THE BATTLE OF TSUSHIMA
By the year 1904, the Japanese had been unsuccessful in securing complete command of the seas surrounding their island nation because Russia had stationed powerful naval squadrons in their far eastern ports of Arthur and Vladivostok. This presence of foreign warships so close to Japan itself prevented the Japanese from their goals of Asian expansion.
In February 1904, the ice finally began to melt around the two Russian ports, the Japanese high command decided to strike the first blow against her far larger neighbor knowing the Russians could not reinforce their Asian position until at least 1905.
On August 1st, without a declaration of war, the Japanese Imperial navy attacked and defeated the Vladivostok heavy cruiser squadrons at the battle of the Korean straight. The Japanese then quickly followed up this success by severally mauling the Russian Pacific battle fleet, forcing its shattered remnants to take refuge in port Arthur. The Japanese then imposed a naval blockade along with a land siege in an attempt to force the Russians to surrender the strategic port.
As reports of the Russian defeats began to reach Moscow, Czar Nicolas II ordered Admiral Rozhestvensky to prepare the Baltic fleet for immediate departure to the far east to rectify the situation.
This departure was delayed however because construction on four of Russia's new powerful Borodino class battleships was not yet completed. On October 2nd 1904 the fleet was finally assembled and left the port of Libau for its journey half way around the world to restore Russian pride and in the eyes of the world its status as a major power.
On January 2nd 1905, while taking on supplies in Madagascar, Admiral Rozhestvensky learned the terrible news of port Arthur's capitulation to the Japanese. In March Rozhestvensky left port for a rendezvous in the Indian ocean with four more Russian battleships under the command of rear Admiral Nebogatov.
The entire Russian fleet was now assembled and placed under the overall command of Admiral Rozhestvensky, who with no respect or regard for the Japanese lying in wait, boldly took the direct route through the China sea. On May 14th, Russia's now renamed second Pacific fleet was sighted approaching the Korean straight by the Japanese navy under the command of Admiral Togo.
On the afternoon of May 14th, the two battle fleets converged upon one another. The more powerful Russian fleet comprised eleven battleships, eight heavy cruisers and ten destroyers along with numerous transport vessels. The Japanese countered with five battleships, twenty heavy cruisers, twenty destroyers and forty five fast moving torpedo boats.
Into the battle, Admiral Rozhestvensky reduced his cruising speed to nine knots due in large part to his transport vessels could not keep up with the main fleet. Admiral Togo took full advantage of his adversaries mistake by cutting loose his transports and increasing speed to fifteen knots. Now quickly overtaking the Russians, the Japanese began concentrating their main batteries on the slower moving Russian battleships
JAPANESE FLAGSHIP MIKASA
RUSSIAN FLAGSHIP SUVOROV
The Japanese opened the battle and concentrated their fire power on the Russian flagship Suvorov and battleship Oslyabya, hitting them each with high explosive shells. As the Suvorov lay crippled, the expert Japanese gunnery finished off the Oslyabya, sending her to the bottom along with Captain Vladimir and his entire crew.
Aboard the now totally disabled Suvorov, Admiral Rozhestvensky lay mortally wounded and dying. The Russian battleships Alexander III and Borodino now took the full brunt of the Japanese attack as they tried desperately to draw the Japanese fire away from the burning Suvorov.
By sixteen hundred hours Admiral Togo had lost sight of the Russian fleet due to the immense amount of haze and smoke produced by the heavy exchanges of gunfire between the two forces.
The Alexander III and Borodino having now sped away from the Suvorov, gathered the heavy cruisers and formed a rear guard to protect the remainder of the destroyers and transports making a desperate run for the port of Vladivostok.
Just before dusk this rear guard was overtaken by the pursuing Japanese battleships. Outnumbered and heavily outgunned both the Alexander III and Borodino after a valiant and heroic fight were sent to the bottom.
At about this same moment the Russian flagship Suvorov began to slowly list into the water. The Russian destroyer Buyny pulled alongside the sinking battleship and saved Admiral Rozhestvensky and his senior staff just before the great ship went under.
Aboard the battleship Emperor Nicholas, rear Admiral Nebogatov now attempted to take command of what was left of the battered Russian fleet, meanwhile Admiral Togo ordered his battleships to cease fire and sent in his fast destroyers and torpedo boats with orders to attack the stricken Russian ships at close range.
Weaving in and out of the Russian squadrons virtually at will, the Japanese launched a total of eighty torpedoes into their completely helpless foes. During the first phases of the assault the Russian battleships Sysoy Veliky and the Emperor Nicholas along with the heavy cruisers Monomakh and Nakhimov exploded instantly and sank to the bottom with all hands.
By nightfall the Russian fleet was badly crippled, with no functioning command structure many Russian commanders now took matters into their own hands attempting to breakthrough the Japanese encirclement wherever possible.
The Russian heavy cruisers Oleg, Aurora and Zhemchug managed to fight their way to safe harbor in the Philippines while many other wrecked and burning Russian ships fired their ammunition to the last round and were then scuttled by their crews. The wounded Admiral Rozhestvensky and his senior staff were transferred from the now burning Buyny to the destroyer Bedovy which was then later captured by the Japanese.
Five Japanese battleships now surrounded the Ushakov, the last remaining Russian battleship afloat and instructed them to surrender. In response Captain Vladimir Miklukha ordered his crew to answer the Japanese with salvo's from the ships main batteries. For over an hour the Ushakov fought bravely against overwhelming odds but eventually succumbed to superior Japanese fire power and sank.
With the sinking of this last Russian battleship, the battle had come to an end. The annihilation of the Russian Imperial fleet had been absolute, all eleven battleships along with five heavy cruisers and eight destroyers were sent to the bottom. The Russians lost six thousand sailors killed and another sixty five hundred taken prisoner in comparison to Japanese losses of three destroyers and seven hundred sailors killed.
RUSSIAN BATTLESHIP USHAKOV
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