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THE NEW YORK
THE LIVING AGE: 1 Weekly Magazine of Contemporary Literature and Thought.
(FOUNDED BY E. LITTELL IN 1844.)
FEB. 18, 1905.
NAVAL LESSONS OF THE WAR.
Though the war in the Far East has Japan and China in 1894-5 and between now been in progress for the best the United States and Spain in 1898, part of a year, there has as yet been where one side was far inferior to the no attempt, so far as the writer is other in material strength as well as in aware, in any English work accessible skill, and where actions between hosto the general public to sum up its tile fleets of battleships did not occur, naval lessons and to apply their teach- because in either case one navy was ing to the peculiar conditions of the without battleships. In this war the British Empire. The British Admi- material employed has been of the very ralty has been in the closest touch with newest and best; the Japanese fleet all that has happened, but the results was ahead of most of its European which it has ascertained have naturally competitors in obtaining the most pernot been communicated to the world, fect appliances, while the Russian though the influence of the war is ships, notwithstanding unfavorable replainly to be seen in various new de ports which have been circulated in partures of British naval policy. Yet England, were excellent. The force of the naval operations have been of un- the two combatants at the opening of usual importance and interest even to the struggle was as follows: the unprofessional reader, as they may
Japan. Russia. be said to have thoroughly tested the First-class battleships 6 implements and strategy of modern Armored cruisers (modern) 8 .. 2 naval war, upon success in which the Other cruisers
16 .. 9 very existence of England depends. Destroyers
19.. 23 The test has been on a considerable scale, whence the difference between The Russian force was indisputably this war and the conflicts between weaker, but not so much so as to
Japania had a
render its position hopeless, while attacks of February 8 and 9, but the Japan was hampered by the fact that ships did not protect themselves by Russia had a considerable fleet in Eu- getting out nets, constructing booms rope, which sooner or later was certain and keeping their crews at quarters. to attempt to intervene in the war. The Japanese torpedo boats appeared Hence Japan had to nurse her strength about midnight, and fired twenty-three to the utmost, and her admirals were torpedoes, of which a very small numordered in the most imperative terms ber took effect. But though the damto refrain from risking their heavy age done was far less than we should ships. To these orders the inconclusive have expected, on that fatal night Rusissue of several of the actions must be sia lost her chance of commanding the ascribed.
sea with her fleet in the Far East. On the eve of war the general im- Two battleships and one cruiser were pression on the Continent was that the badly injured, and probably it was Russian fleet in the Far East would only the skill and presence of mind of easily be able to hold its own. Le the junior officers on board them that Yacht published an interesting article saved them from total destruction. in which the Japanese personnel was The blow struck was stunning, and had declared to want just the very qualities it been instantly followed up by the it has displayed-vigorous initiative, Japanese, Port Arthur would have technical skill in gunnery and the fallen within the first three weeks of handling of fleets, unity of purpose, war. and, in a word, all that States endeavor The unreadiness of the Russians does to obtain by maintaining organized not appear to have been altogether navies. Though the English public had understood at Tokio, or else there were formed a juster estimate of the Japa- conditions, of which we know nothing. nese navy, competent writers in the that intervened to prevent the seizure British press thought that the struggle of Dalny-an event expected after the for the command of the sea would be first blow at Port Arthur-since the a desperate one, and that in obtaining opportunity was allowed to pass. On so great a prize the Japanese must the morning after the torpedo attack, lose heavily in ships and men. The Admiral Togo appeared off Port Arthur Russian navy was known to have paid and shelled the Russian fleet, but only great attention to gunnery, and there inflicted upon it slight additional damwas good German authority for the age. His attack was not pressed, high quality of its shooting. It had clearly because he was not allowed to not, like the Spanish and Chinese risk his ships, though many of his navies, neglected target practice; in- junior officers would have preferred deed, on the eve of war the continual more resolute tactics. From this point firing carried out by the fleet at Port on for several weeks there was no Arthur was one of the reasons which serious fighting between the fleets. led intelligent neutrals to forebode war. The Russians made no more grave mis
The first lesson of this war, in which takes, though they displayed a great it confirms previous experience, is the want of initiative, and failed to use advantage of a prompt offensive. The their torpedo craft with energy. The Russian fleet at Port Arthur had been Japanese maintained a mild blockade warned of the imminence of hostilities, of Port Arthur, and the two fleets virbut does not appear to have taken the tually neutralized each other. But the warning seriously. There were some Russians had abandoned all claim to precautions on the eve of the Japanese the command of the sea.
The value of a perfect co-ordination battleships and cruisers in the Baltic of political and naval action is a sec- that might have been very serviceable ond lesson of this war. When matters had they been stationed at Port Arthur were growing serious, in the winter of or Vladivostock. Possibly the want of 1903-4, the Japanese navy underwent docking and repairing facilities was the a special battle-training-constant fir- explanation of this mistake. But even ing at long range with heavy guns, accepting this explanation, it does not under war conditions, torpedo work at account for the fact that when war night, in bad weather, using live tor was imminent isolated ships were not pedoes, maneuvring at night without recalled and placed in safety. Thus lights, night-firing, and the rehearsal three vessels, the Variag, Ķorietz, and of operations that were actually to · Mandjur, were lost to the Russian flag form part of the war when it began, with their crews for the whole of the Hence the immense self-confidence war, and the Japanese were given an which the Japanese displayed, and the easy victory at Chemulpo. The present complete preparedness of their fleet British Admiralty is taking steps to do when the hour for action came. Plans what the Russians left undone, and to were practically worked out imme withdraw weak and old ships from exdiately before war, and not pigeon- posed positions. Yet not till the advent holed at the Japanese admiralty. In of Sir J. Fisher to Whitehall was this fact, the Japanese navy took a "flying policy of concentration adopted, SO start."
easy is it for the obvious to escape the This power of intelligent preparation, attention of those whose main energy so that the maximum of force may be is absorbed in routine work. exerted in the minimum of time, is In the first twenty-four hours the what we mean by the word organiza Japanese navy had asserted its tempotion, and the study of all modern wars rary command of the sea (temporary shows it to be the chief factor in giving because the arrival of the Baltic fleet success. Here, happily, there are signs was always to be feared, and might that the British Admiralty is taking transform the conditions), yet it is inaction, and that in the future useless structive to note that the greatest difexercises, of no military value, will be ficulty has been experienced in block. eliminated from the training of our ading the Russian ports. Up to May, fleet, so that its whole energy will be indeed, Port Arthur was only watched concentrated upon readiness for war. while Vladivostock was practically left Yet the danger always remains that unmolested to the date of writing. the military section of the Admiralty The peculiar geographical conditions of may be obstructed in its efforts by the the Far East enable the Japanese to civil section or by the Cabinet, which adopt this policy, since the Vladivomay refuse to vote the funds required, stock ships could not well escape from not understanding the vital importance the Japan Sea without being sighted of the measures proposed.
from the Japanese coast, and thus A third lesson of the war in the Far could not suddenly fall upon the comFast has been the importance of the munications of the Japanese fleet at Napoleonic principle of concentration the Elliot Islands or the Japanese army of force. The Russian Admiralty did in Korea. The Straits of Korea were not place in the Far East a fleet equal held by Kamimura with four armored to the Japanese, though without any cruisers, a force slightly superior to the great difficulty it could have done so, Vladivostock ships, but this disposisince there were a number of older tion left the Russians free to cruise within the Japan Sea, or even, as they ships escape singly, if not in squadrons, actually did in July, to pass out through should we attempt a blockade, though the Tsugaru Straits and blockade whether we can blockade is more than Yokohama. It was dangerous for the doubtful, as there are no good bases Japanese squadron to leave its post and near the ports which we should have go in pursuit, as the Japan Sea is fa- to watch, whereas the Japanese were mous for its fogs, and under cover of able to seize and use first the Elliot fog the Russian ships might easily Islands, only seventy miles from Port have slipped southward past Kami. Arthur and well placed from the mura, and caused great damage to the strategic point of view, and then Japanese transports and colliers. At Dalny as their flying bases. Their the same time, with the Japanese force battleships could remain at these available it was impossible to blockade points in perfect security, and receive Vladivostock, because the port has two from their cruisers off Port Arthur entrances, a considerable distance information of the enemy's movements. apart, because of the frequency of fogs Hence the conditions must be pro there, and because of the want of a nounced far more favorable to them good naval base near at hand. At the than they would be to ourselves in any vory outset the Japanese naval force probable conflict. proved to weak for the work which Turning now from the strategical was demanded of it, and notwithstand- lessons of the war to the tactical lesing its high efficiency was unable to sons, the first and most striking is the perform that work with perfect suc- comparative inefficiency of the torpedo. cess. Yet it had a greater margin of From this weapon much had been exsuperiority as against the Russian fleet pected, and it was employed upon a than the British navy possesses against large scale. But except in the initial one existing and possible naval combi- attack at Port Arthur it has gained no nation.
successes, and even at Port Arthur At Port Arthur a strict blockade was it did not sink a single ship. It failed attempted towards the close of May, to put any Russian ship permanently but the Japanese have never been able out of action. That the Retvisan, to prevent isolated ships from running Tzarevitch, and Pallada would have in and out. The long range guns sunk if they had been torpedoed far mounted in the Russian works keep the from shore is probable, but not certain. powerful Japanese ships at a distance As it was, contrary to all anticipations, and do not allow them to close in as they were again at sea in five months, Admiral Sampson did at Santiago. and very little the worse for their Thus the Lieutenant Burakoff ran in and experience. The torpedoes used upon ont; the Reshitelny and Raztoropny es- them were the large and powerful caped; and numerous merchantmen 18-in. of latest pattern, which, after and junks laden with supplies and am- the British experiments upon the Bellemunition have made their way through isle, might have been expected to the blockading line. This is in entire shatter completely the part of the ship accordance with British man@uvre ex struck and to cause a terrible shock perience and it shows the practical im to the boilers and machinery. The possibility of sealing a hostile port by actual damage was as follows: a large any blockade, however close. We hole was blown in the Retvisan's side, must be prepared in war to see hostile her engines were thrown slightly out of alignment and her boilers developed remains an almost inexplicable feature leaky tubes. She was easily repaired, of the operations. but her speed was much reduced. The Against ships in motion, the generalTzarevitch had her rudder blown off ization still holds good that the torpedo and her steering-gear damaged, but the is useless. No hits have been effected injury was completely repaired. The during the war, though attacks are said Pallada was struck amidships; the tor to have been made repeatedly upon the pedo exploded in a coal bunker, blow, Russian fleet during the battle of ing a large hole and damaging the August 10; and, after that battle, the Belleville boilers. The injury was Russians report attacks on the Askold easily and swiftly repaired. An even and Tzarevitch. The Vladivostock more astounding failure of the torpedo squadron was also attacked by the occurred in the case of the Sado Maru. Japanese flotilla in June, but again This liner, without any kind of protec- without any result. It looks, then, as tion, first of all had 150 shells fired though the efficacy of the torpedo had at her by the Vladivostock fleet, and been greatly exaggerated, though the then was torpedoed twice with the weapon is being so rapidly improved 18-in. Whitehead by the Rossia. The that predictions with regard to its torpedoes blew enormous holes in her future are dangerous. Its accuracy, and did great damage to her engine- range and size are being steadily inroom, but she did not sink, and was creased, and in the near future we shall towed into Sasebo looking outwardly have to reckon with 21-in. and 24-in. little the worse.
1 Since this was written, after six attacks, the side Port Arthur by the Japanese torpedo “Sevastopol” has been seriously injured out flotilla.
torpedoes-21-in. tubes are already A second fact which appears with being designed for the newest Ameriregard to the torpedo is the infre- can battleships—the explosion of which quency of hits, even when attacking in contact with a battleship's bull ships which are not in motion. In the ought to be deadly. But the bigger first and most successful Port Arthur and heavier the torpedo grows, the attack the Japanese destroyers slowed larger the vessels that are specially to five or six knots and closed to built to use it must be, and the smaller within a short distance of their enemy, their number, so that the danger to be but of their twenty-three torpedoes only apprehended from destroyers and subthree made hits. In the other attacks marines appears to be much less than on the Port Arthur ships they do not had been supposed. appear to have scored any successes, If torpedoes have proved comparafor though there were reports at the tively inefficient, far otherwise is it time that several Russian ships had with mines. Before the war mechanibeen hit, these do not seem to have cal mines were despised by a large been true. On the night of June 23-4, school of British naval officers and when the whole Russian fleet was out- neglected in the British service, so that side the harbor, a long series of at- it was possible for a British officer to tacks was delivered by the Japanese write in 1904 in a Service periodical : torpedo craft, with no result whatever, but on this occasion the Russians are
Most foreign nations appear to be said to have had nets out and to have
ahead of us. ... I am not aware that
we even yet possess a mechanical been covered by a boom. The greatest
blockade mine which has got beyond gallantry and coolness were displayed
the experimental stage, though I know by the Japanese, so that the failure of we have been carrying out spasmodic the torpedo was not due to any want experiments with them for the last ten of courage or skill on their part, and it years.