Battle of Tsushima

Template:Battlebox The Battle of Tsushima (Japanese: 対馬海戦), commonly known as the "Sea of Japan Naval Battle" (Japanese: 日本海海戦) in Japan, was the last and most decisive sea battle of the Russo-Japanese War of 19041905. It was fought on May 27 and May 28, 1905 (May 14 and 15 in the Julian calendar then in use in Russia) in the Tsushima Strait. In this battle the Japanese fleet under Admiral Heihachiro Togo destroyed two-thirds of the Russian fleet under Admiral Zinovi Petrovich Rozhdestvenski. In 'Theodore Rex', noted Historian Edmund Morris called it the greatest battle since Trafalgar. Presumably, despite the greater press given to other notable modern strategic naval victories like Jutland and Midway.



The Japanese combined fleet and the Russian Baltic Fleet, sent over from Europe, fought in the straits between Korea and Japan near the Tsushima Island group. Earlier, the Russian Pacific Fleet had been destroyed at the Battle of Shantung on 10 August 1904. The Baltic Fleet sailed through the North Sea, caused a diplomatic incident off Dogger Bank when they attacked the British fishing fleet there, and then proceeded around Africa and touched port in Indochina. The voyage was long and the crews grew less efficient and discontented. The Russians were ordered to break the blockade of Port Arthur (Lshunkou), (Town now part of modern port city of Dalian - See excellent Regional Map for strategic overview of Port Arthur battles taken together with this one!) but the settlement had already fallen before the arrival of the ships and so they tried to reach the Russian port of Vladivostok.

The Russians could have sailed through one of three possible straits to reach Vladivostok: La Perouse, Tsugaru, and Tsushima. Admiral Rozhedestvensky chose Tsushima in an effort to simplify his route. Admiral Togo, based at Pusan, Korea also believed Tsushima would be the preferred Russian course. The Tsushima Strait is the body of water eastwards of the Tsushima Island group located roughly midway between the Japanese island of Kyushu and the Korean Peninsula, the shortest and most direct route from Indochina. The other two routes would have required the fleet to sail to the east of Japan.

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Korea and Tsushima Straits and Tsushima Islands

The Russian fleet was sighted when two trailing hospital ships were discovered by the Japanese cruiser fleet. The Russians sailed from south-south-west to north-north-east; the Japanese fleet from west-north-east. Admiral Togo ordered the fleet to turn in sequence, which enabled his ships to take the same course as the Russians, though risking each battleship in turn. This U-turn was successful.

The two lines of battleships stabilized their distance at 6,200 metres and exchanged gunfire. The Japanese fleets had practiced gunnery continually since the beginning of the war, using sub caliber adaptors for their cannon. The Japanese had superior gunners, and hit their targets more often. Furthermore, the Japanese used a different combination of gunpowder, called shimose (melinite), which was designed to explode on contact and wreck the upper works of ships. The Russians used armor-piercing rounds. Japanese hits caused more damage to Russian ships in proportion to Russian hits on Japanese ships.

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The battleship Mikasa, Admiral Togo's flagship at the battle of Tsushima.

Owing to the long voyage of the Russian fleet through tropical waters and the lack of opportunity for maintenance, the bottoms of their warships were heavily fouled with marine growth, significantly reducing their speed relative to the Japanese. In naval battle maneuvers, speed can offer a significant advantage when combined with long range gunnery. The Japanese ships could reach 16 knots (30km/h), but the Russians fleet could reach only 8kts (15km/h). Togo was able to use this advantage to "cross the T" twice.

Admiral Rozhdestvenski was knocked out of action with a shell fragment in his skull. The Russians fleet lost the battleships Knyaz' Suvorov, Oslyabya, Emperor Alexander III and Borodino on May 27. Japanese ships only suffered light damage, mostly to Mikasa. In the evening, Rear Admiral Nebogatov took the command on the Russian side.

At night, Japanese torpedo boats and destroyers were thrown against the Russian fleet, which was dispersed in some small groups by then, trying to break northwards. Russian old battleship Navarin was sunk, while battleship Sisoy Veliki and two old armoured cruisers Admiral Nakhimov and Vladimir Monomakh were damaged and had to be scuttled in the morning.

Four other battleships under Rear Admiral Nebagatov were forced to surrender the next day. His group consisted of only one modern battleship, Orel, along with the old battleship Emperor Nikolay I and two small coastal battleships, and he had no chance to stand against the Japanese fleet. Until the evening of May 28, single Russian ships were pursued by the Japanese. Small coastal battleship Admiral Ushakov refused to surrender and was sunk by Japanese armoured cruisers. Old cruiser Dimitr Donskoy fought against 6 cruisers and survived until the next day, when she was scuttled due to damage. Three cruisers, including Aurora, escaped to the United States naval base at Manila and were interned. The fast armed yacht Almaz (classified as cruiser of the 2nd rank) and two destroyers were the only ships to make it through to Vladivostok.

Nearly the entire Russian Baltic fleet was lost in the battle in the Tsushima Straits. The Japanese lost only 3 torpedo boats (Nos. 34, 35 and 69).

Naval tactics

Battleships, cruisers, and other vessels were arranged into divisions, each division being commanded by a Flag officer (i.e. Admiral). At the battle of Tsushima Admiral Togo was the officer commanding in Mikasa (the other divisions being commanded by Vice Admirals, Rear Admirals, Commodores and Captains and Commanders for the destroyer divisions). Next in line after Mikasa came the battleships Shikishima, Fuji and Asahi. Following them were three armored cruisers. When Admiral Togo decided to execute a turn to port "in sequence" he did so in order to preserve the sequence of his battleline, i.e. with the flagship Mikasa still in the lead (obviously Togo wanted his more powerful units to enter action first). Turning in sequence meant that each ship would turn one after the other whilst still following the ship in front, effectively each ship would turn over the same piece of sea (this being the danger in the manoeuvre as it gives the enemy fleet the opportunity to target that area). Togo could have ordered his ships to turn "together" i.e. each ship would have made the turn at the same time and reversed course, this manoeuvre would be quicker but would have disrupted the sequence of the battleline and placed the cruisers in the lead and this was something Togo wanted to avoid.


  • Busch, Noel F. The Emperor's Sword: Japan vs. Russia in the Battle of Tsushima. New York: Funk & Wagnall’s, 1969.
  • Hailey, Foster and Milton Lancelot. Clear for Action: The Photographic Story of Modern Naval Combat, 1898-1964. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pierce, 1964.
  • Woodward, David. The Russians at Sea: A History of the Russian Navy. New York: Praeger Publishers. 1966.
  • Hough, Richard Alexander. The fleet that had to die. New York: Ballentine Paperbacks. 1960.

External links

  • ( — Contains a complete order of battle of both fleets. It also contains Admiral Togo's post-battle report and the account of Russian ensign Sememov.cs:Bitva u Cušimy

de:Seeschlacht bei Tsushima fr:Bataille de Tsoushima ja:日本海海戦 pl:Bitwa pod Cuszimą zh:对马海峡海战


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