Famous Battles in History Tsushima and the Russo-Japanese War

About the famous battle of Tsushima in the Russo-Japanese War between the Russia and Japan.



On Oct. 9, 1904, during the Russo-Japanese War, Czar Nicholas II of Russia ordered his "invincible" 42-ship Baltic Fleet to sail 18,000 mi. around the world and attack Japan. Steaming into the North Sea, the Russian armada scored its first victory. Russian sailors spotted "Japanese torpedo boats" on the misty horizon, opened fire, and sank one and damaged several others. Unfortunately, the boats turned out to be English trawlers.

The fleet proceeded on around Africa, across the Indian Ocean, to Vietnam, where it was joined by a squadron of 10 antique warships. At this point the Russian commander, Adm. Zinovi Rozhdestvenski, decided to push straight north through the Tsushima Strait, which separates Korea and Japan, to Vladivostok, the only Russian port left in Asia.

Adm. Heihachiro Togo guessed the Russian plan and was waiting with the entire Japanese fleet in the narrow Tsushima Strait. The Russians sailed into the trap on May 27, 1905. At noon the two fleets made contact, and Togo successfully crossed in front of the advancing Russian ships, unleashing a savage broadside. For the rest of the day, the better-trained Japanese sailors on their faster, better-constructed ships hammered away at the Russians. The Russian flagship foundered, then three more battleships followed it to the bottom. At sunset, as the Russians fled north, the Borodino, beautifully silhouetted against the setting sun, was hit by a single shell in its ammunition magazine. It exploded and sank within seconds.

That night, Togo sent his torpedo boats after the remnants of the Russian fleet. By the next morning, the 12 remaining Russian ships found themselves encircled by the Japanese. They promptly surrendered. Of 52 Russian ships, only 3 managed to escape to Vladivostok; the rest had been sunk or captured. The Japanese had lost only 3 small torpedo boats. About 1,000 Japanese sailors were wounded and 117 killed. The Russians lost over 10,000 wounded or captured and 4,830 killed.

Tsushima ended the Russo-Japanese War. Peace negotiations were presided over by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt, who for his efforts won the Nobel Peace Prize. For Russia, Tsushima brought international humiliation and revolution at home. The battle made Japan a major naval and world power, thereby dispelling the then popular belief in the inferiority of the Oriental race.

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