The situation before the battle
The strategic consequences of a defeat on the Yalu River (Battle of the Yalu River) and the deaths of Admiral Makarov were enormous. 1-I imperial army under the command of General Kuroki was on the Manchurian bank of the Yalu River and received operational space for its further advance towards Kvantun. The road to southern Manchuria was cleared. Strategic initiative in the war passed to the Japanese command. Now almost the entire southern coast of the Liaodong Peninsula was free for the landing of Japanese troops.
The war began to develop according to the scenario of the Japanese military-political leadership. The Japanese command, even before the start of the war, planned to land troops on the eastern shore of the Liaodong Peninsula, near the city of Bitszyo. The Japanese knew these places well, as they had already landed here during the war with China. By 17, April, the 2 Army of Baron Oka composed of 1, 3 and 4 infantry divisions, a separate artillery brigade (total of about 40 thousand people with 200 guns and 48 machine guns) was immersed in the Korean Port Cinarath. 83 transport. The landing of the army at Bitszyvo passed without problems.
Following the 2 Army from the sea, General Xoga’s 3 Army, which was formed specifically for the siege of Port Arthur, was landed on the coast of Liaodong. The landing and deployment of the 3 Army covered the 2 Army. At the same time, west of the mouth of the Yalu River, in the port of Dagushan (Takushan), the 4 Army commanded by General Nozu (Notsu) began landing.
During the transition by the Yellow Sea to the Liaodong Peninsula, the Japanese airborne armadas with many tens of thousands of soldiers, hundreds of guns and many tons of military cargo and equipment, met absolutely no opposition from the Russian Pacific Fleet. The death of Makarov almost completely paralyzed the activities of the Port Arthur Squadron. Although Vice-Admiral Kheykhatiro of Togo seriously feared the actions of the light forces of the Russian squadron - detachments of high-speed destroyers and cruisers. Togo was afraid that the Russian fleet’s bearing forces would strike at transport convoys. For a closer blockade of Port Arthur, he transferred an armored battleship to the Elliott Islands. The Japanese established a closer naval blockade of Port Arthur and decided to carry out a third operation to block the Russian fleet.
Before the operation, a maritime reconnaissance was carried out. For the operation allocated 12 steamers-barriers. The operation began on the night of May 3. In Port Arthur, around one o'clock, an enemy destroyer was spotted from Golden Mountain on the sea, and then several more. The fleet and coastal forces raised the alarm. The first steam-laying vessel (brander) appeared at 1 hour 30 minutes of the night. Despite the heavy artillery fire of coastal batteries and ships, he was able to bypass the booms, was blown up by the crew and sank. The next brander exploded and drowned before reaching the boom. Other ships followed the first ships. They tried to break through to the passage to the raid, where they were blown up or to the bottom of the Russian artillery fire. The crews were leaving in boats, they were waiting for the destroyers, who fired on ships and coastal fortifications. 10 Japanese steamers (two did not reach their destination) drowned in the area of the passage from the harbor to the outer roadstead. In general, the operation was well prepared and carried out. However, this time the Japanese did not succeed in blocking the Russian fleet.
However, the fears of the Japanese command were superfluous. Rear Admiral V.K. Vitgeft and Commander-in-Chief in the Far East, Admiral E.I. Alekseev (he would flee from Port Arthur under the threat of his blockade from the land) and did not think about active actions in the open sea. Alekseev switched all the forces of the fleet to defense. Means to guard the raid were strengthened, mines were tracked, guns and machine guns began to be transferred from ships to coastal fortifications, etc. All this led to a drop in the morale of sailors, confusion and despondency reigned in the fleet. The fleet did not go to sea, even with limited objectives.
When 4 received news of the appearance of Japanese airborne forces in the Bitszyo area in May, Admiral Alekseev hurried to leave Port Arthur and transferred the squadron command to the head of his hiking headquarters, Rear Admiral Vitgeft. At the same time, he instructed him not to undertake active operations of the fleet, limiting himself to the search for cruisers and destroyers, while "not putting them at risk." After Alexeev’s departure, Vitgeft held several meetings.
From the very first days the admiral- “official” abandoned the principle of unity of command and introduced collegiality into the system — all decisions were made by voting, on which the passive tactics of the fleet was finally approved. Indecision gripped the commanders of most ships. Even the destroyers decided to keep in the inner harbor and protect. The ships decided not to send to the Bitszyvo area, having found many excuses - from the enemy’s blocking fleet, mines and the distance to the poor state of the ships and the lack of confidence that the landing of troops could be prevented. In addition, they continued to strengthen the defense of the fortress at the expense of ship artillery. The systematic disarmament of ships began. The fleet quickly lost its combat capability. 8 May at the general meeting of the naval and land chiefs, Lieutenant-General Stoessel made a general decision: "... the fleet should all contribute to the land defense, both people and weapons, in no case dwelling on half measures."
Although during this period the Japanese fleet suffered serious losses. 2 (15) of May 2 of Japanese battleships ran into Russian mines and died (Hatsuse and Yashima squadrons sank). As a result, Admiral Togo had only four squadron battleships of the 1 class, and in Port Arthur there were six remaining after the repair was completed. In addition, at night, the Japanese Kasuga 1-class armored cruiser was rammed by the light cruiser Yoshino, which after a few minutes was filled with water, rolled over and disappeared under water. 32 officer and 300 lower ranks died during this disaster. "Kasuga" received significant damage and was sent for repairs. Japanese losses in May were not limited to the death of these ships. May 12 and May 14 killed a destroyer and an advice note (a small ship that serves for reconnaissance and communications purposes). May 16 gunboat Agaki rammed and sank cannon Oshima. May 17 on Russian mines exploded and sank the Akatsuki fighter, half of the crew died.
These days were called “blacks” of the Japanese fleet. In a relatively short time, the Japanese fleet suffered heavy losses, as if they had been defeated in a naval battle. The Japanese fleet was seriously weakened. Only there was no one to take advantage of it. The command of the Port Arthur Squadron did not use the opportune moment to strike at the Japanese or simply to break through to Vladivostok. There was no admiral like Makarov. Witgeft held collegial meetings and continued to disarm the fleet. With the beginning of the siege of Port Arthur from land 1-I Pacific squadron was under threat of total death or surrender.
Drowning battleship "Yashima"
The landing and movement of Japanese troops
On the evening of April 21, Russian patrol boats (“hunters”) found Japanese ships in Bitszyvo. The equestrian hunting team included only 60 people. The commander of the patrol staff captain Voight reported this in Port Arthur. However, the Russian command did not intend to counteract the landing of the Japanese troops. This was not thought of either before or after the war. Neither Alekseev, nor the command of the Port Arthur fortress did not lift a finger in order to organize the coastal defenses or to throw the enemy’s landing forces into the water.
After four Japanese armies landed on the mainland, the commander of the Russian Manchurian army, General of Infantry A.N. Kuropatkin, had the opportunity not to allow the blockade of Port Arthur from land, or at least to delay it for a considerable time. By the end of April, the Russian Manchurian Army 1904 was significantly strengthened by the units of the Amur Military District and the Trans-Baikal Region. The Trans-Baikal, Amur and Ussuri Cossack troops, the Irkutsk Cossacks and a separate corps of the Zaamur border guards were fully mobilized. Soon they awaited the arrival of the 4 Siberian Corps (from Siberia) and the 10 and 17 Army Corps from the European part of the Russian Empire. A possible counterstrike from the Manchurian army could put the Japanese forces in a very difficult position.
There were no plans to disrupt the Japanese troops. Only on the night of April 22 a battalion commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Rantseva headed for Bitszyvo. Early in the morning of April 22, several Japanese transports approached the coast. The gunboats covering them opened fire on the shore. In 7, the landing of units of the 3 Division began in the morning. The sentinels of Vojta and the battalion of Rantsev could not prevent the landing of the Japanese troops.
It is necessary to note the conditions in which the Japanese made the landing. The sea in the area chosen for the landing of amphibious forces is very shallow. And the Japanese transports were forced to stop at a distance 7-10 versts from the coast. At low tide, a stretch of sea stretched to a width of two miles. And at Bitszyvo this strip represented something like a swamp, where people fell through to the waist. When landing at low tide, Japanese boats could reach a distance of 1,5-2 versts on the coast. The rest of the distance the Japanese soldiers had to overcome to the waist in cold water and mud. Therefore, on April 22, the Japanese were only able to land the infantry battalion 8,5, the engineer battalion, and the 1-2 cavalry squadron. None of the guns could not be unloaded. Japanese advanced forces remained without artillery support. The Japanese sent one battalion to capture Bitszyo and, having set off guard, began to dig in. They were waiting for the Russian attack.
But it was not. Small Russian forces left Bitszyo without a fight. April 23 weather conditions deteriorated. There was great excitement at sea, and on this day the Japanese did not land a single soldier. The day was perfect for a Russian counterattack. The Japanese advanced forces had no artillery. And the ships could not support them with fire. Shooting at a distance of 8-10 versts with gunboats was ineffective, and in conditions of excitement, meaningless. Closer the Japanese ships could not come.
Thus, the Russian command did not take measures for the advance anti-landing preparation of Bitszyvo, although the terrain was ideal for countering the enemy. The moment was not used for the counterattack, which could lead to the destruction of the advanced Japanese detachment. The command of Port Arthur did not take measures to counter the enemy from the sea. The commander of the 4 Division, Major General Fock, who had his division in the landing area, remained in the role of the spectator, without showing any independence and initiative. The commander of the Manchurian army, General Kuropatkin, to counter the Japanese troops, sent a detachment of seven battalions under the command of Major General Zykov. But the detachment did not reach the landing site and did not make a single shot at the Japanese. This is not surprising, especially given the order Zykov received from Kuropatkin. It said: "The most important task ... to protect its troops from losses and in no case get involved in a decisive battle."
24 April, the Japanese began the landing of units of the 1 division. The landing was slow and was accompanied by great difficulties. Only 28 on April was unloaded 4-th division. April 30 ended the unloading of the last parts of the 1 and 3 divisions. Thousands of soldiers (40 infantry battalions and 36 cavalry squadrons) were unloaded to the coast to 9 with 214 guns. 2-I Japanese army landed without loss.
28 On April, Japanese forces interrupted Port Arthur’s railway connection with Mukden. General Oku's army moved towards Port Arthur in three columns. The right column included the 4 Division, which was heading for Jinzhou and the port of Adams. The middle column - 1-division, adhered to the railway. The left column included the 3-division, which was heading along the coast of the Korean Gulf.
The landing of the 2 Japanese Army on the Liaodong Peninsula
To be continued ...