Relief map of Karafuto

Sakhalin was the Russian name for the island the Japanese knew as Karafuto, which lies just north of Hokkaido across La Perouse Strait.  The island is 560 miles (900 km) long and up to 60 miles (100 km) wide, with an area of 30,000 square miles (78,000 km2). It is mountainous and forested, with considerable swampy ground. The valley of the Tym' and Poronai Rivers forms the chief communication corridor between north and south, and the Japanese placed most of their defenses here, around the town of Koton (Pobedino; 142.828E 49.843N).

The Japanese controlled the southern half of Sakhalin and the Russians the northern half.  The northern half was the real prize, with significant oil fields at Ekhabi and Okha.  The Japanese had oil concessions here, and in 1940 they unsuccessfully tried to persuade the Russians to sell them the northern half of Sakhalin.

During the last days of the war, Russia seized the Japanese half of the island.  It remains in Russian hands today.


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