The Battle of Motien Pass
was a minor land conflict of the Russo-Japanese War, between the Imperial Japanese Army under General
Kuroki Tamemoto and the Imperial
Russian Army under General Count Fedor
Keller over control of a strategic mountain pass on the main
road between the coast and Liaoyang, Manchuria on 27 June 1904.
General Count Fedor Keller
command of the Russian Eastern Force from General Zasulich after
the Battle of Yalu
. His force of 25,000 men held Motien Pass, in
the middle of Liaodong
Peninsula, on the main road between Antung (modern Dandong, China) and
Keller, a loyal friend of General Aleksey Kuropatkin
and a student of
General Mikhail Skobelev
that the Japanese strategy was similar to that of the First Sino-Japanese War
the three Japanese armies would converge on Haicheng, as they had
10 years previously). Kuropatin agreed, and in an effort to fortify
his position at Haicheng, he began a series of complex and
confusing troop movements as he endeavored to plug real or
imaginary gaps in his defensive line. Keller, already weakened by
the loss of men at the Battle of
, was further forced to give up two more regiments
to Kuropatin's defenses at
Japanese 1st Army, under command of General Kuroki Tamemoto, paused at Fenghaungshang
(modern Fengheng, Liaoning Province, China) from 19
June 1904 through 25 June 1904 to await supplies and
Kuroki decided to attack on 26 June 1904,
which was, by coincidence, the same day that General Keller
received orders from General Kuropatkin depriving him of yet
another regiment to support the defenses of Haicheng.
Guarding the strategic Motien Pass, the Russians had three infantry
regiments, three artillery
batteries and a Cossack
regiment. To the west was the reserve
infantry regiment supported by a Cossack brigade. During the night
of 25-26 June 1904, a Japanese force moved along an unguarded path
to the rear of the Russian right flank. This force was supported by
Maxim machine guns
and mountain artillery.
Another group, clad in Japanese straw sandals to mask their
movements, moved around the Russian left flank undetected.
The battle began at 0515 on 27 June 1904 with a direct Japanese
frontal attack. This attack faltered by 0700 due to strong
artillery fire from the Russian positions; however, by 0800, the
Russians found themselves all but encircled by the Japanese
flanking attack. By 1000 the Russians were in full retreat towards
Hsimucheng (modern Ximu, Liaodong Province, China).
The Japanese moved in to occupy Motien Pass on 30 June 1904.
Casualties on both sides were relatively light, and later
commentators have speculated extensively on why General Keller
(otherwise known to be competent) abandoned such a strategy and
easily-defendable location with so little resistance. Keller, who
perished in an ill-fated counterattack to retake Montien Pass left
- Kowner, Rotem (2006). "Historical Dictionary of the
Russo-Japanese War". Scarecrow. ISBN 0-8108-4927-5
- Connaughton, Richard (2003). "Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear".
Cassell. ISBN 0-304-36657-9