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Manchuria: The Forgotten Campaign


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Uranprojekt #1 Posted 01 May 2015 - 01:37 AM

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WWII in Europe was over. The Red Army had reached Berlin and raised the Hammer and Sickle over the Reichstag. Troops and civilians alike celebrated this great victory in, and end to, the Great Patriotic War. But, the work of the Red Army was not yet finished and many troops were boarding trains bound for the Soviet Far East. Their actions would go largely unrecognised in the tomes of history. The final campaign of WWII for the Red Army would become known as the Forgotten Campaign.

 

This campaign was the battle for Manchuria, Northeast China.

 

The following is a short and relatively detailed summary of the Soviet offensive into Manchuria in 1945. It was the only time Soviet and Japanese forces met during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.

 

The Build Up

 

The Manchuria campaign was not the first time the Imperial Japanese Empire and the Soviet Union had met in battle. Border skirmishes had occurred between Japanese and Soviet forces as early as 1932. From 1932 to 1934, the Imperial Japanese Army recorded as many as 151 between Japanese and Soviet forces. These skirmishes continued at a rate of over 150 a year from 1934 to 1936. These continuing skirmishes eventually culminated in the Battle of Lake Khasan (1938) and Khalkin Gol (1939) which led to the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact of 1939 after the Soviet victory at Khalkin Gol.

 

In 1943, the Tehran conference was held. This conference was a meeting of the Allied leaders Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin. The primary goal of the conference was for the US and UK to reach agreements with the Soviets over opening a two fronted war against Germany and to decide the territorial gains of each of the Allied nations once the Axis powers had been defeated.

 

In 1945, at the Yalta conference, Stalin demanded territory held by the Japanese (Manchuria, South Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands) in return for the Soviets entering the war against the Japanese. An agreement between the "Big Three", that the Soviets would get these territories if they declared war on the Japanese within 90 days of the German surrender, was reached after Stalin pointed out the effectiveness of the Red Army in Eastern and Central Europe. A point which neither Churchill nor Roosevelt could dispute, thus forcing them to give in to Stalin's demands.

 

Forces Involved: USSR

 

The Soviet forces taking part in the offensive were known as the Far East Command, commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union Aleksandr Mikhaylovich Vasilevsky. The Far East Command was split into three "Fronts" (the Soviet equivalent of an Army Group) and consisted of:

 

  • The Transbaikal Front
  • The 1st Far Eastern Front
  • The 2nd Far Eastern Front

 

The overall objective of the three Fronts was to perform a pincer move against the Japanese forces in Manchuria and encircle them. Each Front acted independently and each had separate secondary objectives whilst working cohesively under the Far East Command to ensure a swift and decisive encirclement of the Imperial Japanese Army.

 

The Transbaikal Front

 

Commander: Marshal Rodion Yakovlevich Malinovsky

 

Armies of the Transbaikal Front:

 

  • 17th Army
  • 36th Army
  • 39th Army
  • 53rd Army
  • 6th Guards Tank Army
  • Soviet-Mongolian Calvary Mechanised Group
  • 12th Air Army

 

The Transbaikal Front formed the western half of the pincer and was to attack from the Inner Mongolian desert over the Khingan mountain range with the goal of reaching Changchun.

 

The 1st Far Eastern Front

 

Commander: Marshal Kirill Afanasievich Meretskov

 

Armies of the 1st Far Eastern Front:

 

  • 1st Red Banner Army
  • 5th Army
  • 25th Army
  • 35th Army
  • 10th Mechanised Corps
  • 9th Air Army

 

The 1st Far Eastern Front formed the eastern half of the pincer and was to attack towards Mudanjiang in the east before moving south west and linking up with the Transbaikal Front at Changchun to complete the encirclement.

 

 

The 2nd Far Eastern Front

 

Commander: General Maksim Alexeyevich Purkayev

 

Armies of the 2nd Far Eastern Front:

 

  • 2nd Red Banner Army
  • 15th Army
  • 16th Army
  • 5th Rifle Corps
  • Chuguevsk Operational Group
  • Amur Military Flotilla
  • 10th Air Army

 

The 2nd Far Eastern Front was to support both pincers wherever necessary, preventing an orderly retreat of IJA forces, and to capture the cities of Harbin and Tsitsihar. After the encirclement was complete, the 2nd Far Eastern Front was to capture Port Arthur.

 

In total, the Far East Command had somewhere in the region of 1.5 million men, 3,704 tanks, 1,852 SPGs, over 85,000 other vehicles and 3,721 aircraft.

 

Forces Involved: Imperial Japanese Empire

 

The Imperial Japanese Army in Manchuria was known as the Kwantung Army. The Kwantung Army occupied Manchuria and Korea and was commanded by General Otsuzo Yamada. It consisted of two Hōmen Gun (Area Armies) and two independent armies:

 

  • 1st Hōmen Gun
  • 3rd Hōmen Gun
  • 4th Army
  • 34th Army

 

1st Hōmen Gun

 

Commander: Lt. General Seiichi Kita

 

Armies of the 1st Hōmen Gun:

 

  • 3rd Army
  • 5th Army

 

The 1st Hōmen Gun was responsible for the defence of northeastern Manchuria.

 

3rd Hōmen Gun

 

Commander: General Jun Ushiroku

 

Armies of the 3rd Hōmen Gun:

 

  • 30th Army
  • 44th Army

 

The 3rd Hōmen Gun was stationed largely in southwestern Manchuria.

 

The 4th Army, commanded by Lt. General Mikio Uemara, partially overlapped the 1st Hōmen Gun and was tasked with the defence of northern Manchuria.

 

The 34th Army, commanded by Lt. General Senichi Kushibuchi, was stationed in northern Korea and southern Manchuria, partially overlapping the 3rd Hōmen Gun.

 

The 17th Hōmen Gun, which was originally stationed in Korea along with the 34th Army, was assigned to the Kwantung Army but that was not until after the Soviet offensive had begun and made little difference to the outcome of the invasion.

 

The 5th Hōmen Gun also fell under the command of the Kwantung Army but the 5th was responsible for the defence of South Sakhalin and the Kuril  Islands, thus the 5th had little impact on events in Manchuria proper.

 

In total, the Kwantung Army had somewhere in the region of 1.2 million men, 1,155 tanks, 6,700 artillery pieces, 1,215 other vehicles and 1,800 aircraft.

 

The Invasion Proceeds

 

On the 8th of May 1945 (9th of May 1945, Moscow time), the Germans surrendered. Berlin had been taken and the Red Army in Europe were victorious. This started the countdown and Stalin had until the 8th of August 1945 (9th of August 1945, Moscow time) to give the Manchuria offensive the green light. On the 8th of August 1945 at 11pm Transbaikal time (UTC +10), Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov informed Naotake Sato, the Japanese ambassador to the USSR, that the Soviets had officially declared war on the Imperial Japanese Empire. A little after midnight on the 9th of August (Transbaikal time), the Soviets began the 24 day long campaign to liberate Manchuria, South Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands.

 

The first few hours of the offensive were grim for the IJA troops manning the inadequate defences on the Manchurian borders with Soviet Russia and Mongolia. Most of the defences consisted of concrete pillboxes, many of which only contained one or two mounted machine guns and very little, if any, anti-tank measures. Those pillboxes that did have AT guns were unlucky enough to be equipped with the Type 94 and Type 1 37mm and Type 1 47mm guns, guns that performed poorly against the Soviet tanks. Some of the defences, however, were a little more than mere pillboxes and contained, as well as the 37 and 47mm AT guns, infantry mortars, light field howitzers, infantry AT weapons and dual purpose AA/AT guns and were able to withstand the Soviet attacks for a few days. Eventually, even these border mini-fortresses fell and the defenders killed and/or captured.

 

By daylight on the 9th of August, the Red Army had made good progress across the steppes, reaching 50-100km in some areas, without encountering much in the way of Japanese resistance. The biggest factor in the speed of the Soviet advance was the element of surprise. By crossing the Khingan mountains and the eastern plains in the dead of night, the Red Army caught the IJA completely off guard and were able to make rapid advances of 50-100km in matter of hours.

 

It wasn't until the Red Army reached cities such as Harbin and Mudanjiang a few days into the campaign that they met serious Japanese resistance. Fear of Soviet invasion had led the Japanese to turn most of the large towns and cities in Manchuria into fortresses. The Red Army had not expected such fierce resistance, some Japanese soldiers strapping explosives to themselves and running at Soviet tanks for example, and the progress of the advance was slowed. The Red Army had a solution to this problem; have the tanks bypass the fortress cities and push on to Changchun, leaving the infantry and artillery to deal with the dug-in Japanese defenders.

 

On the 16th of August, General Otsuzo Yamada issued the order for the Kwantung Army to lay down arms and surrender. The order came as a result of Emperor Hirohito's proclamation of Japanese surrender a day earlier on the 15th of August. Despite the Emperor's proclamation and General Yamada's order, many units in the Kwantung Army continued to fight. The Japanese troops had either decided to ignore the order and die honourably instead of surrendering or simply hadn't received the order. The Red Army was forced to keep fighting even though it was clear that victory was theirs.

 

The Outcome of the Offensive *

 

Red Army losses: 9,726 Killed or Missing in Action with a further 24,425 Wounded in Action.

 

IJA losses: 83,737 Killed in Action with a further 670,276 taken prisoner.

 

The Red Army had become a highly effective fighting force since the disastrous early battles against the Wehrmacht in 1941. The Kwantung Army, on the other hand, was severely under-manned, under-gunned and under-equipped. As the Pacific war went on, the Japanese became increasingly desperate for troops and equipment which meant sacrificing strength elsewhere. The Kwantung Army lost many of its veteran soldiers and much of its best equipment. Coupled with the Japanese lack of solid intelligence regarding potential Soviet invasion sites and Red Army troop build ups, it is little wonder why the Manchurian campaign was such a disaster for the IJA. Had the Soviet supply trains been able to keep up and had the Soviet tanks not got clogged up with dust out on the plains, it's entirely possible that Soviets may have completed their objectives in Manchuria much sooner that the 24 days it took. The Red Army completely outmatched the Kwantung army in every respect and it was this advantage that allowed the Soviets to take Manchuria so quickly and inflict almost 10 times the amount of casualties. The defeat of the Kwantung Army in Manchuria is considered the worst land defeat the Japanese military has ever suffered.

 

The Soviets, as a result, were able to claim Manchuria, North Korea, South Sakhalin and the Kurils. In the late 40's and early 50's, Manchuria and North Korea had been handed back to the Chinese and the Koreans respectively. This left South Sakhalin and the Kurils as the only Soviet "prizes" of the Manchurian campaign, which suited the Soviets just fine as one of the primary goals of the entire campaign was to bring Sakhalin and the Kurils under Soviet control.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

(* I won't go into full details of the battles that took place during the offensive. Most of the infantry action was in towns and cities, the tank battles were over faster than they began due to the poor performance of Japanese armour compared to Soviet armour and there would have been very few air battles as the Soviets quickly gained air superiority and left Japanese pilots very little time to actually get off the ground. As for naval battles, there weren't any because the IJN refused to take part in the defence of Manchuria. All in all, the battles that did happen would have most been fought in similar circumstances with similar outcomes so describing one would describe the majority of them.)


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xZcloneSpy2817x #2 Posted 01 May 2015 - 01:49 AM

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Good read! I never really heard much about the Russian military operations in the far east.

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Uranprojekt #3 Posted 05 May 2015 - 10:28 AM

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View PostxZcloneSpy2817x, on 01 May 2015 - 01:49 AM, said:

Good read! I never really heard much about the Russian military operations in the far east.

 

There isn't really much to read about, compared to what is available on the Soviet operations in the West. Outside of the Manchurian campaign and border skirmishes that eventually led to the Battle of Khalkin Gol, the Soviets didn't engage the Japanese. After Khalkin Gol, a neutrality pact between the Soviets and Japanese was signed and remained in place until 1945.


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I write things, things which can be found in Historical Discussions. Things like this article on the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in 1945 and this article on the Spanish Civil War.

 

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Metalrodent #4 Posted 07 May 2015 - 07:49 AM

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It was a somewhat pointless battle, a last ditch attempt to grab as much land as they could lay there hands on by the Soviets.


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TKoddaL33 #5 Posted 07 May 2015 - 01:38 PM

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View PostMetalrodent, on 07 May 2015 - 02:49 AM, said:

It was a somewhat pointless battle, a last ditch attempt to grab as much land as they could lay there hands on by the Soviets.

 

Pretty much what he said. ^^^

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Uranprojekt #6 Posted 08 May 2015 - 10:14 PM

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View PostMetalrodent, on 07 May 2015 - 07:49 AM, said:

It was a somewhat pointless battle, a last ditch attempt to grab as much land as they could lay there hands on by the Soviets.

 

I never said it wasn't a land grab. On the contrary, I did touch on the fact that taking possession of land from the Japanese was the primary Soviet goal. South Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands were in Japanese hands and Stalin wanted change that.

 

Despite the goal(s) of the Manchurian campaign, I wouldn't say it was pointless. The Japanese surrender wasn't immediate after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it took roughly a week. In that week, the Soviets had made huge gains in Manchuria and were already beginning to take South Sakhalin. The taking of South Sakhalin by the Soviets could have led to a direct invasion of Japan had they not surrendered.

 

I'd argue that the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, and subsequent threat to the Japanese homeland, may have sped up the surrender slightly. Admittedly not by much, perhaps a couple of weeks at most.


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Matthew J35U5 #7 Posted 09 May 2015 - 09:53 PM

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View PostUranprojekt, on 08 May 2015 - 05:14 PM, said:

 

I never said it wasn't a land grab. On the contrary, I did touch on the fact that taking possession of land from the Japanese was the primary Soviet goal. South Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands were in Japanese hands and Stalin wanted change that.

 

Despite the goal(s) of the Manchurian campaign, I wouldn't say it was pointless. The Japanese surrender wasn't immediate after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it took roughly a week. In that week, the Soviets had made huge gains in Manchuria and were already beginning to take South Sakhalin. The taking of South Sakhalin by the Soviets could have led to a direct invasion of Japan had they not surrendered.

 

I'd argue that the Soviet invasion of Manchuria, and subsequent threat to the Japanese homeland, may have sped up the surrender slightly. Admittedly not by much, perhaps a couple of weeks at most.

I've interpreted it not so much as that the invasion by the Soviets caused the Japanese to surrender because the Soviets were "worse" than potential atomic bombs, but that the Japanese were holding out in the hopes that they could get Stalin to intercede with the Americans for them, getting more favourable peace terms. An invasion by the Soviet Union quickly removed that possibility. 

Anyway, I thought this was a well done article. :)


KeystoneCops, on 14 June 2015 - 12:51 PM, said:


Uranprojekt #8 Posted 10 May 2015 - 01:52 PM

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View PostMatthew J35U5, on 09 May 2015 - 09:53 PM, said:

I've interpreted it not so much as that the invasion by the Soviets caused the Japanese to surrender because the Soviets were "worse" than potential atomic bombs, but that the Japanese were holding out in the hopes that they could get Stalin to intercede with the Americans for them, getting more favourable peace terms. An invasion by the Soviet Union quickly removed that possibility. 

Anyway, I thought this was a well done article. :)

 

It's a fair interpretation. I didn't mean it as "the Soviets were worse than more atomic bombs", simply that the Soviet cancellation of the 1939 peace treaty and subsequent invasion of Manchuria left the Japanese with no viable options but to surrender. The Japanese rejected the American unconditional surrender terms up until the second atomic bomb fell on Nagasaki, by which point the Soviets had already invaded Manchuria. It's not that one element of the Japanese surrender was worse than the other but that they were all as bad as each other from a Japanese perspective.

 

Something that I find interesting is that Hirohito made two surrender announcements, one on the 14th of August to the people of Japan and one on the 17th of August addressing just the troops. In the 14th of August announcement, Hirohito mentions the atomic bombs but not the Soviet invasion. In the 17th of August  announcement, he talks about the Soviet invasion but not the atomic bombs. It's almost as if Hirohito was trying to play down the scale of trouble Japan was actually in depending on who he was addressing. If anyone is interested in reading the Imperial rescripts of surrender, I'll post both below.

 

Imperial rescript ending war (August 14th): http://members.jcom.home.ne.jp/yosha/yr/empires/Imperial_rescript_1945-08-14.html

 

Imperial rescript ending war (August 17th): http://www.taiwandocuments.org/surrender07.htm



Metalrodent #9 Posted 11 May 2015 - 10:01 AM

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Japan was royally screwed by that time, the Soviets where coming from the North, the Brits were pushing from the West and the Americans (and their nukes) from the South.

 

Also what's interesting that hostilities didn't actually end immediately after the surrender, some Japanese officers refused to believe the broadcasts were genuine and fought on.


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Uranprojekt #10 Posted 11 May 2015 - 01:00 PM

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View PostMetalrodent, on 11 May 2015 - 10:01 AM, said:

Japan was royally screwed by that time, the Soviets where coming from the North, the Brits were pushing from the West and the Americans (and their nukes) from the South.

 

Also what's interesting that hostilities didn't actually end immediately after the surrender, some Japanese officers refused to believe the broadcasts were genuine and fought on.

 

The Japanese were buggered the moment Yamashita's 25th Army attacked British Malaya in the early hours of the morning of December 8th 1941 and the IJN launched the attack on Pearl Harbour mere hours later (both events occurred on the same day but due to the International Date Line, occurred one day apart local time(s)). The Japanese from that point on had to contend with the combined industrial power of the US and UK, something which the Japanese industry just couldn't do. Despite the initial successes of both the IJA and the IJN in the early stages of the Pacific war, it was inevitable that the Japanese would lose.


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NSW Mntd Rifles #11 Posted 03 July 2015 - 04:42 AM

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Thanks for posting this. It has been argued that the USSR invasion of Manchuria had a more compelling effect on the Japanese leadership that the atomic bombs unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And I agree with Uranprojekt, the Japanese knew when planning their initial campaigns in South East Asia and the Pacific that they could only get so far and then had to hold a perimeter until their opponents lost the will to win. In 1941-1942 the IJN and Japanese Army fought bitterly over the possibility of invading Australia as the IJN knew it would stretch their resources beyond the limits of their capacity.

TangoLit #12 Posted 03 July 2015 - 05:33 AM

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Really well done, and an outstanding read.  Thanks very much for posting it.

 

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Uranprojekt #13 Posted 16 July 2015 - 07:57 PM

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View PostJose the Padre, on 03 July 2015 - 04:42 AM, said:

Thanks for posting this. It has been argued that the USSR invasion of Manchuria had a more compelling effect on the Japanese leadership that the atomic bombs unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And I agree with Uranprojekt, the Japanese knew when planning their initial campaigns in South East Asia and the Pacific that they could only get so far and then had to hold a perimeter until their opponents lost the will to win. In 1941-1942 the IJN and Japanese Army fought bitterly over the possibility of invading Australia as the IJN knew it would stretch their resources beyond the limits of their capacity.

 

With regards to the IJA vs IJN argument over an invasion of Australia, I would theorise that the IJA had a point to prove. The Army in Japan was always in the shadow of the Navy and with good reason; the Navy would be far more crucial in a defensive war should the Japanese homeland be invaded (a situation mirrored in Britain with the Royal Navy and RAF being of more strategic importance than the Army). Japanese Army commanders would have been looking for ways to build on the success they had in Southeast Asia after beating the British and Commonwealth troops in, what was at the time, their own colonies. What better way to prove the worth of the IJA than to invade the largest British and Commonwealth territory in the Pacific?

 

Naturally, the IJN would always have more sway in overseas offensive operations than the IJA because the IJN was the "favourite child", so to speak, when it came to Japanese armed forces. The IJA may have had a lot of success in China and Southeast Asia but Australia would be an entirely different beast altogether. It would have been a strategic nightmare for Japan to conduct a fully fledged invasion of Australia.


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grim1yfiendish #14 Posted 12 February 2016 - 10:55 PM

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Interesting stuff, never even knew the Red Army was involved in the war in the east. Someone should tell the history channel, I'm fed up watching stuff on the battle of Kursk.

Uranprojekt #15 Posted 12 February 2016 - 11:57 PM

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View Postgrim1yfiendish, on 12 February 2016 - 10:55 PM, said:

Interesting stuff, never even knew the Red Army was involved in the war in the east. Someone should tell the history channel, I'm fed up watching stuff on the battle of Kursk.

 

Please, nobody tell the "history" channel. They'll only butcher it.


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grim1yfiendish #16 Posted 13 February 2016 - 12:14 AM

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View PostUranprojekt, on 12 February 2016 - 11:57 PM, said:

 

Please, nobody tell the "history" channel. They'll only butcher it.

 

lol

AngryL0AF #17 Posted 24 February 2016 - 05:07 PM

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View Postgrim1yfiendish, on 12 February 2016 - 04:55 PM, said:

Interesting stuff, never even knew the Red Army was involved in the war in the east. Someone should tell the history channel, I'm fed up watching stuff on the battle of Kursk.

 

Still better than Pawn Stars.

Matthew J35U5 #18 Posted 24 February 2016 - 06:02 PM

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View PostUranprojekt, on 12 February 2016 - 06:57 PM, said:

 

Please, nobody tell the "history" channel. They'll only butcher it.

I don't know what you're talking about, America won all of WWII by itself, and no-one else was involved, except for the French who got #rekt, and the British that needed saving like a damsel in distress.

 

—History Channel Watcher


KeystoneCops, on 14 June 2015 - 12:51 PM, said:


Sqn Ldr B #19 Posted 24 February 2016 - 06:41 PM

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View PostMatthew J35U5, on 24 February 2016 - 06:02 PM, said:

I don't know what you're talking about, America won all of WWII by itself, and no-one else was involved, except for the French who got #rekt, and the British that needed saving like a damsel in distress.

 

—History Channel Watcher

 

The Russians were also in it, but they were just there and Hitler never paid much attention them anyway.

 

Authentic American high school History teaching aids:


"Remember that you are an Englishman, and have consequently won first prize in the lottery of life" ~ Cecil Rhodes

Click For a Compilation of My Ideas


JStudebaker #20 Posted 24 February 2016 - 06:46 PM

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If time travel is ever invented, History Channel will use it to just make reality shows. 

 

"No, no, go back and film it again. This time we don't care about Lincoln, but get a close up of Mary Todd's reaction. We'll add blood splatter in post production."






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