Stalin didn't cancel his Hokkaido invasion plan until August 24, 1945, 10 days after Japan surrendered:
"Did Hiroshima Save Japan From Soviet Occupation? Stalin had planned to seize a major Japanese island. When Truman refused, Stalin blinked. Why?
In the wee hours of Aug. 24, 1945, Soviet long-range bombers would take off from their air base not far from the Far Eastern port of Vladivostok and fly east, across the Sea of Japan, dropping lethal payloads on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. At 5 a.m. that morning, two Soviet regiments would storm their way onshore, followed, in two hours, by a larger force. Within days, two infantry divisions would sweep across northern Hokkaido, cutting the island in half.
That was the rough battle plan drawn up by the commander of the Soviet Pacific Fleet, Adm. Ivan Yumashev, at the end of World War II for occupying Hokkaido. Troops were on standby. Submarines were ordered to the Hokkaido coast for reconnaissance in preparation for land invasion, and had even started sinking Japanese ships (tragically, just refugee boats fleeing Soviet operations on nearby Sakhalin Island). The Soviets had by then occupied southern Sakhalin and were mopping up the remnants of the Japanese along the Kuril island chain that stretched from Hokkaido to the Kamchatka Peninsula, in Russia’s far northeast. Although the Red Army was not as experienced as the Americans with landing operations, this Soviet “D-Day” in Hokkaido would’ve been a walkover — the Japanese army was in shambles, and Emperor Hirohito had recently proclaimed defeat.
Japan’s second-largest island, roughly the size of Maine, Hokkaido was of huge strategic significance. Joseph Stalin’s possession of the island would turn the vast Sea of Okhotsk into a Soviet lake, and ease the projection of Soviet naval power into the Pacific. Stalin had his eyes on a big prize. The detailed Soviet operational plans, published Wednesday by the Wilson Center in the full English translation for the first time, show that all the pieces had been put in place for a swift Soviet occupation.
All that was missing was a final go-ahead from Stalin. On Aug. 16 the Soviet leader asked U.S. President Harry S. Truman to acquiesce in this “modest wish” or risk offending “Russian public opinion.” Although just months earlier, the U.S. War Department had considered letting the Soviets occupy Hokkaido and even part of Honshu, Japan’s largest island, Hiroshima had clearly changed things for Truman. Possession of a mighty new weapon gave Truman the confidence to set the terms of his relationship with Stalin. On Aug. 18, Truman bluntly turned Uncle Joe down. Stalin procrastinated, weighing the pros and cons. Two days before the planned Aug. 24 landing on Hokkaido, he called off the operation."
BY SERGEY RADCHENKO Sergey Radchenko is a reader in international politics at Aberystwyth University and a former public policy fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
AUGUST 5, 2015