Japan and Russia, 1905 (Part II)

This is an excerpt from a school essay written in 1905 about the Russo-Japanese War. Read Part I here.


Now go with me for a moment and look in upon this situation from the Japanese standpoint. If Russia is fighting for the accomplishment of what she regards as her imperial destiny, for her commerce, her prestige, and her standing as a great oriental power, Japan, on the other hand, is battling for something far more vital — for her very existence as an independent nation. She has seen the Russians march across the vast continent of Asia until they reach the shores off which their own islands lie. She has seen them take Saghalien from her by the right of the stronger hand. She has seen them rob her of Port Arthur, the prize she won by her victory over China, and take it for themselves. If she continued her advance by absorbing Korea, Japan’s position would be irretrievably ruined. A glance at the map will show that Korea is, as a Japanese statesman declares, an arrow pointed at the heart of the island empire. Geographical and ethnical reasons make it imperative that Japan should have Korea.

We of the United States have notified the world that we will go to war rather than permit any European nation to encroach upon the American continent. Certainly we cannot blame the Japanese if, after seeing Russia absorb one stretch of Northern Asia after another, they are not willing to stand by with idle hands while she removes the last barrier between themselves and their quenchless earth-hunger. They refuse to let her plant her guns in sight of her shore. They decline to accept a situation so ruinous to the standing of Japan, so menacing to her existence as a nation. If they must go down before the Russian advance, they would rather go down fighting than standing still. Such is the spirit that animates every soldier and every sailor of Nippon in the present struggle.

While she disclaimed any intention of formally annexing Manchuria there were so many signs of permanent control by Russia in that province that Japan had taken alarm. being unable to reach any agreement, Japan struck the first blow by attacking the Russian fleet in Port Arthur on February 8, 1904. Japanese troops began to move into Korea on Feb. 18 and began a series of campaigns unexcelled in brilliancy by any of which history tells. Two and one-half months sufficed for the occupancy of Korea. The Japanese army now pressed northward and began the invasion of Manchuria. The story of the land campaign in Manchuria is one of an almost unchecked Japanese advance and a brilliantly executed Russian retreat. The main interest of the war has without a doubt centered about the siege of Port Arthur, which lasted from June to January and was marked with terrible losses and great gallantry on the part of both besieger and besieged. This town surrendered to the Japanese January 1st. The surrender of Port Arthur is followed by many minor battles which for the most part resulted disastrous to the Russians. On March 10 was fought at Mukden the most tremendous battles of modern times, if not all history, and resulted in a disastrous defeat to the Russians and their being caused to resume their retreat northward with the army of Nippon in hot pursuit. The smallest of the so called civilized powers fought it against Russia, the largest empire on earth, geographically speaking, and, as all military Europe told us, the greatest of military powers. Although peace seems in the far distance, Japan is now virtually in possession of all the points in dispute, while Russia, with broken prestige in Asia, faces a political and economic crisis at home.


To Be Continued!

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