The plan of the Japanese command was based on the relative weakness of the existing Russian forces in the Far East for the start of the war and the unpreparedness of the Russian Empire for the war in the Asia-Pacific theater of operations. According to Japanese intelligence, Russia had about 75 thousand soldiers in the Far East, and the further accumulation of Russian forces in Manchuria should have been extremely slow, since Russia did not have significant military contingents beyond the Urals (in Siberia). For the transfer of troops there was only one railway line, Krutobaikalsky railway line was not ready. Therefore, Russia could not quickly concentrate a large army. In addition, it was necessary to allocate significant forces for the defense of Port Arthur and Vladivostok, which weakened the field army.
The Japanese command hoped to quickly achieve superiority at sea by destroying or seriously weakening at the very beginning of the war the Russian Pacific squadron. Thus, Japan could freely deploy troops to the mainland and not fear for its maritime communications. The Japanese also took into account the fact that the Russian naval forces, unlike the Japanese, were not concentrated in a single fist. The Russian fleet was weakened by spraying associated with the need to protect Port Arthur, Vladivostok and Sakhalin. In addition, the Japanese took into account that Port Arthur does not have shipyards, docks, necessary spare parts. Therefore, in the event of serious damage to several ships, the Russian Pacific squadron should have lost the ability to conduct active hostilities for a long time.
Given all these factors, the Japanese command chose the only possible active offensive strategy in this situation. The Japanese decided to immediately capture Chemulpo Harbor and the capital of Korea, Seoul, landed some of the ground forces, without waiting for the results of the attack fleet to the Russian squadron in Port Arthur. According to the calculations of the Japanese command, superiority at sea and superiority in forces on the mainland were to ensure their success in the war.
The Japanese war plan also took into account the fact that their army was familiar with the theater of operations studied during the war with China in 1894-1895. and during the suppression of the Ihietuan rebellion in 1900. The Japanese specifically studied Manchuria during the preparation of the war with Russia. The Russian army had to act in an unfamiliar theater, in unusual conditions, in a mountainous area, in the absence of a specific training of troops. The Japanese command also took into account the internal political situation in Russia. Japanese intelligence was ready to support the revolutionary movement in Russia. The revolution had to weaken Russia and force the government to keep the most combat-ready units in the European part of the country in order to maintain order.
Russian posters of the era of the Russian-Japanese war, showing the degree of "captany moods" of Russian society
The Japanese planned to destroy or block the Pacific squadron in Port Arthur, seize Korea, then block and quickly take Port Arthur, defeat the Russian army in South Manchuria. Japanese troops could land in the winter off the freezing shores of the Korean Gulf. The landing of troops in Korea was considered very profitable for several reasons at once:
- the landing of the troops was relatively safe, since the Japanese fleet dominated the sea, and the railway where the Russian field troops were stationed was far away. Therefore, the Russian command could send only a small detachment that could not prevent the landing of the Japanese army;
- Korea became the intermediate base of the Japanese army;
- the seizure of Korea significantly increased the material resources of Japan, necessary for waging war. In particular, the Japanese were able to use the labor resources of Korea. The Japanese divisions needed thousands of porters for the manual transfer of supplies, since the area west of the Yalu River was roadless and mountainous;
- in case of failure during the war, the Korean Peninsula was a fairly convenient springboard for concentrating Japanese troops, which could be regrouped for subsequent offensive operations or evacuated.
The Japanese command to land troops on the northwestern coast of the peninsula, in the ports of Chemulpo (one brigade) and Cinampo (main forces), which significantly brought the army closer to the initial area for an offensive deep into Manchuria. Two months before the start of the war in Japan, the 1-I army of Tammoto Kuroki was mobilized as part of the Guards, 2 and 12 divisions and two reserve brigades (about 45 thousand people). The 1 Army had to advance into the Fynhuangchen area and take a flank position in relation to the South Manchurian Railway in order to ensure that the remaining armies land on the coast of the Liaodong Peninsula.
The 2 Army under the command of Yasukat Oka as part of the 1, 3 and 4 divisions (about 40 thousand people) was to land on the shores of the Liaodong Peninsula in order to interrupt the messages of Port Arthur with Manchuria as soon as possible. The army of the Oku was to capture the Jinzhou Isthmus. After that, one division was to remain to strengthen the 3 Army of Marasuke Legs (90 thousand people), which was to besiege Port Arthur. The remaining troops of the 2 Army were to move in the direction of Liaoyang, interacting with the forces of the 1 Army. In the future, they planned to land the 4 Army under the command of Nozu Mititsuru.
Actions against Vladivostok and Sakhalin were considered possible in case of successful implementation of the main tasks. In the event of a threat of a landing by Vladivostok on the Japanese islands, a mobilization of militia forces was carried out. With the successful implementation of the main objectives of the war plan, the Japanese planned to occupy Vladivostok, which was to become an important trump card in peace negotiations.
Marine operations were assigned to the squadrons of the admirals of Togo, Heyhatiro and Uriu Sotokichi. Togo in the year 1903 was appointed commander of the United Fleet of Japan and had to solve the problem of the destruction of the Russian Pacific squadron. Rear Admiral Urio commanded the detachment that accompanied the troops of the 1 Army and had to force the surrender or destroy the Russian ships in Chemulpo. For the left sea flank, the Japanese were calm, it was provided with strong ice. The Russian Vladivostok squad of cruisers in the winter could not prevent the landing of Japanese troops in Korea.
If the war for the Japanese empire takes an unfavorable turn, the Japanese command was counting on the intervention of the British Empire and the United States. The Anglo-Saxons were to force Russia to go to the world, maintaining the pre-war status quo. Russia's success in the war would have led to its serious strengthening in the region, and this did not suit England and the United States. In addition, Japan was counting on the financial support of Britain and the United States. These expectations are fully confirmed. Britain and the United States provided Japan with financial and political-diplomatic support, without which Japan could not fight.
The Japanese command, despite many years of work in preparation for the war, made a number of serious mistakes:
- the hope for a quick victory of the Japanese fleet, which gave dominance at sea and the opportunity to calmly land the army on the mainland, smacked of adventurism. The war could have gone completely different scenario, if the Russian Pacific squadron could defeat the Japanese fleet. There were chances for such an outcome;
- underestimated the carrying capacity of the Siberian Railway. Therefore, the Russian army had the opportunity to move to active offensive actions earlier than expected in Japan;
- the calculation was not justified on the allocation of larger groups of the Russian army for the defense of Port Arthur and Vladivostok. As a result, the Russian field army had more strength than the Japanese command planned. And the Japanese initially allocated smaller forces against the field Russian army than was necessary, and thus the first offensive outburst was weakened;
- was not justified calculation on the seizure of Port Arthur's first powerful attack. The siege of the fortress dragged on, tied the great forces of the Japanese army and led to huge losses.
In general, the Japanese war plan, being the fruit of years of development, taking into account the experience of the war with China, was well thought out. However, the Japanese were largely mistaken and underestimated the Russian army. With the tightening of the conflict, the defeat of Japan would be inevitable. The Japanese empire had neither military material, nor human, nor financial reserves for a long war. Russia, in fact, only began to fight seriously when peace was concluded. Japan at this point was already completely exhausted. The war was not lost by the army, it was lost by the politicians.
Plans of the Russian command
As previously noted (Preparing Russia for war), in St. Petersburg dismissive of Japan and considered the Manchurian theater secondary. All the basic thoughts of military strategists and ministers were related to European affairs, the Balkans, the problem of the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. In reality, the final plan for the war with Japan appeared under the crash of guns when the Japanese attacked Port Arthur.
Most military and political figures believed that victory over the "weak" Japanese empire should be achieved by small efforts, without disrupting the process of preparing for war in the West. In Petersburg, they thought of a “small and victorious” campaign. Developed by the end of 1903 at the headquarters of Governor Alekseev, the war plan with Japan proceeded from optimistic assumptions about the superiority of the Russian fleet over the Japanese in the Pacific and the possibility of concentrating Russian troops in the Mukden - Liaoyang region before the arrival of the main Japanese forces. The Japanese army was underestimated both in terms of strength and in terms of combat capability.
Kuropatkin in a memorandum to Emperor Nicholas II, believed that the most important task of the army is "the concentration of our troops." To achieve this goal, "we should not cherish any local points, no strategic considerations, having in mind the main thing - not to give the enemy the opportunity to defeat our scattered troops." Only by concentrating all possible forces and preparing for an offensive could one go on to the counteroffensive and achieve victory.
It was believed that the Japanese Empire would be able to transfer about 200 thousand people to Manchuria with 684 guns. The possibility of the growth of the Japanese army at the expense of new mobilizations and the possibility of further redeployment to Manchuria was considered unlikely. Based on such forces of Japan in Manchuria, they suggested that the Japanese army would be able to develop the offensive only in one main direction: Vladivostok, Mukden or Port Arthur. The possibility of simultaneous active offensive actions of the Japanese army in two directions, as well as the defeat of the Russian fleet, was not taken into account. Already during the war, an unforeseen opportunity to develop the offensive operations of the Japanese army in two directions at once caught the Russian command off guard, and caused fluctuations and disagreements between Alekseev and Kuropatkin on the nature of the further actions of the army and the intervention of the center.
Already on the way to Manchuria, Kuropatkin made a number of clarifications and amendments to the plan, suggesting that the Japanese army would attack Port Arthur in the first place, and at the same time, pending the onset of the Russian troops, it would strengthen in Korea. The Russian army could go on to active offensive action no earlier than six months after the start of the war. The gain in time was planned by defensive actions on a number of defensive lines - from the Yalu River, the Fenshuily Ridge, etc. At the first stage of the war, it was intended to act as carefully as possible to prevent the enemy from breaking himself and raising the "spirit of the Japanese army and the entire Japanese people greater height. "
Map of the fast trains on the route Moscow - Dalniy (1903 year). Travel time - 12 days
After concentrating sufficient forces, the Minister of War Kuropatkin planned to go on the offensive, drive the enemy out of Manchuria and Korea, and then, if necessary, conduct a landing operation on the Japanese islands. The starting area of the Russian offensive was considered the Liaoyang-Haichen area. From here, it was possible to provide timely assistance to Port Arthur. Great hopes were pinned on the cavalry, in which the Russian army had full advantage. The cavalry was supposed to harass the Japanese infantry with their raids. In addition, it was believed that the Japanese would not be able to organize the rear, the supply of ammunition, food, and this will lead the Japanese army to "moral and material disorder, which must be used for decisive strikes." However, as the course of the war showed, the Japanese managed to organize the rear better than the Russian army, having studied the theater of military operations well in the prewar period.
On the whole, Kuropatkin’s plan, with the initially weaker Russian forces in the Far East, could lead to success, but under two basic conditions. First, it was necessary to realize it, which, with the low quality of a significant part of the high command, was a difficult task. The problem of personnel ruined the most good ideas. Secondly, political support was needed in St. Petersburg (Russia). The Russian public had to calmly respond to the period of concentration of the Russian army, when it would slowly withdraw, losing its position behind the position. However, as the war showed, the public was not ready for the retreat of the Russian army at the first stage of the war. Defeatist sentiments in St. Petersburg and the pressure of the world community prevented the Russian army from fulfilling Kuropatkin’s strategic plan and moving on to the second stage, the offensive against the exhausted Japanese army. The Russian army simply did not give time to win.
The use plan for the Pacific Fleet, approved in December 1903, took what was desired. The naval command practically missed the development of the Japanese fleet after the Sino-Japanese war, although the creators of the war plan sat not far from the Japanese coast - in Vladivostok and Port Arthur. The fleet was to establish supremacy in the Yellow Sea and prevent the landing of the Japanese troops in the area of its base.
At the same time, a small cruiser detachment, based on Vladivostok, was supposed to act on the enemy’s sea lanes. Before the war, the Vladivostok detachment of cruisers did not bother to seriously increase, although there were excellent opportunities for this. It was possible to use the ships of the Volunteer fleet, which was just created to solve such problems. The organization of the cruising war in the Pacific in the pre-war period was a failure.
In Port Arthur remained 59 ships and vessels of various classes. Including 7 squadron battleships - "Tsesarevich", "Retvizan", "Poltava", "Sevastopol", "Petropavlovsk", "Victory" and "Peresvet", armored cruiser "Bayan", armored fighters "Askold", "Diana" , "Pallada" and "Variag". One cruiser and one gunboat of the port-arthur squadron were in the Chemulpo raid.
In September 1903, Rear Admiral Ewald Shtakelberg moved with a detachment from Port Arthur to Vladivostok. The detachment consisted of: the armored cruisers "Russia", "Gromoboy" and "Rurik", armored cruiser Bogatyr. The defensive squad of Vladivostok also included gunboats "Koreyets", "Manchuria", "Beaver" and "Sivuch", several destroyers and destroyers, transports. True, the gunboats could not strengthen the Vladivostok detachment: "Koreans" died in Chemulpo; "Manchuria" during the beginning of the Russian-Japanese war was in Shanghai, where he was interned; The “Sivuch” at the beginning of the war was being repaired in Yingkou, when the Russian army retreated from Yingkou, the gunboat moved up the Liaohe River, and then was blown up; The Beaver was located in Port Arthur, the gunboat was severely damaged by siege fire from the Japanese artillery and sank.
Admiral Shtakelberg received an order in the event of receiving instructions to start a war to immediately go to the shores of Hokkaido and, moving along the western coast of the island, destroy all ships, including fishing boats, causing panic to the coastal population.
The plan of war took into account the normal start of hostilities after the declaration of war, but the fleet was not ready to repel the attack of the Japanese ships. Although the possibility of a surprise attack by the Japanese on the Russian squadron was envisaged at the Main Naval Headquarters and at the war games, Makarov warned about this. As a result, the calculation of the Russian command that the Russian fleet will dominate the sea and therefore the Japanese will not be able to land on the northwestern coast of Korea and on the shores of the Liaodong Peninsula, was not justified.
The Thunderer in Vladivostok in 1904 (right: Russia)
On the whole, it can be said that the military-political leadership of Russia made several major blunders at once:
- reacted scornfully to a strong adversary, did not take into account the profound political and economic changes that occurred in Japan. This led to an underestimation of the military power of Japan. The Japanese military was viewed from the perspective of the 1895 conditions of the year, when Japan defeated the underdeveloped and decayed China. 1895 to 1904 Japan persistently prepared for war, mobilizing the economy, the armed forces and society for the sake of one goal - domination in the region. In Russia, most military and political leaders did not notice this. And those who paid attention and warned about the danger were in the minority;
- overestimation of the capabilities of the Russian fleet and the underestimation of the capabilities of the Japanese fleet. This led to a certain relaxation of the naval command and its unwillingness to adequately respond to the actions of the Japanese Navy;
- the transfer of ground forces from the European part of Russia to the Far East with a delay. Petersburg had several years to bring the army grouping in the Far East to a number comparable to the Japanese army, but did not;
- the possibility of developing offensive operations of the Japanese army in two directions did not provide for;
- underestimation of the Japanese intelligence, which for many years of hard work has created a good spy network.
Kuropatkin during the battle of Liaoyang
To be continued ...