Battle of Yalu River (1904)

Battle of Yalu River (1904)

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Yalu River
partof=the Russo-Japanese War

caption=Japanese Cavalry Crossing the Yalu River
date=30 April - 1 May, 1904
place=Near Wiju, border of Korea and Manchuria
result=Japanese victory
combatant1=flagicon|Japan Empire of Japan
combatant2=flagicon|Russia Imperial Russia
commander1=General Tamemoto Kuroki
commander2=General M.I. Zasulitch
strength2=about 25,000
casualties1=1,036 killed, wounded or missing
casualties2=528 killed,
999 wounded,
625 missing [G.F. Krivosheev. Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century]
The Battle of Yalu River, (Japanese: 鴨緑江会戦, "Ōryokkō Kaisen") 30 April to 1 May 1904, was the first major land battle during the Russo-Japanese War. It was fought near Wiju (modern village of Uiju, North Korea on the lower reaches of the Yalu River, at the border between Korea and China.

The Russian Situation

The Russian commander in the Far East, General Alexei Kuropatkin's strategy was to only engage the Japanese in defense stalling actions, while waiting for enough reinforcements to be brought up to the front via the single-track Trans-Siberian Railway to take the offensive. He had estimated that it would take at least 6 months to build his forces up to suitable levels. He also had received strict orders not to hinder the Japanese progress through Korea from Viceroy Yevgeny Alexeiev, but to hold the line at the Yalu River to prevent the Japanese from crossing into Manchuria.

On 22 April 1904, Kuropatkin dispatched the “Eastern Detachment” under the command of Lieutenant-General M.I. Zasulitch with 16,000 infantry, 5,000 cavalry and some 62 artillery pieces to fight a static delaying action at north bank of the river. However, this force was spread out piecemeal over a 170 mile front, whereas the Japanese Army could concentrate its efforts on any single point of its choosing. Most of the Russian forces were deployed near Wiju, blocking the main road from Korea to Manchuria. Small detachments guarded the bank up and down the river.

The Japanese Situation

After the success of the Imperial Japanese Navy at the Battle of Chemulpo Bay on 9 February 1904, the way was clear for the Imperial Japanese Army to deploy the 2nd, the 12th, and the Guards Divisions of the Japanese 1st Army, commanded by Major-General Baron Tamemoto Kuroki, into Korea. The total strength of Japanese force was about 42,500 men. The Japanese 1st Army advanced quickly northwards from Chemulpo (modern Incheon), with advance units entering Pyongyang on 21 February 1904 and Anju by 18 March 1904. Learning their lessons in logistics and transport from the Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese army hired some 10,000 local laborers at wages well above the local norms, and paid also for any food and supplies procured locally. This contrasted greatly with the behavior of the Russian troops previously in northern Korea.

By seizing the port of Chinampo (modern Nampo, North Korea)at the mouth of the Taedong River outside of Pyongyang with the spring thaw, the Japanese were able to land the remaining components of the 1st Army by 29 March 1904.

The Japanese knew the exact locations of the Russians deployment from intelligence by forward scouts disguised as Korean fishermen, as the Russians made no effort to conceal their positions. By 21 April 1904 the Japanese 1st Army was concentrated and hidden south of Wiju. The Japanese were in the same positions on the southern bank of the Yalu River that they had been in August 1894.


The prelude to major action took place at 2145 on the night of 25 April 1904, when two battalions of the Japanese 2nd Division seized two islands in the Yalu River without opposition. After reinforcement at 0400 on 26 April 1904 by units from the Guards Division and a brief firefight, the forward Russian observation post withdrew to the main Russian lines on the north shore. In full view of Russian positions, the Japanese began constructing a causeway across the Yalu River, which was immediately targeted by two Russian batteries. With the Russians so engaged, the Japanese prepared nine other bridges that could quickly be moved into position for a rapid assault across the river at other locations.

Once the midstream islands were secured, General Kuroki ordered a feint on the lower Yalu River when Japanese gunboats engaged Cossack detachments at the river mouth.

Kuroki was thus able to maneuver against the weak Russian left, and deployed the 12th Division and Guards Division across the Yalu River at a fordable point at Chukyuri. The Russians observed these movements with trepidation, and the local commander moved one regiment to the left flank.

The Main Battle

The Japanese main attack began in the early morning hours of 27 April 1904. By 0300, the balance of the 12th Division had crossed the river and was advancing in three columns. While the Japanese 12th Division advancing on the right, the Guards Division was moving into position in the center. By 0400, the artillery of the Guards Division was within range of the exposed Russian lines. The Japanese First Army continued its three-pronged advance and was across the Yalu by midnight of the 29 April 1904 with very little opposition. Limited visibility masked the Japanese movements from Russian observation. When the fog finally lifted about 0500, the Japanese artillery opened up on the Russian formations.

The 2nd Division took its position on the center, advancing on the newly erected causeways leading from the town of Wiju and thus catching the Russians in a pincer movement at the hamlet of Chuliengcheng, on the Manchurian-side of the Yalu River opposite Wiju. By 1000, the Russians were in full retreat, with a Japanese attempt to block their escape towards Fenghuangcheng to the north.

The Japanese had a number of 4.7 inch howitzers, custom-made by Krupp, which they used with devastating effect on the exposed Russians. In light of these developments, General Zasulitch was strongly encouraged by his staff to pull back to a more defensible position. However, the general stubbornly refused to concede, even sending a telegram to the Tsar in Saint Petersburg informing that victory was soon certain. He chose to ignore General Kuropatkin's phased withdrawal orders (as confirmed by Kuropatkin's chief of staff, General V.V. Sakarov).

General Kuroki had planned to continue the advance of 12th Division to envelope the Russian left. However, now that enemy artillery had been neutralized, he decided to engage the Guards and the 2nd Division in a simultaneous assault. It was at this point the Japanese encountered the first serious resistance from the Russian lines. Crossing the river under Russian fire Japanese suffered large casualties. The advance of the 2nd Division was disrupted for a time, and had any of the Russian artillery survived, the outcome might have been different. After repeated attacks the Russians were driven from their trenches, and fell back to the tops of the hills. During the retreat, a counterattack was made by elements of the Russian 12th East Siberian Rifle Regiment, which was cut to pieces and opened further the breaks in the Russian lines.

The Russian position now became wholly untenable, and remaining formations now were in danger of being encircled. General Zasulitch ordered to retreat. 11th East Siberian Rifle Regiment, which was covering a retreat, was cut off by the Japanese and suffered large casualties during its breakthrough back to the other Russian forces. At 1730 on 1 May 1904, Russian Eastern Detachment escaped towards Fenghuangcheng to the north and the Battle for the Yalu River came to an end.


The Battle of the Yalu River ended in victory for Japan. The combat had cost the Japanese 1036 dead and wounded out of the total 1st Army strength of 42,500 (although it is possible that the total Japanese casualties were deliberately deflated for propaganda purposes). The Russian Eastern Detachment suffered some 2100 casualties overall, including about 500 killed, 1000 wounded, 600 prisoners and the loss of 21 of 24 field guns.


* Connaughton, Richard (2003). "Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear". Cassell. ISBN 0-304-36657-9
* Kowner, Rotem (2006). "Historical Dictionary of the Russo-Japanese War". Scarecrow. ISBN 0-8108-4927-5
* Nish, Ian (1985). "The Origins of the Russo-Japanese War". Longman. ISBN 0-582-49114-2
* Sedwick, F.R. (1909). "The Russo-Japanese War". Macmillan Company.


External links

* [ Russo-Japanese War research society]

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