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The Kantogun (Japanese: Kantōgun), more commonly known as the Kwantung Army or Guandong Army (関東軍), was a unit of the Imperial Japanese Army that originated from the Guandong Garrison established in 1906 to defend the Kwantung Leased Territory and the areas adjacent to the South Manchurian Railway. Headquartered in Xinjing, it was later expanded to include all of Manchukuo (Japanese occupied Manchuria) and Inner Mongolia. It was the largest and most prestigious command in the Imperial Japanese Army. Many of its personnel, such as Hideki Tojo former chief of staff, were elevated to high positions in the military and the government.
It was initially composed of a regular army division and a heavy siege artillery batallion, both stationed within the Kwantung Leased Territory. Supplementing this force were a six independent garrison battalions of the railway guards deployed along the railway zone, making a total troop strength of 10,000 men. Since the reorganization in 1919, the military unit was called the Kantogun.
Although the Army was nominally subordinate to the Japanese High Command, conspirators of the Army plotted the assassination of Zhang Zuolin in 1928 and the Manchurian Incident (1931) leading to the foundation of Manchuguo in 1932. The Kantogun was heavily augmented, up to 700,000 in 1941, to defend the whole territory of Manchuria to include Inner Mongolia. Generals and young officers virtually controlled the puppet government of Emperor Henry Pu Yi.
The Army fought against the Red Army of the Soviet Union at Zhanggufeng in 1938 and Nomonhan in 1939. Since the outbreak of the Pacific War, many troops were transferred to the Pacific islands from Manchuria. During Operation August Storm, in which the Soviet Red Army invaded Japanese occupied Manchuria in August 1945, the Kwangtung Army contained nearly 600,000 soldiers. The Kantogun by that time comprised of one armored division, 25 infantry divisions, six independent brigades and up to 25 security battlaions. However, much of its heavy weapons and ammunition reserves and best personnel were tranferred to the Pacific and left the Kantogun basically a counterinsurgency and border security force. To cope with the Soviet invasion, the Army planned to form the defence line near Xinjing, the capital of Manchuguo, but the Emperor of Japan Hirohito ordered them to surrender before the main defensive engagement took place.
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