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Russian War Prize Battleships

In 1904, the Empire of Japan entered into war with the Russian Empire. The Russo-Japanese War, as it became titled, was a shocking victory for Japan. It symbolized the first defeat of a European power by an Asian power. The most famous battle of the war was the naval Battle of Tsushima, which occurred 1905.

Prior to the conflict, the Russian Empire had maintained two fleets. One in the east, and one in the West, the Baltic Fleet. At the outset of the war, a Japanese surprise attack on Port Arthur sunk and disabled ships of the eastern fleet, and blocked in the rest. It was effectively neutralized. In response, the Czar sent his Baltic fleet on a virtual global tour to strike at the Japanese. The Japanese fleet, commanded by Admiral Tojo Heihachiro, surprised the Baltic Fleet as it entered the confing Straits of Tsushima. What followed was one of the most lopsided naval victories in history.

With the loss of no ships, and only just over a hundred sailors killed, the Japanese fleet annihilated their Russian opponent. Only one Russian vessel managed to escape. The rest were either sunk or captured by the Japanese. The number of captured ships was fifteen, and among them were six Russian battleships. These ships, along with the other war prizes, were quickly refitted and placed into Japanese service with new names and crews.

In a sign of how politics can change bedfellows, two of the six battleships were returned to Russia during the First World War, where Russia and Japan were allies against Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. These ships were the Suwo and the Tango.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:22:41 ZULU