The illusion of victory – Russo japanese War (1904-1905)
Yes, we were all ready for death when leaving Japan. Men going to battle of course cannot expect to come back alive. But in this particular battle to be ready for death was not enough; what was required of us was a determination not to fail to die. Indeed, we were “sure-death” men, and this new appellation gave us a great stimulus. Also a telegram that had come from the Minister of War in Tokyo, was read by the aide-de-camp, which said, “I pray for your success.” This increased the exaltation of our spirits.
(Human Bullets, By Lt. Tadayoshi Sakurai, during the russo japanese war)
Human kind never learns – the scenes of carnage, towns and villages in ashes, families ruined and nations decimated did not prevent the human kind to go on, to repeat the process until it becomes trite, yet remains exciting and a juicy little morsel for profit and political points. The trench horrors, a true butcher show, where unlucky and left-for-dead men crush each other with spades, bayonets, knives and rocks while bathing in mud or act as a sponge for machine gun bullets and decorations for the barb wires. The sight of “human bullets” storming towards the machine gun nests or the deadly chorus of artillery that blows men to bits are nothing less brutal when compared with the gritty blue depths and crushing fiery heaps of metal that once were ships, crushing down on sailors that were drowning. It quickened their demise, shortened their agony.
Yet, neither side backed off in this sad conflict, a one-year slugfest, “thousands” became the standard number with which the casualties were measured. In this bloodbaths know today as the russo japanese war, Japan took the lead, gathering young men that loved their country and believed in courage, only to use them as cannon fodder in the barren lands of Manchurian and Northern China. The government used the high patriotic feelings of its people to perform a slaughter that “killed” Japan later on. A vampire, sucking his victim would have more mercy even though his heart is dead.
If we are to believe the most widely accepted theory, both countries entered war because their imperialistic appetites grew more potent and finally clashed. The pre-war stage was complicated – Japan scored a huge victory against China (Sino-Japanese war, 1894-1895) with her fresh modernized army and won a huge indemnity, but was forced to abandon the territories that were conquered. This is known as “The Triple Intervention” that was carried out by France, Germany and Russia. Many say that Russia was ardent to realize this.
The standing of Russia in the Far East then was not weak. The political presence was strong, the alliance with China was made, Port Arthur, a major trade center was also in Russia’s hands. However, the most important asset was the famous “Trans Siberian Railroad” that crossed the Chinese Manchuria all the way to Vladivostok. Despite the potential it presented, the railroad still required a lot of work to finish before it could transport enough men and supplies.
The most important events of russo japanese war:
- Japanese attack on Port Arthur – it was a partial success that forced the Russians into the port to raise a defense, but it allowed Japan to transport land troops. It was a naval battle were the two Russian modern battleships (“Retvizan” and “Tsesarevich”) were heavily damaged.
- February marked the first Japanese landings at Inchou in Korea. The first battle was fought at the Yalu River (April 30th -May 1st), where Russians retreated right after inflicting huge losses on the Japanese.
- The battle of Nanshan (24–26 May 1904), was another victory for Japan and retreat for Russia. The victory was in fact a carnage, where Japanese lost around 6200 souls. Here, the Japanese illustrated the “technique” they will use – human bullets attacking fortified positions in waves.
- The battle of Liaoyang (25 August – 3 September 1904) – was a major urban battle. The city defense was well organized with three lines of fortifications under command of general Kuropatkin. The Japanese took the city after a bloody battle, but they suffered big casualties, around 23.000 dead and were unable to pursue the Russians.
- The Siege of Port Arthur (August 1, 1904 – January 2, 1905) was one of the bloodiest battles that has been waged with waves of human bullets, artillery, machineguns and howitzers. The battle was extended in the trenches and naval skirmishes, fighting for hills and later sapping with tunnels and mines. When the death toll came into the light, the figures are as follows: Japan lost between 60.000 and 100.000 men (The official report states 60.000 as missing, wounded or killed, while there are theories that the real number is around 90.000 when all is counted). Russia lost the port by surrender and its fleet anchored there, along with 32.000 wounded, captured or killed. The numbers vary largely due the difference between the reports and their origin.
- Battle of Mukden (20 February to 10 March 1905) – was the last major and decisive land battle fought in the war. Although the Russian losses were heavier, this battle exhausted both sides and no important fighting was done after it.
- Battle of Tsushima (May 27–28, 1905) – naval battle in which admiral Togo Heihachiro defeated the Russian fleet. This practically ended the russo japanese war in Japanese favor.
So, the bloody russo japanese war was brought to an end, a very bloody and costly end. The formal ending was served in Portsmouth with a treaty brokered by the USA under the president Theodore Roosevelt. The negotiations were tough since neither side had been ready to admit defeat. Eventually, the treaty was created, but it did not leave Russia in a good position – the territories had to be evacuated and half of the Sakhalin Island was given to Japan, ending the Russia’s presence in the region.
There are several things that need to be noted in the russo japanese war:
- The war saw for the first time the en masse implementation of artillery and howitzers.
- The horror of trench warfare entered the annals of history, but instead of learning from it, its gore will continue in Europe during the WWI.
- Japan was heavily indebted financially since the loans that she took shortly before and during the war from USA, Canada and GBR put an enormous strain on the economy. In this aspect, Japan was the clear loser.
- The losses in manpower, machinery and supplies for Japan had been graver, which prompted numerous riots.
So, has Japan won the russo japanese war? My answer would be one big, capital and cold “NO”. First of all, the sole victory in the entire conflict was indecisive and practically both sides were forced to the negotiating table to find a fair settlement not due some heavy defeat. Both countries have suffered changes after the conflict: Russia has experienced the October revolution while Japan fought with her perils after the war or in other words, Japan was licking her wounds.
I am pro-Russian in the matter of russo japanese war – Russia maybe lost a large portion of the navy and land, but compared to Japan the losses were drastically lower, plus the Russian habit of retreating was a more suitable approach than the Japanese “human gristle machine” method. In the end, it was a bloody and overpaid victory for Japan, but a heavy blow for Russia too.
Nicholas II (1868 –1918) was the last Russian Emperor and also called by some “Nicholas the Bloody”, since he used force to eliminate his political enemies and the incident called “Bloody Sunday” that was practically a violent end to the Revolution of the 1905. He was the Tsar during the russo japanese war.
Aleksey Kuropatkin (1848 – 1925) was the Imperial War minister and commander of the Russian forces during the russo japanese war and was held responsible for the major losses. Although he preferred attrition and careful planning, many critics blame his indecisiveness and hesitation for the defeats during the war with Japan.
Stepan Makarov (1849–1904) was the vice-admiral of the Russian Imperial Navy and my favorite commander in the early 20th century. He was an experienced and talented admiral, ship designer and book author in the field of oceanography. He designed the famous Lake Baikal icebreakers that provided support during the Trans-Siberian railway construction and they provided transport over the Lake Baikal. He died on his flagship the “Petropavlovsk” during the naval battle for Port Arthur in 1904. when the ship hit two mines on its retreat route to the port.
Oyama Iwao (1842-1916) was one of the founders of the Imperial army and a field marshal. He came from a Satsuma samurai family and was elevated to the rank of prince, the highest military rank in Imperial Japan. He studied modern warfare in France and was an observer during the Franco-Prussian war.
Nogi Maresuke (1849 – 1912) was a general in the Imperial army and the governor of Taiwan. He is considered a heroic figure in Japan, a symbol of loyalty and self-sacrifice. His greatest achievement is the capture of Port Arthur and victory at Mukden and it is also noted that troops under his command treated fairly the prisoners of war. However, I do not understand why is he a military genius: the battle of Mukden and the siege of port Arthur were the bloodiest battles and a simple “piling up the dead” fest.
Togo Heihachiro, also known as “The Nelson of the East”(1848-1934) was the most celebrated Japanese admiral, the recipient of the collar of the supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum, the highest honor in Japan. He studied in Britain and he even gained the membership of the British order of Merit by King Edward VII. He fought in both wars against China and Russia while being an observer during the Sino-French war.