First Mongol Invasion

by Daniel Russ on May 19, 2010

Samurai Armor

November 1274, 900 Mongol ships bearing 40,000 Mongols troops aboard landed at Hakata Bay. Among the attackers were Korean and Chinese mercenaries. Previously this reconnaissance force landed at Iki Island and Tsuhshima Island and slaughtered its inhabitants.

Japan had long before folded itself into a xenophobic warrior kingdom, convinced that Japan was the center of the universe and anyone beyond its shores were merely barbaric riff raff. It would be hard to argue against that notion given that the Mongols were barbaric riff raff. By the 12th century the Samurai was the iconic symbol of battle, and warfare as it was done in masses or unit combat was looked down upon, in the heat of combat your successes might depend on the actions of a fellow combatant. That was of course horrific to the Samurai which were looking for glory. That said, Samurai battle often was preceded by taunts and threats. The Samurai warrior didn’t want to kill a peasant with a sharpened stick, he wanted to kill another Samurai and he wanted to kill a known and feared Samurai. So medieval Japanese combat was often preceded by this culling process wherein a Samurai looked for a worthy opponent.

So when the Mongols disembarked at Hakata Bay, the 10,000 Samurai defending it did not use their time wisely, establishing defenses. They stood out there and started yelling insults at the Mongols.

Bad idea.

The Mongols of course engaged in dishonorable group combat and rushed in en masse and started killing. The Samurai were not just taken aback they were driven back. Also the Samurai, who were excellent archers, were absolutely surprised by masses of arrows from the Mongol’s short composite bow.

The Samurai were driven back to Dazaifu Island where they hid and regrouped. The Mongols decided not to pursue and had back into the bay. It is said that weather sank the Mongol fleet, Divine Wind, or Kamikazi.

Source: War and State Building in Medieval Japan; Edited by John A. Ferejohn and Frances McCall Rosenbluth, 2010.

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Louis August 29, 2017 at 4:53 am

“You fight like you train”. Isn’t that the motto of some US Navy training facilities, after they discovered that the japanese in WW II did not fight the way the navy expected them to fight?

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