The onset of the Japanese. Maritime Theater
On the night of January 27 (February 9) 1904, the Japanese fleet attacked the Russian squadron in Port Arthur (Attack on port arthur). As a result of the attack, the two strongest ships of the Russian squadron, the squadron battleships Retvisan and Tsarevich, were put out of action for several weeks.
Blocking or destroying the ships of the Russian squadron was the most important task of the Japanese fleet. It was necessary to ensure the landing of the Japanese armies. Therefore, in the future, the Japanese made attempts to block the Russian squadron in the inner harbor of Port Arthur with the help of firebrand vessels that wanted to flood at the entrance to the harbor. However, the diversion failed. The Japanese United Fleet blocked Port Arthur and was engaged in covering up the landing forces, which were transferred from the Japanese islands to Korea. The Russian Pacific Fleet, weakened at the very beginning of the war, and the Russian Manchu army, the deployment of which dragged on for a month and a half, could not prevent the Japanese from landing and fulfill the main task of the initial stage of the war.
The unfavorable development of the situation in the Far East and especially the passivity of the Port Arthur squadron forced the Russian high command to think about the appointment of a new commander of the Pacific Fleet. There were two candidates - Vice-Admiral Zinovy Petrovich Rozhdestvensky, Chief of the Main Naval Staff, and a talented commander, a famous Arctic explorer and scientist, Vice-Admiral Stepan Osipovich Makarov, who commanded Kronstadt. Makarov was disliked at court because of his “restless nature”, but it was he who foresaw the sad outcome of the war if measures were not immediately taken to increase the combat capability of the armed forces of the Russian Empire, especially in the Far East. Makarov served in the Far East for a long time, knew the theater of military operations well, so he was chosen.
Before leaving, Makarov offered the Sea Ministry to solve a number of important tasks. Thus, Makarov insisted on the immediate transfer to the Far East of a detachment of ships under the command of Rear Admiral A.A. Vireniusa (battleship, two cruisers of 1 rank, 7 destroyers and other ships). However, the Marine Ministry did not support this plan. Virenius's detachment, which was already located off the coast of the Arabian Peninsula, was ordered to return to the Baltic, in Kronstadt. Taking into account the fact that the Pacific squadron did not have a sufficient number of destroyers necessary for maneuvering war and the protection of ports, coasts and the solution of other local tasks, Makarov proposed to send additional torpedoing forces to the Far East. It was planned to ship by rail (this experience already existed) to Port Arthur in dismantled 8 destroyers and to begin construction of a series of small destroyers from the 40. However, this idea did not meet with understanding at the top. Thus, the Pacific Fleet was not strengthened.
Arriving at Port Arthur, Makarov launched a stormy activity. The Port-Artur squadron ceased to "hide" in the inner harbor of the fortress and began to go out into the open sea. In a short time, the leadership of Vice-Admiral S.O. Makarova (a little over a month). The Pacific squadron went into the Yellow Sea in search of a meeting with the Japanese United Fleet six times. For the rest of the war with the Japanese Empire, the Russian fleet went out into the open sea only three times: once under the command of Vice-Admiral O. V. Stark and twice under the command of V.К. Witgefta.
Vice-Admiral Makarov took care of secrecy, maritime intelligence, activation of the actions of the Vladivostok detachment of cruisers. In the Yellow Sea began to send small detachments of high-speed squadron destroyers for reconnaissance of enemy forces. Began clashes with the Japanese. Eternally, the sailors of the destroyer Sterushushchy under the command of Lieutenant A.S. Sergeyeva. The destroyer was forced to take an unequal battle (enemy projectile damaged the machine) with 6 enemy ships. Russian sailors died, but did not surrender.
There were other clashes. In the maritime environs of Port Arthur, four Russian destroyers of the destroyer — Vigorous, Imperious, Fearless, and Attentive — forced the enemy destroyer squad to retreat. On the night of March 23, the Japanese destroyers made an attempt to attack the Russian ships. Makarov decided that the attack of the destroyers could be followed by the attacks of the main forces of the enemy fleet and brought the ships on alert. And no mistake. Morning at Port Arthur appeared Japanese ships. Makarov ordered that ships be put into the sea immediately in order to engage in a decisive battle with the enemy fleet under cover of coastal batteries. The plans of the Japanese Vice-Admiral Togo, who wanted to conduct another shelling of Port Arthur, were thwarted. The Japanese suffered another failure - at the very beginning of the battle the Russian squadron battleships Retvisan and Victory covered the Japanese battleship Fuji. The Japanese command did not take the fight and took the ships to sea.
Makarov expressed his readiness to give a decisive battle to the Japanese fleet, which caused confusion among the Japanese naval and land command. The transfer of Japanese troops was in jeopardy. However, the tragic incident interrupted the restoration of the combat capability of the Russian fleet. In the evening of March 30 (April 12), the Russian destroyers went on reconnaissance at sea. At night, the destroyers returned, but one of the destroyers, "The Terrible", under the command of the captain of the 2 rank KK Yurasovsky, behind his and in the dark joined the Japanese ships, taking them for their own. At dawn, an error was detected. "The Terrible" took an unequal battle. Six Japanese ships attacked the Russian destroyer. The team of "The Terrible" took an unequal battle and repeated the feat of the "guard". Most of the team died. In Port Arthur, having received the news of the battle, they immediately sent reinforcements. The duty armored cruiser Bayan dispersed the Japanese destroyers and rescued several miraculously survived people.
At the same time the ships of the Russian squadron began to go to sea. Vice-Admiral Makarov on the flagship "Petropavlovsk" went to meet the "Bayan", which pursued the Japanese ships. Makarov was going to give battle to the main Japanese forces. March 31 (April 13) “Petropavlovsk” hit a mine and sank almost instantly. Makarov died with his headquarters, including the head of the staff of Rear Admiral MP Molasa, 17 (18) ship officers died, 62 (65) sailor. The famous artist Vasily Vereshchagin who was on the ship also died. Few saved ...
It was a terrible blow for the Russian fleet. Find the appropriate replacement Makarov could not. Makarov was the only Russian naval commander who really could change the course of military operations at sea, respectively, and in the war, in favor of Russia. The Russian Pacific squadron was paralyzed. In Russia and abroad, including Japan, much attention was paid to this event. Practically everyone agreed that the death of Makarov was more important than the death of such a first-class warship as the Petropavlovsk. The Russian Empire has lost a real militant leader, and finding a new one among the “generals and admirals of peacetime” was a very difficult task. It should be noted that Japan expressed great regret over the death of one of the world's best admirals.
Immediately after the death of Makarov, Admiral E.I., Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the Russian Empire in the Far East, arrived in Port Arthur. Alekseev. He took command of the fleet. On April 22, Rear Admiral V.K. was appointed fleet commander. Witgeft. He was the head of the naval department of the royal governor’s headquarters and was not very initiative. In a short time, the new command nullified all the innovations that Makarov introduced. Russian squadron froze in the inner raid. Even the duty of the cruisers on the outer roadstead was canceled. The old rule “to preserve and not to risk”, which was established by the talentless admiral Alekseev, was restored in full and operated until the most inglorious death of the Russian fleet. Leaving Port Arthur for Mukden in connection with the threat of encirclement, Alekseev instructed Vitgeft not to take active measures in view of the weakening of the fleet and limit himself to reconnaissance of cruisers and destroyers. Yes, and light forces proposed not to put "particular risk." The initiative at sea finally passed to the Japanese.
The initial task of the Manchurian army was to divert Japanese troops, preventing the enemy from delivering a powerful blow to Port Arthur. After reliable information was received about the landing of Japanese troops in the ports of the west coast of Korea and their advancement to the north, the temporary commander of the Russian Manchurian army, General N.P. Linevich received an order to detain the enemy at the turn of the border river Yalu. This should have allowed to complete the concentration of Russian troops arriving in Western Siberia and European Russia in the area of the cities of Mukden - Liaoyang, and not allow the Japanese to send superior forces to Port Arthur.
These days, the commander-in-chief of the Russian forces in the Far East, Admiral Alekseyev, received instructions from Emperor Nicholas II on the conduct of the war. The king offered all efforts to focus on the concentration of troops and the retention of the CER. In general, the instructions of the Russian monarch were vague and doomed the Russian army to inaction. The Russian army, like the fleet, lost its strategic initiative, allowing the enemy to impose its will.
It must be said that fearing the Russian fleet, especially when it was headed by the decisive and talented naval commander Makarov, the Japanese command slowed down the process of the transfer of troops to Korea. Only 29 March 1904 completed the landing of General Kuroki’s latest 1 Army units. Spring thaw made the roads, which were lacking, impassable. Thus, the advanced units of the Japanese army made their way from Seoul to Pyongyang to 240 versts only in 24 of the day. It was only in 20 April that the advanced forces of the Japanese army appeared on the left bank of the Yalu River.
When moving, the Japanese troops did not meet with serious resistance, although they expected it. An advanced Cossack cavalry detachment under the command of General P. I. Mishchenko was located in North Korea. The Cossack detachment consisted of 22 hundreds of Trans-Baikal and Ussuri Cossack cavalry and one Cossack artillery battery. The Cossacks received the task of reconnaissance and advanced to 100 km south of the Yalu River. Therefore, on the territory of the Korean Peninsula, there were only minor clashes between Cossack patrols and advanced units of the Japanese army.
The first relatively serious collision occurred at Chenshen. On the Russian side, six hundred dismounted Cossacks (one Cossack regiment) took part in the battle; on the Japanese side, the 5 infantry battalions, the 7 cavalry squadrons, the engineer company and the 18 field guns. The outcome of the battle was decided by Japanese gunners. They fired at the positions of the Cossacks, and they mounted their horses and retreated to the location of the main forces on the Yalu River. There were no losses.
The retreat of the Russian troops from Korea made an extremely unfavorable impression on the local population. In addition, the Russian patrols were unable to determine even the approximate composition of the Japanese troops on the march. Combat contact with the Japanese was lost, which deprived the Russian command of information about the enemy. Thus, the forecasts of the Russian command that 10 enemy divisions would come out to the South China Railway in the third month of the war did not materialize. In fact, only 3 Japanese divisions reached the Yalu River.
The Russian Manchurian army mobilized and deployed very slowly. Everything rested on real, rather than paper, planned above, carrying capacities of the Siberian Railway. During the first month and a half of the war, the average daily growth of the Far Eastern army group was about one infantry battalion, 0,5 hundreds of cavalry and 3 guns. Only by the end of April Russia and Japan were able to prepare for the first battles in the land theater of military operations.
To be continued ...