The Tsar’s Pearl Harbor, 114 years ago

While negotiating a tense crisis that had grown over a decade of increasingly close Russian involvement in Manchuria and Korea (see Sino-Japanese War in 1894 and Boxer Rebellion in 1900), a Japanese force under Adm. Togo conducted a pre-emptive strike on the Russian fleet at anchor in Port Arthur– without a declaration of war.

Print shows Japanese battleships bombarding Russian battleships in a surprise naval assault on the Russian fleet at Lüshun (Port Arthur); includes cameo portraits, possibly of Admiral Tōgō (left), for the Japanese, and for the Russians (right), Yevgeny Ivanovich Alekseev. (Russian portrait formerly thought to be Admiral Oskar Victorovich Stark or Stepan Osipovich Makarov.) 1904. Attributed to: Kasai Torajiro. Library of Congress.

Using a force of 10 destroyers, the first Japanese torpedos were in the water at 00:28 on the snowy Tuesday morning of 9 February 1904 and the force withdrew from the harbor by 02:00. Of the 16 torps fired, just a few hit their targets, damaging the pre-dreadnoughts Retvizan and the Tsesarevich and the protected cruiser Pallada— all of which were returned to duty in a few weeks.

Slightly more dramatic that what actually happened, but hey, that’s why they call it propaganda

The night engagement and a delusory surface action the next morning likewise was unspectacular, resulting in a total of about 100-150 dead on each side.

Though tactically ineffective, Togo did achieve surprise on the Russian bear and the fleet at Port Arthur never managed to leave the harbor successfully during the resulting war, which proved disastrous for the Tsar.


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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

One response to “The Tsar’s Pearl Harbor, 114 years ago”

  1. Fergus says :

    One of the things that amazes me is that people believe most wars bein with a formal declaration of war. This is seldom the truth.

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