Events on Damanski Island in March 1969
Today, few people will be able to say with certainty what is known about Damansky Island. But even they do not all represent in detail the events that shocked the entire USSR in 1969. Therefore, it will be very useful to talk about it.
Where is he located
To begin with, this is a small island (less than 1 square kilometer) located on the Ussuri River in the Far East. It is located 230 kilometers from Khabarovsk, and the nearest large Russian city is Luchegorsk, just 35 kilometers to the east.
The island received its name in 1888, when Stanislav Damansky died here - an engineer who worked on the project on laying the Trans-Siberian Railway. Crossing by boat through the Ussuri during a storm, he died. The waters carried the body to a tiny, nameless islet, which later received the name of an engineer.
Unreasonable territorial claims
In 1860, the Russian Empire signed the Beijing Treaty, which precisely establishes the border between the two states.According to its conditions, the border runs along the Chinese bank of the Ussuri, that is, the river itself, like all the islands located on it, is the property of the Russian Empire - the Chinese completely abandon any claims.
However, in the late 1950s, China protested, demanding to reconsider the current state of affairs, spending a new border in the middle of the river. In this case, the USSR would have given its neighbors not only half of the Ussuri, but also part of the islands, which immediately became controversial. In 1964, a consultation was held, but the parties to the negotiations did not agree - as a result, it ended all to no avail. The entire Ussuri River remained Soviet.
But the Chinese authorities were not going to stop there. On the contrary, their goal was to demonstrate to the US and Europe that the PRC is no less fiercely opposed to the USSR than the NATO bloc. There were also made completely unreasonable demands that could not be met. Among them, the transfer of Mongolia to China, as well as the transfer of nuclear weapons. Of course, all these demands were also rejected. All Soviet engineers who worked in China on the construction of factories and roads, were promptly removed.
The Chinese authorities immediately declared to the whole world that the USSR was turning into an empire that was trying to crush the neighboring developing countries with all its might. Subsequently, this led to sad events on Damansky Island - March 1969 was just around the corner.
The events preceding the attack
It is worth noting that until 1964, the Soviet border guards rather calmly treated the petty trespassers. For example, Chinese fishermen calmly boarded the Ussuri, catching fish in the Soviet river.
However, after raising the issue of moving the border, the policies of the commanders of outposts completely changed. The frontier boats patrolled the frontier, making it difficult for fishermen to conduct their usual fishing. In the Chinese press, news quickly appeared that Soviet border guards condemned ordinary people to starvation, threatening to sink their boats. Of course, in the wake of such news, China’s Island Damansky still demanded to transfer, along with half the Ussuri River.
Soon the first minor provocations appeared. First, the peasants began to land on the island, engaged in harvesting hay. When exiled forcibly, they shouted that they were on their land, which the Russians had seized.
The number of provocations affecting Damansky Island, has increased rapidly.If in 1961 there were about 100, then already in 1962 it exceeded 5,000. Clearly, China’s political will was behind this — the peasants themselves would never have risked violating the border.
Soon the real attacks began. Large units of the Red Guards (specially recruited young people from high school students and students) crossed the border, causing skirmishes with border guards - the Chinese military pointedly did not notice this. The account of such skirmishes went on thousands.
For example, on January 4, 1969, about 500 people landed on the nearby Kirkinsky Island. Soviet border guards did not use weapons, but fights and minor skirmishes became commonplace.
However, not only the Red Guards, but also the Chinese border guards participated in the provocations. For example, Junior Sergeant Yuri Babansky, who served at the Nizhne-Mikhaylovka outpost and subsequently received the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, says that the military has repeatedly violated the border. However, all the collisions took place without the use of weapons - only living force. That is, in other words, the Chinese frontier guards imposed a usual fight on the Soviet side, either by testing their forces or by trying to provoke them to open fire.
Provocation March 2
The Soviet-Chinese conflict began on Damanski Island on March 2, 1969.
On the night of 1 to 2 March, 77 Chinese soldiers and officers, armed with Simonov carbines and Kalashnikov assault rifles, crossed the border, landed on the island and took an advantageous position - the western coast was significantly higher, giving significant advantages in defense.
Alas, the group went unnoticed. At 10:20 on March 2 it was reported that a group of 30 armed men was moving in the direction of Damansky. The outpost was alarmed; 32 border guards went to the scene with the support of one BTR-60. While Senior Lieutenant Strelnikov, the commander of the Nizhne-Mikhailovka outpost, was trying to peacefully resolve the impending conflict, the head of the Chinese squad gave the order to open fire. Soviet frontier guards found themselves between two fires — on the one hand, they were shot by a small detachment, and a group that had crossed the border earlier struck in the back. The factor of surprise and three-fold superiority in manpower led to the fact that the border guards were almost completely destroyed, having managed to put up only insignificant resistance.
However, the shooting attracted the attention of the neighboring outpost - "Kulebyakiny sopki". Soon, reinforcements arrived from there with the support of one BTR-60.The fight lasted about 60 minutes. The Chinese had with them heavy weapons, including mortars. They fired at the Soviet positions, making it difficult to fire.
Senior Lieutenant V. Bubenin, commander of the Kulebyakiny Sopki outpost, made an unexpected decision. On an existing armored personnel carrier, he made a raid to the rear of the enemy. Rounding the island, he went to the rear of the enemy, causing him considerable damage. Alas, the armor of armored personnel carriers is not too strong - he was soon shot down. Bubenin himself only survived by a miracle, but did not abandon the plan. Reaching the trooper Strelnikov’s armored personnel carrier, he continued fighting. The result of this raid was the destruction of the Chinese command post. But the second BTR was also destroyed.
At about 1 pm, the disorganized Chinese retreated. The surviving soldiers, with the support of civilians from neighboring villages, assisted the wounded and took them out of the battlefield.
It was reported that on the Chinese coast a large military formation of up to 5 thousand people is preparing for the transition. The 135th motorized rifle division was urgently deployed on the Soviet coast, with the support of artillery and Grad multiple salvo fire systems.
Fighting March 15
However, this was not the only conflict that shook Damansky Island. 1969 threw another unpleasant surprise, and very soon.
First, in China, there were numerous protests - activists staged a picket near the Soviet embassy. In the press, the conflict was presented as the landing of the USSR troops on an island that always belonged to China.
In order not to aggravate the already difficult situation (we recall that in the courtyard of 1969, the world was not completely removed from the Caribbean crisis, any careless step could become a spark from which a nuclear flame would break out), the Soviet leadership decided to withdraw its troops from the island. By 15 o'clock in the day on Damansky there was not a single soldier. However, the Chinese side took advantage of this - a massive landing of soldiers began.
In order to prevent the capture of the island, a detachment with a cover of eight armored personnel carriers was sent there. Seeing them, the enemy hastily left the island.
On the night of March 14, observers noticed active movement on the Chinese coast. On the night of March 15, the Damansky Peninsula occupied a detachment of 45 people under the guise of 4 armored personnel carriers. The commander of the detachment was Lt. Col. E. I. Yanshin.
At 10 am on March 15, the events on the island of Damansky were further developed. The Chinese side began shelling the positions of Soviet fighters using artillery and mortars - according to various sources, the total fire power was from 30 to 60 guns. Soon 3 companies of the Chinese went into battle - about 500 people.
After several hours of fierce fighting, our troops had to retreat - the losses were significant, and the ammunition was coming to an end.
As a result, the Chinese began to flood the island again. Then Lieutenant-General OA Losik, commander of the Far Eastern Military District, decided to use the volley fire Grad, which was completely secret at that time. The effect was simply amazing. Hundreds of shells released literally mixed the island, destroying all those who were on it. Not only the main detachment and reserves were destroyed, but also artillery, mortars and ammunition.
Motorized riflemen and border guards again occupied Damansky Island. At about 19 o'clock the Chinese made three attempts to attack one by one, but they were all easily beaten off.
Many sergeants and officers received awards for this operation.Five were awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union. Alas, three of them - posthumously.
Forces of the parties
The total number of people and equipment involved in the two border conflicts on the side of the USSR is fairly well known - about 250 people and 17 armored personnel carriers.
But it is quite difficult to name the number of soldiers and officers, as well as the artillery that participated in the attack on Damanski Island in 1969 - the Chinese archives are still kept secretly. But the most natural is the number of 2500 people. Artillery data, alas, did not penetrate into open sources of information.
Exactly the same picture is observed in terms of calculating losses. To the Soviet side, the event on Damansky Island in 1969 was worth 58 dead and 94 wounded, not counting several armored personnel carriers destroyed.
Chinese official data differ greatly from those presented by unofficial sources. The authorities claim that the People's Republic of China in the conflict lost 68 people killed and 71 wounded. However, there is a version that only more than 800 people were killed - the number of injured remains unknown.
Exact numbers are probably stored in the archives of the Chinese special services.There are all the important data related to the conflict, thanks to which Damansky Island became known - 1969 became for him the most memorable in history. But, alas, these data are not declassified and it is not known whether they will be widely publicized.
It is worth noting that Soviet soldiers and officers who were captured by the Chinese were brutally murdered. According to the results of the examination, they were tortured before death, apparently trying to get some important information.
It is authentically known that such a fate befell one fighter from the Strelnikov squad, the first to join an unequal battle. Corporal Pavel Akulov was captured in an unconscious state. The soldier’s body disfigured during torture was handed over to the Soviet side only on 17 April.
However, many of the bodies of the fighters, temporarily on the territory of the enemy, were disfigured after their death.
After all attempts to seize Damansky Island were unsuccessful, the PRC government again invited Soviet colleagues to sit down at the negotiating table. But the provocations did not stop. The Chinese military still tried to seize the island.The ice on the Ussuri River has melted, which is why the landing of large forces of the Soviet troops became very difficult. All attempts to prevent the enemy from taking a position were reduced to machine-gun and sniper fire.
September 10, shortly before the start of negotiations, it was forbidden to fire in this direction. Negotiations on the need to revise the border have been going on for a very long time, but no changes have been observed in the coming decades.
According to many experts, the provocation on Domansky Island was nothing more than a test of strength. Without relying on nuclear weapons (which already existed in China), the Chinese authorities hoped to use a huge numerical superiority in manpower in case of war with the USSR. However, as the conflict showed, even a threefold numerical superiority did not guarantee the success of the operation, and even more so the war. Therefore, any attempts to spoil relations with the northern neighbor, or, especially, to declare war on him, were stopped.
The fate of the island
The final fate of the island was decided only after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The mighty empire ceased to exist in March 1991.And two months later, in May 1991, the Island of Damansky was given to China.
Today it is renamed Zhenbao Dao, which translates as Precious Island. At that territorial conflict was settled - the Russian Federation accepted the demands of the Chinese side, giving the island soaked in the blood of fifty Soviet border guards and motorized riflemen.
This concludes our article. Now you know enough about Damansky Island - the conflict with China, numerous provocations and its further fate. In the near future, this small piece of land, flooded during the spring floods, is unlikely to again become the cause of international conflict.