Eastern Europe 1939-1945: Ukraine

How serious was the situation on the Eastern Front in 1942?

A telegram from the Japanese government to its officials in embassies around the world August 1942

Catalogue ref: HW 1/827

Extract a

A telegram from the Japanese government to its officials in embassies around the world August 1942; HW 1/827; Extract a

Extract b

A telegram from the Japanese government to its officials in embassies around the world August 1942; HW 1/827; Extract b

Extract c

A telegram from the Japanese government to its officials in embassies around the world August 1942; HW 1/827; Extract c

Extract d

A telegram from the Japanese government to its officials in embassies around the world August 1942; HW 1/827; Extract d

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What is this source?

These extracts come from a telegram sent out by the Japanese government to their embassies in different parts of the world.

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It was intercepted by British intelligence, translated and sent to British commanders. There are extra brackets and question marks in the text as result. British intelligence also broke German codes.


What's the background to this source?

By May 1940 Hitler’s forces had conquered Western Europe, apart from Britain. However, Hitler’s main aim was to create a large empire in Eastern Europe. To do this he needed to defeat the USSR. In June 1941 he launched Operation Barbarossa. This was a devastating lightning attack on the USSR. The Soviet forces were taken by surprise and were driven back with heavy losses. Only the arrival of a Russian winter stopped the German advance. However, in the spring of 1942 the Germans launched another series of attacks.

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The advances in 1942 were aimed primarily at southern and central USSR. The prime target was the Caucasus area. This was extremely rich in minerals but the key target was the oil fields in the area. Hitler wanted the oil for his own forces, but he also wanted to make sure he stopped the Soviets using it.


It's worth knowing that...

Japan was allied to Germany in WW2. Although German and Japanese forces did not fight together Japanese officials would certainly have been interested in what was happening in the war between Germany and the USSR.

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This source gives us a useful indication of what the Japanese knew. The information probably came from the German government.


How will you use this source?

  1. What impression do you get from this source of how serious the situation was for the USSR?
  2. Does this source support or contradict any of the other sources in the box?
  3. Is there any reason for this source to exaggerate the situation?
  4. Does this source support the opinion of Historian 1 or Historian 2?

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