Japanese tanks at Nomonhan.

On The Road to Khalkin Gol (Nomonhan)

- Part Two -
by Henry Sakaida (Continued)

The three of us went to the outpost and a Mongolian sergeant agreed to help us look for him. We drove all over the place, honking the horn. Nothing. We got out and searched on foot. Nothing. Worry soon turned to dread.“

Justin better be dead or injured when we find him!” cursed Chinzorig. “Or I will kill him!”

This nomad showed Justin an artillery shell he had found.
This nomad showed Justin an artillery shell he had found.

We found our missing companion on a hill sharing vodka with a nomadic scavenger. The old guy was sitting down by his horse and was showing Justin an old artillery shell he had found. The brass casing was worth some money.

“Hey, I found old wooden ammo boxes, a Soviet helmet, and bone fragments all over the place!” Justin exclaimed. “I’ve marked everything on my GPS!” Rather than comb the nearby hills, we decided to head out into the military reservation for a bigger payoff. We dropped off the sergeant and gave him a couple of packs of cigarettes for his trouble. A Mongolian private jumped in to show us around the reservation.

After a short winding drive, we arrived near a big hill where Japanese troops stood their ground against a horde of Soviet infantry. I told Justin that if I found one bullet, I would be happy. Within minutes of walking, I started to see metal fragments of exploded artillery shells. This area was the scene of horrific fighting. I found a leather helmet strap sticking out of the sand. More metal fragments, bullets, rifle cartridges, and medicine bottles followed.

“Stop! Be careful!” yelled Justin. I nearly stepped on a Soviet 45mm anti-tank shell in the tall grass, and it was live. Justin had heard from the private that a nomad had blown himself up two months prior, messing with live ordnance. I carefully parted the grass to get a better look at the shell and photographed it.

A few paces later, I stepped on a Soviet RGD-33 stick grenade. Whoa! Nothing happened. We found others half buried in the sand. Every time I spotted a grenade, I got an Adrenalin rush. I discovered a Soviet F-1 fragmentation grenade lying peacefully in the grass and called Justin over. I asked for his better judgment.

“It’s probably safe because the explosive has disintegrated by now,” Justin surmised. “I’ll just stand back twenty yards. Why don’t you bang it against that rock and see what happens?”

Justin holds a drum magazine from a Soviet light  machine gun.
Justin holds a drum magazine from a Soviet light machine gun.
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