Is It Possible That The Battle Of Tsushima Helped Cause World War II?

by Daniel Russ on August 18, 2011

Battle Of Tsushima, Japanese Print
At the beginning of the Russian-Japanese conflict, at the turn of the twentieth century Russia was an enormous empire power . Its nearest rival soon emerged as Japan. Japan was undergoing a convulsion called the Meiji Restoration, often called the Meiji Restoration and Modernization. This was a process where Imperial rule returned to Japan, the sea port opened to foreigners and an aggressive modernization program was embarked upon wherein the military was transformed from katana bearing samurai to firearm bearing armies. In fact, at one point in 1878, Samurais were forbidden to carry their swords in between towns. They did not take the news easily, but they understood that the world had changed, and the Samurai era was over.
Russia in the meantime had a huge army and like all empires it suffered the big maladies of all empires: debt, huge infrastructural maintenance, distances, uprisings, governance over people very different from each other, and so forth. Add to that the cost of maintaining a modern Army. Japan had no such problems, as one of the smallest countries in the world it had fairly good control over some of its’ nearest outer islands, and a fairly modern navy.
Both the Russian Navy and The Japanese navy were mostly steam driven ironclads. This huge sea battle was the last clash of ironclad battleships in history. When the war broke out, the Russian fleet was almost entirely located in the Baltic Sea. It took seven months for Admiral Rhozhdestvenski to move his fleet of eight battleships, eight cruisers, nine destroyers, and three support craft to Van Fong Bay in French Indochina (now Vietnam).
On May 27th, 1905, Admiral Rhozhdestvenski was just learning that Port Arthur had fallen into the hands of the Imperial Japanese Navy. He was out numbered and worried about shore batteries in the hands of the
Battle of Tsushima
Japanese. Now running low on coal, Admiral Rhozhdestvenski decided to head to Vladivostok. There Tojo Heihachiro, with twenty seven cruisers, twenty one destroyers, four battleships and sixteen torpedo boats waited in the strait of Tsushima. The sea battle went badly for the outnumbered Russians. Rhozhdestvenski  tried to slip by the Japanese fleet undetected but the Orel was light up like a Christmas tree over the night of the 27th of May 1905. This was in accordance with international laws. That was also a huge mistake because once Tojo found the Russians, he pounced. The Japanese gunners were well trained and hit the Russian targets more often. They also used a shell carrying melinite, a much more destructive compound than the compound found in the shells fired by the Russians. Not only were the Russians out-numbered, they were outclassed by the IJN. Better speed, better shooting and more aggressive seamanship brought the Russian Navy down in a two day running battle that resulted in 21 Russian ships sunk, of which seven were battleships, and over 4300 dead as a result. Rhozhdestvenski was wounded and yielded command to inexperienced Nebogatov. Within those two days, the Japanese fared extraordinarily. Only three Japanese torpedo boats out of the 68 vessels they brought to battle sank. They lost only 117 seamen.
The loss of Tsushima is always under estimated as a cause for the rise of the Communists. This was an extremely humiliating loss by the Romanov dynasty, whose huge country was defeated soundly by tiny Japan. This sore memory would help drive the Bolshevik movement to overturn the Tsars.  The win also emboldened the Japanese Monarchy, leading them to build bigger ships, more of them and have the confidence to conquer Southeast Asia and ultimately sign their own death warrant on December 7th 1941.
Battle Of Tsushima
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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

bob August 18, 2011 at 2:15 am

lol spelling dude

bob August 18, 2011 at 7:33 am

lol just delete my post about your terrible spelling and grammar but don’t bother to proofread the article afterwards and change the mistakes…. sigh

Daniel Russ August 18, 2011 at 9:09 am

Hey Bob,

I don’t mind someone pointing out bad spelling and grammar. I write 365 of these a year while holding down a job. So yes I make mistakes.

However, try and put on your grown up hat on, and then read your own letter and tell me if you think your tone might be unnecessarily rude.

You’ll attract a lot more bees with honey than vinegar.

Thanks for the visit.

Louis September 5, 2017 at 9:25 am

As far as fleets go, the Russians did have a fairly large fleet in the Pacific. Most of it in their forward base (on nominal chinese land) at Port Arthur. But in a move that foreshadowed Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were able to sink or damage a lot of that during the first day of the war, apparantly even before the Declaration of War was handed to the Russian Ambassedor in Tokyo. After the destruction of that fleet, the only viable fleet that the Russians had, apart from the one in the Black Sea, which was forbidden by Treaty to exit into the Mediterranian, was indeed the Baltic one. So they sailed halfway around the world, having to take most of their coal (no oil burning boilers then) because the English forbade them to recoal in english harbours and coaling stations. They were able to buy a lot of coal from some enterprising US businessmen though.

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