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Summary: Lessons Not Learned...

Rupert Wenger

Although the Russian-Japanese War of 1904/05 already bore the most significant characteristics of WWI with regard to arms technology, tactics, and operational command and control, the large number of analysts who observed the war very closely on both sides of the front failed to draw the necessary conclusions. Particularly the fight over the stronghold of Port Arthur showed many parallels to WWI trench and attrition warfare.

The Russian-Japanese War showed more than clearly that the categories of space and time requirements were gaining in importance, that fire effectiveness had improved dramatically through the introduction of semi-automatic rifles and machine guns, and that the soldier and his weapon system had to seek best possible cover and concealment in theater. The element of attack -close combat - lost in importance; the artillery no longer fought firing directly from exposed positions but firing indirectly from covered positions, while the duration and intensity of artillery preparations were stepped up rapidly. During the siege of Port Arthur both sides operated with secure flanks, while outflanking on the tactical level was limited to particularly exposed positions and weak points in the defense. All four Japanese offensives against the stronghold were conducted as frontal attacks and failed insofar as the Russian defense was never completely penetrated. However, the forth offensive scored a partial success, as by temporarily taking the Russian outpost positions on the High Mountain, the conditions were laid for destroying the Russian Pacific Fleet. It was defeated by the Japanese Forces in the Sea Battle of Tsushima, even though Moscow had deployed the Baltic Fleet to the Far East as reinforcement, after the initial losses in 1904.

The Russian-Japanese War could have revealed the importance of frontal offensives for a European battlefield as well as the importance of speedy defensive moves, which led to rigid fronts and attrition battles. Defensive warfare had turned out to be superior to offensive warfare. However, the war observers of the Far East War were over-challenged with such analyses. It would have taken an analysis element within the highest echelons of the military hierarchy in order to stringently incorporate all the results into a doctrine and into arms development.

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Eigentümer und Herausgeber: Bundesministerium für Landesverteidigung | Roßauer Lände 1, 1090 Wien
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