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Avatar of USinKoreaBy on July 1st, 2009 at 11:14 am

Russo-Japanese War News – May 1905

This is the month of the great sea battle that brought about the end of the war.  Much of the coverage of it will be below the fold and includes photos along with a link to a sight that extensively covers the fight.

The start of the month, however, is taken up by many articles about the diplomatic brouhaha between Japan, France, and England concerning the run up to the battle and France’s neutrality.

So far in the coverage of the war, I’ve avoided articles about diplomatic issues and chose to focus on the actual fighting.  But at this time in the war, we start touching on issues of international relations that are still felt today in regards to the US-Korea relationship.

This is a point of interest, because France was worried about its Asian possessions in the face of Japanese expansion, and that connects to the claim you hear everybody in South Korea make — that the US “gave” Korea to Japan in 1905 in exchange for the Philippines (seemingly in ignorance of the fact that in 1905, Japan had had major influence on Korea since at least the Sino-Japanese War of 1895 and the US was firmly in the Philippines thanks to the Spanish-American War.)

Here is GI Korea’s prior excellent coverage of the issue.

6 May – Anger in Japan Increases

The Baltic fleet’s continued open use of Indo-Chinese ports is producing a profound impression in Japan.  The wholesale license enjoyed by the Russian ships is considered by the newspapers as directly flouting Japan and indirectly insulting England by implied disregard for the efficacy of the Anglo-Japanese alliance.

Most of the talk is about the naval clash but there was some news about the war on land:

8 May – Japanese Army Advancing

Since April 29 the Japanese have been advancing slowly and intermittently, pushing forward their columns successively from right to left under cover of a screen of cavalry and Chinese bandits. 

The Japanese are said to have armed 25,000 or 30,000 Chinese bandits with captured Russian rifles.  The Chinese population has been drafted by the Japanese for road making and entrenching, and roads are being constructed to Sinminpu, Banchentze, and Nanga Pass.

8 May – France An Enemy, Japanese Declare

Even when this country was on the verge of war with Russia the Japanese press did not show greater excitement and indignation than now.  The most sober journals declare that France has virtually taken up arms against Japan.

References to the Anglo-Japanese alliance are assuming a tone of marked impatience.  It is plainly stated that it is England’s duty to prevent interference by third parties equally in the interests of her ally and for the world’s peace.

It’s easy to disregard quotes about world peace – but keep in mind, Europe was on the verge of devastating itself in the first World War (I) about a decade from this time…

The United Chambers of Commerce of Japan are concerting measures to cease all commercial transactions with French citizens.

The NY Times weighs in with an editorial on the 9th about French neutrality:

…for ten days made use of [the port] as  naval base for the complete reprovisioning and outfitting of its vessels.  The stores were forwarded from Saigon, the French capital, about 200 miles distant from Kamranh Bay.

The indignation and the vindictiveness expressed by the Japanese press are what might be expected from the representative organs of opinion of any belligerent country in like circumstances.

The editorial next gives what I’ll have to take as a definitive view of the actual law of the day on neutrality:

Lawrence, one of the latest of the text writers on international law, lays it down as the first of the duties of belligerents toward neutrals that “warlike expeditions may not be fitted out within neutral borders, nor may neutral lands or waters be made a base of operations against an enemy.”

9 May 1905 – Russians May Invade Korea – Short article

The Russians are apparently assembling a force for the purpose of invading Korea from the northeast as a means of defending Vladivostok and creating a diversion.

…The movement is regarded lightly in Japan.

11 May 1905 – Untitled

The Japanese advance now appears to have been a feint to ascertain the strength of the Russian outposts.

…The next day, in order to oust the Japanese from the Shahetzy mines, from which their attack was organized, a column of cavalry, supported by artillery, moved forward under cover of the Russian guns, and the mines were turned, the Japanese retiring first to Sinianzou and later to Madipopa…

Prisoners say the new troops from Japan are old men and youths.  They give the Japanese losses at Mukden as 12,355 killed and about 70,000 wounded.

13 May 1905 – France Fears Japan Desires Indo-China; Gov. Taking Measures to Defend the Colonies

Although the Japanese officials disclaim any such intention, this belief has taken firm hold of the French public and press, which unite in calling on the Government to adopt energetic measures to strengthen the defenses of Indo-China and to prepare for the contest which, it is asserted, will be inevitable when Japan’s hands are freed from the Russian war.

Vaguely reminds me of all the talk in the 1990s about how China and the US were destined to lock horns in  second Cold War due to China’s impressive economic growth.

…accordingly large special credits are being asked for, the Ministers of Marine and War are considering large augmentations of the forces in Indo-China, and Admiral Fournier is planning a chain of coast defenses similar to those with which he has encircled France.

20 May 1905 – To Remove Korean Ruler? – Short article

The Russian Charge d’Affaires at Peking has informed the Chinese government that, according to reports, the Japanese intend to remove the Emperor of Korea to Japan in contravention of the treaty of Shimonoseki guaranteeing the independence of Korea.

Check out this Wikipedia article on Emperor Gojong/Kojong to see how  the intrigues involving the Korean royal family, Russia, and Japan stretch back in the last decades of the 19th Century.

King Gojong was removed (resigned) from the throne in favor of his son – King Sunjong in 1907.

King Gojong also played an important role for the March 1st Movement due to the fact he died 21 Jan 1919 – which was part of the springboard to the uprising.  (Another direct spark for the movement was the peace convention to end WWI where US President Woodrow Wilson ignited imaginations around the world with his idea of natural self-determination vs. the old colonial regime-way.

Like with other hopeful downtrodden peoples in modern history, the Korean leaders of the March 1st Movement grossly misunderstood the willingness of the great powers to put muscle behind their proclamations…

21 May 1905 – Japan’s Control in Korea

Reports received here [Paris] through authoritative channels represents Japan as carrying things with a high hand in Korea.

Elsewhere on the blog, I’ve pointed out that some of books written during this time about Korea state that – at first – the Japanese military and authorities earned compliance with Korean society through their better behavior and willingness to pay as they went – but – as the war went on, and Japan was viewed as winning decisively, and more and more non-military Japanese of questionable morals, the attitude and actions of the Japanese in Korea took a sharp down turn and eroded their position in the eyes of Korean society.

Official reports confirm the reports from Peking that the Japanese recently exerted strong pressure upon the Emperor of Korea to induce him to leave the country and go to Japan, with the evident purpose of removing him as an obstacle to the development of Japanese control.

29 May 1905 – Untitled – First report of the great sea battle that helped bring the war to an end – and give Japan a free hand in Korea…

In this momentous hour the Emperor [of Russia], the Admiralty, and the Russian public are waiting breathlessly for the Japanese to furnish authentic news of the fate of Vice Admiral Rojestvensky and his fleet.

The report sent to Washington by the American Consul at Nagasaki of the sinking of five Russian warships, including a battleship and a repair ship, was accepted as the most definitive and authentic piece of news received up to midnight, and undoubtedly produced a bad impression.

Keep in mind that this war not only played a crucial part in seeing Japan eventually annex Korea in 1910, it played an important role in setting the stage for the collapse of the Russian monarchy in the Russian Revolution of 1917 and establishment of the Soviet Union in the ashes of the Russian Empire. 

In fact, in looking through the New Times archives for this coverage of the Russo-Japanese War, I’ve noticed the many headlines covering the Russian Revolution of 1905 – but have just skipped reading them.

The public, after the premature jubilation of Saturday night, is inclined to reverse its attitude and to become pessimistic.

Probably no one in Russia displayed such intense anxiety as the Emperor. 

…The only time the Emperor left the members of his Cabinet was to attend service in the chapel of the Alexandra Palace, where the chaplain prayed for Rojestvensky’s success.

This is a very long article, and it is worth a read to get a sense of anticipation that was in the air – around the whole world – concerning the outcome of this naval battle, but I’m going to wait to quote from sources stating knowledge of what did happen rather than this initial speculation.

30 May 1905 – Beginning of the End

The great victory achieved by Admiral Togo was the principal topic of discussion today in official circles.

When the report which gave Togo’s statement of the result of the battle was shown to him, [American] Admiral Dewey said:  “It is the beginning of the end.  In my opinion the victory of the Japanese may be attributed to their training and preparedness.

The Baltic fleet,” said a naval officer, “was the last hope of Russia, and she has now absolutely nothing on which to rely to continue the war.  The fleet which she has penned up in the Black Sea, though a comparatively strong one, cannot be gotten out of there without raising a storm of protest from England.”

Click here to go to a site covering The Battle of Tsushima with many photos and artist renditions.

30 May 1905 – Czar’s Seapower is Annihilated

The splendid Russian squadron which sailed from the Baltic last Autumn under Admiral Rojestvensky, together with the reinforcing squadron under Admiral Nebogatoff, has been practically annihilated by the Japanese fleet under Admiral Togo.

…According to the Japanese official reports thirteen vessels have been sunk and six have been captured.  The ships sunk included two battleships, one coast defense ship, and five cruisers, and those captured included two battleships and two coast defense ships.

In addition to these the Japanese believe three warships were sunk on Saturday, while another Russian warship has arrived at a Japanese port and has hoisted the white flag.

Admiral Nebogatoff and 3,000 men have been captured.  The fate of Admiral Rojestvensky is unknown.

According to Stock Exchange reports three Japanese cruisers were sunk and a dozen torpedo boat destroyers were sunk or disabled.

According to the correspondent of The Daily Mail at Soul, early on Saturday morning Admiral Togo, with practically all the powerful fighting ships of the Japanese Navy, was t Masampho Korea when wireless signals from his scouts between Tsu and Quelpart Islands announced the approach of the Russian fleet in full force.

A few hours later the scouts reported that the Russians were not ascending the Western channel, as has been anticipated, but that they were coming up the Eastern channel, which caused some surprise.

Admiral Togo immediately started to full speed round the north of Tsu Island, and when he doubled the island he saw the Russians coming in two columns.  He then brought a terrific fire to bear on the flank of the port column, and as the Russians fell into disorder he forced them steadily eastward toward the Japanese coast, where they were attacked by every vessel that flew the Japanese flag.

Repeated torpedo attacks were delivered, some of them with the greatest success. 

The Tokio correspondent of The Daily Mail says that the Russians apparently supposed that the Japanese base was at the Pescadores, as they carefully avoided passing those islands and pursued a roundabout course before entering Tsu Channel.

30 May 1905 – The End of the War

This is a long editorial that is well worth reading as a whole – especially the first half of it.  — That’s why I’m not going offer lengthy quotes for it but just recommend clicking the link.

The main gist of the first half is that the destruction of the Russian fleet was inevitable even though many pundits said it was the stronger of the two, and that the Russian commander knew it ahead of time but sacrificed himself under orders as any good soldier would.

31 May 1905 – Rojestvensky is Togo’s Prisoner

Admiral Togo, in  report made public by the Japanese Legation in Washington, states that the Russian commander, badly wounded, was found on a captured destroyer, together with another Admiral who, it is evident, is Voelkersam.   A third Russian Admiral, Nebogatoff, is also in the hands of the Japanese.

According to the official Japanese reports the fate of only three of the other important Russian vessels is still uncertain.  Every one of the battleships has been sunk or captured, together with all the cruisers with the exception of the Aurora, Oleg, and Izumrud.  Each of these is a small, unarmored vessel.

Togo’s reports assert that not a single Japanese vessel was lost and that the casualties among the crews were comparatively slight.

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