Cairo Declaration became legally binding upon Japan. 

August 18, to September 1, 1945 – Kuril landing Operation. Soviet troops take Sakhalin and the Kurils back from Japan. More than 1,500 Soviet and 1,000 Japanese troops are killed. Japan’s troops in the southern Kurils surrender without battle.

September 2, 1945 – Following its defeat, Tokyo and Allied forcesassembled aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay to sign the Japanese Instrument of Surrender recognizing the terms of the Postdam Declaration. Thisended World War II.

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