“Commander Mikhailov!” It was a runner from Krupin’s force, which had been pressing hard against the remnants of the Japanese 23rd Division.

Oleg Tarasovich Mikhailov swatted him away; he was on the radio with Popov in the divisional headquarters, trying to coordinate ongoing strikes by his tanks with incoming orders from Corps Commander Zhukov. “Yes, yes. Understood. We will press the attack as ordered; I am expecting casualties, but nothing unacceptable. The Japanese surely cannot hold out for much longer.” He placed the mouthpiece down. “What is it?” he snapped at the runner.”

“Sir, I-” the runner ducked at the sound of a wheeling aircraft overhead. Mikhailov remained standing, and watched a group of Japanese fighters–Ki-27s–attempt to strafe the Soviet positions behind the hillock that shielded part of Mikhailov’s command center. There was a distant thud of anti-aircraft pom-pom guns and the fighter broke off. A flight of I-16 “donkeys” rose up to meet the attackers not long afterwards and tore them to shreds, filling the air with contrails and tracer rounds.

“Get up, you lout,” Mikhailov said, kicking at Krupin’s errand boy. “What is so important that it merits wasting my time while we are ejecting what remains of the Japanese aggressors from Mongolia? I told Krupin to report by radio only if he was victorious or dead.”

“The radio has broken, Commander Mikhailov,” the runner said, his head lowered. “Krupin dispatched me to report the capture of a Japanese supply convoy attempting to break out of our encirclement.”

“Good for him,” Mikhailov sniffed. “Distribute whatever booty and supplies they were carrying as a reward to the men and execute any prisoners without strategic value. Was there anything else?”

“Begging your pardon, Commander,” the runner said. “There was one object in the Japanese convoy that…well…” He handed a piece of notebook paper to Mikhailov. The commander’s eyes widened.

“You there!” he shouted at one of his adjutants. “Get me a staff car and a BA-10 armored escort! I am traveling to Krupin’s position immediately! Lagounov’s in charge until I return.”

The arrangements were hastily made, and after a tooth-grindingly bumpy ride along the Mongolian steppe, Mikhailov caught up with the rearmost portion of Krupin’s unit. The area was littered with bodies and smouldering vehicles, with a few Japanese prisoners under heavy Red Army guard. Krupin himself was seated at a commandeered Kwantung Army mess table alongside a disabled Nissan truck which had been towing a bulky armored trailer with a machine gun atop it.

“Show it to me,” Mikhailov barked at Krupin, without even bothering with any pleasantries.

Krupin complied, jumping to his feet and opening a side-mounted door on the captured trailer.

Mikhailov’s eyes widened. “My God…”

Inside was the very thing that had been described in top-secret orders from Corps Commander Zhukov before the Khalkhin Gol counterattack.

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