Port Arthur: The Dress Rehearsal for World War 1

The Russo-Japanese war (1904-1905) is a major 20th century war, which is often overlooked because of the much larger conflicts (i.e. World War 1, World War 2) that happened later.  The basic reason for the war between Russia and Japan was a mutual interest in controlling Korea and Manchuria.

The largest battle of the war took place at Port Arthur, Manchuria (Lüshunkou in today’s China) and between August 1, 1904 – January 2, 1905. Port Arthur was a Russian naval base and one of the most heavily fortified military installations on the planet.  In this single siege, many deadly weapons and tactics would be used for the first time. Later, they would be used again on a much larger scale in the First World War. Among those technological marvels were Maxim machine guns, early models of modern handgrenades, radio signalling and howitzers that could shoot 478-pound (217kg) shells over 5.0 miles/8km. Trench warfare, which later would become a sad trademark of the First World War, was daily routine at Port Arthur. What was also similar to the First World War is that entire hills were changed into redoubts with underground tunnels and trenches to move troops. The most massive hill at Port Arthur was 203 Meter hill, which was actually 210 meters/ 688ft high. Several thousand Japanese lost their lives in the process of taking that hill. The Siege of Port Arthur eventually was won by the Japanese, despite the death toll: The estimated 110,000 Japanese casualties were much higher compared to the 31,000 Russians casualties. The Japanese thought they would have an easy win, but the battle went on for 5 grueling months and was a preview of things to come. Ten years later, the First World War would start and much of what happened in Port Arthur would be repeated on a much larger scale.

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By 日本語: 海軍軍令部 English: Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons