Battle off Ulsan (Japanese: 蔚山沖海戦 Urusan'oki
kaisen; Russian: Бой в Корейском проливе, Boi v Koreiskom
prolive), also known as the Battle of the Japanese
Sea or Battle of the Korean Strait, took
place on 14 August 1904 during the Russo-Japanese War, four days after the
naval Battle of the
Vladivostok Cruiser Unit of the Russian fleet made up of the armoured cruisers Rossia, Gromoboi and Rurik raided against Japanese sea commerce
in the first stage of the war.
the First Pacific Squadron from Port Arthur had sailed reached Vladivostok in the afternoon of 11 August 1904.
Vladivostok cruisers were not ready for action, since as late as 5
August 1904, a telegram had been received from Admiral Wilgelm Vitgeft
stating that he had decided
to perish with Port Arthur. Owing to the delay in sailing, there
was little hope of being able to assist the First Pacific Squadron
at the critical passage of the Tsushima
. However, the Russian command assumed that
Admiral Vitgeft would be successful in breaking through the
Japanese blockade, and therefore
ordered Rear Admiral Jessen to
sortie the Vladivostok Cruiser Squadron to rendezvous with the
fleet in the Sea of
The Russian fleet formed in a line abreast
at intervals of four nautical miles (7 km) and headed southward at
, in hourly expectation of sighting the Port Arthur Squadron.
However, the fleet had not been sighted by the following morning.
Russian squadron approached Pusan, Admiral
Jessen advised his captains that he had no intention of attempting
to pass Tsushima Straits, and ordered the squadron back to
It was a fateful decision.
The Japanese fleet
made up of
more modern armored cruisers
, and two protected cruisers Naniwa
under the command
of Vice Admiral Hikonojo Kamimura
, had passed very close
to the Russian squadron in the dark on opposite courses but neither
was aware of the other.
Ever since 0130 on 14 August 1904, Vice Admiral Kamimura had been
heading back from his night patrol area on a course that took him
directly to the Russian squadron. No sooner had Admiral Yessen
started to turn back to Vladivostock, than he sighted the four
Japanese armored cruisers.
The situation was ideal for the Japanese. It was dawn on a fine
summer day, and the enemy was as far from Vladivostok as it was
possible to be in the Sea of Japan, with the Japanese between
themselves and their distant base.
At 0520 on 14 August 1904 the fleets had closed to , and the
Japanese ships fired first. For some reason, Kamimura, in assigning
targets, concentrated fire on the Rurik
, the last and weakest in the Russian
column. Subjected to twice the bombardment administered to her
stronger comrades. Rurik
lost most of her officers in a
short time, and although extremely damaged, remained afloat, the
diminishing number of survivors continuing to fire the few
remaining guns until the very last, in a gallant display of classic
heroism that won the admiration of the Japanese.
On the easterly run the Japanese ships took some hits, but nothing
comparable to what they inflicted. It would be assumed that when
the Russians sheered away, Admiral Kamimura would have pressed his
advantage closer. Inexplicably, this did not happen. Kamimura oddly
held his course during the Russian turn, and when the Japanese
turned a few minutes later, it was to a new tack that actually
lengthened rather than narrowed the range.
The remaining Russian cruisers tried to cover the Rurik
but with increasing damage, Admiral Jessen decided at 0830 to
scuttle the Rurik
, and save his other ships by heading
back towards Vladivostok. Japanese cruisers chased them for some
time, and firing continued, with more damage to the Russian
cruisers and slight damage to the Iwate
. The Russians were in far worse condition than the
Japanese, but Admiral Kamimura then made another inexplicable
decision: after pursuit of only three hours, while still on the
high seas, and with long daylight steaming hours between the
Russian cruisers and Vladivostok, at 1115 hours the Japanese ceased
the chase, and turned back towards Pusan.
Despite Kamimura’s failure to destroy the two remaining Russian
cruisers, he was hailed as a hero in Japan, and the Vladivostok
Cruiser Squadron never threatened Japanese shipping again.
Russian Point of View
From Russian point of view, the Rurik
was scuttled by her
own crew, not by Admiral Jessen's decision. The Rurik
caught a shell into her unarmoured stern and the steering mechanism
was destroyed and her rudder was immobilized in elevated position.
So the maximal speed of Rurik
greatly reduced and she
could go straight only by reducing the revolutions of one of her
propellers. Admiral Jessen successfully diverted all four Japanese
armoured cruisers and hoped that Rurik
against the Naniwa
. However, the
condition of Rurik
was rather bad. First Rank Captain
Trusov, her commander, and all senior officers were killed.
Finally, Lieutenant Ivanov (the thirteenth in command) ordered the
to be scuttled.
successfully repelled the
attack of Kamimura's cruisers at the price of sustaining heavy
damage, but Russian sailors under fire were able to repair the main
eight-inch (203 mm) guns and reopen fire from them. Facing the
increasing rate of fire from the Russian cruisers and with his
ammunition supplies nearly depleted, Admiral Kamimura decided to
Source: Мельников Р. М. «Рюрик» был первым. — Л.: Судостроение,
1989. (Melnikov R. M. The Rurik
was first // Leningrad,
Sudostroenie Publishing Company, 1989)
Order of Battle
- Ship order is according to their position in line
- † - sunk
- #, ## - damaged
Vladivostok cruiser force - Rear Admiral Karl Jessen:
2nd Squadron - Vice Admiral Hikonojo
- Brook, Peter, Armoured Cruiser versus Armoured Cruiser,
Ulsan, 14 August 1904, in Warship 2000-2001, Conway's
Maritime Press , ISBN 0-85177-791-0
- Kowner, Rotem (2006). Historical Dictionary of the
Russo-Japanese War. Scarecrow. ISBN 0-8108-4927-5
Charles (1905). The War in the Far East, 1904-1905.
- Warner, Denis and Peggy (1974). The Tide at Sunrise: A
History of the Russo-Japanese War', 1904-1905. New York.
- S.Suliga (С. Сулига): Korabli Russko-Yaponskoy
voyny. Chast 1. Rossiyskiy flot (Корабли Русско – Японской
войны. Часть 1. Российский флот), Arsenal
- S.Suliga (С. Сулига): Korabli Russko-Yaponskoy
voyny. Chast 2. Yaponskiy flot (Корабли Русско – Японской
войны. Часть 2. Японский флот), Arsenal