Battle off Ulsan
Overview
 
The naval Battle off Ulsan (Japanese: 蔚山沖海戦 Urusan'oki kaisen; Russian: Бой в Корейском проливе, Boi v Koreiskom prolive), also known as the Battle of the Japanese Sea or Battle of the Korean Strait, took place on 14 August 1904 during the Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

, four days after the Battle of the Yellow Sea
Battle of the Yellow Sea
The Battle of the Yellow Sea was a major naval engagement of the Russo-Japanese War, fought on 10 August 1904. In the Russian Navy, it was referred to as the Battle of 10 August. The battle foiled an attempt by the Russian fleet at Port Arthur to break out and form up with counterparts from...

.
The Vladivostok
Vladivostok
The city is located in the southern extremity of Muravyov-Amursky Peninsula, which is about 30 km long and approximately 12 km wide.The highest point is Mount Kholodilnik, the height of which is 257 m...

 Cruiser Unit of the Russian
Imperial Russian Navy
The Imperial Russian Navy refers to the Tsarist fleets prior to the February Revolution.-First Romanovs:Under Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich, construction of the first three-masted ship, actually built within Russia, was completed in 1636. It was built in Balakhna by Danish shipbuilders from Holstein...

 fleet made up of the armoured cruisers Rossia
Rossia (1896)
Rossia was an armored cruiser of the Imperial Russian Navy built in the 1890s. She was designed as a long-range commerce raider and served as such during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05...

, Gromoboi
Gromoboi (1899)
Gromoboi was an armoured cruiser of the Imperial Russian Navy built in the late 1890s. She was designed as a long-range commerce raider and served as such during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05...

and Rurik
Rurik (1892)
The Rurik was an armoured cruiser built for the Imperial Russian Navy in 1895. She was named in honour of Rurik, the semi-legendary founder of ancient Russia...

raided against Japanese sea commerce in the first stage of the war.

News that the First Pacific Squadron from Port Arthur
Lüshunkou
Lüshunkou is a district in the municipality of Dalian, Liaoning province, China. Also called Lüshun City or Lüshun Port, it was formerly known as both Port Arthur and Ryojun....

 had sailed reached Vladivostok
Vladivostok
The city is located in the southern extremity of Muravyov-Amursky Peninsula, which is about 30 km long and approximately 12 km wide.The highest point is Mount Kholodilnik, the height of which is 257 m...

 in the afternoon of 11 August 1904.
Encyclopedia
The naval Battle off Ulsan (Japanese: 蔚山沖海戦 Urusan'oki kaisen; Russian: Бой в Корейском проливе, Boi v Koreiskom prolive), also known as the Battle of the Japanese Sea or Battle of the Korean Strait, took place on 14 August 1904 during the Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

, four days after the Battle of the Yellow Sea
Battle of the Yellow Sea
The Battle of the Yellow Sea was a major naval engagement of the Russo-Japanese War, fought on 10 August 1904. In the Russian Navy, it was referred to as the Battle of 10 August. The battle foiled an attempt by the Russian fleet at Port Arthur to break out and form up with counterparts from...

.

Background

The Vladivostok
Vladivostok
The city is located in the southern extremity of Muravyov-Amursky Peninsula, which is about 30 km long and approximately 12 km wide.The highest point is Mount Kholodilnik, the height of which is 257 m...

 Cruiser Unit of the Russian
Imperial Russian Navy
The Imperial Russian Navy refers to the Tsarist fleets prior to the February Revolution.-First Romanovs:Under Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich, construction of the first three-masted ship, actually built within Russia, was completed in 1636. It was built in Balakhna by Danish shipbuilders from Holstein...

 fleet made up of the armoured cruisers Rossia
Rossia (1896)
Rossia was an armored cruiser of the Imperial Russian Navy built in the 1890s. She was designed as a long-range commerce raider and served as such during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05...

, Gromoboi
Gromoboi (1899)
Gromoboi was an armoured cruiser of the Imperial Russian Navy built in the late 1890s. She was designed as a long-range commerce raider and served as such during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05...

and Rurik
Rurik (1892)
The Rurik was an armoured cruiser built for the Imperial Russian Navy in 1895. She was named in honour of Rurik, the semi-legendary founder of ancient Russia...

raided against Japanese sea commerce in the first stage of the war.

News that the First Pacific Squadron from Port Arthur
Lüshunkou
Lüshunkou is a district in the municipality of Dalian, Liaoning province, China. Also called Lüshun City or Lüshun Port, it was formerly known as both Port Arthur and Ryojun....

 had sailed reached Vladivostok
Vladivostok
The city is located in the southern extremity of Muravyov-Amursky Peninsula, which is about 30 km long and approximately 12 km wide.The highest point is Mount Kholodilnik, the height of which is 257 m...

 in the afternoon of 11 August 1904. But the Vladivostok cruisers were not ready for action, since as late as 5 August 1904, a telegram had been received from Admiral Wilgelm Vitgeft
Wilgelm Vitgeft
Wilgelm Karlovich Vitgeft , sometimes written Wilhelm and Withöft was an admiral in the Imperial Russian Navy, noted for his service in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905.-Biography:...

 stating that he had decided to perish with Port Arthur. Owing to the delay in sailing, there was little hope of being able to assist the First Pacific Squadron at the critical passage of the Tsushima Straits. However, the Russian command assumed that Admiral Vitgeft would be successful in breaking through the Japanese blockade, and therefore ordered Rear Admiral Jessen
Karl Petrovich Jessen
Vice Admiral Karl Petrovich Jessen was an admiral in the Imperial Russian Navy during the Russo-Japanese War.-Biography:Jessen was of Baltic German descent, born in Livonia. He graduated from the Sea Cadets in 1875 and was commissioned as a lieutenant on July 18, 1879. He graduated from the school...

 to sortie the Vladivostok Cruiser Squadron to rendezvous with the fleet in the Sea of Japan
Sea of Japan
The Sea of Japan is a marginal sea of the western Pacific Ocean, between the Asian mainland, the Japanese archipelago and Sakhalin. It is bordered by Japan, North Korea, Russia and South Korea. Like the Mediterranean Sea, it has almost no tides due to its nearly complete enclosure from the Pacific...

.

Sortie

The warships of the Imperial Russian Navy
Imperial Russian Navy
The Imperial Russian Navy refers to the Tsarist fleets prior to the February Revolution.-First Romanovs:Under Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich, construction of the first three-masted ship, actually built within Russia, was completed in 1636. It was built in Balakhna by Danish shipbuilders from Holstein...

 (IRN) formed in a line abreast at intervals of four nautical miles (7 km) and headed southward at 14 knots (27 km/h), in hourly expectation of sighting the Port Arthur Squadron.

However, the fleet had not been sighted by the following morning. As the Russian squadron approached Busan
Busan
Busan , formerly spelled Pusan is South Korea's second largest metropolis after Seoul, with a population of around 3.6 million. The Metropolitan area population is 4,399,515 as of 2010. It is the largest port city in South Korea and the fifth largest port in the world...

, Admiral Jessen advised his captains that he had no intention of attempting to pass Tsushima Straits, and ordered the squadron back to Vladivostok. It was a fateful decision.

The Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1869 until 1947, when it was dissolved following Japan's constitutional renunciation of the use of force as a means of settling international disputes...

 (IJN) was made up of more modern armored cruiser
Armored cruiser
The armored cruiser was a type of warship of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Like other types of cruiser, the armored cruiser was a long-range, independent warship, capable of defeating any ship apart from a battleship, and fast enough to outrun any battleships it encountered.The first...

s; the Izumo
Japanese cruiser Izumo
was an armored cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Although very similar to the s and , its differences are significant enough to classify it as the lead ship in the separate , which also included its sister ship, the...

, Azuma
Japanese cruiser Azuma
was an armored cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy, designed and built in France. The name Azuma comes from an ancient name for Japan in general, and the Kantō region of eastern Japan in particular.-Background:...

, Tokiwa
Japanese cruiser Tokiwa
was an armored cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Tokiwa was named after a lake in Yamaguchi prefecture, near Ube city. Her sister ship was the cruiser...

, Iwate
Japanese cruiser Iwate
was an armored cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy. It was named after Iwate prefecture in northern Japan, and it was a sister ship of the .-Background:...

, and two protected cruiser
Protected cruiser
The protected cruiser is a type of naval cruiser of the late 19th century, so known because its armoured deck offered protection for vital machine spaces from shrapnel caused by exploding shells above...

s Naniwa
Japanese cruiser Naniwa
was the first protected cruiser built specifically for the Imperial Japanese Navy. She was the lead ship of the s, built in the Armstrong Whitworth shipyard in Great Britain. The name Naniwa comes from an ancient province of Japan, now part of Osaka-fu...

and Takachiho
Japanese cruiser Takachiho
was the second protected cruiser built for the Imperial Japanese Navy by the Armstrong Whitworth shipyard in Great Britain. The name Takechiho comes from a 1574 meter tall mountain in the volcanic Kirishima range between Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures in Japan...

which were under the command of Vice Admiral
Vice Admiral
Vice admiral is a senior naval rank of a three-star flag officer, which is equivalent to lieutenant general in the other uniformed services. A vice admiral is typically senior to a rear admiral and junior to an admiral...

 Hikonojo Kamimura who had just recently passed very close to the Russian squadron in the dark on opposite courses but neither was aware of the other.
Ever since 01:30 of 14 August 1904, Vice Admiral Kamimura had been heading back from his night patrol area on a course that took him directly to the Russian squadron. When Admiral Yessen started to turn back to Vladivostock, he sighted the four IJN armored cruisers.

The situation was ideal for the Japanese. It was dawn on a fine summer day, and the enemy was as far from Vladivostok as it was possible to be in the Sea of Japan, with the IJN between themselves and their distant base.

The battle

At 0520 on 14 August 1904 the fleets had closed to 7800 m, and the IJN opened fire first. For some reason, Kamimura, in assigning targets, concentrated fire on the Rurik
Rurik (1892)
The Rurik was an armoured cruiser built for the Imperial Russian Navy in 1895. She was named in honour of Rurik, the semi-legendary founder of ancient Russia...

, the last and weakest in the IRNs column. Subjected to twice the bombardment administered to her stronger comrades. Rurik lost most of her officers in a short time, and although extremely damaged, remained afloat, the diminishing number of survivors continuing to fire the few remaining guns until the very last, in a gallant display of classic heroism that won the admiration of the IJN.

On the easterly run the Japanese ships took some hits, but nothing comparable to what they inflicted. It would be assumed that when the Russians sheered away, Admiral Kamimura would have pressed his advantage closer. Inexplicably, this did not happen. Kamimura oddly held his course during the IRN turn, and when the IJN turned a few minutes later, it was to a new tack that actually lengthened rather than narrowed the range.

The remaining IRN cruisers tried to cover the Rurik, but with increasing damage, Admiral Jessen decided at 08:30 to scuttle the Rurik, and save his other ships by heading back towards Vladivostok. IJN cruisers chased them for some time, and firing continued, with more damage to the Russian cruisers and slight damage to the Iwate and the Azuma. The Russians were in a far worse condition than the Japanese, but Admiral Kamimura then made another inexplicable decision: after pursuit of only three hours, while still on the high seas, and with long daylight steaming hours between the IRN cruisers and Vladivostok, at 11:15 hours the IJN ceased the chase, and turned back towards Busan.

Despite Kamimura's failure to destroy the two remaining Russian cruisers, he was hailed as a hero in Japan, and the Vladivostok Cruiser Squadron never threatened Japanese shipping again.

Russian point of view

From the Imperial Russian Navy's point of view, the Rurik was scuttled by her own crew, not by Admiral Jessen's decision. The Rurik was hit by a shell in her unarmoured stern and the steering mechanism was destroyed, immobilizing her rudder in an elevated position. So the maximum speed of Rurik had been greatly reduced and her steering had to be performed by reducing the revolutions of each one of her propellers. Admiral Jessen successfully diverted all four IJN armoured cruisers and hoped that Rurik could withstand against the Naniwa and Takachiho. However, the condition of Rurik was rather bad. First Rank Captain Trusov, her commander, and all senior officers were killed. Finally, Lieutenant Ivanov (the thirteenth in command) ordered the Rurik to be scuttled.

The Russia and Gromoboi successfully repelled the attack of Kamimura's cruisers at the price of sustaining heavy damage, but IRN sailors, while still under fire, were able to repair the main 203 mm (8 inch) guns and continue to engage with them. Faced with an increasing rate of fire from the Russian cruisers and with his ammunition supplies nearly depleted, Admiral Kamimura decided to stop pursuit.

Order of battle

Ship order is according to their position in line
† - sunk
# - slightly damaged
## - severely damaged

Russia

Vladivostok cruiser force - Rear Admiral Karl Jessen:
  • Armoured cruisers:
    • Rossia ## (flag) (48 KIA
      Killed in action
      Killed in action is a casualty classification generally used by militaries to describe the deaths of their own forces at the hands of hostile forces. The United States Department of Defense, for example, says that those declared KIA need not have fired their weapons but have been killed due to...

      , 165 WIA
      Wounded in action
      Wounded in action describes soldiers who have been wounded while fighting in a combat zone during war time, but have not been killed. Typically it implies that they are temporarily or permanently incapable of bearing arms or continuing to fight....

      )
    • Gromoboi
      Russian cruiser Gromoboi (1899)
      Gromoboi was an armoured cruiser of the Imperial Russian Navy built in the late 1890s. She was designed as a long-range commerce raider and served as such during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05...

      ## (91 KIA, 182 WIA)
    • Rurik
      Rurik (1892)
      The Rurik was an armoured cruiser built for the Imperial Russian Navy in 1895. She was named in honour of Rurik, the semi-legendary founder of ancient Russia...

      † (204 KIA, 305 WIA)

Japan

2nd Squadron - Vice Admiral Hikonojo Kamimura
  • 2nd Unit: armoured cruisers:
    • Izumo
      Japanese cruiser Izumo
      was an armored cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Although very similar to the s and , its differences are significant enough to classify it as the lead ship in the separate , which also included its sister ship, the...

      # (flag) (20 hits, 2 KIA, 17 WIA)
    • Azuma
      Japanese cruiser Azuma
      was an armored cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy, designed and built in France. The name Azuma comes from an ancient name for Japan in general, and the Kantō region of eastern Japan in particular.-Background:...

      # (10 hits, 8 WIA)
    • Tokiwa
      Japanese cruiser Tokiwa
      was an armored cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Tokiwa was named after a lake in Yamaguchi prefecture, near Ube city. Her sister ship was the cruiser...

      # (few hits, 3 WIA)
    • Iwate
      Japanese cruiser Iwate
      was an armored cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy. It was named after Iwate prefecture in northern Japan, and it was a sister ship of the .-Background:...

      # (over 10 hits, 40 KIA, 47 WIA)
  • 4th Unit: protected cruiser
    Protected cruiser
    The protected cruiser is a type of naval cruiser of the late 19th century, so known because its armoured deck offered protection for vital machine spaces from shrapnel caused by exploding shells above...

    s:
    • Naniwa
      Japanese cruiser Naniwa
      was the first protected cruiser built specifically for the Imperial Japanese Navy. She was the lead ship of the s, built in the Armstrong Whitworth shipyard in Great Britain. The name Naniwa comes from an ancient province of Japan, now part of Osaka-fu...

      (? hits)
    • Takachiho
      Japanese cruiser Takachiho
      was the second protected cruiser built for the Imperial Japanese Navy by the Armstrong Whitworth shipyard in Great Britain. The name Takechiho comes from a 1574 meter tall mountain in the volcanic Kirishima range between Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures in Japan...

      (? hits)

Sources

  • Brook, Peter, Armoured Cruiser versus Armoured Cruiser, Ulsan, 14 August 1904, in Warship 2000-2001, Conway's Maritime Press , ISBN 0-85177-791-0
  • Kowner, Rotem (2006). Historical Dictionary of the Russo-Japanese War. Scarecrow. ISBN 0-8108-4927-5
  • Repington, Charles
    Charles à Court Repington
    Lieutenant Colonel Charles à Court Repington , CMG, was a British Army officer and war correspondent.-Biography:Charles Repington was born at Heytesbury, Wiltshire in 1858, where his father was a Conservative Party Member of Parliament...

    (1905). The War in the Far East, 1904-1905. London, 1905.
  • Warner, Denis and Peggy (1974). The Tide at Sunrise: A History of the Russo-Japanese War', 1904-1905. New York.
  • Мельников Р. М. «Рюрик» был первым. — Л.: Судостроение, 1989. (Melnikov R. M. The Rurik was first, Leningrad, Sudostroenie Publishing Company, 1989)

External links

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