Tsushima, Battle of 1905

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Tsushima, Battle of (1905)

 

a naval battle that took place on May 14–15 (May 27–28) in the Korea Strait near the Tsushima Islands during the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05).

On May 14 (27), the Second Russian Pacific Squadron under the command of Vice Admiral Z. P. Rozhestvenskii, having sailed halfway around the world from Leipãja (Latvia), entered the Korea Strait with the aim of breaking through to Vladivostok. The squadron consisted of eight squadron battleships, three coastal defense battleships, one armored cruiser, eight cruisers, one auxiliary cruiser, nine torpedo-boat destroyers, six transport ships, and two hospital ships. A Japanese patrol cruiser sighted the Russian squadron, whereupon the Japanese fleet, commanded by Admiral H. Togo, put to sea to attack and destroy the Russian warships. The Japanese fleet comprised four squadron battleships, eight armored cruisers, 16 cruisers, six gunboats and coastal defense ships, 24 auxiliary cruisers, 21 torpedo-boat destroyers, and 42 torpedo boats. Japanese cruisers, following a parallel course in the fog to keep the Russian ships under surveillance, were accidentally sighted by them at around seven o’clock in the morning. Rozhestvenskii regrouped the squadron into two columns, leaving the transport ships in the rear covered by cruisers.

At 1:15 P.M. the main strength of the Japanese fleet, battleships and armored cruisers, appeared, intent on cutting off the Russian squadron. Rozhestvenskii regrouped the ships into one column, thereby delaying opening fire, which was begun at 1:49 P.M. from a distance of 38 cable lengths (more than 7 km). The Japanese ships opened fire three minutes later, concentrating on the Russian ships at the head of the column. Taking advantage of its greater speed (18 to 20 knots as opposed to the Russians’ 15 to 18 knots), the Japanese fleet stayed in front of the Russian column, barring the way and trying to envelop the lead ships. By 2:00 P.M. the distance had shrunk to 28 cable lengths (5.2 km), and Rozhestvenskii ordered the ships to turn to the right and hold a course parallel to that of the main Japanese forces.

The Japanese artillery had the more rapid rate of fire (360 shots per minute as opposed to 134 per minute for the Russians), and the explosive force of its shells was 10 to 15 times greater than that of the Russians. Moreover, the Russian ships had less armor than the Japanese ships; 40 percent of the area of the Russian ships was covered with armor, as opposed to 61 percent of the area of the Japanese ships. At 2:25 P.M. the flagship Prince Suvorov left the formation; Rozhestvenskii was wounded. The Russian ships continued to move in a column without leadership, changing course twice to increase the distance between itself and the enemy. Only after 6:00 P.M. was the command transferred to Rear Admiral N. I. Nebogatov.

In the course of the battle, the Japanese ships concentrated their fire on the lead ships, sinking four Russian battleships and damaging all the other ships. The Japanese ships also sustained damage, but none of them were sunk. The Russian cruisers, traveling in a separate column, fended off the attacks of the Japanese cruisers; one auxiliary cruiser and one transport vessel were lost in the battle. During the night, Japanese torpedo boats repeatedly attacked the Russian ships, sinking one more battleship and one armored cruiser and losing three of their own boats. In the darkness, the Russian ships lost contact with one another. Some of the ships continued to sail northward independently; Nebogatov was left in command of only two squadron battleships, two coastal defense battleships, and one cruiser; and three cruisers sailed south to Manila, where they were interned.

By the morning of May 15 (28), the squadron as a combat force had ceased to exist. Nebogatov’s forces were surrounded by Japanese ships, and Nebogatov surrendered to the enemy with four ships (the cruiser Emerald had broken away and headed for Vladivostok, but it ran aground in St. Vladimir’s Bay and was blown up by the crew). The torpedo-boat destroyer Daredevil, carrying the wounded Rozhestvenskii, also surrendered to the Japanese. Several ships continued the battle on their own that day and bravely went down in combat: one battleship, one coastal defense battleship, three cruisers, and one torpedo-boat destroyer. Three torpedo-boat destroyers were sunk by their crews, and one torpedo-boat destroyer was interned in Shanghai. Only the cruiser Diamond and two torpedo-boat destroyers managed to reach Vladivostok.

Despite the heroism and courage of the Russian sailors, the Russian squadron was destroyed, sealing tsarist Russia’s defeat in the war. In assessing the battle of Tsushima, V. I. Lenin wrote, “Everyone had expected the defeat of the Russian fleet, but no one had thought it would be so crushing. . . . We are witnessing, not just a military defeat, but the complete military collapse of the autocracy” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 10, p. 252).

REFERENCES

Lenin, V. I. “Razgrom.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 10.
Boevaia letopis’ russkogo flota. Moscow, 1948.
Istoriia voenno-morskogo iskusstva, vol. 3. Moscow, 1953.
Russko-iaponskaia voina, 1904–1905 gg.: Rabota istoricheskoi komissii po opisaniiu deistvii flota v voinu 1904–1905 gg. pri Morskom General’nom shtabe, books 1–7. St. Petersburg, 1912–18.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.