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Three The Spanish-American War of 1898

H. P. Willmott Indiana University Press ePub

PERHAPS, AT THIS DISTANCE in time, the most interesting aspect of the war of 1898 is American attitudes, and specifically the support afforded revolutionary cause against legally constituted and proper authority by the United States; one wonders how congressional motions of this period would be received in Washington today.1 Moreover, there is the small matter of the commission of inquiry that established, on whatever factual basis has never been determined, that the battleship Maine was sunk in Havana harbor on 15 February 1898 by an external explosion, that is, as a result of Spanish malevolence.2 Iraq, the Hussein regime, and arms procurement programs would seem to have an ancestral pedigree in terms of reports that “situated the appreciation” and which presented as conclusive evidence what authority in the United States deemed essential in the pursuit of national interest.

The war of 1898, at least with respect to the war at sea, is a difficult war to summarize because it does not really accord with previous experience or what was to unfold in the first half of the twentieth century. This was not a war that involved genuine naval powers. Spain had long since ceased to be a great power—arguably Trafalgar (21 October 1805) was the last time a Spanish fleet saw battle—and the United States was not yet of such exalted naval status. In light of such facts perhaps the most surprising aspect of the war was that neither side had genuine global reach and capability. Yet even if the two states never took the tide of conflict to the other’s metropolitan homeland, this was a war that reached around the globe. It was a war that did not witness prolonged blockade—there was blockade and it did not accord with the various American-proclaimed rights reference sea-borne trade—there was little blue-water action in terms of a guerre de course, and there were no assault landings. The only military campaign was one that owed more to the American public need for heroes and sensation than to real historical substance.

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Five The Russo-Japanese War: The First Phases

H. P. Willmott Indiana University Press ePub

IF ONE ACCEPTS the idea, expounded previously, that the Battle of Manila Bay was the last battle of the Age of Sail, then it would follow that the Russo-Japanese War represented the first naval war of the modern era. This conflict did not witness the employment of aircraft,1 but it obviously embraced a series of actions that marked out the road to Jutland.

In terms of war at sea, there are a number of matters that should command attention and careful consideration, not least the fact that this war was the first in which electronic counter-measures made their appearance: Russian wireless operators first jammed the radio signals of Japanese destroyers operating off Port Arthur in February 1904. It was, moreover, the first war in which mines were of very real significance for the conduct of operations. Both defensively and offensively, mines were to be important in two world wars, as Japan found to its cost in 1945 when American mining and Operation Starvation formed part of the process that completed Japan’s defeat. But, and with exception, probably neither war saw mines afforded the strategic significance registered in the Russo-Japanese War.

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One The Sino-Japanese War, 1894–1895

H. P. Willmott Indiana University Press ePub

THE SINO-JAPANESE WAR, July 1894–April 1895, fits into the context discussed at the end of the introduction with one crucial exception: the racial dimension. But overall the background is provided by the obvious point of contrast: Japan, by a very deliberate process of imitation, had been able to absorb western organization and methods and to provide itself with a military capability that by the last decade of the nineteenth century marked it as perhaps the most powerful single state in eastern Asia, whereas China’s process of fragmentation had assumed critical—if largely unsuspected—dimensions by this time. The war was not one that was sought by either side1 but arose from events in Korea that possessed singular importance to Japan: the Korean peninsula was potentially the point of invasion—the Mongol expeditions of 1274 and 1281 had shown this—and at the same time it was Japan’s obvious point of entry on the mainland—as witness the Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537–1598) expedition of 1592–1598. Both China and Japan saw Korea as lying within their own spheres of influence, China by right of historical precedence and Japan in terms of future intent. With the Tientsin Convention of 18 April 1885, the two states had agreed on a treaty that in effect provided for Korean independence but also for their rights of intervention in Korea and the obligation to consult with one another. But war was to come in 1894 as a result of a complicated power-struggle within Korea that prompted separate Chinese and Japanese intervention and that set in train a series of events that led to confrontation.

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Fourteen The Japanese Situation—and Another, and Final, Dimension

H. P. Willmott Indiana University Press ePub

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

THE JAPANESE SITUATION—AND ANOTHER, AND FINAL, DIMENSION

IN THE PRECEDING CHAPTERS the Japanese situation in terms of shipping, trade, and production has been subjected to examination, for one reason: for more than six decades the American public perception of the Pacific war has been focused primarily upon fleet and amphibious operations; what has been provided here is not a correction to such perspective but an addition, the presentation of matters seldom afforded much in the way of consideration but gathered here to provide balance and perspective. By definition, these short chapters cannot be comprehensive and must serve only as introduction to matters often given little historical consideration. This final chapter is concerned with battles and individuals, for the same reasons and with the same intent.

Excluding the attack by Japanese carrier aircraft on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 and the attacks by Allied carrier aircraft on a variety of targets in Japanese waters in the war’s last month (though perhaps the irony should be noted that the last survivor of the Pearl Harbor operation, the heavy cruiser Tone, was sunk at its mooring off Kure by U.S. carrier aircraft on 24 July 1945), during the war in the Pacific there were no fewer than eighteen actions involving warship formations on both sides.1 Of course, there also were actions involving aircraft and warships from opposing sides, the best known of these actions being those in the Bismarck Sea in March 1943 and when the battleship Yamato was sunk southwest of Kyushu in April 1945. Of all these actions perhaps the one that possessed greatest historical symbolism was the action off Cape St. George, which was the last action between warship formations other than in the Surigao Strait in October 1944, but the greater part of historical attention over the lifetime that has elapsed since these actions were fought has been directed to the action fought off Midway Islands and Leyte Gulf. The other four major carrier actions—Coral Sea, Eastern Solomons, Santa Cruz, and Philippine Sea—have generally been afforded en passant consideration: the Coral Sea was but the prelude to Midway, and the Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz were not battles on which Americans dwell because neither resulted in victory. The second-tier status of the battle of the Philippine Sea is perhaps surprising given the fact that in terms of fleet and light carriers of the two sides this was the largest carrier battle of the war, larger even than Leyte, though the latter had many more warships than Philippine Sea and with escort carriers added to the list is the larger of the two battles in terms of carrier numbers.

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Ten Tsingtao and the Dardanelles

H. P. Willmott Indiana University Press ePub

PASSING REFERENCE WAS made previously to the Japanese operations on the Shantung peninsula and the western Pacific at the start of the war. These operations are ones to which one must return to provide a proper account of proceedings and the context regarding the difficulties of choice that Allied powers faced at this time.

The Japanese landed on Jaluit in the Marshalls on 29 September, the formal occupation of this island being dated 3 October, and landed and secured both Ponape in the eastern Carolines and Yap on 7 October, on Koror and Angaur in the Palau (Pelew) Islands on 8 and 9 October, respectively, on Truk in the eastern Carolines on 12 October, and on Saipan and Rota in the Marianas on 14 and 21 October, respectively.1 It was, by any standard, an impressive performance. Within two months of entering the war Japan had provided the means whereby all German possessions north of the Equator had been secured and the siege of Tsingtao was by that stage approaching its final phase. What is so often missed about this contribution to the Allied cause was the manner in which Japan’s intervention finessed Anglo-French problems.

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