Sino-Japanese Naval War 1894-1895
This new book covers the Sino-Japanese Naval War 1894-1895, a little-known part of late 19thC naval history. The First Sino–Japanese War (1 August 1894 – 17 April 1895) was fought between Qing Dynasty China and Meiji Japan, primarily over control of Korea. After more than six months of continuous successes by the Japanese army and naval forces, as well as the loss of the Chinese port of Weihai, the Qing leadership sued for peace in February 1895.
The background, operations and outcomes are described in detail. All the ships involved, both Japanese and Chinese, are described and illustrated with full technical specifications. Profusely illustrated with scale drawings, maps, drawings and rare photos.
Brief author biog./credentials:
Resident in Gdansk, Poland, Piotr Olender is Polish naval historian. He has published many articles and book on naval history.
Scott Van Aken
The time around the turn of the 19th century was one where there was quite a bit of naval activity in the far east. This activity involved the French and Chinese, the Japanese and Chinese, and the Russians and Japanese. In both of the wars in which the Japanese were involved, they came out as the victor as did the French.
MMP has already covered the Sino-Franco and the Russo-Japanese wars and so now turns it attention to the Sino-Japanese war of 1894 and 1895. This is one of those wars where the combination of both land based and nautical elements were in conflict. Those who are not that well versed in the political situation of the time, China was split into several semi-autonomous regions with the central government only holding a tenuous rule. This was true in terms of the army as well as the navy. This had helped European powers from waging and winning several wars against the Chinese, the results of which had not only cost the Chinese dearly in terms of money, but also in concessions to these nations. The Japanese saw all this and wanted some of the action as well.
During all this time, the Korean peninsula was nominally Chinese, though had its own rich heritage of rulers. The Japanese wanted to basically control what went on in Korea and had been trying to take it over for a considerable time (as in centuries). Korea was a country of extreme isolationism, killing any Europeans who tried to get a foothold in the country. It was seriously feudal in nature and managed to fend off both French and US attempts at relations. However, the Japanese were able to gain a toe-hold at a time when Korean intrigue was at a high and this started a series of violent political changes (as in assassinations) at the highest level. Finally, in the mid-1870s, Japan recognized Korea as a separate country, which frustrated the Chinese who had considered Korea to be in their sphere of influence.
Eventually, there were clashes between the Japanese and Chinese troops based in Seoul and the Sino-Japanese war began.
The Japanese wanted to land troops in Korea but were unable to do so because of the presence of a powerful Chinese fleet, the Pieyang Fleet. On paper, the Chinese fleet had the upper hand, mostly due to the presence of two Chinese battleships. The Japanese did not believe in heavily armored battle ships and instead had smaller ships with some huge guns. This was a fad at the time to equip a small ship with a large calibre gun, but as this war showed, this didn't work well as the smaller ship made for a less stable firing platform. The Chinese battleships also proved to be impervious to Japanese shells, thanks to all its armor plating.
However, as is often the case, the superior tactics of the Japanese and poor leadership of the Chinese, both on the water and on the land determined the course of the war.
I don't want to ruin the book for you so will say little more about things. Needless to say, the author had done his work on this one and helps to tell what could be a complex story in a manner that is relatively easy to follow. I say relatively as this reader has trouble with a lot of non-English names and you can't get much more non-English than Chinese! It took me quite a while to finish the book, but it was very much worth the time spent to read it cover to cover. There are superb period photos of the ships, many of which were still full rigged. An excellent batch of drawings and maps help to keep both the land war and the naval war in context. In addition, there is an excellent set of appendices that include some very well done profile line drawings of many of the participating ships. I personally found it neat to read of the predecessors of many famous WWII Japanese ships such as the gunboat Akagi and the small cruiser Yamato.
In all, it is an outstanding book and I doubt if you'll find anything better on the subject. It is a book that I give my highest recommendation.
By David L. Veres
The mid-1890s naval war between China and Japan proved pivotal in the history of modern Pacific combat.
Now historian Piotr Olender deftly distills and competently chronicles the conflict's origins, operations and outcomes in Sino-Japanese Naval War 1894-1895.
MMP's superb study – available in North America from Casemate – begins with two chapters recapping each country's political and military position.
Decades of internal divisions, foreign intervention and battlefield defeats had systemically weakened China. Japan, by contrast, overcame internal strife and isolationist inclinations to forge an homogenous – and expansionist – national identity. Events in Korea propelled both nations to conflict.
Author Olender then girds the reader for battle with details of comparative combatant strengths and strategy – including organizational, command, training, logistics, cultural and morale factors. Background notes also cover defense expenditures, harbor facilities, weapons and warship acquisitions.
Text next turns to 17 concise, lavishly illustrated and admirably annotated chapters on combat operations. Control of the sea proved critical to Japan's rapid, three-phase plan to conquer Korea. And China's northern Peiyang Fleet – with elements of two Chinese southern formations – proved the main barrier to Japanese success.
Events move from initial skirmishes through operations at Yalu and Port Arthur to China's naval defeat at Weihaiwei. Concluding sections cover peace negotiations, final Japanese actions against the Pescadores and Taiwan, and an assessment of the fighting. Where appropriate, details of land operations also augment Olender's narrative.
Photos, annotations, maps, charts, tables, bibliography, index and transliteration notes season MMP's superb study. Five appendices recap participating vessels, naval artillery, torpedoes, comparative service ranks, and Japanese ship commanders. And a concluding section showcases 1:350 starboard drawings of 36 Chinese and Japanese warships.
But as with MMP's equally excellent Sino-French Naval War 1884-1885, maps proved problematic. Details sometimes differ between graphics, causing confusion. And Olender only offers small battlefield views – with no map of the whole Korea/Manchuria/Yellow Sea theater of operations to put local actions into clear geographic context.
Gripes aside, I loved MMP's enormously informative effort. The brief, bitter Sino-Japanese naval war forged the tactical and technological foundation of Japan's victory over Russia a decade later. "China," the author observes, "practically became a quasi-colony" of European imperialists – and entered a half-century of "internal/social unrest". Likewise, Japan's expansionist ambitions only ended with its total defeat in World War II – 50 years on.
Start tracing those paths to Nanking, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima and Mao. Get this terrific tome.
Amazon.com Cunstomer review (2nd) 2015-03-20
Airfix Model World 49 2015-03-20
During the end of the 19th century, tensions between China and Japan were increasing over the control of Korea. China, though large in terms of land and population, lacked a strong central government and in actuality was controlled by powerful provincial leaders. Their military had a similar structure which made coordination next to impossible and diminished its capabilities and effectiveness. By contrast, Japan had a strong central government and military structure. Japan’s military was also more modern, which gave them a clear edge.
A peasant rebellion proved difficult to quell so the Korean government asked China to send troops to help stabilize the situation. Japan saw an opportunity to gain a foothold in Korea and sent troops to help establish a puppet government in Seoul. China’s objections to Japan’s meddling lead to the Sino-Japanese War of 1894 and 1895. The superior Imperial Japanese forces were too much for the Chinese. The Japanese army routed Chinese ground troops on the Liaodong Peninsula. The Japanese Navy enjoyed a similar success by nearly destroying the Chinese Navy in the Battle of the Yalu River. China capitulated and according to the terms of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, the Liaodong Peninsula and the island of Taiwan was ceded to Japan. The terms of the treaty were not good for the colonial ambitions of Russia, Germany, and France. Their influence forced Japan to withdraw from the Liaodong Peninsula. Germany built the Tsingtao fortress on Jiaozhou Bay and based the German East Asia Squadron there.
The Russians followed suit by occupying the Liaodong Peninsula, building the Port Arthur fortress and using it as the base for their Pacific Fleet. This move by the Russians started the chain of events that lead to the Russo-Japanese War the following decade.
Sino-Japanese Naval War 1894-1895 is the latest book in the Mushroom Model Publications Maritime Series. As the title states, this soft-covered 228 page book focuses on the naval war between China and Japan during this conflict. The opening chapters cover the political and military structures of both countries in the years leading up to the war. The following chapters cover the various combat operations and battles during the war. The text by
Piotr Olender is well written and the subject matter well researched. As good as the writing is the maps left something to be desired in my opinion. The maps offer only focused battlefield views and are helpful. However there are none that provide a wider view of the theater of operations which would add some much needed geographical reference.
This book is really a detailed history of the naval battles (though key land battles are covered as well) and really not a reference on the ships in both navies. However, modelers are treated to a very good selection of sharp and clear photos of the ships involved in this conflict. The last sections of the book include several pages of nicely done 1:350 scale profile drawings of ships from both the Chinese and Japanese navies. I wish that some plan views were also included which would have added more value to a modeler.
This conflict is rather obscure and overshadowed by the Russo-Japanese War. However, it is an important event in the history of the Pacific and the first step in Japan’s military and geographic expansion in the region that culminated in World War II. This book is recommended to anyone who is interested in the subject matter. My thanks to Mushroom Model Publications for the review copy.
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