Admiral Togo's Report of the Battle of Tsushima

as Published by the Imperial Naval Headquarters Staff

By the help of Heaven our united squadron fought with the enemy's Second and Third Squadrons on 27 and 28 May, and succeeded in almost annihilating him.

When the enemy's fleet first appeared in the south seas our squadrons, in obedience to Imperial command, adopted the strategy of awaiting him and striking at him in our home waters. We therefore concentrated our strength at the Korean Straits, and there abode his coming north. After touching for a time on the coast of Annam, he gradually moved northward, and some days before the time when he should arrive in our waters several of our guard-ships were distributed on watch in a south-easterly direction, according to plan, while the fighting squadrons made ready for battle, each anchoring at its base so as to be ready to set out immediately.

Thus it fell out that on the 27th, at 5 a.m., the southern guard-ship Shinano Maru reported by wireless telegraphy: "Enemy's fleet sighted in No. 203 section. He seems to be steering for the east channel."

The whole crews of our fleet leaped to their posts. The ships weighed at once, and each squadron, proceeding in order to it's appointed place, made its dispositions to receive the enemy. At 7 a.m. the guard-ship on the left wing of the inner line, the Idzumi, reported: "The enemy's ships are in sight. He has already reached a point 25 nautical miles to the north-west of Ukujima; he is advancing north-east." The Togo (Captain Togo Masamichi) section, the Dewa section, and the cruiser squadron (which was under the direct command of Vice Admiral Kataoka) came into touch with the enemy from 10 to 11 a.m., between Iki and Tsushima, and thereafter as far as the neighborhood of Okinoshima these ships, though fired on from time to time by the enemy, successfully kept in constant touch with him, and conveyed by telegraph accurate and frequent reports of his state. Thus, though a heavy fog covered the sea, making it impossible to observe anything at a distance of over five miles, all the conditions of the enemy were as clear to us, who were 30 or 40 miles distant, as though they had been under our very eyes. Long before we came in sight of him we knew that his fighting force comprised the Second and Third Baltic Squadrons, that he had seven special service ships with him, that he was marshaled in two columns line ahead, that his strongest vessels were at the head of the right column, that his special service craft followed in the rear, that his speed was about 12 kts., and that he was still advancing to the north-east.

Therefore I was enabled to adopt the strategy of directing my main strength, at about 2 p.m. towards Okinoshima, with the object of attacking the head of his left column. The main squadron, the armored cruiser squadron, the Uriu section and the various destroyer sections at noon reached a point about 10 nautical miles north of Okinoshima, whence, with the object of attacking the enemy's left column, they steered west, and at about 1.30 p.m. the Dewa section, the cruiser squadron, and the Togo (Captain) section still keeping touch with the enemy, arrived one after the other and joined forces. At 1.45 p.m. we sighted the enemy for the first time at a distance of several miles south on our port bow. As had been expected, his right column was headed by four battleships of the Borodino type, his left by the Oslyabya, the Sisoi Veliki, the Navarin, and the Nakhimov, after which came the Nikolai I and the three coast defense vessels, forming another squadron. The Zhemchug and the Izumrud were between the two columns, and seemed to be acting as forward scouts. In the rear, obscured by the fog, we indistinctly made out the Oleg and the Aurora, with other second and third class cruisers, forming a squadron; while the Dmitri Donskoi, the Vladimir Monomakh, and the special service steamers were advancing in column line ahead, extending to a distance of several miles.

I now ordered the whole fleet to go into action, and at 1.55 p.m. I ran up this signal for all the ships in sight: "The fate of the Empire depends upon this event. Let every man do his utmost."

Shortly afterwards the main squadron headed south-west, and made as though it would cross the enemy's course at right angles; but at five minutes past two o'clock the squadron suddenly turned east, and bore down on the head of the enemy's column in a diagonal direction. The armored cruiser squadron followed in the rear of the main squadron, the whole formation single column ahead. The Dewa section, the Uriu section, the cruiser squadron, and the Togo (Captain) section, in accordance with the previously arranged plan of action, steered south to attack the rear of the enemy's column. Such, at the beginning of the battle were the dispositions on both sides.

Fight of the Main Squadron

The head of the enemy's column, when our main squadron bore down on it, changed its course a little to starboard, and at eight minutes past two o'clock he opened fire. We did not reply for some time, but when we came within 6,000 meters' range we concentrated a heavy fire on two of his battleships. This seemed to force him more than ever to the south-east, and his two columns simultaneously changed their course by degrees to the east, thus falling into irregular columns line ahead, and moving parallel to us. The Oslyabya, which headed the left column, was soon heavily injured, burst into a strong conflagration, and left the fighting line. The whole of the armored cruiser squadron was now steaming behind the main squadron line, and, the fire of both squadrons becoming more and more effective as the range decreased; the flagship Knyaz Suvorov and the Imperator Alexandr III, which was the second in the line, burst heavily into flames, and left the fighting line, so that the enemy's order became more deranged. Several of the ships following also took fire, and the smoke, carried by the westerly wind, quickly swept over the face of the sea, combining with the fog to envelop the enemy's fleet, so that our principal fighting squadrons ceased firing for a time.

On our side also the ships had suffered more or less. The Asama had been struck by three shells in the stern near the water-line, her steering-gear had been injured, and she was leaking badly, so that she had to leave the fighting line; but she performed temporary repairs, and was very soon able to resume her place.

Such was the state of the main fighting forces on each side at 2.45 p.m. Already the result of the battle had been decided in this interval.

Thereafter our main squadron, forcing the enemy in a southerly direction, fired on him in a leisurely manner whenever his ships could be discerned through the smoke and fog, and at 3 p.m. we were in front of his line, and shaped a nearly south-easterly course. But the enemy now suddenly headed north, and seemed about to pass northward by the rear of our line. Therefore our main squadron at once went about to port, and, with the Nisshin leading, steered to the north-west. The armored cruiser squadron also, following in the main squadron's wake, changed front, and thereafter again forced the enemy south-ward, firing on him heavily. At 3.7 p.m. the Zhemchug came up to the rear of the armored cruiser squadron, but was severely injured by our fire. The Oslyabya also, which has already been put out of action, at ten minutes past three o'clock, and the Knyaz Suvorov, which had been isolated, was injured more and more. She lost one of her masts and two smoke stacks, and the whole ship, being enveloped in flame and smoke, became unmanageable, and her crew fell into confusion. The enemy's other vessels, suffering heavily, changed their course again to the east. The main squadron now altered its direction 16 points to starboard, and, the armored cruiser squadron following, they pursued the retreating enemy, pouring a constantly heavier fire on him, and discharging torpedoes also whenever occasion offered. Until 4.45 p.m. there was no special change in the condition of the principal fight. The enemy was constantly pressed south, and the firing continued.

What deserves to be specially recounted here is the conduct of the destroyer Chihaya and of the Hirose destroyer section at 3.40 p.m., as well as that of the Suzuki destroyer section at 4.45 p.m. These bravely fired torpedoes at the flagship Suvorov. The result was not clear in the case of the first named boats, but a torpedo discharged by the last named section hit the Suvorov astern on the port side, and after a time she was seen to list some 10 degrees. In those two attacks the Shiranui, of the Hirose section, and the Asashiwo, of the Suzuki section, being each hit once by shells from ships in the neighborhood, fell into some danger, but both happily escaped.

At 4.40 p.m. the enemy apparently abandoned the attempt to seek an avenue of escape northward, for he headed south, and seemed inclined to fly in that direction. Accordingly, our chief fighting force, with the armored cruiser squadron in advance, went in pursuit, but lost him after a time in the smoke and fog. Steaming south for about eight miles, we fired leisurely on a second-class cruiser of the enemy's and some special service steamers which we passed on our starboard, and at 5.30 p.m. our main squadron turned northward again in search of the enemy's principal force, while the armored cruiser squadron, proceeding to the south-west, attacked the enemy's cruisers. Thereafter until nightfall these two squadrons followed different routes, and did not again sight each other.

At 5.40 p.m. the main squadron fired once upon the enemy's special service steamer Ural, which was near by on the port side, and at once sank her; then, as the squadron was steaming north in search of the enemy, it sighted on the port bow the remaining ships of his principal force, six in number, flying in a cluster to the north-east. Approaching at once, it steamed parallel to these, and then renewed the fight, gradually emerging ahead of them and bearing down on their front. The enemy had steered north-east at first, but his course was gradually deflected to the west, and he finally pushed north-west. This fight on parallel lines continued from 6 p.m. to nightfall. The enemy suffered so heavily that his fire was much reduced, whereas our deliberate practice told more and more. A battleship of the Alexandr III type quickly left the fighting line, and fell to the rear, and a vessel like the Borodino, which led the column, took fire at 6.40 p.m., and at 7.23 suddenly became enveloped in smoke, and sank in an instant, the flames having probably reached her magazine. Further, the ships of the armored cruiser squadron, which were then in the south pursuing the enemy's cruiser squadron north-ward, saw at 7.7 p.m. a ship like the Borodino, with a heavy list, and in an unmanageable condition, come to the side of the Nakhimov, where she turned over and went to the bottom. It was subsequently ascertained from the prisoners that this was the Alexandr III, and that the vessel which the main squadron saw sink was the Borodino.

It was now getting dusk, and our destroyer sections and torpedo sections gradually closed in on the enemy from the east, north, and south, their preparations for attack having been already made. Therefore the main squadron ceased by degrees to press the enemy, and at 7.28 p.m. when the sun was setting, drew off to the east. I then ordered the Tatsuta to carry orders to the fleet that it should proceed north-ward, and rendezvous on the following morning at the Ulneung Islands.

This ended the battle during daylight on the 27th.

Fight of the Dewa, Uriu, and Togo (Captain) Sections and of the Cruiser Squadron

At 2 p.m., when the order to open the fight was given, the Dewa, Uriu, and Togo sections, and the cruiser squadron, separating from the main squadron, steamed back south, keeping the enemy on the port bow. In pursuance of the strategical plan already laid down, they proceeded to menace the vessels forming the enemy's rear-namely, the special services steamers and the cruisers Oleg, Aurora, Svyetlana, Almaz, Dmitri Donskoi, and Vladimir Monomakh. The Dewa and Uriu sections, working together in line, reached the enemy's cruiser squadron, and, steaming in a direction opposite to his course, engaged him, gradually passing round his rear, and emerging on his starboard, where the attack was renewed on parallel courses; then, taking advantage of their superior speed, these sections changed front at their own convenience, sometimes engaging the enemy on the port side, sometimes on the starboard. After 30 minutes of this fighting the enemy's rear section gradually fell into disorder, his special service steamers and warships scattering and losing their objective. At a little after 3 p.m. a vessel like the Aurora left the enemy's rank and approached our ships, but, being severely injured by our heavy fire, she fell back. Again, at 3.40 p.m., three of the enemy's destroyers sallied out to attack us, but were repulsed without accomplishing anything.

The result of this combined attack by the Dewa and Uriu sections was that by 4 o'clock there had been a marked development of the situation, the enemy's rear sections being thrown completely into disorder. Ships in this quarter had fallen out of their formation; all seemed to have suffered more or less injury, and some were seen to have become unmanageable.

The Uriu section, at about 4.20 p.m., seeing one of the enemy's special service steamers (probably the Anjier), a three-master with two smoke-stacks, which had become isolated, at once bore down on her and sank her. This section also fired heavily on another special service steamer, a four-master with one funnel (probably the Iltis), and nearly sank her.

About this time our cruiser squadron and the Togo section arriving on the scene, joined forces with the Dewa and Uriu sections, and, all working together, pursued and attacked the enemy's disordered cruiser squadron and special service steamers. While this was in progress, four of the enemy's warships (perhaps the coast defense vessels), which had been forced back by our main squadrons, came steaming south, and joined his cruiser squadron. Thus the Uriu section and our cruiser squadron became heavily engaged with these for a short time at short range, and all suffered more or less, but fortunately their injuries were not serious.

Previously to this the Kasagi, flagship of the Dewa section, had been hit in her port bunker below the water-line. As she made water, it became necessary for her to proceed to a place where the sea was calm in order to effect temporary repairs. Rear Admiral Dewa himself took away the Kasagi and Chitose for that purpose, and the remaining ships of his section passed under the command of Rear Admiral Uriu. At 6 p.m. the Kasagi reached Aburaya Bay, and Rear Admiral Dewa, transferring his flag to the Chitose, steamed out during the night, but the Kasagi's repairs required so much time that she was not able to take part in the pursuit the following day, the flagship Naniwa, of the Uriu section, also received a shell below the water-line astern, and at about 5.10 p.m. she had to leave the fighting line and effect temporary repairs.

Alike in the north and in the south the enemy's whole fleet was now in disorder, and had fallen into a pitiably broken condition. Therefore at 5.30 p.m. our armored cruiser squadron separated from the main squadron, and, steaming south, attacked the enemy's cruiser squadron. At the same time the enemy, forming a group, all fled north, pursued by the Uriu section, the cruiser squadron, and the Togo section. On the way the enemy's battleship Knyaz Suvorov, which had been left behind unmanageable, as well as his repair ship Kamchatka, were sighted, and the cruiser squadron, with the Togo section, at once proceeded to destroy them. At 7.10 p.m. the Kamchatka was sunk, and then the Fujimoto torpedo section, which accompanied the cruiser squadron, steamed out and attacked the Suvorov. She made her last resistance with a small gun astern, but was finally struck down by two of our torpedoes, and went down. This was at 7.20 p.m. Very shortly afterwards our ships in this part of the field received orders to rendezvous at the Ulneung Islands, and subsequently we ceased fighting, and steamed to the north-east.

Fight of the Destroyer and Torpedo Sections

The fight during the night of the 27th began immediately after the battle during the day had ceased. It was a vehement and most resolute attack by the various destroyer and torpedo sections.

From the morning of this day a strong south-west wind had raised a sea so high that the handling of small craft became very difficult. Perceiving this, I caused the torpedo section which accompanied my own squadron to take refuge in Miura Bay before the day's fighting commenced. Towards evening the wind lost some of its force, but the sea remained very high, and the state of affairs was very unfavorable for night operations by our torpedo craft. Nevertheless, our destroyer sections and torpedo sections, fearing to lose this unique occasion for combined action, all stood out before sunset, regardless of the state of the weather, and, each vying with the other to take the lead, approached the enemy. The Fujimoto destroyer section steaming from the north, the Yajima destroyer section, and the Kawase torpedo section from the north-east, bore down on the enemy's main squadron, while the rear of the same squadron was approached by the Yoshijima destroyer section from the east and the Hirose destroyer section from the south-east. The Fukuda, Otaki, Aoyama, and Kawada torpedo sections, coming from the south, pursued the detached vessels of the enemy's main squadron, as well as the group of cruisers on a parallel line in his left rear. Thus as night fell these torpedo craft closed in on him from three sides. Alarmed apparently by this onset, the enemy at sunset steered off to the south-west, and seems to have then changed his course again to the east. At 8.15 p.m. the night battle was commenced by the Yajima destroyer attacking the head of the enemy's main squadron, whereafter the various sections of torpedo craft swarmed about him from every direction, and until 11 p.m. kept up a continuous attack at close quarters. From nightfall the enemy made a desperate resistance by the aid of search-lights and the flashing of guns, but the onset overcame him, he lost his formation, and fell into confusion, his vessels scattering in all directions to avoid our onslaught. The torpedo sections pursuing, a pell-mell contest ensued, in the course of which the battleship Sisoi Veliki and the armored cruisers Admiral Nakhimov and Vladimir Monomakh, three ships at least, were struck by torpedoes, put out of action, and rendered unmanageable. On our side No. 69 of the Fukuda torpedo section, No. 34 of the Aoyama section, and No. 35 of the Kawada sections were all sunk by the enemy's shells during the action, while the destroyers Harusame, Akatsuki, Ikazuchi, and Yugiri, as well as the torpedo boats Sagi, No. 68, and No. 33, suffered more or less from gun-fire or from collisions, being temporarily put out of action. The casualties also were comparatively numerous, especially in the Fukuda, Aoyama, and Kawada sections. The crews of the three torpedo boats which sank were taken off by their consorts, the Kari, No. 31, and No. 61.

According to statements subsequently made by prisoners, the torpedo attack that night was indescribably fierce. The torpedo craft steamed in so rapidly and so close that it was impossible to deal with them, and they came to such short range that the warship's guns could not be depressed sufficiently to aim at them.

In addition to the above the Suzuki destroyer section and other torpedo sections proceeded in other directions the same night to search for the enemy. On the 28th, the Suzuki section sighted two ships steaming north at a distance of some 27 miles east-north-east of Karasaki. The section immediately gave chase, and sank one of the ships. Subsequent statements by prisoners rescued from her showed her to be the battleship Navarin, and that she was struck by two torpedoes on each side, after which she sank in a few minutes. The other torpedo sections searched in various directions all night, but accomplished nothing.

The Fight on 28 May

At dawn on 28 May the fog which had prevailed since the previous day lifted. The main squadron and the armored cruiser squadron had already reached a point some 20 miles south of the Ulneung Islands, and the other sections, as well as the various torpedo craft which had been engaged in the attack during the night, gradually and by different routes drew up towards the rendezvous. At 5.20 a.m., when I was about to form the armored cruiser squadron into a search cordon from the east to west for the purpose of cutting the enemy's line of retreat, the cruiser squadron, which was advancing northward, being then about 60 miles astern, signaled that it had sighted the enemy eastward, and that several columns of smoke were observable. Shortly afterwards this squadron approached the enemy and reported that its force consisted of four battleships - two of these were subsequently found to be coast defense vessels - and two cruisers, and that it was advancing north. Without further inquiry it became clear that these ships formed the chief body of the enemy's remaining force. Therefore our main squadron and armored cruiser squadron put about, and, gradually heading east, barred the enemy's line of advance, the Togo and Uriu sections, joining the cruiser squadron, contained him in the rear, so that by 10.30 a.m., at a point some 18 miles south of Takeshima (the Lioncourt Rocks), the enemy was completely enveloped. His force consisted of the battleships Orel and Nikolai I, the coast defense ships Admiral Apraxin and Admiral Senyavin, and the cruiser Izumrud, five ships in all. Another cruiser was seen far southward, but she passed out of sight. Not only had these remnants of the enemy's fleet already sustained heavy injuries, but also they were, of course, incapable of resisting our superior force. Therefore soon after our main squadron and armored cruiser squadron had opened fire on them, Rear Admiral Nebogatov, who commanded the enemy's ships, signaled his desire to surrender with the force under him. I accepted his surrender, and as a special measure allowed the officers to retain their swords. But the cruiser Izumrud, previously to this surrender, had fled southward at full speed, and, breaking through Togo's section, had then steamed east. Just then the Chitose, which, on her way back from Aburaya Bay, had sunk one of the enemy's destroyers en route, reached the scene, and, immediately changing her course, gave chase to the Izumrud, but failed to overtake her, and she escaped north.

Previously to this the Uriu section, while on its way north, at 7 a.m. sighted one of the enemy's ships in the west. Thereupon the Otowa and the Niitaka, under the command of Captain Arima, of the former cruiser, were detached to destroy her. At 9 a.m. they drew up to her, and found that she was the Svyetlana, accompanied by a destroyer. Pushing closer, they opened fire, and, after about an hour's engagement, sank the Svyetlana at 11.6 a.m. off Chyukpyong Bay. The Niitaka, accompanied by the destroyer Murakumo, which had just arrived, continued the pursuit of the enemy's destroyer Buistri, and at 11.50 a.m. drove it ashore and destroyed it in an unnamed bay some five miles north of Chyukpyong Bay. The survivors of these two vessels were all rescued by our special service steamers America Maru and Kasuga Maru.

The main part of our combined squadron which had received the enemy's surrender were still near the place of the surrender, and were engaged in dealing with the four captured ships, when, at 3 p.m., the enemy's vessel Admiral Ushakov was sighted approaching from the south. A detachment consisting of the Iwate and the Yakumo, were immediately sent after her, and at a little after 8 p.m. they overtook her, as she steamed south. They summoned her to surrender, but for reply she opened fire, and there was nothing for it but to attack her. She was finally sunk, and her survivors, over 300, were rescued.

At 3.30 p.m. the destroyers Sazanami and Kagero sighted two destroyers of the enemy escaping east, and then at a point some 40 miles south-west of Ulneung Islands. These were pursued at full speed to the north-west, and, being overtaken at 4.45 p.m., an action commenced. The rear-most of the two destroyers then ran up a white flag in token of surrender, whereupon the Sazanami immediately took possession of her. She was found to be the Byedovi, with Vice Admiral Rozhdestvenski and his staff on board. These, with her crew, were made prisoners. The Kagero meanwhile continued the chase of the other destroyer up to half-past six, but she finally escaped north.

At 5 p.m. the Uriu section and the Yajima destroyer section, which were searching for the enemy in a westerly direction, sighted the battleship Dmitri Donskoi steaming north, and went in pursuit. Just as the Russian vessel had reached a point 30 miles south of the Ulneung Islands, the Otowa and the Niitaka, with the destroyers Asagiri, Shirakumo, and Fubuki, which were coming back from Chyukpyong Bay, bore down on her from the west and opened fire, so that she was brought between a cross cannonade from these and the Uriu section. This heavy fire from both sides was kept up until after sunset, by which time she was almost shattered, but still afloat. During the night she passed out of sight. So soon as the cruisers had ceased firing on her the Fubuki and the Yajima destroyer section attacked her, but the result was uncertain. On the following morning, however, she was seen drifting near the south-east coast of the Ulneung Islands, where she finally sank. Her survivors, who had landed on the islands, were taken off by the Kasuga and the Fubuki.

While the greater part of the combined squadrons were thus busily engaged in the north dealing with the results of the pursuit, there were in the south also some considerable captures of ships remaining at the scene of the action. Thus the special service steamers Shinano Maru, Tainan Maru, and Yawata Maru, which had set out early on the morning of the 28th charged with the duty of searching the place of the engagement, sighted the Sisoi Veliki at a point some 30 miles north-east of Karasaki. She had been struck by torpedoes the night before, and was now on the point of sinking. They made preparations for capturing her, and took off her crew. She went down, however, at 11.6 a.m. Again, at 5.30 a.m., the destroyer Shiranui and the special service steamer Sado Maru found the Admiral Nakhimov in a sinking condition some five miles east of Kotozaki, in Tsushima. Thereafter they sighted the Vladimir Monomakh approaching the same neighborhood with heavy list. The Sado Maru took measures for capturing both these ships, but they were so greatly shattered, and were making water so fast, that they sunk in succession at about 10 a.m., after their crews had been removed. Just then the enemy's destroyer Gromki came to the same neighborhood, and suddenly steamed off northward. The destroyer Shiranui went in pursuit, and about 11.30 a.m. attacked her, No. 63, a unit of the torpedo-boat sections, co-operating in the attack. The enemy's fire having been silenced, the destroyer was captured and her crew were made prisoners, but her injuries were so severe that she sank at 12.43 p.m. In addition to the above the gun-boats and special service steamers of our fleet, searching the coasts in the neighborhood after the battle, picked up not a few of the crews of the sunken ships. Including crews of the captured vessels, the prisoners aggregated about 6,000.

The above are the results of the battle, which continued from the afternoon of the 27th till the afternoon of the 28th. Subsequently, a part of the fleet conducted a search far southwards, but not a sign was seen of any of the enemy's ships. About 38 of his vessels had attempted to pass the Sea of Japan, and of these the ships that I believe to have escaped destruction or capture at our hands were limited to a few cruisers, destroyers, and special service steamers. Our own looses in the two days' fight were only three torpedo-boats. Some others of our vessels sustained more or less injury, but not even one of them is incapacitated for future service. Our casualties throughout the whole fleet were 116 killed and 538 wounded, offices being included.

There was no great difference in the strengths of the opposing forces in this action, and I consider that the enemy's officers and men fought with the utmost energy and intrepidity on behalf of their country. If, nevertheless, our combined squadrons won the victory, and achieved the remarkable success recorded above, it was because of the virtues of His Majesty the Emperor, not owing to any human prowess. It cannot but be believed that the small number of our casualties was due to the protection of the spirits of the Imperial ancestors. Even our officers and men, who fought so valiantly and so stoutly, seeing these results, found no language to express their astonishment.